When illustrator Jane Mount DM’d bookstagrammer Jamise Harper, Jamise thought she had messaged the wrong person. But now a year later, the two are ready to share their new book, Bibliophile: Diverse Spines, with the world. Coupling Jamise’s book expertise and reading community, Diverse Spines, with Jane’s acclaimed artwork, the book invites all kinds of readers to find their next pick— and to have fun doing so.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Jane and Jamise. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Bibliophile: Diverse Spines. What a gorgeous book. This is amazing. I love this.

Jane Mount: Thank you.

Zibby: Are you so happy with the cover? I know, Jane, you’re the illustrator, and so you have a little inside track.

Jane: I’m a little biased.

Zibby: It’s so great. The cover’s great. All the recommendations inside were so great. I love how you structured the whole thing with book influencer recommendations and bookstores that you loved and classics and essays and all different types for everybody who could possible like a particular type of book. This is fabulous. Just loved it.

Jane: You know how when you go into your favorite independent bookstore and there’s little shelf talkers all around the bookstore recommending different books that you might like? That’s sort of what we’re trying to go for in book form so that you get the perfect recommendation for wherever you are and whatever you need at that time.

Zibby: I love that.

Jamise Harper: Yes, and not wanting to leave any topic out, even for the middle grade and for the children.

Zibby: That’s right. Those were great too. I felt like I wanted to send you guys a list of the authors I’ve had on my podcast because there are so many that I’ve loved and gotten to know over time. I was so excited every time I saw somebody in here. I’ve done a lot of the children’s books too, and Tami Charles’ book. Of course, now I’m blanking on every name.

Jane: That’s how it goes.

Zibby: It’s been two hours since I was last prepping this book. Now already, I’ve forgotten everything.

Jane: There’s a lot in there. It’s okay.

Zibby: There’s a lot of overlap in what I’ve been covering, so that’s fantastic. How did you two team up to do this project?

Jamise: I’ll let Jane.

Jane: Let me preface it by saying we’ve still never met in person.

Jamise: We have not.

Zibby: Wow, oh, my gosh.

Jane: We’re hoping to for the official book launch. That’ll be the first time we meet. I knew Jamise from Instagram. She’s a very well-known bookstagrammer. I’m peripherally in that crowd. Then a couple Christmases ago — 2019, I think, Christmas?

Jamise: ’18.

Jane: ’18, wow. I got an order for a custom mug with a set of books on it. It was an amazing set of books. It was actually ordered by Jamise’s son for her for a Christmas present. I didn’t know that at the time. I thought, wow, this is a great set of books. Then once she received it, she was so excited. She posted about it on Instagram. Then she and I both immediately got flooded with people asking to buy that mug. Please, I need that mug. That’s the perfect mug. The mug was actually full of books she had recommended in her Diverse Spines program. It was just a great little synergy. We made other mugs. People bought them. Then a little over a year ago, or maybe more, yeah, a little over a year ago —

Jamise: — It was June 2020.

Jane: June, okay, yeah.

Jamise: I will never forget because I thought you had DM’d the wrong person.

Zibby: Oh, no.

Jane: I had been talking with my agent and my publisher about doing another Bibliophile-like book but with a focus on a certain area. We wanted to do one with all different kinds of diverse reads, but I did not feel that I should do that on my own. I wanted someone who really knew a lot about it to work with, to coauthor it with. I thought of Jamise. I DM’d her on Instagram. Yes, she thought I was DMing the wrong person, but no, of course not. She said yes. We’ve basically spent the last year on Zoom.

Jamise: I literally replied back, I said, “Are you sure you have the right person?” She said, “Yes.” I was like, okay, wait a second. Really? Jane is uber famous. Everyone knows her work. I just thought, clearly, she has the wrong person. Then we talked about it. Then I talked to a couple of my friends, close confidants, one being Tayari Jones who wrote American Marriage.

Zibby: Which I loved.

Jamise: It was just such a great opportunity. I felt so honored just to be asked. It’s been great, the whole collaboration, the late hours, the time difference.

