Accusations that Dave Eggers “ripped off” the memoir of a former Facebook employee in his new novel, “The Circle,” are raising difficult questions about plagiarism and gender bias in the publishing world.
Kate Losse, author of “The Boy Kings,” in which Losse dishes on life inside Facebook, has accused Eggers of “rewrit[ing] my book as his own novel” in a blog post on medium.com.
“From all appearances, it is an unnervingly similar book, and I wrote it first (and I imagine mine is more authentic and better written, because I actually lived and worked in this world and am also a good writer),” she writes. “The difference is that Eggers is a famous man and I am not.”
Losse has admitted that she has not read Eggers’ book (excerpted here in the New York Times), but says that “if you look at the description/plot arc/main character name it is disturbingly similar.”
Both Losse’s memoir and Eggers’ novel examine the life of a woman working her way up through a tech company, Facebook in Losse’s case and a fictional company called The Circle in Eggers’.
But perhaps more interesting than Losse’s claim itself is the issue it raises about plagiarism and gender bias in the publishing world.
Plagiarism and fraud charges are nearly as old as literature itself (see: Jonah Lehrer, James Frey, even Jane Goodall and Greg Mortenson), which brings us to wonder at what point is it considered “inspiration,” and when does it cross the line into outright stealing, plagiarism, or fraud?
Art imitates life, as such works as Curtis Sittenfeld’s “American Wife,” (clearly a portrait of Laura Bush), and Joe Klein’s “Primary Colors,” (a thinly veiled account of the Clintons) can attest to.
And then there’s the argument that everything has already been written and good literature is merely intelligent recycling.
Eggers’ prior books on the Lost Boys of Sudan and Katrina survivors certainly follow this model, though in these cases he named sources for his material, while he neglects to do so in “The Circle,” according to Losse.
Not having read either book, it is still unclear to us whether or not Eggers “ripped off” of Losse’s book and whether or not he must pay her credit.
What is perhaps more interesting is Losse’s rumination as to why the media ignored her and “The Boy Kings,” and lavished praise on Eggers and “The Circle.” The culprit, according to her: gender bias.
Writes Losse, “our work is supposedly minor, less valuable, and limited to the personal, where the work of a white man is presumed to be 'universal', 'essential', and relevant to all. This assumption is how, when I published 'The Boy Kings' ... the media made the sexist assumption that this book was not important, because how could a woman writing about technology be important?”
She continues, “The assumption the media makes in these instances is that something is not important unless a familiar, male white face does it. So, when Dave Eggers decided to rewrite my book as his own novel about a young woman working her way up through Facebook, [the media heaped praise on him].”
What’s not clear to us is whether, in this case, the attention paid to Eggers’ novel is due simply to his famous name and not his gender. Though gender bias in literature is real, we tend to think in this case Eggers’ received more attention than Losse simply because he is far more famous.
Still, Losse’s accusation raises important – and difficult – questions for the publishing world.
What do you think? Is this a case of gender bias? Did Eggers steal Losse’s premise, or was it merely inspiration?
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
The film “12 Years a Slave,” based on the memoir by slave Solomon Northrup, is already getting major awards buzz as well as being presumed a frontrunner for the Oscar Best Picture prize.
The film follows Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free African American, as he is kidnapped, sold into slavery, and forced to work on various plantations in Louisiana. Northrup's memoir of the same name was released in 1853.
“12 Years a Slave” is directed by Steve McQueen and also stars “Star Trek Into Darkness” actor Benedict Cumberbatch and “Prometheus” actor Michael Fassbender as slave owners as well as Lupita Nyong’o as a fellow slave on one of the plantations where Northrup works.
The movie will be released Oct. 18 in the US but was screened at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, where it captured the People’s Choice Award for best movie, considered the top prize. Monitor critic Peter Rainer found the film “alternately searing and stilted” but noted that “with extended sequences featuring whippings and welts, it’s a far cry from the goofball horrifics of ‘Django Unchained’ or ‘Mandingo.’”
So far, the film has earned a 92 out of 100 average grade on the review aggregator Metacritic, and after its win at the Toronto Film Festival, Guardian writer Catherine Shoard said of the Oscar race, “McQueen's drama looks almost unbeatable, despite nearly six months to go until the Oscars ceremony.”
