Category Archives: interview

Read this piece (aka more on Stephen King)!

I am really not obsessed with Stephen King. I do think he’s amazing and a genius, and I’d like to spend a day living inside his brain, but I really don’t follow his every move. Which is why it’s kind of funny that I’m doing another post about him.

I recently shared a link with what I thought was some great advice from Stephen King, and now I want to share with our readers an article I came upon this week while cleaning out my bathroom (I store much of my best reading material there!). It’s from an August, 2013 issue of the New York Times Magazine, and it goes into some detail about the immediate King family, all of whom have storytelling in their blood. I find it beyond fascinating that this entire clan lives and breathes books and writing, stories and ideas. Not to mention they genuinely seem to have a strong affection for one another, despite some very rough and rocky times.

One of my favorite anecdotes is about how when King’s kids were little and he needed books to listen to while driving, he’d have them record the books he was interested in hearing. It’s brilliant! I’m going to get my kids to start recording books immediately. I can’t think of a better family activity.

I also loved reading about King’s daughter in-law, Kelly Braffet’s, entrée into the family. Can you imagine being an aspiring writer (she met King’s son at the Columbia MFA writing program in 2001) and meeting your future in-laws named Stephen and Tabitha King for the first time?

And yet another great anecdote comes from King’s son, Joe, who struggled as a writer for years unwilling to use his dad’s name to sell books. He went beyond using a pseudonym, Joe Hill, refusing to even admit who he was to his literary agent for 8 years (a time during which he did not sell a book)!

The stories go on. Anyone interested in writing should read this article. To me, it illustrates how important it is that the environment we create for ourselves and our families be one that allows for thoughtful and creative thinking. If you surround yourself with smart people who have similar interests and ideas, you will naturally find yourself gravitating in that direction.

I hope you enjoy learning more about the King family, and that they inspire you to be better writers, readers, and storytellers.

4

The informational interview

They say the economy is improving but, in publishing, it is still very difficult to get a job, especially at the entry level.  We are fortunate enough to have very little turnover in our staff  at DGLM so most of the interviews I do are “informational” – I am asked by friends or colleagues to speak to young college graduates about our business and advise them on how best to get an entry level job.

Last week I had just such an interview and it struck me afterward just how badly prepared the person I spoke with was.  So, even though this might not seem relevant to writers, I thought I’d share those things I deem important in interviews of all kinds.

1)      Dress appropriately.  Appearance matters, no matter what people say, and so wearing inappropriate clothes or outfits should be off limits.

2)      Research the company you are going to be interviewing at.  Know the kinds of books they represent or publish and be able to discuss a couple of them if at all possible.  In the same vein, try to research the person who will be interviewing you so that you are knowledgeable about their interests and achievements.

3)      Look the person with whom you are meeting in the eye.  There is nothing more distracting to me than someone who is talking to me and looking everywhere but at me.

4)      Express interest in whatever company you are interviewing at and in the job you are searching for.

5)      Ask appropriate questions both because you really want to know the answers and to show how interested you are.

6)      Finally, and this is most important, write a thank you note, preferably in long hand and mail it right after your interview.

As I said, this blog post is probably not appropriate for writers, but frankly, as I look over the above list, I think an author interviewing a new agent or meeting with a prospective publisher should definitely observe all of these rules as well.

Whether you are searching for a job, an agent, or a publisher, first impressions are most important and following the rules I have outlined here, I think, will serve you well.

1

Writing tips from 2013 to help you in 2014

I hope you all had good holidays. I personally did a lot of celebrating since my birthday falls right between Christmas and New Year’s. One highlight was seeing Kinky Boots on Broadway. I loved it! After so much fun, I feel ready (even if my piles don’t) to be back at work and motivated to work with my authors to sell lots of great books.

I like at this time of year to regroup, look at the big picture, and try to come up with a strategy for a successful year ahead. I find this approach to be effective, even if I can’t always keep all of my annual goals.

I love this list of best-of writing articles from 2013 compiled by Writer’s Digest because it covers so many bases in the writing process. And it’s especially useful since it’s broken down by categories like Writing Better Characters, How to Get Published, and Inspiration for Writers. One of my favorites is the 2001 interview with Tom Clancy and his quote: “I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I just keep it simple: Tell the damn story”. That’s definitely keeping it simple, and direct!

I wanted to share it with our blog readers who are hopefully feeling like I am – motivated, energized, and ready to work hard to be as successful as we can be. Starting out by reading these articles just might help get you on the right track for the year ahead.

Enjoy and please let us know which articles from their list you find to be the most helpful. Now, let’s all get to work!

5

Golden Age?

A few days back, NPR did an interesting interview with Little Brown publisher Michael Pietsch, best known for being the editor of authors like David Foster Wallace and James Patterson, who is just about to take over the helm of the Hachette Book group, one of Publishing’s “big six” conglomerates.  His declaration that we are now in “the golden age of publishing” might strike you as Panglossian delusion, or—if you are me—maybe, just possibly, a little bit true.

