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Author/Reader Discussions > TAFT 2012 Author/Reader Discussion

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message 1: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9634 comments Mod
Hey guys!

Our January Author/Reader discussion novel is the upcoming Taft 2012: A Novel by Jason Heller- who will be joining us here between Jan 15th - Jan 29th!!

In order to stimulate discussion, Quirk Books has offered us a 5 copy domestic giveaway that includes the book and a campaign button and poster!

How cool!!!!

To enter, click through to the TNBBC blog - http://thenextbestbookblog.blogspot.c...

Good luck!!!


message 2: by Caity (new)

Caity (adivineeternity) Awesome! It sounds like an interesting read and I'd definitely love to be able to participate in another discussion here, seeing that I am trying to become more active on goodreads after my 9-month hiatus. Good luck to all who enter!


message 3: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9634 comments Mod
http://thenextbestbookblog.blogspot.c...

Winners have been announced.... were you one of them?!!


message 4: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9634 comments Mod
So January is upon is, and that means we are about to begin reading our first Author/Reader novel of 2012!!!!

Jason Heller will be joining us on the 15th of the month, so you still have some time to get started.

How many of you have already cracked it open?


message 5: by Donna (new)

Donna (DonnaSafford) I started it yesterday, and will probably finish it tomorrow. It is really good, and funny. I can't wait to discuss it. =)


message 6: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Graf (RebeccaGraf) I just got my copy and will begin reading this week. I can't wait.


Cate (The Professional Fangirl) (chaostheory08) | 89 comments Wah! Quirkbooks gifted me a copy. :) I'll read this after I finish either The Countess by Rebecca Johns or Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters.


message 8: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9634 comments Mod
Cate, will you be reading it in time for the discussion?


Cate (The Professional Fangirl) (chaostheory08) | 89 comments Lori wrote: "Cate, will you be reading it in time for the discussion?"

I think if I start next week, I might be able to reach the cut off. Let me see what I can do, okay? :)


message 10: by Caity (new)

Caity (adivineeternity) Woot! I finally got myself to finish writing a review of the book I was reading before it, so I literally just started reading about ten minutes before posting this. I've had my copy since, like, two days after I won it, though. Hurray for living so close to Quirk Books!


message 11: by Colleen (new)

Colleen Just started it today and it has my interest!


Cate (The Professional Fangirl) (chaostheory08) | 89 comments I'm starting it right about.... now!


message 13: by Sara (new)

Sara Habein (sara_habein) | 54 comments I just finished it the other day. Haven't quite written a review yet, but overall, I liked it fine. The first half was stronger than the second.


message 14: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Graf (RebeccaGraf) I'm a quarter of the way done and I'm loving it. The idea is so fresh and original.


Cate (The Professional Fangirl) (chaostheory08) | 89 comments It's a pretty light read and entertaining. :)


message 16: by Donna (new)

Donna (DonnaSafford) I can't wait to start discussing this book tomorrow!!


message 17: by Beverly (new)

Beverly I will be ready to discuss tomorrow.


message 18: by Jason (new)

Jason Heller (JasonHeller) | 27 comments Hi, Jason Heller here, author of Taft 2012. I figured I'd hop on, introduce myself, and open the floor to questions and/or comments. I'll be popping in and out of the thread sporadically today (and over the course of the next couple weeks), as my publisher already has me under a crazy deadline for my next book. But I look forward to your feedback and gentle interrogation. Thanks for reading (and thanks to Lori for hosting)!


message 19: by Sara (new)

Sara Habein (sara_habein) | 54 comments Hi Jason,

Guess I'll ask the most obvious question first: What drew you to talking about Taft?


message 20: by Jason (new)

Jason Heller (JasonHeller) | 27 comments Sara wrote: "Hi Jason,

Guess I'll ask the most obvious question first: What drew you to talking about Taft?"