Hollywood Reporter writer Scott Feinberg called it the “film to beat” in the headline for his article on the movie and said its People’s Choice Award win is “a major development in this year's Oscar race.”
Does all this buzz ensure the film will win the big prize at this year’s Oscars? Plenty of movies have been considered early Best Picture frontrunners and then faded from voters’ minds by the time Oscar season rolled around. Awards show fans will also remember that last year’s Best Picture winner, “Argo,” missed out on most of the prizes before the Oscars, including the People’s Choice Award (which went to “Silver Linings Playbook,” a Best Picture nominee.) The 2011 People’s Choice Award winner was also not the same as the Best Picture winner. However, the People’s Choice and Best Picture winner did match up in 2010, 2008, and, a little farther back, in 1999.
In addition to discussion of Best Picture, critics have pointed to Ejiofor, Fassbender, and Nyong’o as possibilities for acting prizes and McQueen as a Best Director frontrunner.
Regardless, Ejiofor told USA Today he hopes audiences can simply enjoy the film without wondering about awards odds.
“I love the film," he said."I think it's a really strong piece of work. But I also want people to come to it without all the buzz and the hype and this and that. It's a story of a man going through an extraordinary circumstance. And I do feel it needs to be engaged with in its own quiet, reflective way.”
Take a deep breath, “Bridget Jones” fans – and stop here if you don’t want any spoilers before the third “Bridget Jones” novel, “Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy” by Helen Fielding, is released this month.
The British newspaper the Sunday Times released an excerpt of the new novel in its magazine this past weekend. According to the Times, Bridget and her love interest Mark Darcy married and had two children, but Mark Darcy has since died and "Mad" finds Bridget as a widow.
Some readers are not pleased, to say the least.
“how could they kill off Mark Darcy?!” a user named Sam Garcia tweeted, while a user named Kristy Lear wrote, “Just heard about the new Bridget jones storyline... I think it's fair to say I'm not the only girl in the world who's going to be dev[a]stated.”
A Twitter user named Saba Rizvi wrote, “Mr. Darcy cannot die!! It wd b like killing the hopes and dreams of millions!”
“Mad About the Boy” is due to be released Oct. 15 in the US. The “Bridget” story began as a column written by Fielding for the British newspaper The Independent in 1995 and the first book, “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” was released in 1996 and a sequel, “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” arrived in 1999. Fielding briefly revived the column in The Independent between 2005 and 2006.
The first two books were adapted into two films starring Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones, Colin Firth as Mark Darcy, and Hugh Grant as Bridget’s other love interest Daniel Cleaver.
A controversial political manifesto is being republished in China and some observers say it represents a revival of old political ideology in modern China.
The move marks the 120th anniversary of Mao’s birth. But it also signals a slightly more ominous development: Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s embrace of Maoist philosophy.
According to the UK’s Guardian, “The re-emergence of ‘Quotations from Chairman Mao’... comes amid an official revival of the era's rhetoric. China's leader, Xi Jinping, has embraced Maoist terminology and concepts launching a "mass line rectification campaign" and this week even presiding over a televised self-criticism session.”
Some have likened China’s mass line rectification campaign – an attempt to disavow corruption and reinforce the Communist Party’s ties with the masses – to Mao’s “mass line” campaigns to purge the party of corrupt leaders.
The founding father of the People’s Republic of China, Mao transformed the nation into a single-party socialist state. According to some historians, he was also responsible for the deaths of some 40 to 70 million Chinese through starvation, forced labor, and executions.
A follower of Marxist and Leninist ideology, Mao was widely influential in China. The 1966 “Quotations from Chairman Mao,” a book of select sayings from Mao’s speeches, became required reading in China as well as one of the most printed books in history. More than a billion copies of the “Little Red Book” were printed during China’s Cultural Revolution, making it the second-most printed book in the world after the Bible, according to some sources.
The book fell from favor as China embarked on a path of reform, but the book – and, perhaps, the ideology it represents – is returning.
In addition to original content, the republished book will include previously unpublished sayings of Mao, as well as rectify distorted quotes and quotes wrongly attributed to him.
Its publishers say they have no political motivations in republishing “Quotations,” but some see it as a revival of Maoist ideology.
Daniel Leese, author of “Mao Cult” and an expert on China’s Cultural Revolution at the University of Freiburg in Germany, told the Guardian the book was a “trial balloon” from Maoist sympathizers. “If they hadn’t seen how the general tone towards the Maoist heritage had changed, I don’t think they would have dared,” he said. “This is party internal politics popping up in the public sphere.”
