Libro.fm Podcast – Episode 06: “Interview with Emma Straub”

On today’s episode we have a conversation with novelist Emma Straub. She is the author of This Time Tomorrow, Modern Lovers, All Adults Here, and more! She owns and runs an amazing bookstore, Books Are Magic, based in Brooklyn, New York.

Use the promo code LIBROPODCAST for a free audiobook when you sign up for a new membership.


About our guest

Emma Straub is the New York Times-bestselling author of five novels—This Time Tomorrow, All Adults Here, The Vacationers, Modern Lovers, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures—and the short story collection Other People We Married. Her books have been published in more than 20 languages, and All Adults Here is currently in development as a television series. She and her husband own Books Are Magic, an independent bookstore in Brooklyn, New York.

Photo by Jennifer Bastian

The audiobooks we discussed


Full transcription

Craig Silva:

Hi, welcome back to the Libro podcast, a monthly series featuring interviews with authors, narrators, book sellers, and more.

Karen Farmer:

This month, we’re excited to share our conversation with Emma Straub, the author of the new novel, this time tomorrow, and the owner of Books are Magic, which is an indie bookstore in Brooklyn, New York.

Craig Silva:

We loved doing this interview. We got to talk about her new book in depth. We got to talk about what it’s like owning a bookstore, time travel, and what Emma has coming out next.

Karen Farmer:

Also be sure to stay tuned, because at the end of the episode Craig and I are going to give you a sneak peek of what we’re working on for Banned Books Week. And as always, thanks for listening to the podcast. We really hope you enjoy the interview.

Karen Farmer:

Well, welcome to the podcast, Emma, Craig and I are so excited that you’re here. The Libro FM team is very excited that we’re chatting with you today.

Karen Farmer:

Before we get into introductions and all of the questions we have for you, I feel like it’s just been a wild time for everyone this summer. There’s lots going on. So how has your week been?

Emma Straub:

Just terrible, horrible. No good. Very bad.

Karen Farmer:

Oh no.

Emma Straub:

I’m in one of those moments where, and I promise this is not my therapy podcast so we don’t have to talk about that online, but you know how sometimes there are so many different things going wrong all at once that you’re like, is this a prank?

Karen Farmer:

Yes, yes I do.

Emma Straub:

But yeah, but it’s a beautiful day. I’m happy to be here with you.

Craig Silva:

Cool, so I’m sure most people that are listening to this episode or the podcast in general are probably familiar with your work, but maybe for the few that might not be we’d love if you want to give a little brief intro about yourself and just let people know who you are.

Emma Straub:

Sure. So my name is Emma Straub, I’m a novelist and a bookstore owner. And what I will say about that, about what you just said, Craig, is that what the bookstore has done for me in this very nice, extremely healthy way is it has shown me over and over again that all books are not for all people, and that there are a million writers out there who people would just die for. And that I never ever feel bad if someone isn’t familiar with my books or my bookstore, or whatever. I just think that there are more books than any of us can ever read.

Emma Straub:

And I think that when you encounter a writer whose work you haven’t read yet but maybe find interesting, it’s such a joy. It’s such a joy, especially if they’ve written lots of books, because then you can go back and say, “Oh my God.”

Emma Straub:

Like when I read Meg Wolitzer’s books for the first time, maybe 2005 or so is when I started reading her books. She had already published 10 or 12 novels so I had so many to read.

Emma Straub:

So yes, if anyone listening has not read my books yet, no pressure. You can if you want to. You also don’t have to. No big deal.

Karen Farmer:

I love that experience you just described, Emma, that it is such a joy. I remember several years ago when I first discovered George Saunders and there were so many collections I could read, and I’m like, “Oh, it’s like a holiday.”

Emma Straub:

Yeah, that’s one of the best feelings.

Craig Silva:

Cool, so speaking of your novels, and for people that may not be familiar with them, we wanted to talk about your new book, this time tomorrow, which I believe came out in May.

Craig Silva:

I just read it last week for the first time and really, really enjoyed it. For people who haven’t read it yet we were hoping that you could give the elevator pitch of what it’s about and what you hope people get out of it.

Emma Straub:

Yeah, sure. So this time tomorrow is my autobiographical time travel novel. I think everyone should have one. I wrote it during the first half, or I guess I started writing it in 2020 when my dad was in the hospital. And the characters, the main characters are not me and my dad but we have a fair amount in common.

Emma Straub:

And yeah, it’s about a woman who’s turning 40 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and she goes out and she gets too drunk on her birthday. And when she wakes up she is in her 16 year old body on her 16th birthday, and her father who is very sick and in her present life as a 40 year old is suddenly young and vibrant and healthy again.

