APKY/AMP: Hello Gregg and welcome to our AuthorMeProfessional interview. Could you please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer. What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve been a writer all my life, even as a teenager with short stories, poetry, that sort of thing. I think it’s because a) I have a pretty good imagination, and, b) I can’t do math! I’d been carrying the basic idea for my first book around in my head for a few years, and then found myself with some time to actually do the research and begin writing. The more I did the research – which are facts, based on news reports for the most part – the more I thought I could create an interesting story.
APKY/AMP: Right. I’m with you there on the math thing BTW! What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
I write contemporary political thrillers, but I’m open to writing in other genres, even non-fiction, if I can come up with a good enough idea.
APKY/AMP: Good rule to follow, Gregg. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’m interested in the use of power and authority and how many of us are controlled by larger forces in society, such as corporate, government, religious, what-have-you, without us even realizing it.
APKY/AMP: That’s something I also think about all the time and actually tackled in my nonfiction. What have you had published to-date?
My first book, The War Merchants, was published in 2009. I’ve just recently finished writing the sequel and am hoping to interest a publisher by the end of the year.
APKY/AMP: I’m sure you will; you already have a published book. Do you have any advice for other writers, especially aspiring and unpublished ones?
First, give yourself permission to write crap! No one, not even Shakespeare, got it right the first time. One of the secrets to good writing is re-writing. Second, be persistent! It’s hard work, but don’t give up. If you’ve got a story to tell, then do it. Don’t let anyone discourage you from finishing the story you want to tell, especially that little voice of doubt inside your head. If you’re a writer, write! Third, be prepared for rejection – welcome to the field. Fourth, learn how to market your work through traditional and social media.
APKY/AMP: Fabulous advice. I specifically know that little demon of discouragement in my head. Now, here comes your marketing bit: Why should we buy your book?
Readers tell me it’s a “good read” and much of the book is based on fact, some of it startling to many people. It’s somewhat escapist, and I hope people think it’s a good story with interesting characters.
APKY/AMP: Escapist is what the majority readers want, unless they’re doing a PhD thesis! How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
A lot! I use both traditional and social media, as well as personal connections. I’ve done everything from media interviews and author appearances/book signings, to using Facebook, Goodreads, and speaking to college writing classes.
APKY/AMP: Great, you cover a lot of ground, Gregg. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
I haven’t so I can’t speak to that.
APKY/AMP: Okay, Gregg, no problem. Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?
Usually my home office. I need quiet and no distractions so I can concentrate.
APKY/AMP: Me too. I’m always amazed at writers who say they listen to pop or rap while writing! J Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
APKY/AMP: Right, and your name has a nice memorable ring to it. Compare that to mine: Akinyi Princess of K’Orinda-Yimbo – heavens above! Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
I didn’t have one for my first book, but I’m hoping to find one for my second. I was published without one, but I think having one may open some more doors for me.
APKY/AMP: True. I wish you all the best there, Gregg. What are you working on at the moment / next?
As I mentioned, I’ve just finished the sequel to my first book. It’s another political thriller, but this one takes on the Catholic Church.
APKY/AMP: A fantastic domain right there. Do you manage to write every day?
I wish, but sometimes life gets in the way! When I’m working on a manuscript, I try to write as often as possible. Sometimes that’s every day (even if it’s just a paragraph or two), but sometimes not. But when I’m working on something new, I make that a priority in my daily life.
APKY/AMP: (nodding). What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
I think it’s real, I know, because I’ve had it! Sometimes, I need to walk away from what I’m working on and let the subconscious take over for a while. I find doing something totally different, like exercising can help. If it’s a mindless activity, sometimes I can come up with a solution to a problem I’m facing. Other times, I’ll do stream-of-consciousness writing to try and break the jam.
APKY/AMP: Stream-of consciousness writing.. I must look that one up. Anyway Gregg, do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and off you are with it?
My first book was very much seat-of-the-pants writing. I had a general idea of what the story was and I already knew the ending, so it was a journey to see how I would get there. The process of creating my second book is a little more organized. I had certain touch points in my story arc already in my head. After I finished the first draft, I went back and did an outline before starting revisions. I still like not having everything laid out exactly, because I think that leaves room for when “the muse” can speak and things sometimes take an unexpected turn. Usually, for me, they turn out better that way.
APKY/AMP: And do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Sometimes the characters already have their names, other times, I use a babies-naming book to come up with their names. I usually have the characters pretty fully formed in my head (I don’t write background on them like some authors), I just let their personalities take shape as they interact with other characters and the story. Characters can’t be either all good or all bad. To be believable, they have to have flaws – that’s what makes them interesting. It doesn’t have to be a massive flaw, like a mass murderer. It can just be some self-doubt, but it has to be something the reader can relate to. That’s what makes them real.