Echoed political scientist Zhang Ming, “[Chinese leader] Xi believes in Maoism. He wants to completely revive Mao’s policy and he has already started it.”
Those who agree with Ming say the “Little Red Book” is a first step.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
“The Hunger Games” director Gary Ross and “Games” star Jennifer Lawrence are reuniting for another literary adaptation: a new movie version of John Steinbeck’s novel “East of Eden.”
According to Deadline, Lawrence will play memorable villainess Cathy Trask, the wife of protagonist Adam and mother to his twin sons Aron and Cal. The story will be released in two parts. (One hardcover edition of "East of Eden" clocks in at 601 pages).
The 1952 book is Ross’s favorite American novel, according to Deadline.
“East of Eden” was most memorably adapted as a 1955 film which starred actor James Dean as Cal Trask, actress Julie Harris as love interest Abra, and Raymond Massey as Adam Trask. Actress Jo Van Fleet won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Cathy.
Bill O’Reilly discussed his next project during an interview with “60 Minutes,” with Reilly stating that his next book after his new release “Killing Jesus” will focus on World War II.
He said the book centered on World War II will be released next September.
“It's a big World War II book with brand-new information about some very, very fascinating things, and we're writing it now,” O’Reilly said.
“Jesus,” O’Reilly’s newest title, is the third history book by the “O’Reilly Factor” host. His first, “Killing Lincoln,” was released in 2011. “Killing Kennedy” followed in 2012 and “Killing Jesus” was released on Sept. 24 of this year. All three titles were co-written with author Martin Dugard. O’Reilly is also behind several other titles, including his 2010 book “Pinheads and Patriots” and the 2008 “A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity.”
When asked during the “60 Minutes” interview whether the World War II book would also begin with “Killing,” O’Reilly said, “I’m not telling.”
The TV host said the idea of writing a book about Jesus came to him in the middle of the night. “One night, I just woke up and it went, 'Killing Jesus,'" O'Reilly said. “And I believe – because I'm a Catholic – that comes from the Holy Spirit. My inspiration comes from that. And so I wrote 'Killing' Jesus because I think I was directed to write that.”
"Killing Jesus" is already set to be adapted into a National Geographic special and is set to air in 2014. The National Geographic adaption of "Killing Kennedy" will air this November and the "Killing Lincoln" TV version set a viewership record for the channel when it aired this past February.
Yesterday a suit-clad man in his late 50s came up to the circulation desk with a stack of books to check out at the library where I work.
They were all romances.
As he handed me his library card, I waited for the disclaimer. Sure enough, he announced, "These aren't for me. They're for my wife."
"A likely story," I joked. "Don't worry, there's nothing wrong with a dude enjoying the occasional bodice-ripper."
"No, really," he insisted, reddening. "She's home with the flu! She sent me to the library with a reading list!"
"It's okay," I said, laughing, "I believe you."
Do men ever check out romances for themselves? In over a decade of library work I've never seen it happen. Although if straight men did read romances, they might learn a few things.
Apparently, they'd rather not.
As a feminist, I'm all in favor of avoiding gender stereotyping. Still, working in a public library has demolished any "Free to be You and Me" notion I might have had about guys and gals being just the same. When our patrons bring their books to the circulation desk for check-out, there are few surprises.
"Battle Secrets of World War II?" It's a dude.
"I Kissed An Earl?" It's a lady.
Both genders do read literary fiction, mysteries and travel books. Nobody of either gender reads poetry anymore.
And everyone seems to love Stephen King.
But for a certain kind of book, there's absolutely no crossover. No man has ever checked out "Entwined Together" without a disclaimer. And when women check out "Take, Burn or Destroy: A Novel of Naval Adventure," they invariably remark, "This is for my husband."
Is no woman curious enough about the appeal of naval adventure to fictionally partake?
Not in my library.
Although if she did, she might learn something.
But for our women readers, a book with "naval adventure" in the title is dead in the water. Nor will their husbands or boyfriends go for anything with a half-clad couple embracing on the cover, or the words "love," "desire" or "passion" in the title.
Unless it's "Love Of Mayhem" or "Passion for Tanks, Battles and Explosions."
