I recently reviewed When Bob Met Woody by Gary Golio at Check It Out for Nonfiction Monday. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Gary for his blog book tour.
JRM: You’ve written about these music icons: Coltrane, Hendrix, and Dylan. How do you select which person to write about? Who’s next for you?
GG: I simply choose subjects I love—people who have been important to me both musically and creatively, and who inspire me as an artist. Bob and Jimi held sway in my teen years, with Coltrane securing a place during my twenties. In each case, I was looking for clues, trying to understand how to be an artist myself, and how to live the artist’s life. There are important lessons to be gleaned from each person’s successes, as well as their mistakes.
My first three books, puslishing-wise, turned out to be about musicians, but I’ve written other nonfiction texts dealing with visual artists (Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau), as well. Right now, I’m working on illustrating my own picture book text about Charlie Chaplin, a monumental figure in the history of film and storytelling. The Tramp is Everyman.
JRM: How did you go about researching for the book?
GG: For When Bob Met Woody, I read all the major Dylan biographies and interviews, listened to a lifetime of records and CDs, and watched countless hours of films, videos, and documentaries (both about Bob and Woody). In the end, the story of Young Bob held my interest the most, because it’s those early years, in my mind, that shine the brightest light on an artist’s roots and ambitions. Bob’s connection to Woody Guthrie as hero, mentor, and guiding star, was the focus of the story I wanted to tell for kids.
JRM: Were you able to interview Bob Dylan? What was that like?
GG: I never met or interviewed Bob, but neither did he meet or interview the subjects of his songs. So while this is a nonfiction book based on factual material, it’s also a tale—structured much like a song—that presents my take on Bob. And as one reviewer has noted, “Golio is a real romantic.” Guilty as charged!
JRM: There is so much about Dylan’s life. How did you determine what to use?
GG: Between my ruthless inner editor and my long-suffering wife (children’s book author Susanna Reich), I tried to tell a story that was both inspiring and gem-like in its brevity. There are always beautiful words and phrases that must be consigned to the ether!
JRM: What do you hope young readers will take away from your books?
GG: At the heart of all my stories is the power of imagination and the value of human creativity. The arts are a great lifeline for kids, and can keep them rooted at difficult times and in difficult circumstances. For Jimi, Bob, and John (Coltrane), music allowed them a means to speak, and to be good at something. Children need to feel competent, to know that persistence, passion, and imagination can bring about success, and that doing the thing one loves can profoundly affect those around you. Just listen to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme!
JRM: What books are on your nightstand?
GG: The book I always keep by my bed—and which I’ve been reading for years, over and over again—is The Enlightened Mind, by Stephen Mitchell. It’s full of heart, and sustains me when the going gets tough…which it inevitably seems to do.
JRM: Where do you find inspiration?
GG: In the most mundane and surprising places! Just ask my cat, Chloe.
JRM: What was your favorite book as a child? As an adult? What genre stands out?
GG: I especially loved the letters of Vincent van Gogh. A troubled but sensitive man, his words reached out to me as a very young teen. More important, however, was the influence of comic books—no kidding!—on my literary and moral development. If it wasn’t for Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, and Green Lantern, I’d probably be a master criminal, or at least a very frustrated inventor of fiendish devices. As it is, I work as a clinical social worker and therapist, trying to help teens and adults with addiction problems. Which is like having a secret identity, but without the super powers.
JRM: Writing the first draft or revising? Which is your favorite?
GG: Both, for different reasons. First draft is about letting the wind fill my sails, and revising is about deciding where I’m really headed—off to that remote desert island or just out to sea.
JRM: Favorite time of the day to work?
GG: Usually when I’m awake, but not always.
JRM: Chocolate: white, dark, or milk?
GG: That sounds like it’s more about you than me. I’m really more of a strawberry-shortcake-kind-of-guy.
JRM: Coffee or tea or —?
GG: I’ll take the —.
Thanks, Gary for sharing a bit about your writing process. I will be looking forward to reading about Charlie Chaplin.
Do you want to read the other blogs to see what they are saying about When Bob Met Woody? Visit here:
Tuesday, 5/17: Margo Tanenbaum
Wednesday, 5/18: Marc Tyler Nobleman
Thursday, 5/19: Gail Gauthier