APKY/AMP: Indeed no human being is all bad or all good. So who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
APKY/AMP: Ha! J I too, although I write in English and they mostly speak German, so I translate a lot. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
When I write, I just write as it comes to me. When I’m finished a section, I’ll go back either later that day or whenever I can get back to it and re-read what I wrote. I usually make some small changes here and there at that point. Once I’m finished the initial manuscript, then I go back with red pen in hand and do some serious editing, not only for spelling, grammar, etc., but for plot, continuity, story arc, etc.
APKY/AMP: You sound very accomplished, Gregg. Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
A computer. Even then, sometimes my fingers can’t keep up with my thoughts.
APKY/AMP: I know, once in the creative process the mind is off and away! What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
I write in third person. I find it’s easier to be omnipotent! I admire writers who can write in first person (like novelist Nelson DeMille), but I find that very hard to do. I’ve never tried second person.
APKY/AMP: I prefer third too. The closest I ever come to first is when my characters are debating with themselves internally. What do you like to read?
Everything. From newspapers to magazines , fiction to non-fiction/biographies, history, you name it. Good writing is good writing, no matter where you find it. And I find I’m learning a lot from all different sources that I can incorporate into my work.
APKY/AMP: That’s true too. What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
I pay the mortgage by teaching public relations & writing at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa. I’m also a professional motorsports photographer.
APKY/AMP: Wow. And where can we find out more about you and your work?
Several places: www.thewarmerchants.com, http://sbpra.com/GreggFeistman, www.amazon.com,
APKY/AMP: Heading there myself. Anything else you’d like to mention?
APKY/AMP: Thank you for this opportunity, Gregg. I now invite you to include an extract of your writing:
Malcolm Boyd sat, starting at nothing.
I’m bored, even here in South Beach.
South Beach in the early morning was a quiet strip of outdoor cafes, sun-bathed restored art deco facades and shops with a mix of locals and the handful of curious tourists who had always heard of and seen glossy pictures of the place, but had never visited before. When the sun went down, South Beach really became its decadent self, with the honey over-scented wafts of perfumes, colognes and the freshly washed skin of beautiful, well-built women and even more beautiful, even more well-built men. All there to see, be seen and perhaps sample one another in all kinds of intoxicating mixes. Of course, ever since the designer Versace had been gunned down one sunny morning by a crazed male prostitute, people had become more suspect of South Beach. But at night, the old feelings of drink, lust, sex and pure voyeurism still took over and held court. South Beach was a lot of things: fun, cheesy, dynamic, classic, sexy and bold. The one thing it wasn’t was boring.
Boyd swallowed the last of his overpriced cappuccino, left his patio table at The Newsstand, and walked across the street to the beach, newspaper tucked under his arm. Already the sun burned brightly and Boyd slipped on his Revos to cut the glare. Walking a little bit, he just tried to kill time until the top of the hour. That was why he was in South Beach, he reminded himself. His partners, even his Board of Directors, couldn’t understand why he had to suddenly fly to Miami, but then he never had shared his secrets while building his media business empire. Boyd’s vision had played out exactly as he had planned. Even the fucking analysts finally caught on, eventually. If Malcolm Boyd went somewhere suddenly or disappeared from view for a while, the odds were better than even that something was brewing. Something that in all probability would make someone somewhere very, very rich. And certainly, Boyd himself. As a result, those around Boyd gave up trying to figure him out. They just watched him. And then bet large sums on what he might or might not do. Even if it was nothing.
Let ‘em. They have no idea just what to watch for. Which of course, was the whole idea.
Right now, Boyd was doing the watching. Across the street, in the portico of a contemporary-looking restaurant, a fashion photo shoot was going on. Nothing unusual about that. South Beach’s locations were often the site of many fashion photo layouts, with models, photographers, art directors and stylists from all over the world descending on this strip of sand at the south end of Miami Beach. It would probably surprise most people who glanced through the fashion magazines how many times locations in South Beach were used repeatedly. A good photographer could shoot the same model at the same site from a slightly different angle and make it look like two entirely different places.
Boyd sat on a bench and opened his paper. At the same time he watched the photo shoot in progress. A typical shoot. The photo assistants running around trying to look important, the art directors trying to be important by arguing with the photographer, the clothes stylists fretting over which incredibly expensive outfit would go next, the makeup stylists fretting over their handiwork on the canvas that was some mom and dad’s poor young girl, and of course, the object of everyone’s attention, the model herself.
She got even Boyd’s attention. Six foot at least, with a tan that had been carefully nurtured. Long dark hair, full lips, high cheek bones (de rigeur for a fashion model, of
course), and a body that aerobic instructors would kill for. And the bikini she had on looked about two sizes too small. The girl looked flawless. Of course, good lighting and makeup will make just about any 17 year-old look good, Boyd thought. But this one, he guessed, was a few years beyond 17. And watching her, he could tell that she was a pro. And a pro in any endeavor, he could appreciate.
