When Angela Hanson moved to the small Oregon town of The Dalles from Salem nine years ago, Klindt’s Booksellers was her “saving grace.” Hanson spent so much time there that the manager, Tina Ontiveros, finally asked if the store could hire her so she wouldn’t go broke buying books. While Hanson says she’s reputed to read only young adult books, which are her passion, she does occasionally partake in adult fiction and non-fiction and in cookbooks and books on chickens, hiking and survival. But YA is where she’s really made her mark as a bookseller. Hanson has such a following among Klindt’s YA customers, the store has devoted a wall-and-a-half to her personal picks. Hanson has even devised a color-coding system to help customers and other booksellers sort out the ‘weres’ from the vampires. “It’s funny,” says Ontiveros, “the rest of us sort of rolled our eyes at her color coding system . . . but YA readers love it! Klindt’s has just enjoyed our most successful year ever, and Angela has much to do with that!”
Last June, Hanson helped coordinate a popular YA event called Got Books? and customers have been clamoring for another; Hanson is at work now on the follow-up event for this June. She answered a few questions for us. Thanks to sales rep Kurtis Lowe for telling us about her super powers!
We love your YA color-coding system. Will you tell us why you came up with it? I kept getting phone calls at home from my co-workers, asking the whereabouts of certain books I’ve read and recommended. And after a co-worker said, “Your section will never make sense to me,” I tried thinking of the easiest way to organize my recommended reads. I immediately thought of sections for genres in the genre. Separating and identifying them by color seemed natural . . .
At first I was teased by my co-workers. They like to poke fun, all in good nature, of course, about my book obsession. Now though they still tease, but they find what they’re looking for so much easier! My weekend phone calls from co-workers have decreased 150%!!!
And the “It’s OK” (to buy YA for yourself) sign, so funny! Do people really go incognito to buy this stuff? I’ve never had someone come out and say ‘this is for my son/daughter’ when purchasing YA. But you can see that little bit of embarrassed, awkward body language when an older man/woman approaches the counter with a YA title. Until of course I say, ‘I LOVE that series . . . When you get done with that one you should try this one!’ Not only does all awkwardness disappear but I gain another follower! Since putting up the ‘It’s OK’ sign the amount of people that stop to read it, giggle and then ask what we would recommend from the section is just amazing!
Who’s buying the most YA these days? Even though I have lots of teens I talk to about YA I find that my largest customer base these days are the 25-50 age group. Something I’ve learned especially in the past couple of years is that reading has become the way to relax and forget all of the chaos. And, personally, I believe YA offers the needed escape with the fantasy and the passionate feelings of the characters and the “could happen” scenarios that get us to think about something other than the day-to-day stress we experience. I believe that’s why we’ve seen such a reading boom in YA from all age groups.
It seems like there’s more YA right now than there’s ever been. Do you think it was J.K. Rowling who opened the floodgate, or is it just that she brought more attention to the genre and more adult readers to it? I do believe the movement started with J.K. Rowling. She provided something that parents could read right along with their children and enjoy just as much as the kids. And, lets face it, when the market is inundated with something that is engaging people of all ages, other creative people are going to push to be a part of that. I thank J.K. Rowling and give kudos to all the creative authors that are writing YA. It makes my job fun! Not to mention all my down time!
Will you tell us about some recent titles you love handselling right now? With the success of The Hunger Games it’s been my personal mission to turn readers on to titles that are going to give them that same new-world feel with action and good vs evil. I’ve been handselling Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden Trilogy, Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Trilogy, Allie Condie’s Matched Trilogy. A couple new ones that have crossed my path that have been great sells are Partials by Dan Wells and Starters by Lissa Price. Not to be left out is a new twist on Angels that was riveting: Embrace by Jessica Shirvington. Zombies are huge right now and a fave to sell (and read) is Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Mayberry. I really could go on and on and on . . . I have so many favorites!
Zombies? What’s the draw with the undead? I love Zombies!!! I’ve always been a Max Brooks fan. Since the start of AMC’s The Walking Dead more and more people are wanting to read fiction that is zombie related. I think it has to do with survival against people that you may or may not have known before a ‘turning’ and how people react to society falling apart around them. And lets face it, who doesn’t love a bit of good old-fashioned horror? Authors I’ve turned people onto include above mentioned Jonathan Mayberry, Carrie Ryan, Ilsa J. Bick, Lia Habel and Sophie Littlefield, to name a few. All personal favorites!
