Friday, April 6, 2012

The Lone Writer

Though I am a book marketer for a leading public relations firm, I have to confess that I don’t often like talking to people.  I am not shy.  It’s just that it seems like a chore to talk to people unless the conversation is purposeful.  I can talk to potential or current clients, or have a philosophical debate, or talk politics or sports.  But I hate small talk, especially in circumstances where you are thrust together and expectations dictate you talk, much the way a zoo thinks if it sticks a male panda together with a female, it will automatically lead to babies.

Some people live for small talk.  They have a zillion friends but their conversations rarely scratch the surface, nothing deeper than reflecting on an episode of some reality show.  Those people can do well in life.  Some may lack substance but they have mastered the art of instantly befriending the person next to them.  I think I’m too smart for that.  Sounds elitist, I know, but I’m just practical.  If the conversation can’t net a gain for me (i.e. win over a client) or stimulate me on some deeper level (i.e. debate, Mitt Romney’s candidacy) or have some opportunity to learn something, count me out.

All of this may stem from my upbringing.  My parents literally have no friends.  Not because they lied, cheated, stole, acted rudely or did something bad.  On the contrary, they did nothing.  They never made an effort to make a friend.  I didn’t learn the art of conversation from them.  But, like more writers and creative types, I am curious and my curiosity inspires my conversations.  I love being in the publishing and communications industry because the people who live in them are far from boring.

But I struggle to do chit-chat amongst the civilians. Maybe others do too. Perhaps they are as bored, uninspired, or awkward-feeling as I. I don’t know nor do I care.

At the heart of things I see myself as a writer. I am most comfortable expressing myself in this medium. I am on a journey to uncover truth and to share it with others. I also visualize what could be and seek to close the gap between my reality and the ideal. I don’t expect nor look for perfection but nevertheless, perfection is a starting point by which to measure and judge by. We all fall far short of it – it is really just a question of how much.

I don’t have any suggestions of how to excel at chit-chat or to master the casual conversation with someone new or who you barely know. The writer within me is content to give up on that part of life’s game. Instead, I feel totally satisfied as I dialogue with myself, writing my way to a new journey, a new state of mind. It never gets lonely talking to myself through my writings. Right or wrong, I will always be there to question things – and to provide answers. I live to write, even if my world of one keeps me from mindless chit-chat.

Interview With True-Crime Biographer Dane Batty

1.      Dane, what inspired you to write your new book? I had to tell this story. It was a moral imperative for me. When my uncle Les Rogge surrendered in 1995 and ended up in prison in ‘96 he and my mother started writing letters back and forth. My mother wrote letters, but Les wrote these amazing stories that spanned his car theft days and transitioned into one of the highest profile bank robbery careers the FBI has seen. My mother cherished these stories, so I put them into the computer for her and to save them for future generations. I put 20 short stories into a timeline and asked Les to put them in order, and over the next eight years we wrote his life story together.

2.      Why would someone want to read it? When Les was caught he became the first FBI’s Top Ten FBI criminal caught by the Internet, but he actually surrendered to save the love of his life. This story is a love story with a crime background, and it’s different than other true crime biographies in that it’s virtually a tell-all autobiography by the perp himself who was ingenious in his preparations for his bank robberies. He was almost uncatchable, and it’s a fun, non-violent story of cops and robbers.

3.      How did you go about researching and writing your book? Since the book is written in 1st person I let Les tell his story, and then I researched his details to the best of my ability. I found that most of his bank robberies were nearly 30 years old, so cops, witnesses and even sometimes the actual banks were not around to interview or research. There was however plenty of newspaper articles that I found, along with court documents, to back up his story. To capture his voice for the story I visited Les in prison a few times, but those were mostly social visits since I couldn’t bring even a pencil in with me. I did get to listen to him tell stories, and I realized that I had to capture his verbal story telling voice within the book since he is an amazing story teller. The real interviews were through hand-written letters and phone calls.

4.      What do you love about writing? I was a technical writer for years in architecture and manufacturing fields, so when my uncle and I decided to write his biography it was simply another research project detailing his life on paper. I love to tell stories that need to be told, and my next book will hopefully change people’s lives for the better. So I love the research involved with biographies and the telling of stories that are amazing.

5.      Any advice for a struggling writer? If you have a story to tell then let nothing stand in your way, even yourself. Don’t be afraid of people who are going to judge you for your work because you will change somebody’s life by putting it out there. Know that there will be critics, so get some tough skin fast. If you can handle the rejection then it’s a very rewarding sensation to create something that people may want to read forever.

6.      Where do you think the book industry is heading? The industry will continue to change, so you need simply stay in touch and try to embrace the new technology. There will always be print books although ebooks probably become the norm. You have to make your book available in all mediums, and if you do then you can worry about what matters, the content. I love the fact that I can theoretically compete with major publishers if I produce a quality product, so I’m in love with new technology and enjoy watching bureaucracy squirm.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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