Monday, October 31, 2011

The Great Typo Hunt Author Interview

Hi everybody! This is the transcript of an interview I did with the authors of The Great Typo Hunt, Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson. Enjoy and please leave me a comment!

1. Do you have a typo "pet peeve" and if so what is it?

Jeff: Unnecessary apostrophes in plural words are the scourge of humanity-- the scourge!  They drive me banana's. [sic ha!]

Benjamin: I’d have to roll out the classics: you’re/your, their/there/they’re, and its/it’s.  In my own writing, I’ll occasionally go back to make little changes during an edit but fail to properly reconnect everything, introducing a new error.  Few things are worse than having to say, “Yeah, I must have made that error when editing,” which Jeff heard me say a few times.

2. What projects are you currently working on?

Jeff and Benjamin: Well, November is National Novel Writing Month, and both of us have done participated every year since 2003.  NaNoWriMo fits nicely with our mission because they urge people to feel free to write away, reminding them that they can always edit later, which is where we come in.  Recognizing the power of the edit, by the way, is the cure to writers’ block. So we’ll be spending November working on fiction.  We can’t promise that either of those projects will ever see the light of day, but we can definitely say that come December 1st, we’ll each have 50,000 words we’d never dare to show to anyone without some serious editing.

3. What is the first book you remember reading?

Jeff:  I have early memories of reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which inspired some preadolescent binge eating in hopes of growing my very own pair of beautiful wings.  But the first book to get me excited about words and language must have been The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

BenjaminJames and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl kicked off every summer vacation.  I know we had a library book club, thirty books over the summer, and for multiple summers that would be book number one.

4. When did you know that you wanted the hunt to become a book? How did it feel to turn Typo over to an editor?

Jeff and Benjamin: As we told people about our mission during the original typo hunt, many of them asked, “Are you writing a book?”  Our reply started as “Huh?  No,” which soon became “No?” and then evolved to “Maybe, but we’re just concentrating on enjoying the trip,” or “Why?  Would you like to read a book like that?”  Eventually an agent hunted us down and made the process so easy that it was hard to refuse.  Eventually we stopped laughing about people asking us if there’d be a book and starting saying to each other, “Gee, maybe we should write a book.”
By the time our editor and then our official copy editor saw the book, it had been worked over many times by both of us, and we’d gotten feedback from mothers, girlfriends, and our agent.  They still managed to find things to correct, though.  Also, we collectively felt we’d entered meta-joke territory when Crown's editors edited the book on adventures in editing.  Our wonderful copy editor remarked that it was his “apotheosis as a copyeditor.”

5. The TEAL kit is brilliant. Whose idea was it to send the TEAL kit to reviewers? Have reviewers been inspired?

Benjamin: The original kit was all Jeff.  In the lead-up to the book’s release, we were fortunate to have a really engaged publicity team at Crown, and the idea to send out kits to reviewers came from one of the conference calls with that team. Just like with editing, publicity efforts can be improved greatly by suggestions from other folks.
As for whether reviewers have been inspired, you’re more exception than rule in taking kit and camera in hand and joining the effort.  For that, we salute you!

6. How did it feel to see your book in a store for the first time?

Jeff:  I'd already bullied everyone I knew into preordering the book in the months before the release date, and ogled its listings on all the major retailers' websites, so by the time the book physically appeared in a store, seeing it on a table or shelf was a bit anticlimactic.  Still, we were doing a reading in a Borders in Manhattan (now dearly departed) for our debut, and it was pretty cool to have something I'd written for sale in a store in the self-professed center of the universe.
Benjamin: It’s definitely a rush, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.  I used to go to bookstores all the time (I’m a bit of a book monster), and I’d always stop by the science fiction section to push some books aside, making a little space for where my book would go, someday.  (There’s always room in H in sci-fi; I’d be right next to Herbert’s Dune series.)  It’s funny to discover that when it really happened, I appeared in a non-fiction section, and also that I’m shelved under Deck.

7. How has Typo changed your lives?

Jeff:  Ever since The Great Typo Hunt came out, I've had a greater sense of just how many other people are out there who care about promoting good spelling and grammar.  I'm heartened to think about all the other typo hunters scouring the country's text, knowing now that this can be a broader mission beyond us.  Never again will it feel like a lonely effort.  Oh, and we got to meet Al Roker.  I haven't washed my hand since!

8. What will you talk about at your next class reunion?

Jeff: We had our nine-year reunion at Dartmouth this summer (it was combined with other classes' ten- and eleven-year reunions to save money-- hello, brave new economy!)  Benjamin came along this time and kept reminding me to keep an ear out in case someone said something that might inspire a whole new book.  So far as I can tell, nothing's come of it yet.  On the other hand, we did have our book to "talk about" (i.e., mercilessly promote to our hapless classmates).

9. Did you eat more often at chain restaurants or local eateries? Did you have a favorite regional meal and if so what was it?

JeffWe ate at both chain places and local restaurants during the typo hunt.  When stopping mid-drive, it’s hard to find something other than a chain restaurant along the highway.  In the cities themselves, we’d usually make an effort to explore the regional cuisine. My companion for the West Coast leg, Josh, especially took a keen interest in finding new places to eat.  It also helped when we stayed with friends who knew the area; in Atlanta, Austin, and Seattle (to name a few), great restaurants had been pre-scouted for us.  I still dream about the delicious mussels and fries at a place on Valencia in San Francisco, and fresh cheese curds in Wisconsin were awesome.

Benjamin: The fajitas at this little spot on the town square in Santa Fe were amazing--flavors coming at you from every direction.  We couldn’t help but mention it in the book.

10. I have to ask this because I am a native Texan. Was Texas different from other states and if so how?

Jeff and Benjamin: My, that’s a mighty big state.  A strange Easter visit to Fort Stockton was the break between two of our longest driving days.  As far as typos go, we didn’t find evidence of regionally based typo variation; no one state or pocket of the country was more error-prone than the others.  So no, while everything else may be bigger in Texas, its errors are not.  Texas did offer us our first walking typo in Billy, the Subway “restaraunt” manager.

Muchas Gracias to Jeff and Benjamin for this interview. My first! I hope everyone enjoyed the interview and please leave me a comment. Thanks again, Michelle


  1. Loved the Q&A! Sounds like an awesome read.

  2. interview this interview!!!!!!