Emma Straub:

So yeah, it’s about love. It’s about the 90s. It’s about New York City. It’s about writing. It’s about art. It’s about hot dogs.

Craig Silva:

So I had read another interview you had done so I knew that it had autobiographical elements to it. When you were writing it, were you talking with your dad about it and letting him know what you were writing? Or was it a surprise for him? Or I guess what was his thoughts about being an inspiration for it?

Emma Straub:

Well, so I should start out by saying that my dad is a novelist, his name’s Peter Straub, and for my entire life I understood on a very deep level that fiction was magic in a certain way, that fiction had the ability not to heal wounds necessarily but to really help a writer process things that were really difficult.

Emma Straub:

I saw my dad do that for my whole childhood and early adult life. And so when he was in the hospital two years ago I had been writing a different book that I had had to put aside during 2020 because I wasn’t able to write at all, because I was just racing my children around our house, going insane.

Emma Straub:

And it was my visits with my dad that inspired this book, and it really grew out of our conversations together. And so he knew, we talked about it a little bit. We talked about it a little bit throughout. And then once I realized that what I was doing was actually writing this novel, that it was really going to turn into an actual thing, I told him again and he accepted the idea. And then I gave it to him when I was finished, and he said to me, “It’s quite personal.”

Emma Straub:

And I said, “Yeah, it is. And if there’s anything that’s in there that you want me to take out because it’s too personal, just say so.”

Emma Straub:

And he said, “What do you think I would want you to take out?” And I said, “Nothing.” And he said, “That’s right. That’s right.”

Karen Farmer:

Oh my gosh.

Emma Straub:

And he has read it many times now. And I think it’s probably a very complicated, layered experience for him reading it just as it was for me writing it, but the only reason that I was able to write it, and to write it as truthfully and with my whole heart as I did is because I knew that he would be okay with it.

Karen Farmer:

That’s so beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. And a lot of what you just mentioned I think starts to inform one of the questions that I wanted to ask you about the overall structure of the novel.

Karen Farmer:

I will say first, I’ve been challenging myself not to read a dust jacket or a synopsis before I open a book lately. And so the moment of Alice waking up in her childhood bedroom was shocking to me. It was one of those yell out loud moments, I’m like, what is happening?

Karen Farmer:

I absolutely loved it. And one thing that I wanted to specifically ask you then about the structure is that something that came across to me is that the chapters felt very much like they could be taken even as isolated vignettes of Alice’s life. And I listened and read the print off and on to get the two different experiences. And I was listening to it and one of the chapters ended, and I came away with this feeling of, that was a beautiful short story in and of itself.

Karen Farmer:

And so I wanted to ask you about how you decided to structure this book in the way that you did, given that tackling a time travel novel has to be very complex to do.

Emma Straub:

Yes, yes. And I can tell you for sure that I have never been more grateful for a copy editor as with this book, just because I am a joyful mess of a person in general. I have some writer friends who are meticulous and I am not, which is fine usually, but when you’re writing time travel you need dots to connect properly just in order for it not to be distracting. So that was tricky.

Emma Straub:

But yeah, I think that it had to do with the way my life was when I was writing it and my connection to my brain at that period in time where I wanted to get this story down on paper. And it happened quickly. I was ready. I was ready to tell it and I told it.

Emma Straub:

And so I think that the short chapters in part come out of that, come out of me. It’s almost like finishing a thought every time, and I wanted it to move. I wanted the book to move quickly too. And I certainly know, I’m reading a book right now, I won’t say what it is but the sections are quite long. And I am so tired when I’m reading it that I often am like, I’m confused. My brain required concise pacing in chapters, and not in a premeditated way. I think it just happened.

Emma Straub:

I do outline and I plot my books, especially this one. I really had to know where things were, where and when things were, but I never plot out anything on a chapter by chapter basis. I don’t go that granular.

Emma Straub:

So it really is my brain dictating how things needed to be.

Karen Farmer:

That’s really fascinating. And Craig and I, when we were preparing for this, we’re talking about the difficulty of not just writing a novel and having to map out the order of that, but time travel specifically. And Craig had a great gif of someone building the mind map with the strings tied between the pins.

Craig Silva:

That’s what I pictured your house must look like, like the murder map.

Emma Straub:

Yeah, so it was basically a murder map. And I had so many conversations with people, especially at the bookstore with my book sellers, being like, “Okay, got to go home and solve time travel.” That was my mantra. And I had so many useful conversations with people who love time travel, and so much of that, of my research went just right into the book.

Craig Silva:

I was actually going to ask about your time travel research. What did it look like? Were you watching back to the future and reading certain books? Are there any books that you read that you found as inspirational or movies?

Emma Straub:

Yes, yes. All of the above. I rewatched a lot of time travel movies that I loved. Like Peggy Sue got married, which was one of my favorites from childhood.