He found women interesting, a pleasant diversion from time to time, and occasionally, even charming, but not something to take a lot of attention away from other aspects of his life. Serious relationships were out of the question, of course. It always amazed him that women found him attractive, sometimes even before they knew how much money he had. He took care of himself of course, and was in great shape. But he had never considered himself movie-star handsome, although several women in his past had told him he could have had a film career.
I don’t think so. There are much better things to do in this world than pretending to be someone you’re not, no matter how much some young MBA idiot in a designer suit in Hollywood is willing to pay you.
The girl was sitting in one of those tall canvas director’s chairs now, he noticed. Probably on break, while the camera was reloaded, the lights adjusted and the stylists hovered. He also noticed that she was noticing him. He checked his Rolex; ten minutes to go. He stared at the first article in the paper, not really paying attention to it.
Wow, now there’s a handsome man. Early to mid-forties, she guessed. Expensive linen sports jacket, tasteful silk shirt and cream pants with expensive shoes. And those Revos were perfect on him. Definitely not a tourist. A man with style. Some local celebrity, perhaps. I wonder who he is, why he’s sitting on a bench at what, nine in the morning? A morning stroll on the beach while the wife and kids sleep in? A few minutes of solitude before going into the office? From the way he’s dressed, he’s either a successful entrepreneur, or a drug dealer. Which in Miami, was really the same thing. Obviously, he was waiting for someone or something. The rest of the world’s at work by now. She decided he wasn’t a drug dealer. They’re not usually up and around this early.
“Marissa, are you ready?”
“I’ve been ready, Charles. I’m waiting for you,” she said to the photographer.
“Don’t get bitchy, darling. The morning’s only half over. Are you PMS-ing today?” asked the makeup artist.
“Fuck you, Steven.”
“Tonight, with any luck at all. Of course, you’re not my type, darling.”
God, what a pain in the ass he was. If he wasn’t the best damned makeup artist in the business, she’d put her self-defense courses to use and kick his man-loving ass all over the beach. It never bothered her that he was a flaming gay. She’d been in this business too long; that was a non-issue with her. What bothered her was that he always had to have the last word. So damned smug.
“Can we please get back to work?” Charles asked.
“Of course,” she said. She really did like working with him. “Make me look good, Charles.”
“I always do,” he replied. And he did, too, she knew. “Just a couple more, then we’ll do a change.”
Nodding, she stood up and turned it on. If jumper cables could have been hooked up to her smile, she could have powered the neon that made up so much of nighttime South Beach for an entire evening. Even the crew noticed. She was sure the stranger on the bench noticed it, too. Good.
“Wow, that’s great!” Charles said. “Oh baby!” he almost moaned.
Click brrr, click brrr, click brrr went the camera and its motor drive as he quickly filled his digital image card.
“That’s terrific, Marissa! The best you’ve given me this morning. God, the magazine’s gonna love this. Okay, change.”
That was her cue. With a deft motion, she reached back with one hand, and unhooked the bikini top. She waited a fraction of a second until the stranger looked up at her and then slipped it off in full view of everyone. The photo crew could’ve cared less, they’d been with countless models before and had seen everything. But she caught the stranger’s eye, held his gaze for a moment and then gave him a lewd wink. Just a trace of surprise crossed his face. Pretty cool customer. Most men would have been on their knees panting by now. It’d be a shame if he was gay. I wonder who he is and how I meet him. Just then a cellular phone rang.
Well, that’s somewhat interesting he thought passively, in the second before his phone rang. The girl’s breasts were certainly full and firm, but what intrigued him even more was the complete lack of tan lines on her torso. Obviously, one had to be a bit of an exhibitionist to be a model. And this one sunbathed in the nude, or at least topless. Surprisingly, he found himself aroused. Well, she was beautiful. And the wink was erotic. He smiled inwardly. Kudos to her for getting his attention.
When the phone rang, he instantly dismissed thoughts of the girl. He focused all of his considerable mental powers on the phone - a very special phone, with a very special, very private number. Only one person had this number. And Boyd had never met them. Ever.
Hitting the ON button, he held the phone to his ear. A mechanical voice, like those annoying computer solicitations that interrupt other people’s dinner said, “Mango’s, eleven o’clock, tonight.” The connection broke.
Four words, he mused. It was rarely more. Well, nothing more to do but wait until tonight. Putting the phone away, he folded his paper, stood up, glancing at the photo shoot. The girl had changed into a short black cocktail dress with a plunging neckline and high heels. She was performing for the camera and didn’t seem to notice him anymore.
Just as well. He really didn’t want to be bothered.
APKY/AMP: Thank you again, Gregg, and we at AuthorMeProfessionals wish you all the best with your projects.