When a local politician put out a call last year for books to send to our front-line troops, Deb and I went through the books on our sale table for titles that would appeal to what we figured was a group of predominately young, straight guys.
"Nelson's Fighting Cocks?" (Yes, the book really exists.)
"That's a winner!"
We ended up with a selection of macho titles and thrillers, some literary fiction, two Paul Monette classics for the out-and-proud, and (optimistically) a poetry collection. But we left Debbie Macomber and Jennifer Crusie on the table.
A library patron who overheard us took us to task. "Don't censor the books you send the troops because of your own gender bias," she protested.
"I'm a feminist too," I told her. "But I'm also a realist. Trust me – sending chick lit to the troops would be a colossal waste of time and postage."
"But if only – "
"We understand your concern," Deb cut in. "But we're trained professionals here. Just let us do our job?"
We sent a bunch of manly titles to the troops and felt just fine about it. If there's a soldier out there who was longing to kick back after a hard day's fighting with a copy of "The Viscount Who Loved Me," all I can say is "I'm sorry."
Will things ever change? They're marketing Easy Bake Ovens to little boys these days, so anything is possible. Maybe we're on the cusp of a Gender Neutral Reading Utopia, a brave new world where women check out "Retreat, Hell!" and men eagerly await the next Julie Garwood.
Would that be a better world? I actually think it would. Opening your mind and expanding your horizons is a good thing. (And I personally plan to tackle "Tank Battle!" as soon as I've finished reading "Crazy for You.")
In the meantime, want to blow your local librarian's mind? If you're female, the next time you hit the library, check out "Take, Burn or Destroy." If you're a dude, bring a batch of romances up to the circulation desk for check out.
With no disclaimer.
(Extra points if you exclaim, "I can't wait to get home, grab a cold drink, and get lost in "Sins and Scarlet Lace.")
Go ahead. Defy a few gender stereotypes. I dare you. (You might even learn something.)
The book “Masters of Sex” by Thomas Maier is the basis of a new fall Showtime series of the same name.
The show (and the book) centers on William H. Masters, a gynecologist, and Virginia Johnson, his assistant who becomes his partner in research into human sexuality.
So far, reviews of the series have been mostly positive, with New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley writing that the show is “enjoyable mainly because the actors are so good… [it] gets better as it goes on. But without an extra dimension, or a broader glimpse of a world beyond St. Louis, the series eventually grows a little claustrophobic and thin.”
Washington Post writer Hank Stuever said “Masters” is “easily the only show in the fall crop of series that makes me want to watch more… [when] I had seen the first two episodes and gave it a grade of B+, because it seemed like a sturdy launch…. Now that I’ve seen four more episodes, I could easily nudge that grade up to an A. The characters get better and more complex, the story builds, strange things start to happen and now I can’t wait to see how its interweaving plots unfold…. The lead actors are excellent.”
USA Today critic Robert Blanco was also won over, writing of “the sheer joy of watching an incredibly well-done, ideally cast TV series, anchored by full-bodied performances from Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as Masters and Johnson. This is career-defining work… Caplan is a revelation.”
NPR reviewer John Powers wasn’t impressed with the first episode but felt the show got a little better as it went on.
“The show begins quite badly – the pilot, in particular, is shockingly coarse,” he wrote. “If you can hold out, 'Masters of Sex' begins to find a stride around Episode 3…. [but] 'Masters of Sex' is missing 'Mad Men' 's ruthless clarity and sense of detail.”
“Masters” premieres Sept. 29.
A new study by the National Endowment for the Arts found that about as many adults are reading as in 2008 but that their perusal of literature has slightly declined.
The NEA compared data to the last survey conducted by the organization in 2008. That year, the NEA found that 54.3 percent of American adults read at least one book, and the number stayed mostly the same for 2012, with 54.5 percent of American adults having read at least one book.
However, the number of adults who read at least one literary title (defined as a novel, play, short story, or poetry) in 2012 declined slightly, with 46.9 percent of adults having done so in 2012 compared to 50.2 in 2008.
As noted by Publishers Weekly, surveys found that 54 percent of adults had read at least one work of literature in 1992 but that the number had fallen to 46.7 of adults by 2002. The NEA responded by creating various programs that encouraged adults to pick up a work of literature, and numbers rose to that 50.2 percent in 2008. However, numbers have now declined again.