I wish I could claim some lifelong obsession with Taft, but I must be honest: It was my editor's idea. I'd worked with him on a previous project for Quirk (a Pirates of the Caribbean tie-in, of all things), and he approached me with this idea of his: to write a political satire about Taft coming back to life. That said, I immediately fell in love with this tiny seed of an idea. What little I knew of Taft -- yes, including the bathtub thing! -- he seemed almost like a character out of some folktale. And then I started doing research on him, and I was immediately drawn to his uniqueness among presidents. In particular, his reluctance, his self-sabotaging honesty, and his desire to seem fair and unbiased to the point where he just made EVERYONE angry. The poor guy. I figured if I felt this empathy with Taft, maybe I could find a way for readers to feel that too. After all, who can't appreciate a president who openly declares how much he hates being president -- while still in office? If only all our politicians were that candid and allergic to power.


message 21: by Sara (new)

Sara Habein (sara_habein) | 54 comments He is quite interesting in that way, yes. And most people don't remember too much about him apart from his size.

So what led you to shave around 15 years off his life with a 1913 slumber instead, and to postpone his judicial career?


message 22: by Jason (last edited Jan 15, 2012 02:03PM) (new)

Jason Heller (JasonHeller) | 27 comments Sara wrote: "He is quite interesting in that way, yes. And most people don't remember too much about him apart from his size.

So what led you to shave around 15 years off his life with a 1913 slumber instead,..."


A few reasons...

1) It made a nice, round number of 100 years (well, okay, 99-ish) between his disappearance and reappearance.

2) This way, the resurrected Taft wouldn't be an old man when he returned. I wanted our hero to still be in his (relative) prime.

3) In real life, Taft lost much of his weight immediately after his term as president. Not only did I want him in his prime, age-wise, when he returned -- I wanted him at his peak, weight-wise.

4) It made it easier for the intervening generations to dismiss Taft and his legacy -- which makes him an even more bathetic, woebegone figure in my book. (You have to be cruel to your protagonist, otherwise they have nothing to win!) In my alternate history, he never had a chance to redeem himself after his 1912 electoral failure by subsequently attaining his true lifelong goal -- the Supreme Court. That gives my version of Taft a lingering, unrealized dream... and I think we can all relate to that!


message 23: by Donna (new)

Donna (DonnaSafford) Hi, Jason! I have been waiting for the discussion to start to tell you how much I enjoyed the book! With the venom in politics today, it was fun to read about the "what if" scenario and root for Taft. Your writing style drew me in immediately and your characters were fun to follow. I also enjoyed the humor as well as the poignancy in the story. It was fun to look at the world through fresh eyes and find that all he really wants is time with his family, a true "peer" in this radically changed world, and to be on the Supreme Court. The story lets him experience all of that.
With all that said, my first question is: who is your favorite character (besides Taft) in your book?
Thank you so much for joining us to discuss your book. =)


message 24: by Beverly (new)

Beverly Hi -

I too enjoyed the book. This book is very timely, yet showed in many ways the ways of politics have not changed that much. I liked how you included the history of Taft's presidential term into the storyline without it weighing down the storyline in the present time. The book was amusing, entertaining, fast-paced yet made you stop and think about all of the drama in the current politics.


message 25: by Beverly (new)

Beverly Hi Jason -

I liked the format of this book - do you have any plans to "revive" other Presidents?


message 26: by Beverly (new)

Beverly Hi -

I really appreciated the storyline around "food" becoming more infused with chemicals than the "food" itself.
I will not be able to look at a bowl of french fries with cheese - the same way in the future :)


message 27: by Jason (new)

Jason Heller (JasonHeller) | 27 comments Donna wrote: "Hi, Jason! I have been waiting for the discussion to start to tell you how much I enjoyed the book! With the venom in politics today, it was fun to read about the "what if" scenario and root for Ta..."

