- Warren, you have been a part of the literary scene for nearly half a century. At the age of 84, you are one of the elder statesmen for the publishing industry. Where do you see the book industry heading? As I have been predicting ever since I first digitalized all my work more than a dozen years ago, and as I said when I introduced the SONY reader in 2007, as the first stand-alone reader at the Las Vegas Electronics Show, the publishing business will morph massively to cyberspace and considerably shrink the number of stores selling printed books, all of which has come true. What I did not foresee was the number of self-published books that would hit the marketplace and offer hard competition for traditionally published books. What is coming long-term, in my view, is a massive number of fiction books available on the Net, where it will be a challenge for any writer of fiction to be discoverable. Even major stars in fiction will find that they will have to work doubly hard to keep their brand in the eye of the reading public. Many will eventually lose their luster. The traditional publishers will not spend the marketing and advertising money to create new branded authors, although they are hoping, by publishing their first novels, to test the waters for their future brands. There will be many flash-in-the-pan authors who will not warrant future investment in their careers. Indeed, authors of non-genre fiction like myself will be better off investing in their own branding, especially in today’s marketplace of fading print stores. Being discoverable as an author will not cut it without finding ways to penetrate the reading marketplace. This will grow more and more expensive as competition accelerates. There will be many frustrated novelists with hopes and dreams of fame and fortune.
- How would you describe your body of work? This is a tricky question. I write about love, erotic love, father and children love, grandparents and grandchildren love, love between siblings, and the vast gulf between aspirations and fulfillment and how it frustrates people who dream but cannot come to terms with the failure of their dreams. In The Serpent’s Bite, the female character becomes a monster out of frustration over her failed obsession to become a movie star, a direct slap at the celebrity culture. I have always been interested in power and coping with its loss. A number of my books do not end happily e.g. The War of the Roses, The Serpent’s Bite. In Hollywood I have been dubbed a “relationship writer,” whatever that means. Actually, many of my books end with a coming-to-terms with life’s adversity, and reaching a kind of philosophic calm, accepting life with all its problems, unfairness and cruelty. My focus is the human condition in all its joys and failures. Many of my books, including my mystery series, are written from a female point of view. I am in awe of the strength of women in general and many of my books show these strengths as well as their weaknesses. In The Serpent’s Bite I believe I have created a monstrous female character who gets her just reward at the end.
- You never had a New York Times best-seller and yet you are probably one of the most successful writers because of your success in selling film and television rights for your books. How do you explain that? I have always sincerely believed that my novels are like depth bombs: they take longer to explode when launched. Hence I have always felt that that my legacy will be more important than my contemporary career, which has done pretty well in itself. Also at my age I am enjoying the process of exposing my work to new generations. It may seem to some as an adventure in egomania but I truly believe that after a half-century of intense creation of parallel worlds that I should at least send my rockets of experience as high as they can go. There is no downside for me. I have already experienced most of the disappointments and rejection that are the affliction of the creative writer. I have seen the writing stars of yesteryear disappear from the scene. I have seen all those who rejected me flame out, retire or go into the real estate business. I am beyond insult at this stage in my life. I write only what I must and am still going strong. Oh yes, about why my books sell to the movies: I haven’t got a clue.
- Tens of thousands of books are published weekly in America. What does one need to do to stick out and get discovered? They need to do exactly what I am doing: Banging the drum as loud as I can. It is hard for today’s author to get heard and discovered amid enormous competition, less shelf space, short promotional span, and an avalanche of competition on the internet. I am setting the standard for such an approach but the outlay of money will do nothing unless there is a substantial backlist that might benefit the author. In my case the overspending on The Serpent’s Bite is designed to attract readers to my 32-book backlist. Nevertheless I trust to luck that the book will find its audience. In my opinion, it will be the harbinger example of what’s to come in establishing the non-genre writer’s career.
- What advice would you offer a struggling writer? I can only give advice to a “real” writer who puts his work above all other forms of activity. For him or her, the issue is not necessarily making a living but it is in the artistry, satisfaction and joy of the process. I do not agree with Samuel Johnson about only writing for money. A real writer writes because of his artistic need above all.
- Warren, you’ve been married for over 60 years to the same woman. How did you come to write a book like The War of the Roses, which is not only about divorce, but the nastiest breakup of all time? It is the work of the imagination. Writing novels is creating a parallel world out of one’s observations, experience, insight and imagination. It is very difficult for people who do not write fiction to understand. Most people are literal minded and have no understanding of how the subconscious works. Some believe that these characters are created by literally basing them on real people going through these experiences. Not really. They are amalgamations of the writer’s conscious and subconscious world. Sets and props to indicate locales, just like the movies, and provide the backgrounds, but the characters are created out of whole cloth within the writer’s imagination and are as real to the writer as the people he meets in his daily life.
- You already have over two million words in print. How much of writing comes naturally to you vs. it being a labor? Do you edit much or do you stick with your first draft? The secret of writing is rewriting. I rewrite constantly, over and over again until I am reasonably satisfied. I usually can’t tell if I got it right until I’ve written one hundred pages or so. It is at that point that I either abandon the book or slog on.
- Your books don’t seem to have happy endings. Is that contradictory to what most people expect or want? Maybe so, but some of the greatest books ever written have not had happy endings. Life, itself, does not have a happy ending. I can cite hundreds of books with no happy endings that have stood the test of time e.g. Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, etc. Actually a number of my books end happily, Random Hearts for example, Twilight Child, for another.
- If nothing else, does The Serpent’s Bite, War of the Roses, and your other books have the reader feeling better about their lives as a result of seeing these reckless, violent, and angry characters play out lives of destruction and division? Yes, people see them as cautionary tales. I cannot tell you how many people have come up to me to say that The War of the Roses changed their lives by informing people it is better to compromise about material things in a divorce than let it get out of hand.
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014