KTEP Show Draws Big Names, Stimulates Interest in Reading

Originally published February 13, 2015

By Daniel Perez

UTEP News Service

Louie Saenz is a voracious reader who shares his appetite for books with a weekly audience on Perspectives, a show on KTEP-FM (88.5) that has attracted the attention of a growing number of popular authors across the country.

Writers such as Steve Berry, James Ellroy, Tess Gerritsen, Mary Higgins Clark and other regulars on the New York Times Best-Seller List are among those who have been interviewed on this show in the past year. Some have made repeat appearances. The writers have said the 30-minute format allows for better dialogue about their books and their pet projects such as fighting for the environment, saving mom-and-pop bookstores, or raising the levels of literacy in America.

Perspectives, a weekend show on KTEP-FM (88.5), is booking more authors who are regulars on the New York Times Best-Seller List. Louie Saenz, left, is the host and Norma Martinez is the producer. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service
Perspectives, a weekend show on KTEP-FM (88.5), is booking more authors who are regulars on the New York Times Best-Seller List. Louie Saenz, left, is the host and Norma Martinez is the producer. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service

The guests also are impressed and grateful that Saenz, KTEP’s news director, has read their book and is able to ask questions about characters and plot points, or refer to details from one of the authors’ past works.

Berry, a prolific writer of historical novels that feature intelligence agent Cotton Malone, has been on Perspectives twice and has another interview scheduled in March to promote his latest book, The Patriot Threat. He said he appreciates how the interview goes beyond the standard three to five minutes.

“Anytime a writer can sit down with a host and have an in-depth conversation, that’s a good thing,” Berry said. “Perspectives offers this luxury and I always enjoy visiting with Louie.”

Powerhouse publishers such as Simon & Schuster, Random House and Knopf Doubleday have started to send unsolicited review copies of books. Publicists have started to contact the show’s producer, Norma Martinez, to suggest the show interview other authors they represent. The show’s executive producer is Dennis Woo, the station’s operations director.

“The fact that we’re included is an honor for us,” said Saenz, who sat with Martinez to discuss the show in one of the KTEP studios inside the Cotton Memorial Building. “They usually talk with media from New York and Los Angeles. Now El Paso is part of the (phone) tour.”

The team averages three interviews per week and as of early February had produced enough shows to last through late April. The interviews are broadcast at 1:30 p.m. Saturdays and rebroadcast at 12:30 p.m. Sundays. Past shows can be found at ktep.org/programs/perspectives.

Before a recent taping, Saenz quietly set up his workplace: a round table with a dark wood finish that had four large microphones on metal spider-like arms jutting out of the center. He adjusted his black headphones as he checked research notes on his laptop and set a pen, the book, an accompanying press release and a 12-ounce soft drink within arm’s reach.

The interview with Diane Muldrow, editorial director at Golden Books/Random House, started after a brief introduction. Saenz and Muldrow talked about her latest book Everything I Need to Know About Love I Learned From a Little Golden Book, and the nostalgia that people feel for the inexpensive books with the golden spines that children read dating back to the early 1940s.  The show is scheduled to be broadcast in mid-May.

Perspectives started as a weekly program in 1990 focusing on issues that were important to the region from politics to health news to world events. It shifted to books in spring 2014 after Saenz and Martinez decided to help people with their summer reading lists. The shows earned a good response and they decided to continue the focus on books. The subjects have included history, pop culture, music, art and plenty of nonfiction. Saenz’s face lit up as he recalled the subjects of past interviews including The Beatles and Lego.

“It kind of snowballed,” said Saenz, who often has three or four books open in his home that are in various stages of completion.

The pair said they had received more holiday e-greetings from publishers than in the past and each came with notes of thanks and promises to work together in the future.

“They’re starting to recognize us,” said Martinez, the station’s traffic director. “They think (the show is) a lot of fun. We offer them a break from the standard interview.”

Listeners share what they heard with fellow book lovers at their neighborhood libraries and bookstores, or through social media sites such as goodreads.com.

Debra Wilson, co-manager at The Bookmark, 7348 Remcon Circle, said that Saenz frequents the used bookstore and often can be seen discussing his latest author interview with other customers. She overhears people talking about certain books and how they heard about them on Perspectives.

Keith Pannell, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and co-host of KTEP’s Science Studio, praised the show for its efforts to promote reading and introducing local audiences to new books and many of the leading authors of the day. He referenced a recent show with author Todd Wilkinson who wrote about media mogul Ted Turner’s environmental and humanitarian efforts to save the world.

“It’s a different kind of program and I enjoy it. I learn a lot by listening to it,” Pannell said. “It gives the writers a voice.”

This week, listeners can hear Saenz interview Barbara Learning about her book, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story.