I suppose, as Zhou en Lai said about the impact of the French Revolution, it’s too early to say.  Pietsch is a persuasive spokesman for what the new indie publishing movement might regard as the ancient regime.   It’s true that he’s not all that likely to rail about the benefits of creative destruction—but he made some good points.

“What has changed in a really exciting way is the ways you can get people’s attention. It used to be one book review at a time, a daily review, maybe you get into Time magazine. Now there’s, with the Internet, this giant echo chamber. Anything good that happens, any genuine excitement that a book elicits can be amplified and repeated and streamed and forwarded and linked in a way that excitement spreads more quickly and universally than ever before. And what I’m seeing is that really wonderful books — the books that people get genuinely excited about because they change their lives, they give them new ideas — those books can travel faster, go further, sell more copies sooner than ever before. It’s just energized the whole business in a thrilling way.”

I do agree with Pietsch. But it’s also true that the internet is so vast, fractured and compartmentalized, that lighting this wildfire word of mouth—getting something to go viral—is harder than a status update and a clever tweet.  Once upon a time, back in the (possibly mythical) days of the “monoculture,” when most Americans had some shared sense of big books, popular musicians, and hit TV, Time magazine had a huge subscription base—a review there, or a spot on a leading morning show could launch a book into best-sellerdom.  This is still true to a certain extent, but I have heard plenty of publicity directors note (and sometimes mourn) the demise of the old certitudes.  It seems to me that publishers see the potential of our new paradigm, where newspaper book reviews are few but book bloggers proliferate and readers can rave about their favorite authors to a potentially unlimited audience, but are still figuring out just how to leverage it. Publicity and marketing plans includes online marketing and social media, but publishing houses are a long way from mastering these new tools.

As you all doubtless have heard, cultivating an on-line presence is regarded as much the author’s duty as the ability to write.  This can feel a bit burdensome, but it’s also true that authors have greater influence over the fates of their books then once they did.  Most authors were never in a position to call up a Today Show producer and pitch their stories, but they can, with diligence and work and a pinch of luck, try to connect their book with its readers.

What do you think?

Golden Age?  France in 1788?

25

Eureka!

This morning I caught a part of an interview with Jonah Lehrer, science writer and the author of the book Imagine: How Creativity Works. In addition to debunking the myth of brainstorming (turns out that the no-criticism, free-association, fill-the-whiteboard-approach to creative problem solving is not especially effective—a truth that I think many a solitary writer has always known) he talks about “the moment of insight.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQNoqrlWkrY&feature=youtu.be.  He says that studies reveal that a creative breakthrough is often achieved not by drinking a triple espresso, buckling down and focusing, but instead, by taking a hot shower, going for a walk, getting a good night’s sleep.  So I am curious, when you are stuck on a particularly thorny plot point or organizational dilemma, do you give it a rest or power through? How do you invite the moment of insight, and where and when have your eureka moments happened?

5

Late Bloomers

Earlier this week I listened to Terry Gross’s interview with author Donald Ray Pollock, whose novel, The Devil All the Time, was just released. His first book, a collection of short stories titled Knockemstiff, set in the eponymous Southern Ohio town where he grew up, was published in 2008. His gritty, often bleak tales won not only critical acclaim, but the PEN/Robert Bingham Award and the 2009 Devil’s Kitchen Award in Prose. His was an unusual—and protracted—journey to being a writer. According to NPR, “Pollock dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to work in a meatpacking plant. He then spent 32 years working in a paper mill before quitting to pursue his dream of becoming a writer.” I thought this was a pretty terrific story. I found further inspiration re-reading Malcolm Gladwells 2008 New Yorker piece on late bloomers.

In it he writes “On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure: while the late bloomer is revising and despairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all. Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go. Late bloomers are hard. They require forbearance and blind faith.”

I wondered if any of you are, like Pollock, relative late (new) comers to creative writing?  Holler if “forbearance and blind faith” sound familiar.

12

Dont Quit Your Day Job?

On-line literary magazine The Millions has a provocative interview with an artist who is also a copyright lawyer that is worth a read. It grows out of a recently mounted art show at New York’s Drawing Center called “Day Job” which, according to the author,

“neatly upended the timeless lament of every struggling writer, artist and musician – My day job is robbing me of the time to do my REAL work! In a clever, counter-intuitive twist, the curator of the show asked a dozen artists to produce a work that illustrated how their day jobs enrich their art.”

I thought this was a fascinating question, and one well worth posing here. How does your day job shape, inform, and even enrich your writing?

1

On The Casting Couch

by Michael

In what is a first for me, I was on The Casting Couch last night! As evidenced by the proper nouns, I wasn’t making out with some producer here in LA. I did an interview over on BlogTalkRadio (home of our own Mr. Media while you’re there) with Sean Berry, who asked me a bunch of very smart questions about what I do and the publishing industry in general. I really enjoyed it, and we discussed topics that appeal to aspiring authors through pros. So check it out!

Listen to The Casting Couch on Blog Talk Radio