Jane: I did warn her how much work it was going to be.

Jamise: She did not.

Jane: I don’t think she quite believed me on that. We were trying to do it in a pretty short timeline for this kind of book. It was intense.

Zibby: There were a lot of jokes in here about the timeline, so I got the sense that you had it being very, very rushed. Where are you two based? How far apart are you both in the world?

Jamise: That’s the challenge. I’m on the East Coast. I’m near Washington, DC.

Jane: I’m on Maui in Hawaii.

Zibby: That would pose a challenge for almost everybody.

Jane: It’s early here. I’m still drinking coffee this morning. It was about a six-hour time difference, usually.

Jamise: It helped because I’m a night owl, so I could do late.

Jane: I’m not, so it’s perfect.

Jamise: It worked out perfect.

Zibby: I think I might need to move to Hawaii.

Jane: Come on over.

Zibby: I do much better in the morning. For many reasons, that would be nice. That sounds great. Jane, how did you get your start finding that books were your niche as this amazing thing to — how do you create these? I don’t even know the terminology for the different artwork styles.

Jane: Many years ago, I lived in New York for a long time. At one point, way back, 2007 or ’08, I had had a studio space where I would paint larger things in addition to having a day job working on internet stuff, basically. They were selling the building, so I lost it. My husband and I had just bought a tiny apartment, as most New York apartments are, in the East Village. I was sitting at our dining room table, which was also in the living room and in the everything room, and being really stuck on, what should I paint next? I was not used to working small, and I had to at the table. Right next to me were our built-in bookshelves. I thought, I’ll just draw some books. They’re really pretty colors. They’re right here. I love books. Why not? I drew a few of them. A friend of my husband’s happened to come over that day. He saw what I was doing. He’s like, “Oh, my god, what are those? I want to buy all of those right now.” I don’t know if you know, but as a painter, that rarely happens.

Zibby: I’m aware.

Jane: People don’t usually respond quite so viscerally to artwork. I was like, okay, there’s something to this. I kept going and painting friends’ books as they lay on their shelves, kind of like a dinner party where you’re seeing what people choose to show on their shelves. Then after a year or so, I realized it was actually much more interesting to ask people, what are the books that made you who you are? What are your favorites? What are the ones that changed your life? When you get a set of those, it basically is a portrait of a person from the inside. It really shows who they are. Sometimes they choose ones from birth on, so you can sort of see the path they took along the way, in some sense. I found that was really fascinating and basically just took that idea and ran with it. One thing I know is not surprising to either of you, and maybe shouldn’t have been to me as a heavy reader, but people really, really love books. I think in this day and age when a lot of people read on e-readers or things like that, it’s great to have a visual reminder of your favorite books in case you don’t have them on your bookshelves or just in addition to having them on your bookshelves. It’s done really well. Generally, I paint in gouache, which is a kind of opaque watercolor. Then I also make prints from them. I custom print. You could say, here, these are my ten favorite books. I would put a print together just for you.

Zibby: We have to do that, by the way. How do I sign up for that?

Jane: Just send me an email. We’ll set it up.

Zibby: Actually, I have this memoir coming out in July. It was originally called The Book Messenger, but I think I’m changing the name of it. In every chapter, I always talk about all the books I was reading at different points in my life. Then I was like, ooh, what if you did a whole thing of all the books that made me me over the years? Now I’m just turning this all about me. Sorry.

Jane: That’s the great thing about it. Even if you don’t ever order a custom print, if you just make for yourself, a list of the ten books that have been most important to you, it’s really hard, first of all, to narrow it down to ten, for instance. It’s also really, really enlightening about yourself to figure out things about yourself.

Zibby: Have either of you done that? Have either of you picked the ten?

Jane: I’ve done it, but it still changes all the time.

Jamise: Exactly. Mine changes as well, but I have done it. I have the constant three that always end up on there.

Zibby: Which ones?

Jamise: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Warmth of Other Suns, and Homegoing.

Zibby: How about you, Jane?

