Copyright Vicki Tyley (c)
Quote of the day:
"The difficulties of life
are intended to make us better, not bitter."
Today I'm pleased to introduce you to Alan Goldsher who hails from Chicago, Illinois, USA. Alan is a novelist, ghost writer and journalist. Not only, he is a fine musician. During his 10-plus years as a professional bassist, Alan recorded with Janet Jackson, Cypress Hill, and Naughty by Nature; toured the world with Digable Planets; and performed at the 1994 Grammy Awards. Welcome, Alan.
- Guest Author
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I wasn’t one of those guys who started a journal when I was 13, or wrote for my high school newspaper, or banged out three angsty novels in my early-20s. My writing career was and is a happy accident. I fell into writing after I got fed up with being a professional musician, landing a job as a copywriter for a music marketing company, and that’s music marketing as in, “Buy 1 CD, get 11 for free.” Much to my shock, I took to copywriting—and I say shock, because I’d never had any writing aspirations or experience—and decided that I should try banging out something more substantial than, “The stellar new outing from Toronto’s own Our Lady Peace is a step forward that’ll have their old fans rejoicing, and their new fans begging for seconds,” so I came up with a crappy idea for a book, specifically a snarky critical examination of the Beatles post-breakup solo careers. For reasons that remain unclear, a literary agent thought this was a saleable project, so she had me put together a book proposal, which, fortunately for all of us, died in a tragic computer crash. The publishing industry wisely decided that was a horrible concept, so I decided to write a novel.
Like practically all first novels, it had an earnest, precious autobiographical element to it, but an indie New York publishing house took a crack at it anyhow. It got some nice reviews, and sold a few copies, so I did up a second novel, as well as a non-fiction project about the legendary jazz drummer, Art Blakey. Then came the tech boom, and a whole lot of gigs in which I was vastly overpaid for delivering relatively fun and interesting online content. (Yes, kids, there was a time when people were paid for writing on the Interwebs.) After the whole online thing went kerflooey, a friend of a friend introduced me to a literary agent at ICM, who had me ghostwrite a project for the late comedian, Bernie Mac. Perhaps because I’m a good listener, I took to ghostwriting, and, since then, have been lucky enough to work with some supercool comedians, actors, athletes, food industry heavyweights, and businesspeople. Simultaneously, I’ve continued with my fiction: I wrote four romantic comedies for a U.K. publisher, and three parodies for a couple of different houses here in the States, the best-known of which is Paul Is Undead, a retelling of the Beatles myth in which Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison are zombies, and Starr is a Ninja.
This very week, my new book, My Favorite Fangs: The Story of the von Trapp Family Vampires—a remix of The Sound of Music loaded with vampires, succubi, blood, gore, and undead lesbian sex, will be available in the States, but if you live down under in Oz, you can scoop it up at any U.S. online U.S. book retailer
WERE YOU A GOOD READER AS A KID?
Here’s how good of a reader I was: While most blow-off, homework-hating kids hide comics behind their history textbook, I hid Stephen King novels. I credit my amazing eighth-grade English teacher, one Bill Monroe—and if you’re out there, Mr. Monroe, mad props to you—for opening up my reading horizons, specifically for introducing me to Kurt Vonnegut. (If it were up to me, all eighth graders would The Sirens of Titan and Slaughterhouse-Five.) I was a crazy reader then, and I’m a crazy reader now.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
As mentioned, I was a musician, specifically a bassist. I’ve played jazz/hip-hop at the Glastonbury Festival in the U.K. for 100,000 people, Klezmer songs in Chicago for a wedding party of 200 people, and singer/songwriter stuff at a bookstore in central Pennsylvania for zero people. It was a great ride, and it gave me a career’s worth of writing material, but after 10 years of almost non-stop gigging, I hit the wall. I don’t bust out my bass all that much anymore, but every once in a while, I do miss the performing aspect of the job. Thing is, the thought of hauling an upright bass, an amplifier, and a gig bag to a dingy club or a crappy rehearsal room gives me the willies.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
One of the things that frustrated me about being a musician was dealing with creative types who didn’t have the discipline necessary to make consistently good music; nothing was more annoying than going to a rehearsal,
and having my bandmates either unprepared or unengaged. This isn’t something I have to worry about now. Autonomy is a beautiful thing.
Also, I’m a better writer than I was a bassist, so there’s that.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
For me, without question, it’s the business aspect. The publishing world is frustrating at every level, and I’m not pointing fingers or disparaging anybody’s efforts or decisions—it’s just the nature of the beast. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time learning the ins and outs of the industry, and it’s served me well. It takes a lot of time and effort, but if you want to be a professional writer, it’s essential.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
My first two works of fiction, while well-meaning and energetic, feel like early-career novels, but the last seven, for the most part, turned pretty well. If you’re scoring by sales and visibility, you’d have to say Paul Is Undead is at the top of the achievement list, but I love ‘em all…even those first two.
HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU PUBLISHED?
The aforementioned nine novels, two non-fiction music books, a slew of ghostwriting projects, and two ebooks. Phew!
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I have a couple of cool ghostwriting gigs in the offing, and I’m especially psyched to help jazz guitar great George Benson do up his memoir. I’m also having a great time with Miles Davis FAQ, my overview of the trumpeter’s career, and there’re also a couple of neat fiction things marinating, one of which is based on the time when Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse threatened to kill me because I wrote an unauthorized biography of his band.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Write everyday, even if it’s just a teeny tiny bit.
Learn the publishing industry. Can’t stress that enough.
Finish something. At some point, you have to stop tinkering with that novel or book proposal and say, “This sucker is done.”
If you’re having a lousy writing session, just walk away. You don’t want to create negative vibes about your work, and the laptop will be there tomorrow.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I’m a huge fan of Nick Hornby’s early work, specifically High Fidelity and About a Boy, both of which speak to me on an intellectual and gut level. Nick—and I can call him Nick, because he’s my Facebook friend—knows the male psyche, and can expound about it in a humorous, warm, caring fashion, all while keeping his plots moving forward and dropping in all kinds of hip, unpretentious pop culture references. Another guy who’s high on my list these days is Jonathan Tropper who, for the last five-ish years, has been bringing it big time. Like Hornby, when he’s writing about relationships—family, romance, whatever—he’s at once funny, sincere, heartbreaking, and honest. There are a handful of John Irving’s early books that I go back to time and again, most notably The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules, and I’m a huge fan of a semi-obscure mystery guy named Ross Thomas. And of course Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut hold a special place in my heart, because they were there first.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER
RECEIVED FROM A READER?
It’s compliment enough when somebody spends their money and time on one of my books. As a crazy reader, I know how special it can be to pick up a new bit of reading material, and if I can make somebody feel as good as I did when I bought, say, the unexpurgated version of Stephen King’s The Stand, or Vonnegut’s Slapstick, that’s a beautiful thing.
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED?
Publishing houses won’t let your work onto the streets without thorough editing, and luckily, every editor I’ve worked with at a major publishing house has been stellar. (I’m talking to you, Peter and Jaime.) My current literary agent, Jason Ashlock of Movable Type Management, is also a great sounding board.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I love multitasking. If I don’t have two or three projects on my docket, and two or three more on the backburner, I get antsy, so I’ll be staying the course, specifically looking for interesting ghost-writing gigs and coming up with (hopefully) good ideas for that next novel.
Alan's contact points:
Thanks, Alan. Love ya work! - CT