Where do you get your intelligence on new titles? I’m a total book stalker! I follow authors websites, subscribe to publisher, author and book-related newsletters and use Facebook and Twitter. I’m also lucky enough to correspond with authors who share names of other authors and books that they enjoy and think I would, too. I’m a lucky lady!
Will you sell us on a series we’ve probably never heard of? Currently, my #1 best series is The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima. It started as a surprise love affair for me. I read the first book, The Demon King, after liking the cover. Yes, I tend to judge a book by it’s cover . . . I read it and was hypnotized! I immediately had a new group of people I was in love with! Cinda has a way of making you really identify and sympathize with each character even as they’re experiencing completely different challenges in life! The magic! The politics! The crossbows and swords! Forbidden love! Evil Warlocks! Well, I shouldn’t give it all away. It left me wanting MORE!
Of course I had to wait for the Exiled Queen’s release. Boo. Lucky for me Cinda has another series (that I highly recommend, as well) called The Heir series. It kept me happy until I had my greedy little book-grubbing hands on The Exiled Queen. It was just as good if not BETTER than the first. Then the aching wait for The Grey Wolf Throne. That one. WHOA. What a roller coaster. I had anxiety! I cried! And now? Waiting on the final. The Crimson Crown. Fall cannot arrive fast enough. I got to meet Cinda a few months back. She is an awesome person who is a geek just like me! She endeared me to her and her books that much more. READ THESE!!!!
Will you recommend a YA title for the YA doubter—maybe a ‘serious’ or literary fiction reader? I would and I do recommend YA to the ‘serious’ fiction reader. The trick to sell that crowd is to find what appeals to them on a personal level. Ask them what they like in their fiction and identify what they like with something in my section. It works. Just ask the parents that now come in with their kids to get help picking a series to read together.
How about someone who loves character-driven stuff ? Most YA is plot-driven but I don’t want that to turn off the ‘literary’ fiction readers. Through those plots there is character growth. Klindt’s manager Tina is a ‘literary’ fiction reader whom I challenged to read one of my YA titles. After some playful insults back and forth she agreed and has now read several YA titles! As I mentioned before, it’s really all about finding a title that fits the person who’s going to read the book!
Tell us more about your Got Books? event. Supporting the YA writing community and getting new readers to love the amazing books the authors write is important to me. So last year I asked my manager if I could pick a date before school let out to do a summer reading event to promote reading over summer vacation and invite YA authors to participate. The result? Got Books? What an endeavor! We had 12 WONDERFUL authors that participated. We had four hours of people, people and more people being exposed to books they may not have otherwise ever been exposed to. And every last author was so engaging with the constantly-changing audience that they now have lifetime followers. There was free food, book giveaways and a local violin class that performed with author Rosanne Parry, who had just released her book Second Fiddle. If that wasn’t enough five of these fantastic authors then went to our local juvenile detention center to share the event with the youth that could not attend. They did a workshop and donated books to the center. It was a HUGE success that the whole community and surrounding communities got involved in, and now they’re demanding more!
Congratulations! What do you have lined up for this year’s event? This year’s participants so far are Colleen Houck, Katie Kacvinsky, Cat Patrick, Gregg Olsen, Jen Violi, Inara Scott and Kendare Blake. What a line-up, right? I personally love ALL of their books! This year’s event is Saturday June 2, 11am-3pm here at Klindt’s. We’re waiting to hear back from a couple other authors but are in the full-speed-ahead plan of drenching our community in all things Got Books? We all had so much fun with it last year that we can’t wait for June 2nd to roll around!
One response to “Really, 'It's OK' to Read YA: an Interview with Klindt's Color-Coding, Zombie-Loving, Event-Promoting Superstar Angela Hanson”
Great article! I am always looking for authors to recommend to YA Readers. One that I really enjoyed and have recommended is “Ship Breaker” by Paolo Bacigalupi. A vividly written post-apocalyptic novel that draws the reader in and demands your attention to the very end.