Thursday, May 24, 2012

Erotic Noir That Will Leave You Breathless, Author David Sterry

This is the last blog stop for the month, and boy has it been like Grand Central Station around here! Wrapping up the month is a man that makes it his life's work to help other authors get the recognition they deserve, while still finding time to write his own literary masterpieces. With out further adue: Author David Sterry.

 To begin, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

I am the son of immigrants. My great-grandfather was a coal miner in Newcastle. The place you never bring coals to. My mom and dad are in many ways the embodiment of the American Dream. They came to this country with basically nothing but the clothes on their backs, and after 20 years of hard work, sweat and sacrifice, they were getting divorced, totally broke and deep in therapy. I grew up in nice neighborhoods where kids play ball, swung on swings and rode merry go rounds. When I was 17 and briefly homeless, I was sexually assaulted by a large man wearing a shirt that said SEXY on it, then became a sex worker in Hollywood, while attending Immaculate Heart College, studying existentialism with a bunch of nuns. After that, I became a standup comedian, a soccer referee, commercial spokesman for companies like AT&T, McDonald's and Levi's, master of ceremonies at Chippendale's Mail Strip Club in the 80s in New York City, a problematic hypersexualist/sex maniac, had a three picture deal at Disney, acted with everyone from Michael Caine to Zippy the Chimp to Will Smith in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I am an accomplished table tennis player. 

 I help writers get published. Sometimes for money. Sometimes as an activist giving voice to people in our culture who have no voice. The poor, the abused, people who had the shit kicked out of them when they were kids. I have a business called The Book Doctors. I tour the country doing an event called Pitchapalooza. It's kind of like American Idol for books. Writers get 1 min. to pitch their books to a panel of experts. The winner gets an introduction to an agent or a publisher appropriate for their work. Our very first winner's book just came out it's called Love Inshallah, it's an anthology by Muslim American women writing about their secret love lives. It's a fantastic book. I'm very proud of the fact that we were able to help them get that book out into the world. at this time in history I think it's so important that as a race we embrace our similarities, the things we have in common, and the more we understand about people who are different from us, the less we will be inclined to hate on them. I write for the Huffington Post. I'm the one who broke the story about Bert and Ernie coming out for Same Sex Marriage. I am now the author of 13 books, the first of which was a memoir about my Hollywood sex worker days. It's called Chicken. It's been translated into 10 languages and the guy who runs the TV show Dexter just wrote a script from it which is being made into a movie. It's a surreal experience coming up with a list of names of actors who would play me in the movie. They're all much more handsome than me. I just finished reading The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. She writes the most beautiful sentences. The most exquisite paragraphs. Before that I read the entire Fire and Ice RR Martin thing, and by the seven gods it rocked!

 You have some very exceptional accomplishments; tell me, what made you decide to become an author? 

I have always loved words. Ever since I was a kid. I always loved to write. I was always writing little stories. When I became a teenager I love writing poetry. I love reading for that matter. All different kinds of books. And poetry too. I never knew anyone who was a professional writer when I was growing up. Obvious I knew people wrote books. But I never really considered that as a possibility. When I was a kid I wanted to be a professional athlete. A baseball player. I guess you could say I was kind of a Little League World Series type prodigy. And then I decided to become a professional soccer player. I was offered a contract by the Vancouver Whitecaps. Then I destroyed my knee. Then I decide to become a stand up comedian. And of course I wrote all my own material. So that was writing a very different kind. But it was a great education as a writer. Then I started writing short plays for the theater. They were all under 5 min. I performed them all over New York. Then I was a screenplay writer. And that was great training also. There are only two things you can show in a screenplay. What you see and what you hear. I also kept a journal for many years. I found that was a great way to work out the troubling shit flooding through my brain. After writing many screenplays I finally wrote my first novel. I started it probably 25 years ago. I finally sold it about a month ago. It's coming out in August. I really enjoyed the process of writing prose. A screenplay is just a bunch of symbols in a file until it gets made into a movie. And it's just so hard to get a screenplay made into a movie. Something like 400 movies get released every year. Whereas 250,000 books get published. And that's not counting self published people. A book is something real and palpable. I just enjoy it so much more. Writing stories and books. As opposed to screenplays.

Could you tell us a bit about your book, Confessions of a Sex Maniac?