Jane: Most affected me, mine are a little more — I would say probably American Gods by Neil Gaiman, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and I’d probably go with Pachinko by Min Jin Lee as the third one.

Zibby: That was really good.

Jane: That’s a hard question. Ask me tomorrow, it’ll be three different ones. Jamise always has her three. Mine fluctuates.

Zibby: Interesting. I don’t know. I have to think about mine.

Jane: Come on. Give us one that would be on the list.

Zibby: I usually always say Slow Motion by Dani Shapiro and anything by Anna Quindlen, especially her earlier stuff.

Jane: I actually got to paint an ideal bookshelf for her once a long time ago.

Zibby: So cool. I have to say, my reading volume has — quadrupled is not even the beginning. The amount that I’ve been able to read the last few years has totally changed. Some of the things that I’m interested in — it’s just been amazing to read. That’s why a book like this is so perfect. I have learned so much from diverse voices, all different types of books. Not that I didn’t read them before, but it’s much more conscious and amazing. I just have this newfound appreciation in the way that I like to alternate genres. You know when you read a really great novel and then maybe next you need some sort of self-help or parenting? Being able to rotate through different people’s lived experiences is second to none. It’s just amazing. That sounds ridiculous now that I’m saying it out loud. It sounds so superficial, but I don’t mean it that way at all. I feel like I’ve gotten to know so many people over the last couple years. It’s just changed my worldview, that’s all, as a great book should.

Jane: It’s the magic of books.

Jamise: Especially diverse books, hearing from marginalized voices, it definitely expands your awareness, for sure.

Zibby: I just read, I don’t know if you’ve read it yet, it’s fifteen essays from the Latinx diaspora. It’s a really great book called All the Louding Voices. That was amazing. Each essay — that was what the editor of that collection was saying — has, obviously, a completely different point of view and experience. Her point is people think that the Latinx experience is the same, but no. How could you possibly make some mass generalization like that? It’s all the different stories. Just like anybody you pass on the street, we all have such different stories. Yet we have the shared humanity. Sometimes it takes hearing the intimate details of someone else’s story to remind people when there’s so much divisiveness. I think there’s nothing more effective than a story. That’s why I loved hearing some new recommendations that I hadn’t heard of, so I’m excited.

Jane: I think what’s amazing about reading books that are from a different perspective than the one you grew up in is that you both get to see how different people live, but also how fundamentally the same people live. You find differences and things that are the same across people from all different places. I agree. It really makes you realize that the way we try to divide ourselves is ridiculous in many ways. We should be embracing all of the stories from everyone.

Zibby: At the core, we all love the people we love and want to make the best of life and have the same — I’m sounding so ridiculous today. I hope you know what I’m trying to say and that I’m not being oversimplistic. It’s interesting when, at your core, we all know that everything is the same. It’s so obvious. Then people get caught up in what must be differences when, in fact, our experiences may be different, but not just across races, across everything, religions and genders and everything. It can be distracting from the real shared stuff. Now I’ll stop because I’m sounding like a moron today. Tell me more about this book. How long was this really short timeline that you had to work on it? Do you have plans to do another book together or things separately after?

Jane: Jamise, I’ll let you answer that one.

Jamise: We started in July 2020.

Zibby: This July? No.

Jamise: 2020, last summer.

Zibby: I was like, that is superhuman.

Jamise: No, last summer. Then we had to have the manuscript in by December before Christmas.

Jane: The very final version. I think our original deadline for it was October. Then we had everything edited and everything else by December.

Jamise: Jane had to paint it, though. She had to paint.

Jane: I had to do all the illustrations then by February, which was a lot.

Jamise: Then a lot of editing back and forth. That was a process. It was a complete learning process for me because I’ve never written a book before. I had never even dreamed of writing a book. Jane put me on this path. It’s been wonderful, but it’s also been a learning experience. I’m glad that I went on it with her because it was such a good vibe. She has such good energy. It was easy for us to work together even though we’d never even, literally, seen each other’s faces until we decided to do the book together.