Craig Silva:

That gets mentioned in the book, right?

Emma Straub:

They all get mentioned, they all get mentions.

Emma Straub:

And then I read a number of time travel novels that I hadn’t read before, like Octavia Butler’s kindred and time and again by Jack Finney.

Emma Straub:

I read tons of things and watched tons of things. And ultimately what was the most comforting about all of that was realizing that it didn’t matter what I did, that I could choose for my rules to be whatever they were as long as I followed them myself. As long as I came up with how it worked for me and for these characters, then it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter. And that was very freeing.

Emma Straub:

It was very freeing. And there were so many things, there are a lot of more hard sci-fi writers who get really into the nitty gritty. But then there are also things like Palm Springs, the Andy Sandberg movie from a couple of years ago that’s so good. Or the Stephen King novel 11/22/63, whatever it is.

Craig Silva:

The JFK?

Emma Straub:

Yeah. Yeah, where the time travel details are non-existent because they don’t matter to [inaudible 00:17:09].

Craig Silva:

Were there any rules that you were like, I’m ignoring that? Or when you were doing your research, was there any, I better avoid that mistake?

Emma Straub:

Well, I knew that I didn’t want it to be a back to the future type situation where there were two of the characters. I didn’t want that mess. I didn’t want anything with buttons. I didn’t want math. I wanted there to be [inaudible 00:17:52] math. I wanted it to feel as simple as possible, because the book is not about time travel. That is not the point. That is not the point of the book.

Emma Straub:

And it’s been interesting to read what readers have said about the book because there are so many of them. I would say probably twice as many, I get twice as many notes or posts on Instagram or whatever from readers who say time travel isn’t usually my thing. Rather than as opposed to people who say, “Oh, I love time travel novels.”

Emma Straub:

There are definitely those readers, but there are way more readers who I would say are readers of my previous books who came to this and thought, uh oh. What, this is not why I read Emma Straub.

Emma Straub:

But I wanted to make sure that this book was good for those readers too.

Craig Silva:

No, that’s super interesting. And I agree that although the book is a time travel book it’s not a time travel book. And I agree with you about you keeping it as simple as possible. What’s simpler than falling asleep in a shed? It’s not like driving a car to a certain speed, it’s quite nice.

Emma Straub:

It’s just a small portal situation, yeah.

Craig Silva:

I did find that thing about the two lives, you didn’t want two of… I did find myself thinking about that as I was reading it, especially when she… Spoiler warning everybody, but when she goes back to 40 and she has the two children, and then she goes back again. I’m like, where are those children now? Is there alternate timelines? Do they exist? Or are they just they had a life and now they don’t have a life?

Craig Silva:

I was almost feeling bad for the people that were getting forgotten in a way.

Emma Straub:

Yeah, but I think that there are a lot of time travel theories and you could spend a lot of time doing this, but even my eight year old said something to me yesterday while we were walking home from day camp about alternate universes. And in this timeline we’re doing this, but what if in another timeline we made other decisions and something else is happening.

Karen Farmer:

Wow.

Craig Silva:

Did you say eight years old?

Emma Straub:

Yeah, yeah,

Craig Silva:

I hope in an alternate timeline I’m as smart as that eight year old, because in this one… That’s super, super interesting.

Emma Straub:

You can probably tie your shoes though, and he can’t.

Craig Silva:

Depends on the day.

Karen Farmer:

It’s give and take, give and take.

Craig Silva:

Yeah.

Karen Farmer:

Well, one last question in this vein before we move on to some other questions we have for you.

Karen Farmer:

One of our colleagues had a question. If you could choose to go back to one age in your lifetime, alla Alice in this book, which age would you choose and why?

Emma Straub:

I guess my impulse is to say that I would want to be a teenager again at some point in that pocket, just because I feel like that is when I really understood myself as the person I would become. And it’s when I made a lot of friends who I still have.

Emma Straub:

I would like to go back and see all of those people as they were. But as the mother of small children, I would love to go back and see my parents as young as possible. Because even when I think about I was talking to my dad the other day, and I was like, well, so wait, when he was my age. Because it was my husband’s birthday and he was turning 44. He turned 44, and so I was talking to my dad about him at 44.

Emma Straub:

And when he was 44 I was seven, I think I was eight. So I was the age that one of my children is now. And I would love to see that, I would love to see that. So I might go back, straight up, do some 1980s.

Emma Straub:

See some of them [inaudible 00:23:12]. That would be pretty interesting.

Karen Farmer:

I love that you addressed that in the book too. The truism that we reach a certain age and we realize when we were growing up, and you’re like, “Oh, my parents are so old and their friends are so old.” And then we’re like, “Well, they were younger than I am right now in that moment.”

