We’re taking some time and giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the Redeemed Reader team. Today, Hayley (RR’s executive assistant) interviews our Editorial Advisor and Senior Staff writer, Janie B. Cheaney.
- What is your first reading memory? Are there some books you remember a parent reading aloud to you?
I know my parents read to me —my mother, certainly— but the only thing I remember her reading specifically is the Bible. I started first grade in 1956 with Dick & Jane readers but don’t remember being especially excited about it because, well, Dick & Jane were NOT exciting. (Dr. Seuss was still just a few years in the future, hard as it is to believe!) I must have picked it up pretty easily because I don’t remember a struggle, even in those “Look-say” days. But even if I don’t remember crossing the threshold, once over, reading was about my most favorite thing to do. Being a skinny, near-sighted, non-athletic girl, maybe I didn’t have much of a choice. When I was 8 or 9, my parents signed me up for the Weekly Reader children’s book club, and that sealed the deal. I’ve written about my most intense reading moment as a child, the moment I became a true “reader,” elsewhere. The book was The Silver Sword by Ian Serallier. Still in print, I think.
- How did you first become interested in children’s literature as a professional pursuit?
I became re-acquainted with children’s literature when we started homeschooling, and I read to my kids all the way up through high school (by then we weren’t reading children’s novels anymore). But it wasn’t until I had tried and failed to publish three adult novels, and started a fourth one that I never finished, that the children’s book world appeared in my radar again. I was going through a period of Shakespeare enthusiasm, owing largely to Kenneth Branaugh, and in the throes of it I got an idea for a YA novel about an apprentice in The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Shakespeare’s theater company. I wrote it in eight months and started shopping for agents and got one! The Playmaker was published in 2000, and I got to go to the ALA summer conference that year. Five more published novels (and a few unpublished ones) followed.
There’s a funny story about getting The Playmaker published, which you can read here.
- I love that story about The Playmaker. As we head into 2019, do you have any goals regarding reading?
Mostly just to keep up! But I do want to read more adult books. I generally read 2-3 books per week, so if just one of those could be for adults I could more than meet our own 2019 Reading Challenge.
- You just wrote about your index card review system. (Interested? See this whole post!) Is that how you keep track of all the books you’ve read, or do you also have an ongoing list? (Do you use Goodreads?)
I never got into Goodreads–still don’t have an account. I guess I’m an incorrigible pencil-pusher–still can’t get into all this newfangled digital referencing. Last year I started a reading journal to jot down a few thoughts about books that I don’t review for Redeemed Reader. I’m not always faithful about keeping up with it, though. For a writer, I have some terrible journal habits!
- What is a book and/or quote you enjoyed this past month?
I enjoyed Into the Jungle (reviewed this week) more than I expected. I like throwbacks and retro novels, and throwbacks that sound a bit like retro novels. As mentioned in the review, I think the author captured the artless charm of Kipling’s original Jungle Book stories (with a little “Just So” as well) without slavishly copying them. Earlier this week I finished What the Night Sings and found it deeply moving. It’s a Holocaust story that’s suffused with hope, and that has to be no mean feat. It’s a bit like The Faithful Spy in that both the artwork and the text meld to make for some unforgettable reading.
- How do you manage to read so much? Where do you fit it into your life?
In some ways, reading for me requires something of the same discipline as writing. I still love it, but when you become a grownup and a mom and eventually a grandma, with a day job on top of all that, there’s just much less time for it. But it helps to see reading as part of my profession, and to that end I make it a goal to read for one hour every day. Do I reach that goal? Well . . . usually.