Interview With Executive Editor of Riverhead Books, Courtney Young!

courtney youngCourtney Young carefully considers our question: whether it is enough for people to write a manuscript if the thought of doing so crosses their mind. Understandably so, the executive editor at Riverhead Books believes it is different for everyone; in other words (no pun intended), like many things in life, it depends.

“I will say writing a book is a lot of work, and you have to be, especially on the nonfiction side, prepared to go really deep on your subject and on working on the book,” she told So Booking Cool. “Be prepared for it to take years to get to the outcome. It’s not easy and the hardest thing is to commit to a book that your heart isn’t in.”

Young can relate to doing something that her heart wasn’t in. Prior to embarking on her 12-year career in book publishing, she pursued engineering. She was expected to follow in the footsteps of her father and brother. However, Young realized her true passion was in English, prompting her to take it on as her new major. She worried about disappointing her family (and to an extent she did), however, leave it up to a book to become the solution. Her father would later gift her The First Time I Got Paid for It: Writers’ Tales from The Hollywood Trenches by Peter Lefcourt (Editor), Laura J. Shapiro (Editor).

“ ’Well, I guess people can make a living if they’re not engineers, and I assume you’ll be okay,’ “she recalled her father saying. The Detroit native also had a stint working at NASA in California as a technical writer, where she edited proposals and journal articles. She was grateful for the opportunity, but, again, this wasn’t her ideal career. Her vision clear, she relocated to New York City and officially began her publishing career at Penguin Random House’s Portfolio Books, a business imprint. She has not looked back since.

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Some of Young’s favorite titles she’s edited include the New York Times bestsellers What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe; Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure by Ryan North; Spineless by Juli Berwald, just to name a few. Young also discussed some of the forthcoming projects that she is excited about, such as Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein (May 2019), who wrote the bestseller, The Sports Gene (she also worked with him previously).

the sports generange bookThe Sports Gene is a really fascinating, wide-ranging book that a lot of people came to, and he found the thing that most people were interested in is this idea of early specialization,” Young said. “The idea that if you want to truly be great at something, especially sports, you have to start early and focus; be kind of like Tiger Woods, and just sort of get ahead of everybody else. And David was turning over all this research that said the opposite, that the people who are actually most successful aside from those few stories like Tiger, are generalists.” In his new book, Epstein presents information on why thinking broadly and having diverse experience and various interest will enable an individual to thrive.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Young, her insight on what makes a strong editorial team, some of the proudest moments of her career, her insight on book reviews, and the other upcoming projects she looks forward to sharing with the world. Don’t be a stranger, visit Young on her official Twitter.

Interview With Country Singer, Songwriter & Musician Re Mattei!

rei mattei feels like it's gonna rainCountry singer, songwriter, and musician Re Mattei’s name carries a sentimental meaning. “Re,” derived from her first name Marie, is a tribute to her late grandmother, who called the singer that before she dropped the name. “When people call me Re, it reminds me of my grandmother, so it gives me a warm place in my heart,” she shared with So Booking Cool. The New Jersey native is currently promoting her new single “Feels Like It’s Gonna Rain,” co-written by Carrie Underwood, Don Poythress, and Barry Dean.

The song, which continues to grace the Music Row Country Breakout Chart, tells the story of when one knows a relationship is on the outs but does not want to face the truth. We also discussed her single, “Bump, Bump, Bump,” which Mattei wrote about a personal experience. The song is an upbeat anthem about how music can help one overcome the pain of a breakup.

Mattei became a lover of music early in life. She was intrigued by what she heard on the radio, which led to her writing songs at nine years old and then taking on guitar lessons three years later. It didn’t take long for her to realize she wanted to study music. However, after a meeting with her then guidance counselor, she started to change her mind about her dream.

Re-Mattei-1“He [guidance counselor] made the comment, ‘well, there’s already one Beatles; you got really good grades, you need to be a lawyer or a doctor,’ ” the performer recalled. “I remember I came home that day, and my dad called and asked me how was school, and I said ‘oh fine, I’m probably going to be a doctor or a lawyer.’ ”

Fortunately, Mattei’s father reminded her of her musical aspirations and advised her to follow her heart. And she did. She enrolled at Berklee College of Music, graduated, and landed a music publishing deal to join the Top 40 all-female band, the Uptown Girls, where she traveled around the world as a lead guitarist for three years. Now, she is gearing up for her debut album, Believing and Seeing.

Listen to the interview to learn more about Mattei, her music, some of her favorite artists, what she thinks makes a good artist, Christmas, Dolly Parton, details about her next single, songwriting, her other profession, and more! Fore more information, check out Mattei on social media.

