Gotham Ghostwriters Craft Interviews highlight the extraordinary talent of our writer community. Each month, L. M. Archer interviews a member of our network about one of their books, delving into their inspiration and creative process.
This month, Archer asks writer and illustrator Bob Eckstein all about his humor book The Complete Book of Cat Names (That Your Cat Won’t Answer to, Anyway).
When does The Complete Book of Cat Names (That Your Cat Won’t Answer to, Anyway) launch, and what was the impetus for writing it?
I am laughing as I write this, because I know my answer is going to come off so weird. But like my previous dozen books I’ve worked on, the motivation always begins with what I think people enjoy reading. My snowman book, my first book 15 years ago, came about from walking in a bookstore and seeing that there was a need for a nondenominational holiday book. Each book after came from that thinking. This new book is just trying to be as funny as I can be about a topic that is so beloved by many, cats. I have bookstore owner friends tell me cat books are what people need, and I wanted my new book to allow me to just be flat funny without the burden of teaching anything or being high-brow. The book comes out August 8th. International Cat Day, of course.
How long did the process of writing the book take, from start to finish?
Less than a year. I work hard, and I worked on other books at the same time as Art Director at a publishing house, while teaching and cartooning, too. Between Covid, care-taking a parent, hosting a podcast, and writing a screenplay, it has been a crazy three years. I’m literally exhausted, pun intended. But I pride myself on never being late with a manuscript, and never missing a deadline. As a former Art Director I realize that is everyone’s first priority, something the artist often doesn’t understand. Better it be on time instead of perfect, unfortunately in the real world.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered while writing it?
Just juggling my other projects. My biggest challenge is finding time to exercise. I feel I put in 18 hour days behind a computer. Each morning there’s quite a few business emails to start, and I have gotten to the point where I don’t answer them all. I know there are even more people with more emails, and I don’t know how we deal with it today.
Any unexpected lessons learned while writing the book?
I try to learn something on everything I do. I take classes, I listen to webinars, I ask friends. In all honesty, this new cat book was just pure fun, and I can’t think of a lesson.
Any favorite chapter(s) and/or section(s)? If so, which one(s) and why?
I have a legal driving test for cats inspired by a friend Jack Handey. Jack wrote Deep Thoughts and the TV sketch, “Toonces the Driving Cat” on Saturday Night Live. I asked his permission to do the chapter, since he came up with the idea. He was fine, and then I asked if he and another SNL writer — Alan Zweibel — wanted to add anything, or write a joke for it. Both said they loved it, and thought it was good as is. That was a very high compliment for a humor writer, from two who are arguably the best living humorists of our time. And I’m not just saying that, but people like the New York Times have made that claim.
How has your affiliation with Gotham Ghostwriters (GG) helped inform your writing life?
I’ve made a couple of friends from GG, and discussing the landscape out there has been comforting and supportive.
Where may readers obtain a copy of your book?
The book is available anywhere books are sold, but I always encourage people to support their local physical bookstore. If they don’t have one nearby (I myself no longer do), I recommend Bookshop.org which actually helps independent bookstores.
Anything else I haven’t asked you that you think is important for GG readers to know about your new book?
Only that if you know a cat lover, they are going to enjoy this book. It’s silly, and it’s what we all need right now, something stupid. We have all been through too much. It is ridiculous. I say things can’t get worse, but they can get funnier.
More Fun Facts About Bob: I was the first to do live drawings of the Super Bowl and Oscars for the New Yorker and New York Times. I was a columnist for New York’s Newsday by 19 and didn’t finish high school but went to college.
Here’s a sneak peek…