Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How Will Publishers Treat Aurora Mass Murder?

Some things are sadly predictable. The Aurora movie-house massacre is a case in point. It will sadly not be the last of its kind. There will be many, many more such criminal outbursts to come. In fact, I expect worse to happen.

No doubt, one day there will be a mass murder on a wider scale simply because so many violent options exist for the insane, the disgruntled, the angry, the dejected, the failed, the isolated, the depressed and the rejected. Bombs, fires, poisonings and other means to generate a high death toll are easily available to those intended on hurting others.

The sad truth is we cannot prevent a lot of these acts. Are we going to make everyone check in with a psychiatrist once a year? Will we make life better so that no one will ever think to harm another? Will we get rid of all of the guns, bullets, and weapons easily available to us via online, Wal-Mart, or a gun show? I don’t think so.

So how will publishers and writers react to the events that have unfolded? Will we see a book that:

·         Tells the viewpoints of the victims’ families and the survivors?
·         Reveals what the murder was thinking when he did this?
·         Advocates for gun control?
·         Highlights the top mass murders of the past century?
·         Shares how first responders felt when they saw the carnage?

It has all been done before. And if the books have not covered these topics, newspapers, magazines and bloggers have. Why is it when the biggest stories hit there is little for the book world to offer?

Maybe I am jaded or word down by the senseless violence, but I don’t see a fresh story coming from this tragedy, but maybe authors and publishers will surprise me.

Interview With Author David Henry Sterry

1.      What type of books do you write? I write all kinds of books.  I've written two memoirs, one about being a teenager in the sex business called Chicken, and one about being the master of ceremonies at a nightclub called Chippendale's, when it was the hot show in New York City in the 80s.  I've written a piece of middle grade fiction. I've written a book about my childhood hero Satchel Paige.  I've written books about how to have a successful sleepover, how to be an artist and a writer, a personality quiz book, those were for tween girls. I've written a book about one of my big passions, soccer.  I've written a book about how to get a book published. It's called The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book published.  For that book I'm fortunate to have as my partner a publisher who is pound for pound the best publisher in the world in my opinion: Workman. 

2.      What is your latest or upcoming book about? My new book is a piece of hard-boiled noir, which is one of my favorite genres. It's set in the seediest nastiest neighborhood in San Francisco, the Tenderloin.  I loved writing this book.  It's a novella and it's called Confessions of a Sex Maniac.  http://amzn.to/JyBfkU. Although there is lots of stuff from my real life in that book, it is not a memoir.

3.      What inspired you to write it? I've always loved writers like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy.  I dig high-end literary stories about good people doing sick, filthy, unthinkable things because they're crazed by sex, drugs, money, primal passions.  I was approached by the guy who sets up the events at one of my all-time favorite bookstores, City Lights in San Francisco, which was started by another one of my heroes, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  The events coordinator was putting together an anthology called San Francisco Noir.  He asked me if I would write a story about a particular part of San Francisco called Polk Gulch, which is right next to the Tenderloin.  It's one of the most dangerous and exciting neighborhoods in America, and I spent way too much time there.

4.      What did you do before you became an author? I worked as an actor, with everyone from Will Smith to Michael Caine to Zippy the Chimp.  I was also in one of the worst movies in the history of the world, Hellroller, about a serial killer in a wheelchair.  He tears my eyes out in the movie. I was a screenwriter, I wrote for everyone from Disney to Nickelodeon to Fox. I was a bouncer on Broadway at a strip club called The Garden of Eden.  I worked as a marriage counselor.  I worked as a teenage rentboy/manchild ho/industrial sex technician in Hollywood.  There were lots of weird similarities between those last two jobs.  When I was 21 I was offered a professional contract to play soccer.  And so it goes.