Interview With Conscious Artist and Lyricist Kyle Knight!

kyle knightConscious lyricist, rapper, producer, and businessman, Kyle Knight, is aware that art with heavy material pushes people away sometimes, however, he believes creating art that tackles serious issues is for the betterment of the masses. Knight has discussed topics involving social issues, misogyny, domestic abuse, and political corruption. “I feel that it makes us stronger as a people,” he explained to So Booking Cool. “Not only that, but it grows our consciousness level as people too. And I feel that when you have a good artist, such as myself, and you have good lyrics and good production, and you’re able to make [the social issue] as relevant as possible, then you know you’re in the winning seat.”

Knight’s musical roots played a part in his becoming active in music at the age of seven. In his family’s home recording studio, Knight’s father started him off with production, which sparked a passion for songwriting as well. When it comes to musical influences, James Mtume, Tupac, Nas, and Common are among the names he cites as artists who he believes successfully address social issues. He also admires Bruno Mars for being an artist who refuses to let himself be defined by a specific genre.

When it comes to his advice for those looking to work in the music business, Knight believes in individuality and finding ways to advance old trends. “The sky’s really your limit,” he added. “What I tell the listeners out there is to not be afraid of sacrifice, not to be scared of rejection. Understand that it is a process and you’re not gonna come out an overnight success; you are not gonna come out on Drake’s level overnight. It really takes a ladder to climb and it really takes a road to walk down. It is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Listen to the interview to learn more about Knight, The Truth Chronicles, the positive reception to his single “Hey Sister,” his love for books, music publishing, his thoughts on conscious artists getting accused of “selling out,” and more! For more information, check out Knight’s official website.

Interview With Marc Shapiro, Author of “John McCain: A View from the Hill”!

One of the reasons New York Times bestselling author Marc Shapiro penned John McCain: A View from the Hill was because he wanted to uncover the unknown details of the late senator’s life. However, if you are expecting a scandalous, sensationalized account, you won’t find it in this biography. The book, published by Riverdale Avenue Books, was written prior to McCain’s passing and focuses on the revered figure’s professional life, in which readers have gained compelling information. McCain was as kind as he was tenacious and was willing to work with everyone, a point Shapiro emphasizes.

“We need more people like John McCain,” Shapiro told So Booking Cool. “I mean, that sounds cliché as hell, but we really do. I talked to one person who made the point of saying that John McCain was a throwback to the founding fathers of this country. If there had not been people like him when this country first came into being, we would probably have thirteen United States of Americas as opposed to the one we ended up having in the beginning.”

In our second interview with Shapiro (check out our first one, in which we discussed his Lin Manuel Miranda biography and more), we uncover additional topics, such as the book he wrote on Donald Trump prior to his presidency, as well as his forthcoming biography on the popular boy band from South Korea, BTS. Shapiro, who is just as much as a journalist as he is an author has a catalog that includes more than 80 high profile biographies, as well as fiction, short stories, and poetry.

“The key to doing what I do is basically, number one: it has to interest me. I’m not averse to the idea of having a book that’s going to sell a lot of copies and make a lot of money for people, that’s how I pay my bills. But at the end of the day, whoever or whatever I write about, it has to have some interest to me because if not, it’s going to be a real drag to write and then you become your own worst enemy.”

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Shapiro’s approach to writing A View from the Hill, who he is as a writer, his thoughts on whether there are qualifications for writing a biography, additional tidbits about the BTS book, and more!

Interview With Literary Publicist, Lathea Williams!

LATHEALathea Williams might not have initially chosen book publishing as a career, but the driving force for why she chooses to remain in the industry is due to history. “There was a point in time where as a black person, we weren’t even given the opportunity to read. We were chastised for it. So I’m very much aware of my history and that’s one of the main things that keeps me in this industry,” the publishing professional said to So Booking Cool.

So far, Williams has worked as a literary publicist for over ten years. She attended City College where she earned a degree in public relations and advertising. Her internships included public relations in the fields of investment and music (one of her stints saw her intern at Columbia Records). But it was the publicity internship at Little, Brown that ended up being her favorite.

ATLAS OBSCURABook publicity was another territory and Williams was delighted that her responsibilities consisted of reading, writing (press releases, which she says are like writing book reports), and building media contacts. “Years ago, proud moments for me was when I would get a media hit in a magazine, like Oprah Magazine or a Today Show or Good Morning America hit, but now, I’m proud and happy when I can give back and I can see someone excel and succeed and have as much passion and joy for what they do a little much as I do,” said Williams. “And bestsellers are great!” she added laughingly.

