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Interview with Author Jill Livingston March 2010

1. How did you come up with the idea of writing about highways?

I�ve always been interested in history, especially regional history. I like �road trips�, and I like writing, especially the kind that involves researching a topic then putting together what I�ve found out into something that makes sense. Historic Highways and the �cultural landscape� they created (such as neon signs, motels, bridges, diners, etc.) are tangible remnants of our recent past, evidence of just how much the automobile has shaped us.

While driving along a scenic stretch of highway one day, a road that I drove very frequently, the thought came to me out of nowhere, �Hey, this would make a good book!� Such an endeavor seemed almost un-doable except that my sister, who was with me said, �Yes, let�s do it!�

So we started down the long and winding road to being publishers. We were surprised and quite pleased to find that we actually had an audience, that quite a number of people out there share an interest in historic highways.

2. Did you travel the whole 99 route?

Yes, of course. My sister and I do all of our �driving research� together; Kathryn drives and I�m the navigator. The areas that are close to our home base we did in day trips but we have traveled to the Mexican border twice and the Canadian border twice. It�s a long trip since we are constantly stopping to check things out, take photos and confirm our route. We try to find every little piece of remnant highway but I�ll be the first to admit that we surely don�t find everything there is to find. Sharp-eyed readers frequently contact us to tell us what we�ve missed.

Research is somewhat easier in the internet age of course, and for our latest, the Ribbon of Highway II revision, I found Google Earth to be invaluable. For the first book, I didn�t even own a computer.

3. What is the highpoint of the 99 route in your mind?

The highway as a whole is fascinating partly because of the variety of terrain it passes through. It traverses below-sea-level desert, wide fertile valleys, foothills and mountains, and coastal plain. And I like it all. The crazy quilt of agriculture in California�s Central Valley is astonishing, and for too long has been an under-appreciated part of the state.

I probably favor the high points, literally. That is, I like mountainous areas because of the possibility of finding interesting bridges and older winding alignments. Siskiyou Summit is quite fascinating. The old 99 alignment is still there and was the highest point anywhere along the 1000+ miles of highway, as it still is on the current I-5 Siskiyou Pass.

Discovering short sections of original concrete pavement from the teens is a special thrill to me. Those earliest roads were so unbelievably narrow.

4. How long did it take you to write the book? That�s a tough one to answer because writing/publishing is only a �part time� endeavor. It is not possible to actually �make a living� at writing/publishing on such a niche topic, and my sister and I have many other things that take up our time, including family, jobs and �country living.� But roughly I�d say two to three years from start to finish. That includes traveling research, library research, photographing, writing, layout and other preparations for taking the book to the printer. Then we have to sell our creation, which is a whole other kind of work!

5. Background?

We grew up in Southern California and traveled frequently up and down Highway 99 through California�s Central Valley, quite an experience in a Ford station wagon in 110 degree weather without AC (but of course it was normal back then!). I also have fond memories of going up US99 to the Seattle World�s Fair (at age 10) in 1962. Then at age 20, I moved to Northern California, and my sister followed some years later.

A couple more decades went by, and then I was struck by the fact that the picturesque stretch of old 99 that I now traveled regularly was part and parcel of the very same road that had been a big part of my youth. The connectivity of it all attracted me. Not just the connection between my young and my adult life, but how this very long north-south highway connected (and continues to connect) towns and people along the entire western edge of the US between two International borders.

And thus Living Gold Press was formed! BACK to Press Kit HOME

That Ribbon of Highway II:
Highway 99 from Sacramento to the Mexican Border

by Jill Livingston, photos by Kathryn Golden Maloof
$17.99 paperback, 277 pp
ISBN 978-0-9768321-2-6 � Publication date: March, 2010
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