Jane: It was amazingly easy to work together. I’ve coauthored a different book. It was amazingly easy to work together. In terms of how we saw the book and what should be in it and that kind of thing, I think we were very much on the same page, but we brought different kinds of books we loved to it. For instance, I love cookbooks, and Jamise does not cook. There were different areas that each of us . Historical fiction is absolutely her favorite, which I like too, but she was, for sure, an expert in historical fiction. It was great to have us bringing different books to the table that we felt .

Jamise: We got to learn about one another, our families, childhood, college. Then we talked a lot about the books that we read. You definitely learn about people when you’re discussing. It’s true, book people are the best people. We’re talking about the books we love, how they impacted us. It was just a great experience.

Jane: It was.

Zibby: I love that. Jamise, what did you think you were going to be doing? I know you have this majorly successful Instagram and all the rest. What did you think would’ve happened?

Jamise: My day job is very stressful. I knew that I was going to have to maintain what I needed to do for this book, coauthor, write, research, lots of research —

Zibby: — I was going to say, you must have had to reach out to so many people.

Jamise: That was another thing, reaching out to people that are featured in the book. That was a big haul.

Jane: The great thing was everybody was so positive. It was pretty awesome.

Jamise: Because of bookstagram and because of Instagram and having relationships with the people, it was easy to reach out to them because, in one way or another, we all have a relationship with the people that we reached out to. That was very helpful. Just having human contact with people, talking to them, having interviewed them, Jane having drawn for them in the past, it was a good connection. I kind of knew what my assignment was. It just was a matter of balancing it all with having a full-time job. My days were very long, but it was worth it. It really was worth it.

Zibby: Wow. Did either of you take prints? Did you make any prints of just some of the spines or some of the images? Do you have any of these framed now, the individual drawings?

Jamise: I’m open to anything that she wants to send me framed.

Zibby: You should have a whole wall of some of the — that’s so cool. They’re so pretty.

Jamise: I want one.

Zibby: Are you saying you have not gifted Jamise any of these paintings? What on earth?

Jane: Honestly, I have been basically in recovery mode and just doing only the work I really have to do. I was a little burnt out at the end. I’m recovering. Believe me, she can have prints of all the ones she wants.

Jamise: She did give me something last Christmas. It was right in the height of us working on everything. I got a package. I was like, what is this? It was a mug with all of the books that Diverse Spines has read in the past couple of years. I thought it was just such the sweetest thing. Now I have that one, and I have the one that my son gave me. The initial mug when my son custom-ordered that, I was overwhelmed. Every time I drink out of it or look at it, I just think, that was my connection. He paid attention. Then that was my connection to Jane as well. He was young. He’s still in his twenties. He’s only twenty-four now. That was a couple years ago. He was very young.

Zibby: My son gave me a clipboard. You have the most thoughtful son ever. I literally got a clipboard from Amazon or something. He gave it to me with such pride. I was like, okay. Then my daughter was like, “Ooh, I’ll take that.” Next thing you know, I didn’t even have a gift. I was like, okay, great.

Jamise: He’s still talking about it. He says, “I cannot believe how that just blew up. I didn’t realize people were that crazy for books.”

Zibby: It’s so true.

Jane: Every year around the holidays, people order custom prints for other people as a gift. Right after Christmas, I always get several emails that are just the cutest things ever where people are like, oh, my god, I gave this to my loved one, and they cried. It’s not just that it’s pictures of their books. It’s that the person who commissioned me to do it really went out of their way to figure out what that person’s favorite books were and usually had to ask them in some roundabout way or some weird thing so they wouldn’t know what was happening and had a whole conversation about favorite books. They had a discussion about it. The person wrote down the list, remembered it, and then ordered something from it. It’s a very special thing. The person who gives that is just very thoughtful, loves you, for sure. I think that’s what’s amazing about it.

Zibby: I want to do some sort of giveaway or something when this — when does this come out?

Jane: November 2nd.

Zibby: November 2nd, all right. I want to do something.

Jane: That’d be great. Yeah, we can give away a custom print. That would be awesome.