Thanks, Donna! The pleasure is all mine. Glad you enjoyed the book. To answer your question: My favorite character besides Taft would have to be Irene. In an early draft of the book, she had far more scenes, but they didn't all make the cut. But I hope I was able to bring her to life at least a little bit; as I mention in my dedication, she's based on my late grandmother, who was actually born the same week Taft was voted out of office in 1912. I drew on my memories of her while writing Irene's scenes, and there's definitely a sentimental attachment there for me.


message 28: by Sara (new)

Sara Habein (sara_habein) | 54 comments Why did you choose not to reveal why Taft was able to come to life again? Or why wasn't anyone concerned about how long it would last?


message 29: by Jason (new)

Jason Heller (JasonHeller) | 27 comments Beverly wrote: "Hi Jason -

I liked the format of this book - do you have any plans to "revive" other Presidents?"


Thanks for the kind words, Beverly! As for potential plans for other presidential-themed books: none on the horizon. In some ways, I wonder if this resurrected-president thing might be a one-trick pony (as much as I loved riding that pony!). Then again, there are so many presidents out there who have been largely forgotten by history. I'd actually like to turn that question back to you guys: Which president(s) would YOU like to see a book written about? (I won't hijack your ideas, promise!)


message 30: by Sara (new)

Sara Habein (sara_habein) | 54 comments Well, if we're keeping up with the majestic facial hair theme, Martin Van Buren's mutton chops fit the bill! haha


message 31: by Jason (new)

Jason Heller (JasonHeller) | 27 comments Beverly wrote: "Hi -

I really appreciated the storyline around "food" becoming more infused with chemicals than the "food" itself.
I will not be able to look at a bowl of french fries with cheese - the same way ..."


I'm glad you enjoyed the food aspect of the story. I was very concerned about putting it in there -- but I wanted a way to link Taft's obesity with the political issues he was facing (and that we all face). Besides giving me some space for a few more comedic scenes -- like the one in the Chicago molecular-gastronomy restaurant -- I was hoping to show how every aspect of our lives can (and has) been co-opted, compromised, and corporatized to some degree or another. It's not always for the worse, of course -- but in a democracy, it's our civic duty not to blindly swallow what we're being fed (pun intended).


message 32: by Jason (new)

Jason Heller (JasonHeller) | 27 comments Sara wrote: "Well, if we're keeping up with the majestic facial hair theme, Martin Van Buren's mutton chops fit the bill! haha"

Absolutely! That reminds me of another (albeit trivial) reason why I found Taft so interesting: He was the last U.S. president to sport facial hair. In that way, at least, his was a pivotal presidency!


message 33: by Colleen (new)

Colleen I really enjoyed Taft 2012.I was also wondering why you never mentioned how and where Taft was during his 99 year absence.Also after Taft dropped out why did you fast forward to 2021?


message 34: by Jason (last edited Jan 15, 2012 03:22PM) (new)

Jason Heller (JasonHeller) | 27 comments Colleen wrote: "I really enjoyed Taft 2012.I was also wondering why you never mentioned how and where Taft was during his 99 year absence.Also after Taft dropped out why did you fast forward to 2021?"

Great questions. First of all: I toyed around with the idea of giving a lengthy, detailed explanation of where Taft disappeared to for so long. But the more I tried to explain it, the more implausible it became. The more implausible it became, the more I tried to explain it. Pretty soon, the explanation became a sizable portion of the book -- and it started turning into a science fiction story, which wasn't my intention (although I love and write science fiction, too). After talking it over with my editor, we decided to keep it more on the level of magic realism; I talk briefly about the semi-bogus hibernation theory, and I leave it at that. In a way, I was hoping it would set the tone for how absurd and implausible the rest of the story would be. And again, it helped keep things more focused on satire rather than science fiction. And when you look back on the prime inspiration for Taft 2012, Rip Van Winkle, that magical hibernation was never really explained, either!