Emma Straub:

Yeah.

Karen Farmer:

Yeah, lots to ponder.

Craig Silva:

So moving not away from the book but to a different format of the book, we’ll move into the audio. So had to see that coming, right?

Craig Silva:

I tend to do a lot of audio books and a lot of flipping between the paper book and the audio book. I read for an hour at night and then I’m going to go do the dishes and pop the audio on and all that. But I was just recently on vacation. I got back yesterday and I had the luxury of just having all the time in the world to read. So I read this book in paper the entire time, but when I got back I wanted to see who the narrator was.

Craig Silva:

And so for this one it was Marin Ireland who has won [inaudible 00:24:26] awards and is awesome, and has done a ton of books that I really liked including nothing to see here, which…

Emma Straub:

Yes.

Craig Silva:

Loved, yes.

Craig Silva:

I remember reading [inaudible 00:24:35]. I remember reading the description of that book and being like, why is this book so popular? It sounds insane. And then I listened to it and was like, oh, it’s amazing. So tangent aside, a lot of authors tend to use the same narrators. They have five books and they’re not in a series, they could just be five different books.

Craig Silva:

But they have their narrator, that’s their person. They always use them. And as I was doing a little bit of research before chatting with you, I looked at a bunch of your different books on Libro and there was a bunch of different narrators for different books. And I guess I just wanted you to speak to that decision and whether it’s just they weren’t available so I’d just go with the people. Or if it’s this narrator is good for this book and that one for that. So I would just love to hear your thought process there.

Emma Straub:

Yeah, it’s so it’s interesting and it’s always fun to think about. So my first novel, Molly Ringwald asked me if she could read the audio.

Karen Farmer:

Amazing.

Emma Straub:

And I was like, “Is this a prank? What’s happening?” Obviously I was extremely excited about that because she’s ultimate goddess. And then after that, it’s interesting. It’s never been presented to me as an ongoing partnership, but you’re right. Of course people do that. But with each of my books, I’m usually sent a few different samples, audio samples, and then I choose the one I like the most.

Emma Straub:

But with this, just full disclosure Libro listeners. I really never listened to audio books until a few years ago until after I opened the bookstore. I could tell you the audiobooks that I had listened to on one hand for the previous 35, 36ish years of my life, that’s not how I listened to books or not how I read or ingested books.

Emma Straub:

But this time I listened to a lot of audio books now and I knew who I wanted, and I wanted Marin Ireland because of nothing to see here. I’ve listened to her read other books and I think she’s amazing. I think she’s amazing.

Emma Straub:

And I just for the first time really, I had a clear vision of what the book would be with her reading it. And so I had just one person on my wishlist, and she said yes. And I’m so happy.

Emma Straub:

I don’t think I’m ever going to listen to the whole thing just because I don’t think I could handle it, but I listened to enough. I listened to enough to have just the pleasure. And so many people have told me that they’ve listened to the audio book. Maybe I’ll listen to it in 10 years, I don’t know. But right now I feel like I can’t, I just can’t.

Emma Straub:

But I am so excited that she did it. It feels like winning the lottery to me, I feel so lucky.

Craig Silva:

Now I feel bad that I was like, I typically do audiobooks, but with this one I didn’t. I might have to go back and listen to it now.

Karen Farmer:

That’s really fascinating too that the listening of that feels more, I don’t even know the right words for it, but just watching you describe that just so deeply personal to hear your own words read back to you that now it’s too soon.

Emma Straub:

Yeah, I think it’s too soon. I think it’s too soon, and maybe someday.

Emma Straub:

But yeah. I listened to enough just to feel like the book was in such good hands. It feels like, I don’t know, care taking care in this funny way that I hadn’t thought about.

Emma Straub:

Maybe it’s just because this book is so personal to me that I needed it to be exactly right. To be clear, that’s not a knock on anyone who’s read any of my other audio books. It’s just that my connection to this book was so different that the stakes just felt very high.

Craig Silva:

Yeah, you mentioned that you didn’t really listen to a lot of audio books previously, but then when you got the shop you did. What do you think was the switch there? Why going from not, I think you said ingesting, what was the switch there for you?

Emma Straub:

Well, obviously the answer to this question is Libro FM. And I’m not joking, I’m not pandering. I don’t want to give Amazon my money and I would never buy a book from Amazon. And so why would I buy an audio book from them?

Emma Straub:

I never had an easy way to buy audio books that felt integrated with my life as an independent bookstore shopper, and now I do. And now I do.

Emma Straub:

And also I will say on this one hour long advertisement for Libro FM, that one thing that Libro does that I love and that I look forward to like a psycho every month is the drop of that months audio book listening copies.