Zibby: Oh, a custom print, even better. Great. I meant the book, but that’s fine. Prints are great.

Jane: We can do both.

Zibby: I think it’s great for any bookish people out there, which is basically most people listening to this right now, so that works out really well. What are you reading right now? Then I’m going to ask for advice for aspiring authors if you happen to have any.

Jamise: I just finished The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois. It’s so good.

Zibby: It’s so good.

Jamise: I highly recommend it. It’s so good. The audiobook is great. That’s what I just finished.

Zibby: You can listen to my podcast with Honorée.

Jamise: I am. Just talked to her last week. I love her. She’s awesome.

Zibby: She’s so nice. How about you, Jane?

Jane: I just finished Casey McQuiston’s new book, Last Stop — oh, my gosh, I’m blanking on the title. I don’t have it front of me. Sorry.

Jamise: One Last Stop?

Jane: One Last Stop, yes, exactly. I got to paint the covers of her books, that one and Red, White, & Royal Blue for her. It’s great. It’s a romance. It’s really adorable. Highly recommend it. Now I’m reading David Mitchell’s Utopia Avenue, which I also like a lot but is slightly in the sci-fi realm that, again, is my jam, but not so much Jamise’s.

Zibby: Amazing. Advice for aspiring authors or aspiring artists?

Jane: I’ll let you go for author.

Zibby: You made it through. Jamise, you count. It counts.

Jane: You wrote a book.

Jamise: I know. I wrote a book. I just don’t even know what to say about that other than, if you are an aspiring writer, go after your dreams. Don’t give up. I can’t say that I was ever aspiring to write. Being now in this place, I would say it’s extremely difficult. I can see how it could be discouraging. If it’s something that you truly believe in and you’re passionate about it, just don’t ever give up. Just don’t give up on your dreams.

Zibby: I love that.

Jamise: Stay faithful to your craft.

Jane: For authors or illustrators, I would say exactly the same. As someone who has always drawn, I had a whole career for a long time doing internet things long before I became a full-time illustrator. All I can say is you just got to keep going. Just keep going. Just keep drawing. Just keep getting the jobs here and there until they’re not here and there, until they’re your full-time job. I know it’s not as instant as we all wish it would be, to become the thing you dream of being. Anyone who you think was an overnight success was absolutely not. They’ve put in a ton of work. Everybody puts a ton of work into the things they love. You have to to get to that point. Just keep going. Keep fighting it. It’ll happen. It’ll come.

Zibby: Love it. This is great. I’m just going to replay this a lot. This was very encouraging. Excellent.

Jane: You have a memoir coming out and a publishing — that’s awesome. Come on, you’re doing it.

Zibby: I know, but this is maybe my nine hundredth podcast or something. It’s not an overnight — every day, all day long reading and talking to people. I love it, though. It never feels like work. Like you, I love books. I love the power of reading. I love the magic of it. My kids don’t like to read that much. I’m like, you don’t understand.

Jamise: Mine don’t either.

Zibby: How can you not like this? You do have to have that sort of attention span that I feel like is basically gone. I don’t know. For me, it’s life-saving. It’s the only way to get out of my own crazy mind, right?

Jamise: I have to read every day. I have to. People work out every day. I have to read every day.

Zibby: That’s a great way to say it. I have not been working out every day at all. I would look a lot different if I was working out every day instead of reading every day. Instead, I have a big bookshelf and bigger clothes, so there you go. Trade-offs. Anyway, thank you, ladies, so much. It was really a joy to talk to you. I love this book. It’s so important and so beautiful. It’s great. I loved the recommendations. Just the way you structured it was really great. All of it was awesome. Delighted to have it in my hands. I feel very lucky.

Jamise: Thank you so much.

Jane: Thank you. I am honored you like it that much. It’s the greatest.

Zibby: Take care.

Jamise: Thank you. Buh-bye.

Jane: Have a good day. Bye.

Zibby: Buh-bye.


BIBLIOPHILE: DIVERSE SPINES by Jamise Harper & Jane Mount

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