The Nerdist Book Club series has launched not too long ago on Nerdist’s YouTube channel by the key people at Nerdist. It started with a simple idea that turned into a weekly series as it is more than reading a book and reacting to it as Rachel Heine, Maude Garrett, and Hector Navarro bring in their unique personalities on the stream each week with their own spin on the books. Of the three, I recently got the chance to speak with Rachel Heine (Editor-in-Cheif) as we talked about her upbringing, joining Nerdist, her future goals, and much more in this exclusive interview.
I would like to start off with getting to know more about you. Where in Los Angeles did you grow up?
I grew up a little bit all over Los Angeles, between my mom and my dad: Beverly Grove, Atwater, Laurel Canyon, Venice, Westwood, and Santa Monica.
What were some goals that you set for yourself when you were transitioning from high school to college?
My main goal was to attend a school where I could study literature and writing. I was a pretty voracious reader, and wanted to become a novelist! I still would like to finish a novel one day, but I feel extremely fortunate to have found a job and career I’m passionate about.
You have received your degree in creative writing years ago prior to joining Nerdist. Which college did you attend and what were your favorite memories attending college?
I received a BA in Literature/Creative Writing the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara. We had to apply separately with materials relevant to our major — essays and short stories in my case. Classes were quite small and intimate, had no pre-requisites to take upper level courses, and you could sort of mold your major to your specific interests.
Studying abroad in Rome my junior year was honestly a life-changing experience for me. Not only did I get to explore the ruins and underground frescos of the city, I learned so much about myself and my writing. Also, the food.
As a writer myself, I like the television shows and films that I review. Whether they are good or not, it is sometimes hard to also criticize a not so good episode or movie. Do you feel the same way when it comes to either writing a review, or watching a show or movie that you like?
Great question. Personally, I have no trouble separating criticism with my enjoyment of pop culture. It’s actually what interests me the most. Analyzing, critiquing, and dissecting stories is why I got my degree in Literature, and why I love working at Nerdist. You can absolutely enjoy or appreciate a show, movie, or book while addressing its flaws. They’re not mutually exclusive!
Speaking of movies, what was the last movie that you watched before the pandemic began and what will be the first movie in the theaters that you would like to watch once the pandemic is over?
The last movie I watched is theaters before the pandemic was The Invisible Man, by Leigh Whannel. I was absolutely blown away. Horror is one of the original avenues to view dark, psychological topics. The Invisible Man shines a light on the realities of domestic abuse and gaslighting, AND kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.
As for post-stay at home movies, Dune is at the top of my list. We’re currently reading Frank Herbert’s Dune for Nerdist Book Club (my first time) and I cannot wait to see what Denis Villeneuveand this incredible cast do with the lore and themes of such a classic novel.
Yourself, Maude Garrett, and Hector Navarro are hosts of the current Nerdist Book Club series back in April and it has been successful! What led to the three of you to make the Book Club a series and were there initial plans of the series before the current pandemic happened?
Maude, Hector, and I actually hosted a previous version of Nerdist Book Club on a former streaming service, which ran from 2016-2019. It’s truly the highlight of my week, and I am thrilled that we were able to bring it back at a time when we all need more connection. The Nerdist Book Club community is so thoughtful, so fun and supported, and I hope we can keep making this show for years to come!
One thing I like about the series is that it is more than just talking about a book to your viewers as it also showcases all of your fun personalities during the livestreams. Especially the recent episode (Dune Part 2) as well because of how organic all of your expressions are. How much pre-planning of your streams do the three of you do before you all begin?
We have an amazing production team who map out talking points for us to reference (which is incredibly helpful for Dune’s extensive list of terms and characters). But they always encourage us to use that as a framework, and let the conversation (spice?) flow. Reading along with Maude, Hector, and our incredible community always leads to ideas and interpretations that none of us would have come up with on our own. And our own personal experiences contribute to how a book resonates with us – which is just really fun to do every week!
I would like to see an episode where you all discuss the Game of Thrones book series if it is possible. I would also like to know what are some. future episodes that are currently on the schedule?
You are not the first to bring up Game of Thrones! It’s definitely on the table. We always go to our audience to source recommendations for our next book, and also host community polls so they can get final say. We’ve previously covered ever book in the Harry Potter series (a different book every other month), and I would love to cover the second book in His Dark Materials, The Subtle Knife.
The news of almost every comic convention being cancelled or moved to a different date has really affected my media schedule and I know for sure that it affected your schedule as well. Were you looking forward and to going to this year’s show? And any good memories from SDCC?
First and foremost, I feel for the fans and creators who are missing out on such an amazing experience this year – but I’m glad that everyone is being smart and safe. I’m definitely sad to miss this year, as I’ve worked Comic-Con for Nerdist the past 6 years in a row. My favorite part of any convention or festival is always seeing friends, colleagues, and fans so we can nerd out about all the announcements and trailers. I’m also bummed we aren’t able to host another Nerdist House, where we take over a venue in San Diego for interviews, live shows, meet & greets, and parties. But we’re also working on ways to connect with our audience virtually, to keep that convention spirit alive.
My final question, is what do you want to accomplish within the next few years?
Honestly, working for Nerdist has been such a defining experience for me and my career. My colleagues across the company, but especially the editorial team I lead, are so brilliant and funny and talented. I want to see Nerdist continue to grow and be an inclusive space for the insightful, irreverent, intelligent fans of pop culture out there. I’m in it for the long haul!