Craig Silva:

Oh, same, same.

Craig Silva:

I always feel cool when I get to listen to books before they come out. I’m like, “Oh, I’ve read that book already.”

Craig Silva:

“But it doesn’t come out until October,” and you dust off your shoulder a little bit.

Emma Straub:

Yeah. And at the bookstore obviously I get just hundreds of gales and arcs show up every day, and it’s just a deluge. But what I love about Libro is that I get to go through the list and I pick which ones I actually might want to listen to. And then they’re there, and maybe I get to them soon and maybe I don’t but they’re still there just waiting for me.

Emma Straub:

And it’s been really fun to realize what I like to listen to versus read on paper. For a little while there I was on a serious YA kick where everything was narrated by Bahnie Turpin. I was just on the Bahnie Turpin show [inaudible 00:32:45].

Emma Straub:

But I listened to Angie Thomas On The Come Up and I listened to Leah Johnson’s You Should See Me in a Crown. I don’t know, I had a whole YA moment. And I was like, “Oh, this is great.”

Emma Straub:

And in part it’s because they tend to be a little bit shorter and are just so vibrant. I love listening to that. And then before I started writing this time tomorrow, but when my dad was in the hospital I would drive up to visit him. Just the hospital was at the far end of Manhattan so it took a while to get there. I decided to listen to the audio book of the Talisman, which is a book that my dad wrote with Stephen King in 1984.

Emma Straub:

And I’d read the book when I was a kid when I was maybe 12, but I hadn’t read it in 25 years and I’d never listened to it. And it was so comforting to have it, to have him in my ears and uncle Stevie also. But it was really amazing. I just think that there is something about listening to a story that is so special and profound. This is a long answer.

Craig Silva:

No, it’s great. And I completely identify with it. And especially with YA and fantasy and stuff like that, anything with a lot of accents and all that. Sometimes I find myself listening and I feel like I’m watching a really cinematic movie. And then I’m like, “All right, it’s the end of the night. I’m going to pour a drink and go read the paper book.”

Craig Silva:

And I start reading it. And I’m like, “This isn’t as good.” I’m not reading it in my head as good as the audio book. I’ve literally sometimes listened with my headphones while reading the paper book, almost reading along because the person’s reading just adds something, just adds value to the word in a way that my brain cannot do. Although it can tie shoes, it cannot read as well.

Karen Farmer:

Awesome.

Karen Farmer:

Well, Emma, we would love to ask you a whole slew of questions about your bookstore. Obviously at Libro FM we are in love with bookstores. We are very thrilled that we’re a partner of your bookstore, Books are Magic, which is in Brooklyn, New York. I am very sad that I have not been there yet. I cannot wait to go, but I see all over the internet how beloved your store is.

Karen Farmer:

And so I think our first question for you is if you had to pin it down to one thing or a couple of things, what are you most proud of when it comes to Books are Magic and what really makes it special?

Emma Straub:

Yeah. Well, it’s funny. So we’ve been open for five years now, and I think my answer is probably different than it would’ve been if you’d asked me this a few years ago. But I think what I’m most proud of right now is that I think that our staff feels really supported by us and encouraged, and that I think we’re really a welcoming space.

Emma Straub:

I hope that people feel good when they walk in the door. I think they do, I think they do. And there are certain things that I think we’re good at that are unique, I think that we bring a certain sort of goofball energy to the bookstore space.

Emma Straub:

We are energetic and fun, and fun.

Karen Farmer:

That is beautiful, and it definitely comes across with just things I’ve seen on Instagram. I just see hundreds and hundreds of photos of people having fun in the store and smiling in the store, and spending time with friends there. And that very much comes across even to someone who hasn’t set foot in the space yet.

Karen Farmer:

And so in terms of the team dynamic, I know that curation is such a massive aspect of owning a store and ordering for the store and building displays. How does your team approach curation? What does that look like for you all?

Emma Straub:

Well, so I do the bulk of the adult front list buying with two other staff members, and then there are two other staff members who do the children’s buying.

Emma Straub:

So there’s just people who understand what we are and the kind of voices we want to support. That’s a big part of it in terms of just new books coming in. But I think what I have loved watching evolve is how really the stores physical makeup can depend on who is on staff and what they love.

Emma Straub:

So for example, we just moved our translated literature section closer to the front of the store to give it more space.

Karen Farmer:

Awesome.

Emma Straub:

Because we have so many people on staff who are really passionate about translated literature. We just built a horror section because we have people on staff who are passionate about it. And then there are sections where there used to be someone on staff. So we had a super, super, super devoted science fiction reader on staff for a while, and while she was there that section was a well tended garden. And now it’s people still pay attention to it but it’s not quite as robust as it was, or a true crime reader.