5.      How does it feel to be a published author? The first time I got a publishing contract it was almost better than sex.  Almost.  It was ecstatic, transcendent, invigorating, soul-shaking, one of the greatest days of my life.  After I became a professional writer, some of the publishing deals I've gotten haven't seemed that exciting.  I was just a ghostwriter on a book about the teenage brain.  That book will come out next year.  It was great fun to write, the scientists we worked with were really amazing people.  I learned so much, it literally blew my mind into about 1 billion pieces.  Explain so much about my ridiculous life.  But honestly, getting that deal wasn't nearly as exciting as the deals I got for my memoirs, or for my first book.  And after you've been to the circus a few times, you realize how difficult it is to sell books.  So there's also the enormous feeling of burden and obligation, because in the end, you get very very little help from anyone in my experience.  That being said, when I did my first event at a bookstore called Powells in Portland Oregon, it was truly a dream come true.  I went to college in Portland Oregon, and when I was a teenager I was very disturbed and broke, and I used to go to that bookstore and dream about my book being for sale there one day.  After my first memoir came out, I'll never forget walking up to Powells and seeing my name on the marquee, that I would be doing an event there that night.  Then walking into that store and seeing my book there, I guess it was a little like dreaming of becoming a priest when you grow up, and then walking into the Vatican after the Pope has summoned you.

6.      Any advice for struggling writers? There are four basic ingredients I see in most successful authors.  They write.  They write and write and write.  And of course they read.  That doesn't count as one of the four basic ingredients.  That just goes without saying.  They also research.  They know all about books that have come out that it been successful in their category.  They're not afraid to dig in and figuring out who's gonna be the best agent, which publisher is going to be right for them.  Many of them are great networkers.  They go to bookstores, but connect with people online, they attend writers events and book festivals and writers conferences.  They put themselves in the company of writers and readers. and they have massive amounts of perseverance.  The very first book I ever wrote I finished almost 20 years ago.  It's taken me 20 years to find a publisher for that book.  It's a very strange book.  But I love it.  It's my first child.  And it troubled me that I never found a good home for it.  But I never stop trying.  This year, I found a publisher for that book.  It's called Mort Morte, and it's coming out next year with a small independent publisher.  I could not be more excited.  I have a whole new understanding and respect for small independent publishers.  In part because my last book, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys, which was published by Soft Skull, a small very well respected independent publisher, landed on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times book review when it came out. I'm doing the sequel to that book right now.

7.      Where do you see book publishing heading? I think at some point in the not too distant future we  will have a USB port in the back of our neck and we will be able to jack ourselves into the information superhighway, and download books right into our brain.  I look forward to this immensely.  I for one do not belong to the doomsayers who say that the book is dead.  I believe this is the greatest time in history to be a writer.  There are so many amazing ways to be published.  In the last three years, we've seen a complete revolution that is unprecedented.  It's even bigger than the printing press, and I think about how much that changed the world.  Now, anyone regardless of race creed or color, can upload a file without spending a penny, and their book will be available in electronic and printed form literally all over the known galaxy.  The great news is, anyone can get published.  The bad news is, anyone can get published.  So now you're competing against everyone.  I think the ability to connect with a tribe of people who are passionate about what you are passionate about is where publishing is heading.  It's where everything is heading.  And I think Good Samaritanism is the wave of the future.  In that vein I want to let your readers know about what I'm giving away.  I am a book doctor, my partner and I, Arielle Eckstut, who's been a literary agent for 20 years, have helped dozens and dozens and dozens of talented amateurs become professionally published authors.  We travel all over the country doing an event I put together called Pitchapalooza, it's kind of like American Idol for books.  Writers get 1 min. to pitch their book to a panel of experts in front of the whole crowd.  It's really fun.  America at its very best. We've discovered so many great writers doing this event. In fact, in the month of August, were being brought to Cape Cod, rural Alaska, and Hawaii to do Pitchapalooza.  So, I'm offering anyone who reads this interview and buys a copy of my new book a free 20 min. consultation.  That's a $100 value.  The book only cost $4.99. Thank you for your time.  See you at the bookstore.

For more information, see: http://DavidHenrySterry.com.  

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

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