The following interview is with Brad Herzog – Author, RVer, sports enthusiast, publisher, blogger, husband and father.
Who are you? What do you do?
I’m a writer (BradHerzog.com)–author of more than 30 children’s books, many books about sports, and three travel memoirs that the American Book Review has described as “the new classics of American travel writing.” And I didn’t even pay them to say that. I’m a publisher, too, having recently launched a company called Why Not Books (WhyNotBooks.com) that allows me more creative freedom while also partnering each book with a relevant nonprofit–good books publicizing good works is how I describe it. Our upcoming book includes a foreword by Maya Angelou! I’m the featured blogger at GoRVing.com, extolling the wonders of exploring by RV along the open road. And for the past 14 years, my wife Amy and I have been the “Explore America Team” as spokespeople for the RV Industry Association. Each summer, we undertake a two-month tour in a different section of the country, doing a bunch of TV interviews and some book events, blogging about it, celebrating the house-on-wheels experience.
I see you’re a big fan of Bilbo Baggins? What effect, if any, did he have on your decision to go RVing?
When I read “The Hobbit” as a child, it blew me away. I realized the magic of an author who started with a blank piece of paper and created a whole world–literally, Middle-Earth–out of his own imagination. I decided I wanted to do that. So I became a writer. But more than that, I became an explorer–of the human condition, of possible subject matters, hoping to examine the big picture. When I conceived the idea of a year-long RV trek around the country, exploring towns with names like Pride (Alabama), Wisdom (Montana) and Love (Virginia)–the premise of my first travel memoir “States of Mind”–it was a life-altering decision and experience. I had never set foot in an RV. Neither had my wife. But we had the most incredible years–314 days, 48 states, 35,000 miles–of our lives. Hobbits are generally sedentary creatures–homebodies. So am I. But like Bilbo Baggins, when I explore, I do it with abandon. And it helps to be able to combine the adventure of the open road with the comforts of home.
You have equated the RV lifestyle to “pleasuring with a vengeance.” Could you expound on this?
That’s a Mark Twain quote that I love. My feeling is that it’s always more interesting to be a traveler, instead of a tourist. I often write about places that few people visit, let alone chronicle in books. That way I’m making discoveries, rather than simply following the advice of other discoverers. I suppose “pleasuring with a vengeance” is another way of saying “exploring with an open mind” or “uncovering gems in the nooks and crannies of the country.” An RV allows me to get there, and with the big windshield and the proper soundtrack (Dylan, Springsteen, Nelson, you name it), it feels like a movie of America is playing in front of me. And at any time, I can stop the film and enter the picture
What was the most exciting moment of your writing career?
Well, about ten months after “States of Mind” was published–at the peak of the phenomenon in the spring of 2000–I was a contestant on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” I won some good money (not a million), but more importantly I talked about my book in front of 25 million viewers. Within 24 hours, it was ranked #7 on Amazon.com. Then I was in Time and People magazines, on the “Today” show, on “Oprah” briefly. It was a fun month.
You were a sports writer. Who was your favorite sports team and why?
The Chicago White Sox. It was essentially a disease passed down through the generations of my family. When I was 14, I got to be a bat boy for the team for exactly one game. I wrote my first published article about it. Ironically, my most recent children’s alphabet book is called “W is for Wrigley.” Boy, I’d like to see the Cubs win the World Series. Who wouldn’t?
What inspired you to write your alphabet series of Children’s books?
Basically I hooked up with a publisher, Sleeping Bear Press in Michigan, that produces all kinds of alphabet books about everything from national parks to democracy to music to every state and many countries. I’m there go-to sports guy, and I love it. Beautifully illustrated books with poems for each letter of the alphabet and sidebars filled with text for older readers. I also wrote a book called S is for Save the Planet, and part of my passion for environmentalism stems from my RV trips to national parks.
What has it been like traveling with kids?
My sons are now 13 and 11, and they attend overnight camp in Wisconsin all summer, the same camp I went to… and my dad went to… and my best friends now own. But for about a decade, Luke and Jesse accompanied me and Amy during our summer RV excursions. They may not remember all of them, or even most of the experiences, but you can’t unring a bell. I’m sure they (and we) became more enlightened people as a result. Plus, it’s the ultimate quality family time. On one of those trips, in fact, Luke read “The Hobbit.” Then he started writing his own fantasy novel. We at Why Not Books published it — “Dragon Valley” — in 2012. And now he’s almost done with a remarkable second novel. And he’s 13. I think our road trips–the sense that you can take yourself any place you wish–played a role in fostering his creativity. And like Robert Frost said, “That has made all the difference.”
Brad, thank you for doing an interview with us on the Florida Outdoors RV blog! I love finding bloggers and writers, especially families who take to the road in an RV.