Emma Straub:

Things fluctuate as the staff fluctuates. And I love it because I think that it’s proof of how independent bookstores are living documents, it’s not standardized. It really depends on the people.

Craig Silva:

That’s such a good point. And I think that’s one of the things that make… There’s a million things that make bookstores so important to their communities and in special places, but that’s definitely one of them. If you go to a Barnes & Noble in Boston and then go to one in California, they’re going to look the same. They’re going to have the same sections. The books that are on the front table are probably going to be about the same.

Craig Silva:

But if you go to your bookstore or you go to one here in Boston, they’re going to be totally different. Even the sections they have, where they are, their prominence. And like you said, it even fluctuates and grows based on who’s working there at the time. And I think that’s just why whenever I go traveling I make sure I go to bookstores, because they’re not going to be the ones I have at home. And I’m getting the warm and fuzzies for bookstores now.

Craig Silva:

Speaking of running an independent bookstore, is there anything you wish people knew about what it’s like to run a bookstore that maybe you didn’t know when you started it and now you do, and you wish people understood when they walked in?

Emma Straub:

Well, I will say, so I get a lot of emails from people who want to open bookstores. And I have a lot of phone calls with people who want to open bookstores. Just as I did when my husband and I decided that we wanted to open a bookstore, we had a lot of these conversations with bookstore owners too. That what I wish I had understood more clearly is that yes, it’s all of these things that we’re talking about that are warm and fuzzy and wonderful. But that ultimately those things are the easy things. Those things are the fun things.

Emma Straub:

Anything that has to do with books is pretty fun, or authors or whatever. All that stuff is the fun stuff. But at the end of the day that a bookstore is still just a retail establishment that is open to the public and has all the regular problems and challenges of any retail business, meaning staffing woes or customer service conflicts, people spilling their coffee cup all over a table. In ways tiny and irritating and big and important, that is the hardest thing where you’re like, “Oh my God, what did we do? What did we do?” Anybody can just come in.

Craig Silva:

Books are magic but not coffee proof.

Emma Straub:

Yeah, definitely. Yeah, and not conflict proof. We’ve had to learn and continue to do trainings, and learn all kinds of things about how to have a supportive, healthy work environment for everyone, how to have a safe work environment for everyone. All of these things are really big and meaningful and take time to learn and understand and all of that. That is the real truth of running a bookstore, which is not at all sexy.

Karen Farmer:

I’m so glad you said that, because as soon as you mentioned it I’m like, I too have completely had the Wizard of Oz situation. I have not looked behind the curtain, and I’m like, It’s a bookstore. It’s fun. And I’m the customer. I feel the beautiful vibes you’ve created. And I didn’t think about the fact that this is a business. There are logistics, there are personnel things.

Karen Farmer:

Yeah, thank you.

Emma Straub:

Yeah, now you’re not going to open a bookstore.

Karen Farmer:

[inaudible 00:44:18] shopping.

Emma Straub:

Yeah, it is also such a dreamy job. It is such a dreamy job and we have such an incredible staff, and they are so smart. They are all so much smarter than I am. And just it is a privilege to be with them all the time.

Craig Silva:

There are some other authors who have bookstores, but is there anything about being an author that you think painted the way that you wanted to run your bookstore, maybe things that you knew as an author that maybe someone who just opens a bookstore because they love books might not know? Whether it’s the way you run author events, or I don’t know if there’s anything that you could speak to [inaudible 00:45:05]?

Emma Straub:

Sure. I think that one of the things that I think it has been important to us as a bookstore that I have a certain access to people, that has always helped. This week, two days ago we hosted this fundraiser for the National Network of Abortion Funds and we raised $12,000, and it was just people who I could text to say, “Will you do this, come and do this?” And they say, “Sure.”

Emma Straub:

And not to say that they wouldn’t say sure if I didn’t have their telephone number, but I think that in publishing as in any other business, that the longer it takes to get to someone the more convoluted and the likelier it is that the answer will be no.

Emma Straub:

But if I can write to someone directly and say, “Hey, can you do this? Would you like to do this?” They are more likely to say yes. So I think that that is certainly something that has helped us, and I recognize that it is a privilege that we have and that puts us in a slightly different position with a lot of writers.

Emma Straub:

But that said, we still compete with all the other bookstores in New York City for events. And I think that it’s not a power that I abuse, it’s something that I have access to though when necessary.

Karen Farmer:

Awesome.

Karen Farmer:

Well, I know we don’t want to keep you for the entire day, which we gladly would, but Craig and I have two more questions we would love to get your take on.

Karen Farmer:

So first of all, is there anything that you are reading or listening to right now, or recently that you really loved and that you recommend?

Emma Straub:

All right. Hold, I’m going to open up my Libro FM app here.

