1. What motivated you to write your book? I started writing Fake in January 2017 when Donald Trump was elected president because I was troubled that he was calling journalists “enemies of the American people.” My purpose was not to write an anti-Trump polemic, but to give readers better insight and understanding about how journalism operates in the era of “fake news.”
2. What is it about and who is it for? The story is for anyone who loves mystery-suspense or thrillers and wants to immerse themselves in the life of a feisty young woman trying to navigate the shoals of relationships in the #MeToo era. My protagonist, Lark Chadwick, is a White House correspondent for the Associated Press wire service. In the opening scene, First Lady Rose Gannon dies suddenly while Lark is interviewing her. Rose’s death is an emotional body blow to newly-elected President Will Gannon. Gannon’s intense grief comes at a time when a provocative Russia brings the world to the brink of nuclear war. Lark, who is grieving the sudden death of her boyfriend, finds herself struggling to be dispassionately objective at a time when she is the subject of false stories alleging she is having an affair with the president.
3. What takeaways might the reader be left with after reading Fake? There are consequences to “fake news” (falsehoods masquerading as “facts”). In addition to being entertained, I hope readers will come away with a better understanding of journalists – especially the ones with personal integrity who struggle to discern the difference between what’s true and what’s false.
4. How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design? The title basically fell into my lap. I didn’t want to title it Fake News because the story is broader than that. Fake is more ambiguous and is a bit of a double meaning. My publisher, Strategic Media Books, came up with the cover design – and I like it.
5. As an Emmy-winning journalist, what do you make of the firing of Chris Cuomo by CNN? As much as I believe that Chris Cuomo is a good journalist who does tough, but fair interviews, I felt he was a conflict-of-interest waiting to happen and that CNN should never have hired him in the first place. That’s because both Chris’s father and older brother were both liberal political powerhouses. Hiring Chris Cuomo reinforced the perception (real or imagined) that CNN would be playing favorites.
Did helping a brother cross a journalistic red line? Yes. BIG time!
6. What happened to journalistic standards? “Journalistic standards” is an ambiguous phrase and can mean different things to different people, depending on their political persuasion. If by “journalistic standards” you mean fairness and accuracy, those standards haven’t changed. Reputable news organizations continue to have high journalistic standards as articulated by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ): https://www.spj.org/ Those “standards” have NOT changed. (If you’re looking for just-the-facts journalism, skip TV and go straight to the Associated Press and Reuters. There are plenty of other solid news organizations, but start there.
7. Why has personality and opinion — and advocacy media — replaced the neutral reporting of fact-based news? I don’t accept your premise that advocacy journalism has “replaced” fact-based news, but it has certainly eclipsed it. And the slide has been a long time in coming. For example, many years ago, NBC’s “Today Show” used to be run by NBC News. Now “Today” is part of NBC Entertainment. News has become infotainment, and we, as a society, share the blame because we like to have our ears and eyes tickled. In addition, the rage that fuels talk radio has come to cable where it’s profitable to generate more heat (anger) than light (understanding). Add to that the Internet and cell phones. Now anyone can spread lies and unfounded rumors just by hitting send or post. Unlike at a reputable news organization with editorial oversight, there’s no one on your shoulder asking you, “Where did you get that information? How do you know it’s true?”
8. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for wannabe writers? [Note to Brian: I’m changing the question because “authors” don’t need my advice – they’re already published.] Learn the craft and the business of writing. Understand how to market yourself because, like it, or not, that’s also part of the process. Finally, don’t give up. Instead, get better.
9. You penned five books that are traditionally published. What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? The path to publication has never been broader than it is today. I still believe a writer should do what I did and try to find an agent who can get them a traditional book deal. Going that route will bring your writing to a professional level. But now there are many small independent presses you can pitch without an agent. In addition, self-publishing has become more sophisticated. For example, hybrid publishers offer writers different packages including editing, cover design, and marketing. Also, if you’ve got an entrepreneurial bent, you can even become a publisher yourself – and not just of your own books.
10. How would you describe your writing style? In my writing, I try to be clear rather than fancy. I write in the first person as a woman in her twenties. It helps to have so many strong women in my life who are my beta readers. It keeps me thinking young, and it keeps Lark being feisty.
11. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours? Oh, I hate telling people what they “should” do. Even more, I hate telling people they should read my books. Hell, there are a lot of excellent books out there. But, if you are in any way intrigued about glimpsing behind the veil to see how journalism actually works (the good and the bad) – and if you want to crawl into the psyche of a vexed and impulsive woman who is trying to figure out how to live her life, then I invite you to read all my novels, starting with my first one Fast Track.
About The Author:
novelist, manuscript editor, and writing coach John DeDakis is a former Senior
Copy Editor on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer." DeDakis,
a former White House correspondent, is the author of five mystery-suspense novels. He regularly teaches novel writing online and at
literary centers, writers’ conferences, and bookstores around the country and
abroad. A native of La Crosse, Wisconsin, DeDakis now lives in Baltimore. In
his spare time, he is a jazz drummer. Website: www.johndedakis.com
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