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Eric Hiss Talks about LA Walks


Eric Hiss’s new book, City Walks: Los Angeles 50 Adventures on Foot dispels the conventional wisdom that no one walks in Los Angeles. He tells how he came to write the book, as well as mapping all those rambles.

First, I wasn’t interested in doing a conventional guidebook for one of the well-known guidebook companies, as the pay is notoriously bad and the work is extremely time-consuming and tedious. However… when an editor from Chronicle Books contacted me early last year saying I had been recommended to write an LA city guide with a novel format, I was immediately interested, as I am a big fan of the imprint. (Has anyone checked out Dictator Style?)

Chronicle had a series called City Walks and they wanted to do an LA version. Challenge here was that although earlier titles like San Francisco and Paris were no-brainers, jury was out on whether LA would be viable, as it’s supposed to a “no one walks here” city. When ed. asked my opinion, my native Angeleno ‘tude took over and I told her not only do we have interesting walks (I think Venice canals and Sunset Junction/Silver Lake came right to mind) but we have great urban hikes as well, which last time I checked you can’t do in NY.

I was shortlisted with some other writers and asked to come up with 20 suggested walks as well as write two samples. I guess they liked what I provided as I got the go ahead around April of last year.

The satisfaction of getting the gig then became a slight panic attack as the enormity of creating, walking and writing about 50 walks/hikes thru greater LA and meeting a June deadline set in. I was also tasked with creating original maps indicating route, stops, points of interest etc (thank GOD for google maps) for the illustrator to use for reference.

Creating the maps was actually an extremely time-consuming process of entering addresses of each place I wanted to point out on my walks, magnifying map, indicating location on map I had printed out, then rinse and repeat countless times. hikes were much
tougher (no addresses obviously), so had to use google earth, US survey maps etc..

The format, which essentially is an oversized deck of cards, was not my idea, but one Chronicle has been using for the other titles in the series. One side of the card has an overview and description of the walk, the other side is the map.

My editor at Chronicle was actually the author of several of the City Walks title, so she was very knowledgeable and gave me some great advice on what type of content would be relevant for walks. Other than that, I was free to design the walks how I wanted, and she expected my expertise on the city to determine locations and types of walks (architecture, shopping etc).

Chronicle was very hands-off, somewhat lenient on a couple of benchmark dates that proved unrealistic and overall very good to work with.

*And yes, people do walk/hike in LA, or are at least interested, because apparently Chronicle is very happy with sales and I was told Travelers Bookcase (3rd St.) can’t keep them in stock.

(Hiss kindly allowed FBLA to recycle portions of his Upod message.)

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