Karen Farmer:

This is always what I do when people ask me that question too. I’m like, “Let me peruse really quick.”

Emma Straub:

Yeah. Okay, just recently things that I listened to. I listened to Sloane Sloan Crossley’s cult classic on audio, which was just a delight. Because even though it’s a novel, and usually novelists don’t do this, Sloane read it herself.

Karen Farmer:

Oh, very cool.

Emma Straub:

She did such a good job and she is so funny, so that was an absolute pleasure. The Tony Morrison, I’m going to mispronounce it. Rest it Taif Recitatif, is that?

Karen Farmer:

Perfect.

Emma Straub:

The audio book for that was incredible, because the book, it’s a short story. And in the book, Zadie Smith has written this introduction that’s nearly as long as the story. And so on the audio, Zadie Smith reads her introduction and then a narrator reads the Tony Morrison story. And it just felt like a masterclass, it felt like a masterclass.

Emma Straub:

Nora Ephron’s heartburn is one of the best audio books of all time. Meryl Streep reads it. Perfect, you can’t do better.

Karen Farmer:

I’m a huge fan of that one as well, it’s so good.

Emma Straub:

Yeah. I don’t know. Right now, I’m listening to Heiresses by Laura Thompson, which just basically tells you that if you are a woman born to an enormous fortune, basically your life is ruined. Which is good comforting information to have. And I’m really excited to listen to Julia Whelan’s book, thank you for listening.

Craig Silva:

It’s so good.

Emma Straub:

I think that might be what I listen to next.

Craig Silva:

Little plug for this podcast that I listen to sometimes. We interviewed her about her book for this podcast a couple episodes ago, and we basically just gushed the entire time that we loved her book and her.

Karen Farmer:

It’s a great book, yeah.

Craig Silva:

For people who haven’t listened to it yet, go back and listen to it [inaudible 00:50:06] episode.

Craig Silva:

Well, thank you so much for spending the last hour with us, Emma, it’s been so interesting to learn about your book and your process and your bookstore. And we had a bunch more questions that we wanted to ask you about but obviously there’s only so many minutes in an hour, so we’ll have to hopefully have you back some time to go through some more of these.

Craig Silva:

I guess the last thing before we let you go is I know the book just came out in May, but is there anything people should be keeping a eye or ear out coming from you in the following next amount of months?

Emma Straub:

Yes, so if people have small children or just are smart people who like picture books regardless of the fact of whether they have small children or not, my first picture book comes out in January, it’s called very good hats. And it’s about very good hats.

Karen Farmer:

Love it, love it.

Craig Silva:

I’m intrigued already.

Karen Farmer:

This is great.

Craig Silva:

That’s awesome. I assume your children are super excited about this.

Emma Straub:

Oh, they’re pumped.

Craig Silva:

Yeah, that’s awesome.

Emma Straub:

They love hats, they look good in hats.

Craig Silva:

That’s awesome. Well, we’ll definitely keep an eye out for that.

Craig Silva:

Again, thank you so much for taking the time with us today. I’m sure you have a million things going on between the book and the store and everything, so we really appreciate it.

Karen Farmer:

Yes. Thank you, Emma.

Emma Straub:

Thank you. It was such a pleasure. I’m so excited. Yay, Libro FM.

Craig Silva:

Awesome. Thanks for listening to that interview, we hope you guys enjoyed it. So before we leave you for this episode we wanted to talk about a couple of things. So first thing, Karen, I’d love to hear what you’re listening to right now.

Karen Farmer:

Right now I am listening to I’m glad my mom died by Jennette McCurdy. And I am about 40% of the way through I believe, and I cannot put it down. I can’t stop listening.

Craig Silva:

I am also listening to, I’m sorry, not I’m sorry my mom died the opposite of that. I’m glad my mom died, and I am almost done. I think I have a half an hour left in the audio book and also can’t put it down. I think I started it yesterday.

Karen Farmer:

Oh my gosh. Okay.

Craig Silva:

Yeah, I was staying up late last night, like, I got to find one more dish to wash so I can keep listening to this. Is there any other housework I can do?

Craig Silva:

It’s really good.

Karen Farmer:

It’s been bad for my productivity today. My lunch break may have extended slightly longer than intended because I couldn’t stop listening to it.

Craig Silva:

Like, “Karen, we have a meeting. Where are you?”

Craig Silva:

Yeah, it’s a hard listen. I won’t won’t sugar coat it. It’s depressing but it also feels really important and raw. I also grew up watching iCarly and I’m familiar with the actress. So for me I was like, oh, I was always going to read this book when I heard about it. And then I didn’t realize it would get so big. It’s been on our best seller list. It’s on the New York Times best seller list. It is doing super well, which made me want to read it even more.

