ADAM MANSBACH has the honor of having written the most profanity-ridden children's book of all time, Go the F--- to Sleep, the 2012 New York Times best-seller that caught the attention of harried parents, along with celebs like Samuel L. Jackson and "Reading Rainbow's" LeVar Burton (who recently read the book at a fundraiser for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.)
The former Rutgers-Camden professor is following up Sleep with You Have to F---ing Eat, written from the perspective of a parent who just wants his beautiful, angelic children to try some frickin' food, for Pete's sake. Actor Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad") has just signed on to read the audiobook.
Molly Eichel chatted with Mansbach about what it's like to have celebrities as fans, how his 6-year-old daughter, Vivien, responds to being famous herself and whether he can get away with calling Benjamin Franklin a pain in the a--.
Q Celebs of all types have voiced their support of your work. Are you flabbergasted by the attention?
Flabbergasted is a good word. LeVar Burton is so crazy, so out of nowhere. I had no idea he was about to do this until it happened.
The crazy thing about Go the F--- to Sleep is that it's a roller coaster that never ends. Whenever I think things will calm down, some crazy things start to happen again.
Q So why a sequel now?
There was certainly plenty of encouragement and opportunities and people throwing ideas at me a lot. I remember doing a radio tour. You sit in a studio and you're talking with different radio hosts every 10 minutes. But they were all the same. They were all named Rick with a sidekick named, like, Booger. And they would all throw out their ideas, like Put on Your F---ing Shoes.
I was reluctant for several years to do a sequel. I didn't want to be the guy who wrote a book and it was funny and here I come again and it's less funny.
Q Why did you pick food?
There's something very specifically frustrating about a kid not eating: You're telling me that I can't communicate to you the concept that putting food in your body will keep you alive?
I've literally been in a situation where I hear "Papa, make me a pancake," so I make pancakes. And then I hear "I hate pancakes." Homey, for real?
Sleep is such a private battle, but you see how other kids deal with food in public settings. It's not this secret hidden thing. It becomes this competition where I'm watching this kid eat an oyster on a half-shell and washing it down with pomegranate juice and my kid eats Tater Tots four times a day.
Q Whatever. I would do that.
Yeah, if I didn't care about my health, I would eat french fries and Nutella all day. That might be disgusting, but I'm going for it.
Q You're an avowed hip-hop fan and even taught a class on its history at Rutgers-Camden. Does your love of hip-hop come into play when you write?
Absolutely. Before I was novelist, before I was fiction writer, I was an MC. Rhyme and flow is where my love of language really started. Being an MC, hanging out with a lot of rappers, that's all part of my DNA as a writer.
Q Is Vivien aware of her own fame as the inspiration for these books?
She is aware. Her mother and I have made a deliberate attempt to keep her out of the media. There's a difference between being inspired by your kid and making her a part of the media campaign.
She's definitely interested in this idea of fame, and it's interesting to see her process it. She knows she's in the book, she knows her friends are in the book. She knows I go on planes and I talk with people.
The world in her eyes is so egalitarian. If I come back and say, "I did a gig and spoke with hundreds of people," in her mind, we're sitting in a circle talking like her kindergarten class or something.
Q What books do you have coming up?
I have two different middle-grade series. I'm co-writing one with Craig Robinson, the actor ("The Office"), and another with Alan Zweibel, who was one of the original writers for "Saturday Night Live."
He and I met at a book festival. He was a fan of the book, and we hit it off and said, "Let's write something together. We might be drunk right now but let's do it!" It's about a kid who lives in modern Philadelphia trading letters with Ben Franklin. I'm doing the kid's letters and he's doing Franklin's.
Q Do you have a title yet?