Williams has gotten several bestsellers, including Dylan Thuras’ and Rosemary Mosco’s Atlas Obscura’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, illustrated by Joy Ang. What was one of the most integral parts of the children’s book’s publicity campaign? The plentiful school visits that Thuras made.

A WOMAN GUIDES TOI WILL TEACH YOU TO BE RICH

Now, Williams has been gearing up for the upcoming releases of A Woman’s Guide to Cannabis: Using Marijuana to Feel Better, Look Better, Sleep Better–and Get High Like a Lady by Nikki Furrer (Workman Publishing, January 2019) and the 10th anniversary of I Will Teach You to Be Rich: No Guilt. No Excuses. No B.S. Just a 6-Week Program That Works by Ramit Sethi (Workman Publishing, May 2019). Check out the interview to learn more about Williams, publicity, her personal story, her advice for aspiring publicists, what she’s currently reading, and more! For more information, visit Williams on LinkedIn.

Interview With Rock ‘N’ Roll Pianist, Singer & Actor Jacob Tolliver!

jacob tolliver“Santa Baby” was originally Jacob Tolliver’s least favorite Christmas song—in fact he dreaded it—but when the emerging rock ‘n’ roll artist, pianist, and actor had the idea of collaborating with Full House and Fuller House star Jodie Sweetin for a holiday song, he saw no better choice than the classic record. Tolliver’s 50’s, 60’s, 70’s rock ‘n’ roll piano skills meshes with Sweetin’s pop sound for the rendition, which will release worldwide this Friday, November 16.

“It’s kind of a pretty relevant theme in pop music within the last five, ten years of blending retro sounds with modern beats and modern sounds, like Bruno Mars, Michael Buble, Post Modern Jukebox or Megan Trainor,” he told So Booking Cool in description of the song. “Baby” has now become Tolliver’s favorite.

JODIE AND JACOBTolliver, who hails from Ohio, has been active in music since he was a child. Currently, he is the opener for legendary rock n’ roller Jerry Lee Lewis aka The Killer. Previously, Tolliver portrayed the pianist in the Las Vegas production of “Million Dollar Quartet.” The popular musical tributes the famous recording session between Lewis, Elvis Pressley, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins. During his run on the tour, Tolliver was recruited for the 14th season of American Idol. Both stints have allowed Tolliver and Lewis to build a close bond.

“The man truly is a genius,” Tolliver said. Lewis is also an exception to the “never meet your idols” phrase. “He’s 83 and he’s at the point in his life where I think he’d love to see somebody wanting to keep [rock ‘n’ roll] alive and keep it going ‘cause it is really great music. If you’re at a dance and let’s say “Johnny B. Goode” comes on, everybody starts dancing…people love that music, it makes people happy, it makes people dance.” Tolliver’s goal isn’t to copy; it’s to help keep the genre going.

Before making it big time, Tolliver actually was interested in public relations. He saw himself being the publicist for a musician. Proving that life has an interesting way of unraveling, Tolliver was not always passionate about playing the piano. Listen to the interview to learn more about his trajectory, including the time he stopped playing the piano for five years, how friend and Full House creator Jeff Franklin’s party led to Tolliver befriending Sweetin, the book he’s currently reading, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll by Peter Guralnick (Little, Brown and Company), his thoughts on mentorship and the new Bohemian Rhapsody movie, and more! For more information visit Tolliver’s official website.

Interview With Writer, “Wild N’ Out” Star, & Author of “Please Don’t Grab My P#$$Y,” Julia Young!

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Comedian, Producer, Actress, Improviser and Wild N’ Out star Julia Young has expanded her skills of television writing and rapping into co-writing her newly-released book, Please Don’t Grab My P#$$Y: A Rhyming Presidential Guide. The adult picture book, published by Animal House Media Group, was co-written with comedian and entrepreneur Matt Harkins, and illustrated by Laura Collins. The impetus for the book came after this past presidential election, in which Young felt upset, but inspired.

When asked what she hopes readers will takeaway from her debut, Young replied, “I hope that they get a laugh first of all. I think people who are buying this book don’t like Trump, it’s a very divisive book. But I hope people realize things need to change, and obviously it’s never okay to grab women by their genitalia, and maybe just come away with a little bit of a laugh in these very, very difficult times,” she told So Booking Cool.

Young, who has produced for Desus and Mero, has written for many hit shows including Brain Games, Girl Code, Hack My Life,  Impractical Jokers, TRL, Safe Word, and Celebrity Death Match, among many others. Before joining Wild N’ Out as a cast member, she was a consultant for the show. She has also taught creative workshops for improvisation. Her road to success has not been a linear one, as she describes, which can actually help people get closer to their dreams.