Second of all: I could have had Taft immediately get to the Supreme Court -- but I wanted President Rachel Taft to appoint him, and it would have been too much of a stretch to have her suddenly switch to the presidential candidate and win in 2012. I thought it would be more poignant if I implied that it was going to take a few years for Rachel to get to the point where she would (presumably) become the first woman president -- and that Taft himself would need a few more years of getting acquainted with the 21st century before he'd be ready.


message 35: by Donna (new)

Donna (DonnaSafford) Jason wrote: "Donna wrote: "Hi, Jason! I have been waiting for the discussion to start to tell you how much I enjoyed the book! With the venom in politics today, it was fun to read about the "what if" scenario a..."

I liked Irene very much and was sad when she died. But, you did a good job showing how that affected Taft. His one last true connection to the past was gone. I really liked Kowalczyk (how to keep someone safe in a world totally different than the one they knew) and Abby (the child who accepted Taft from the beginning, but also didn't mince words - pg. 185).


message 36: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9634 comments Mod
Hi Guys, Sorry I couldn't properly introduce Jason (Jason!!! Welcome, you are off to a rip-roaring start!!) until now. I was stuck at work.

I think I am going to have tread lightly in this thread... I just started Taft 2012 last night and am only a mere 40 pages in. That being said, I love the writing and the formatting. And the short chapters are extremely fun.

I'm sure many of my long-time members are probably pretty surprised at my choice to include such a political (though satirical) book as a group read.. since politics are one of the two scariest discussion points for a moderator (religion, obviously, being the other).

I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to share this novel with you guys. And hooray for the initial reactions!!!


message 37: by Jason (new)

Jason Heller (JasonHeller) | 27 comments Donna wrote: "Jason wrote: "Donna wrote: "Hi, Jason! I have been waiting for the discussion to start to tell you how much I enjoyed the book! With the venom in politics today, it was fun to read about the "what ..."

I love Kowalczyk, too. He was the second character I came up with (you know, after I created Taft out of, um, thin air), and I have a soft spot for him. Abby is another favorite -- I have a niece that's around her age, and she's always much wiser than the grownups around her (myself very much included)!


message 38: by Jason (new)

Jason Heller (JasonHeller) | 27 comments Lori wrote: "Hi Guys, Sorry I couldn't properly introduce Jason (Jason!!! Welcome, you are off to a rip-roaring start!!) until now. I was stuck at work.

I think I am going to have tread lightly in this thread...."


Thanks again, Lori! It's interesting that you bring up politics... I tried to make Taft 2012 as accessible as possible to readers of all political persuasions. Taft, after all, was a Progressive Republican, so he spanned an interesting spectrum. After all, you don't find many Progressives calling themselves Republicans these days, or vice versa! I thought it might be interesting to subtly show how these kinds of distinctions shift over time -- and how they can be arbitrary and open to interpretation. Granted, my own bias surely seeps through here and there throughout the book! But I wouldn't have been true to myself if it hadn't. And of course, the great thing about satire is its (hopeful) lack of heavy-handedness. To me, Taft 2012 is an almost cartoonish novel, and that was very intentional!


message 39: by Colleen (new)

Colleen Actually I'm glad you didn't bog the novel down with where Taft was,I sometime likes when a novel doesn't answer ever question,and leave it to a reader to process the information for themselves.I think the magical realism in this novel worked.


message 40: by Donna (new)

Donna (DonnaSafford) Colleen wrote: "Actually I'm glad you didn't bog the novel down with where Taft was,I sometime likes when a novel doesn't answer ever question,and leave it to a reader to process the information for themselves.I t..."

I agree with you, Colleen. I love books that leave some of the mystery to the reader. =)


message 41: by Jason (new)

Jason Heller (JasonHeller) | 27 comments Donna wrote: "Colleen wrote: "Actually I'm glad you didn't bog the novel down with where Taft was,I sometime likes when a novel doesn't answer ever question,and leave it to a reader to process the information fo..."

