Posted by Maria Gagliano
About 95% of the time, our books begin as proposals from literary agents. Agents get to know us as editors, our lists, our likes and dislikes, and send in projects based on that knowledge. But sometimes—every now and then—book ideas creep up in the most peculiar ways.
Back in 2006, I lived in a shoebox-sized apartment in the East Village. It was the apartment of every city gal’s dreams: edgy neighborhood, only one flight up, laundry and sushi nearby, amazing rent, and an even better roommate. It had everything you’d expect from a quintessential NYC apartment, city wildlife included. It started out with a few roaches. Fine. We could deal with that. We even saw little mice here and there. Still nothing we couldn’t handle. We were city girls, after all. We could manage anything, right?
Right. That is, until the other creature showed up—the crawly thing that laughed in my tough-girl face and turned me into a squealy mess. There I was, sitting on my mini couch on a quiet Monday, when a giant, hairy, leggy beast scurried across the room. It went over my shoes, straight into the closet. That was not a mouse, I thought. Or a roach. It wasn’t even a spider—it was way too quick and spindly. Were there many other options for city pests? My shock morphed into a scream that brought my roommate running.
“WHAT’S THAT BUG!?!?” was all I could choke out. She dutifully looked around, following my frantic pointing to the closet, but it was gone. Its movement was so fluid and ghostly, there was no hope in finding it.
I was left alone with my horror, wondering how I could ever find out what that bug was. I couldn’t even Google it; I didn’t know what it was called, and my descriptions of “leggy” and “creepy” were getting me nowhere. Eventually, in my frustration, I just Googled “what’s that bug.” Bingo.
There it was: www.WhatsThatBug.com, a mecca for curious and creeped-out bug witnesses. People write in with pictures of mysterious bugs they’d found, and the patient “Bugman” identifies them, usually with an interesting tidbit about the species. Turns out, my nightmare bug was a house centipede, and they’re actually beneficial since they eat cockroaches and other pests. I’ve seen countless more since that first encounter, and each time I’m reminded of my shameful first impression. Poor, misunderstood house centipede!
I became addicted to www.WhatsThatBug.com. The Bugman’s identifications never disappointed, and his archives were so vast that you could keep reading for hours. That got me thinking…wouldn’t a quirky, gee-I-never-knew-that book about bugs be cool? Not an identification guide, but an offbeat look at the beautiful side of bugs. I’d certainly buy it.
So I dropped the Bugman an email, introduced myself as an editor at Perigee, and asked if he’d ever thought of writing a book. Turns out, he had. He just needed to get his ideas together. He’d already been in touch with an agent—she and I even knew each other! So together, we urged Daniel to get his book proposal together. I’m so glad he did: The Curious World of Bugs went on sale last month, and it’s as fascinating, surprising, and charming as you’d expect from our favorite lone Bugman.
The Curious World of Bugs by Daniel Marlos