“I think you just have to say yes to every opportunity. I got on Wild N’ Out because I was consulting for them. I was there and people thought I was funny and after one season, they were like, ‘hey, do you want to be on camera?’ I also think I’ve succeeded in comedy and in this world because that was never not an option…I can’t do anything else, therefore this will happen.”

Listen to the interview to learn more about Young, including her approach to comedy, her book publishing experience, how she overcame bullying, her favorite authors, and more! For more information, visit Young’s official website.

Interview With “Maki” filmmaker Naghmeh Shirkhan!

NaghmehOut of all male nominees, Naghmeh Shirkhan won Best Director for her feature film Maki at this past week’s Chelsea Film Festival, a victory that both surprises but makes sense to the filmmaker. “It’s been such a long road for me, and I have kept at it. To me, it should not matter whether you’re male or female, the work should stand on its own,” Shirkhan told So Booking Cool.

Maki, which took 18 days to shoot, captures the story of a New York-based young Japanese woman’s coming-of-age. The film explores the themes of love and loss, power and manipulation.

Film_coverShirkhan, an Iran native, knew she wanted to work in film when she was in high school. She worked at a video store throughout her teens and early twenties in her hometown of Boston, and then attended film school. Once she graduated, she stayed committed to her passion and moved to New York where she worked in advertising and editing on the production side. While she knew she wanted to be an independent filmmaker, she lacked connections in the industry. But Shirkhan held onto her vision and eventually made her debut, critically-acclaimed film, The Neighbor.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Shirkhan’s journey to filmmaking; Maki; what she thinks can be done to increase the amount of women filmmakers; the advantages that aspiring directors have today; her views on making movies on phones and casting; her love for books and how novels influence her; and more! For more information, visit http://maki-film.com/ and follow Shirkhan on Instagram.

Interview With Jerald L. Hoover, Author of “My Friend, My Hero”!

HOOVERThough it took nine years for Jerald L. Hoover to get his book, My Friend, My Hero published, it would later celebrate 25 years of release; win multiple awards and garner accolades; become a semi-finalist in the Gotham Screenplay Contest; and make Hoover a staple in his hometown of Mount Vernon. He was awarded with the WritersCorp Award by president Bill Clinton and was among the top selling black authors in the early 90’s. The professor, motivational speaker, playwright, award-winning author and sports journalist is now excited for the new generation to be introduced to My Friend, My Hero, the first in a series.

The young adult novel tells the story of Bennett Wilson, a level-headed athlete who seemingly has it all with the top colleges lining up to sign him to their basketball roster, but life tests him in a major way when his mother falls ill and behind on the rent, forcing Wilson to consider the bad road he’s always tried to avoid in order to save his family. The novel, which Hoover began writing when he was 17-years-old, is a powerful story of friendship, education, the choices one makes.

25th 3D Light Red Shirt“My endeavor is to reach everyone, but out of everyone I want 1 million young men to read the book because I really think it will shape their thinking to be more positive and proactive,” Hoover told So Booking Cool. “And I really think that will help America going forward.”

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Hoover’s journey to writing My Friend, My Hero and getting it published; how the book is still relevant; why he champions literacy; the comment he’ll always remember from a fellow reader about his book; the marketing ideas he implemented for his book; and info on the series; and more! For more information, follow Hoover on twitter, as well as the Hero Book series.

Interview With Zachary S. Williams of “I Am Frankie”!

Zachary SBCFor something that was initially a hobby, young actor and musician Zachary S. Williams has serious goals for his career in entertainment. In addition to his aspiration to become a director, the Nickelodeon star also hopes to launch an organization that will connect children to the arts.

“Art, in general, is an important field that I think most people need to experience, and the younger, the better,” the 18-year-old told, So Booking Cool. “I think the younger you are, the more excited you would be to try new things.”

Williams, who has been active in show business for a decade, started in theater (he would love to act on Broadway someday), appeared in commercials, modeled in print ads, and even co-hosted the show Rays Rookies.  Later, he would land a role in the debut season of the hit series, Greenleaf, where he worked alongside Oprah Winfrey—probably the “most amazing experience” Williams says he could have.

He would then star on the popular series I Am Frankie, which tells the story of a teen girl living the double life of an android acting as a human in a risky attempt to preserve her safety.  While the show is meant to be entertaining, specifically for children, Williams believes the series also upholds the message that there are issues that can come with being different.

What is his advice for young people looking to break into the industry?

“Everything happens for a reason,” the Orlando, Florida native said. “And what’s meant for you will not pass you by.”

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Williams, including the career he thought he wanted to have, as well as how he studies his craft, what one can expecting from acting classes, his favorite book on acting, philanthropy, and more! For more information, visit Williams on social media.