Me too. I knew it might feel a little unsatisfying to some readers, but it was a risk I felt I needed to take. I wanted to present Taft almost as a figure from an American folktale -- about as plausible as Paul Bunyan!


message 42: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9634 comments Mod
How's the reading coming everyone?

I was able to sit down for about an hour today and hit the Thanksgiving table scene. I'm really enjoying the book, and love how personable and out-of-touch-yet-not Taft is.

How sweet that he went to visit the woman who used to write him as a girl when he was president!


message 43: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9634 comments Mod
Jason,

What have things been like for you with the book coming out? Have you been touring?

You mentioned earlier that you have a deadline on a new book. Is that going to come out with Quirk again? Can you tell us what it's about?


message 44: by Jason (new)

Jason Heller (JasonHeller) | 27 comments Lori wrote: "Jason,

What have things been like for you with the book coming out? Have you been touring?

You mentioned earlier that you have a deadline on a new book. Is that going to come out with Quirk aga..."


No touring, but lots of interviews and such. I just spoke with David Greene of NPR's Morning Edition today, and it was a little intimidating! And I have a book-release event tonight at a great independent book store here in Denver (Tattered Cover). I'm not the best public speaker, but we'll see what happens... Maybe I should just dress as Taft and do it in character!

As for the new book: It is indeed being published by Quirk, and it's the first installment of a horror series for middle-grade readers. I'm sworn to secrecy until it's officially announced (I'm writing it under a pseudonym), but it should be out in time for Halloween 2012.


message 45: by Donna (new)

Donna (DonnaSafford) Jason wrote: "Lori wrote: "Jason,

What have things been like for you with the book coming out? Have you been touring?

You mentioned earlier that you have a deadline on a new book. Is that going to come out w..."


Please keep us posted, Jason! It sounds intriguing, even if you aren't using your "Jason" name. LOL


message 46: by Donna (new)

Donna (DonnaSafford) Jason, did you have a tough time making Taft "human"? Most Presidents are larger than life, and you brought him to us and let him experience this new world he found himself in. There were lessons to learn, and Taft didn't seem to mind learning. Although that New Year's Eve....


message 47: by Jason (new)

Jason Heller (JasonHeller) | 27 comments Donna wrote: "Jason, did you have a tough time making Taft "human"? Most Presidents are larger than life, and you brought him to us and let him experience this new world he found himself in. There were lessons t..."

Donna, first of all: Thank you for finding my (admittedly warped) version of Taft so human. It was my #1 goal when I started writing the book. I knew that the satire would be light, and that I wasn't going to invest any heavy science fiction in the story (although that might have satisfied certain readers -- myself included, probably!). The one thing I knew was necessary, though, was to make Taft a warm, sympathetic, and hopefully multidimensional kind of guy.

To answer your question: as soon as I made the decision to focus on Taft and make the book more character-driven than anything else, the man seemed to write himself. I know that's a cliche, but really, I didn't have to struggle for a second while finding his voice or writing his dialogue. After doing all my research, I think I subconsciously digested all those historical facts and views of Taft -- and my characterization of him just grew naturally out of that.


message 48: by Donna (new)

Donna (DonnaSafford) Jason wrote: "Donna wrote: "Jason, did you have a tough time making Taft "human"? Most Presidents are larger than life, and you brought him to us and let him experience this new world he found himself in. There ..."

I not only found him human, but you made me want to meet him. Thank you for such an enjoyable character.


message 49: by Jason (new)

Jason Heller (JasonHeller) | 27 comments Donna wrote: "Jason wrote: "Donna wrote: "Jason, did you have a tough time making Taft "human"? Most Presidents are larger than life, and you brought him to us and let him experience this new world he found hims..."

My pleasure, Donna! Thanks for reading, sincerely.


message 50: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (TNBBC) | 9634 comments Mod
Jason, due to the subject matter of the novel, I have to ask...

Did you ever have aspirations of becoming president, you know, as a child growing up?

If you were to have become president, what do you think we would most remember you by that you might wish we didn't?


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