Craig Silva:

I’m like, oh, if it’s just every day people are reading it, not just iCarly fans, it must be really really good. And it totally is. So I would definitely suggest it to anyone.

Karen Farmer:

Yeah, I’ve never seen the show so I came in not knowing who this person was. And I am absolutely riveted and enjoying it. So completely agreed with what you said. If you haven’t seen the show you will still enjoy this book.

Craig Silva:

Yeah. She talks about the show but it’s not an iCarly memoir. It’s part of her life so it gets mentioned, but it’s definitely you don’t even really need to be familiar with her. It’s just an interesting story and sad story about parental relationships and growing up and coming of age, and I don’t know, I think anybody would get something out of it.

Craig Silva:

Cool, I also just read or listened to it’s called fairytale by Steven King.

Karen Farmer:

Oh, I have been dying to listen to this one.

Craig Silva:

Yeah, it comes out September 6th I want to say. If that’s wrong I’ll edit this in post. I think that’s when it comes out. Definitely sometime in September.

Craig Silva:

I listened to it a couple of weeks ago thanks to Libro ALC privileges, which was nice. It’s really long but really good. Especially if you’re like, it’s not YA but it kind of reads a little bit like it. And if you’re into the classic Joe being thrust into a fantastical world and going on a hero’s journey kind of vibe, then it’s definitely for you. And it is not scary.

Craig Silva:

Or even if I had read this book and didn’t know that it was by Stephen King, I would have been like, oh, this is classic king. It has a very different vibe. I read somewhere that he, I guess at the beginning of the pandemic was like, I want to write something that would make me happy. So that’s how this book was born, which is really interesting.

Karen Farmer:

Oh, I love that. Okay, I am going to jump on that.

Craig Silva:

It’ll be a nice pallet cleanser after the Jennette McCurdy book because it’s the opposite of tough and trauma and hard. It’s just fun, whimsical, fairytale land.

Karen Farmer:

I’m actually listening to another memoir nonfiction essays situation. I’m listening to dirtbag, Massachusetts by Isaac Fitzgerald, which came out…

Craig Silva:

Is it about me?

Karen Farmer:

Oh, that’s right. Yeah, that is your location. It came out pretty recently as well and was also just immediately flying off of the shelves. And I’m about halfway through that one as well and really enjoying it. I love memoirs. I cannot get enough of them. I’m like, tell me of your life. Tell me everything.

Craig Silva:

Yeah. Two things, I guess. If the person is a good writer, I don’t need to really even know necessarily who they are as long as the story is good. And then if you do know who they are and you’re familiar with their work, it just adds such a peak behind the curtain. Whether it’s a musician or an actor that you really like there is something really nice about it.

Craig Silva:

I’ll have to add this to my list, especially given the name.

Karen Farmer:

Yes, lots of relatable content location wise only.

Craig Silva:

So you’re saying I’m a dirtbag. I see, okay.

Karen Farmer:

I would never. So we wanted to tell you a little bit about the next episode that we have coming up. Undoubtedly going to be our most complicated episode yet, going to really test our prowess as new podcasters.

Karen Farmer:

Craig, do you want to talk about what we’re up to?

Craig Silva:

Yeah, sure.

Craig Silva:

So in September there is a week all about banned books to bring awareness to it. And it’s been around for a long time but it feels more important now than ever as I’m sure some of you have seen in the news, lots of towns and cities across America and I’m sure other countries too are dealing with school boards and parents and X, Y, Z people trying to take books out of libraries. Whether they’re about gender or queerness or a whole host of quote unquote critical race theory. So on and so on, all these books are being taken out of school libraries and town libraries and everything like that.

Craig Silva:

So there is tons of people that are on the front lines of this and trying to fight this and make sure that everyone has access. And we thought for that month that it would make sense to do an episode about this.

Craig Silva:

And who better to talk to with some of these people that are on the front lines. We are super, super lucky that we have a librarian, a book seller, another podcaster, and we’re going to have six people on this episode. So four guests and both Karen and I, so we will see how it goes.

Craig Silva:

But I think it’s going to be a really, really interesting conversation. And I don’t think it could come at a better time. So we are super excited about that. We’re recording in a week and the episode will come out in mid-September, so keep an ear out for that.

Karen Farmer:

And before we sign off, just a reminder that if you haven’t had a chance to try Libro FM yet don’t forget that you can sign up for a new membership using the promo code Libro podcast, and you’ll get an extra free credit when you start.

Craig Silva:

Also, if you’re not subscribed to the podcast, please do so. That way you get alerted when we have new episodes or any new content coming out, you can subscribe on Spotify, Apple Music, Google podcast, anywhere else you get your podcast. And as always, thank you for listening.

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