First of all, let me make this very clear, it is not a memoir. Still, they say you should write about what you know. It's a piece of noir. I was commissioned to write it. I love all those great noir writers, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James Ellroy, Lawrence Block. It was so much fun to write. It came out very easily. It's about a low-level bagman working in the seedy groin of the Tenderloin, one of San Francisco's, in fact America's, hardest, rawest, nastiest neighborhoods. He falls under the spell of the Snow Leopard, a woman as spectacular as she is deadly. In the and he has to choose: sex or death?

 You travel all over the country promoting, how do you find time to write?

 I have constructed a life in which I'm able to set aside chunks of time. Mostly I work between the hours of 9 PM and six in the morning. But if I had a regular job I wouldn't be able to do it. I often sleep in the day. But also, I do have an obsessive personality. If I don't write for a couple of days I feel all backed up. Creatively constipated. There's so little I can control of my real life. When I write something, I can control everything. I can make it turn out exactly like I wanted to. And it's such a great joy in finding the perfect turn of phrase, an unexpected way to see something, to illuminate and elucidate something in the human condition. When it's good, it's quite transcendent and invigorating.

What is your writing style like? Do you prefer the organized outline, or the mayhem of freestyle?

 I am a maximalist. The first couple of drafts I write always have too many words in them. I will spit out three different metaphors to describe something. Then in the editing process I combine the three and come up with something that's streamlined and unexpected. I am an avowed enemy of the cliché. I love playing with language and inventing words. I'm drawn to writers who do the same. Irvine Welsh and Ogden Nash. Mark Twain and Dr. Seuss. At the same time, I really don't like writing that is so focused on language that there's no character and plot. To me, the best kind of books are filled with poetic language as well as characters I love and hate and love to hate, and stories that are so good they make me feel sad when the end of the book is in sight. in terms of outline and freestyle, I prefer a balance of both. I was trained as a screenwriter in the Disney system. Before you start writing a screenplay for them, you outline every scene in its minutia, plot out every single beat. It's their way of micromanaging and controlling their products in the most intense way. But again, it was great training as a writer. It's so much easier to write something when you know everything that's going to happen. For myself, I'm constantly making outlines and revising them over and over as I go through the work. It makes it easier actually to improvise. It's like a jazz musician who has a score. There is a melody. That gives you something to go off. Like Coltraine doing My Favorite Things. It's so amazing because you know what the melody is, and you see how he's moving all around it, over it, under it, turning it inside out and upside down, taking your breath away by doing something so magical and unexpected and original, yet still somehow retaining the heart and soul of the original piece.

What is the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring authors out there?

Have 1 million Twitter followers. That's the fastest way to get a book deal right now. I'm working on that myself. No but seriously. Get other people to read your work. As many as you can. I get so many manuscripts that are so half-baked. Hire a professional editor. Someone who's great. Do not give your money to a charlatan. It's like the Wild West out there. Anybody can throw up a shingle and say that they're in editor. Or a self publisher for that matter. Make sure you very carefully investigate anybody in the publishing business before you give them one single penny. Same with promoting and marketing. I once spent $5000 hiring a publicist. I might as well have taken $50 100 bills and set them on fire. Research. Find out who are the people publishing and agenting and reading and blogging about the kinds of books that you write. Support your local bookstore. Go to author events. Join a writers group. Cultivate a tribe of people who are passionate about the same things you are. The first principle of social media is Good Samaritanism.

Lastly, is there anything else you would like to add?

 I think it's the greatest time in history to be a writer. There are many people who bemoan the fact that anyone can now get a book published. Especially old-school publishing industry uppercrusty stick-up-the-butts who swaddle themselves in snoberation. The traditional publishing industry was tragically flawed. It was elitist and exclusionary. A little club that you have to either be born into, buy your way into, or luck your way into. Those days are gone. And I celebrate that. But getting a book published and getting people to read it are two very different things. The good news is that anyone can get a book published. The bad news is that anyone can get a book published. But I think it's so great that we live in a time where any writer can get their ideas and their words out into the world. I have seen over and over again that when people write a great book, work their asses off at networking, due diligent research, and persevere, they can have great success publishing their book.

Follow David On twitter:  @sterryhead 4 twttification

And don't forget to like him on facebook :

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