According to the NEA, adults who are 65 and older read more than any other age range of adults.
Surprised by the literature numbers? While blockbuster series like the E.L. James “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy and the “Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins are fiction, chart-toppers such as “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg all fall into the nonfiction category.
In Stephen King’s classic horror novel “The Shining,” an aspiring writer named Jack Torrance holes up inside a hotel to write his debut novel. Things don’t turn out so well.
Not many authors end up criminally insane like Torrance, but writers the world over can to relate to the maddening inner solitude of hunching over a blank page. To outsiders, it’s a mysterious occupation.
Alan Watt, the author “Diamond Dogs,” seeks to demystify the creative process in an anthology titled "My First Novel: Tales of Woe and Glory." To that end, he invited 25 published authors to share recollections about their formative writing experiences.
The notable essayists include Cheryl Strayed (“Wild”), Aimee Bender (“The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake”), Janet Fitch (“White Oleander”), and Rick Moody (“The Ice Storm”). In addition to editing the collection, Watt includes a fascinating account of how he wrote “Diamond Dogs.” Watt, a stand-up comic who once landed a cameo on “Seinfeld,” followed a similar modus operandi to the character in “The Shining.” During a six-week tour of comedy clubs, Watt locked himself in hotel rooms to write during daylight hours. Fortunately, the only person Watt killed during that time was a fictional character in “Diamond Dogs,” a story about a teenager who accidentally runs over a classmate and hides his body in the trunk of his car.
The success of “Diamond Dogs,” which sold to Little, Brown for over $500,000 and went on to win France’s Prix Printemps (Best Foreign Novel), allowed Watt to give up his night job. More importantly, the process of writing the book gave him a new insight on his fraught relationship with his father.
Almost all the authors in “My First Novel” underwent a transformational experience of some sort, many of them extraordinary. This isn't a "how to write" book as much as it is a collection of essays in which authors reveal how they overcome internal and external obstacles to complete their books.
Watt knows a thing or two about the trials and triumphs of writers. He’s written several bestselling books about how to write books, including “The 90 Day Novel,” and he also teaches in-person and telecourses through the LA Writers Lab, which he founded in 2002. The Monitor conducted an e-mail interview with Watt to ask him about his inspiration to compile “My First Novel” and what advice he’d offer to aspiring writers.
Q: How did you first get the idea for “My First Novel: Tales of Woe and Glory”?
A: The idea came to me while I was teaching. It is one thing to teach craft, but it’s another for the writer to understand that when getting published becomes the goal, the process gets corrupted. Of course it seems like it should be the goal, but really our goal is to make the story live. Publication is a byproduct of having created something other people want to read.
Q: You have the best-selling book on Amazon about how to write a novel and you teach in-person and teleconference workshops, too. Was “My First Novel” inspired as a supplementary guide to aspiring writers to provide them with inspiration and succor to get through writing their first novel?
A: Yes, that is exactly why I pursued this. I’ve been teaching the 90-Day Novel workshops for years, and the focus is purely on the craft of building a story, be it novel or memoir. But there is a misconception for many novice writers that until they are published, they are not allowed to think of themselves as writers, or that when the publishing gods finally anoint them, the writing will magically become easier. I wanted to put out a book of essays from published authors as a way of leveling the playing field by demystifying the process. In recounting their experience of creating their first book, the thing that stood out most is that this job requires hard work and persistence.
And there was the curiosity aspect as well. I wanted to know what other writers went through. We are an insular lot, and it was amazing to see how differently writers think about writing. As much as our desires are universal, our values vary wildly. I still have the romantic notion of artists being the moral force of society, but after reading this book, I realize that artists struggle with the same hang-ups as everyone else, we just have more free time to explore them.
Q: When you began to compile the essay submissions, did you notice common themes about the authors' experiences and some of the common personality traits of authors?
A: The common thread is that we all want to get published. We all want to be famous. We all want to be as widely read as Stephen King. I would say the single personality trait that stood out is obsession. We sit alone in a room imagining fictive worlds in microscopic detail. It’s a weird job, especially when no one is paying you, and when the likelihood of ever making more than minimum wage is a distant dream.
What compels us? Writing is a compulsion that I think will eventually be recognized as a disorder in the DSM. A woman once moved in with Charles Bukowski and asked him if her vacuuming would disrupt his writing. He said, “Nothing can disrupt it. For me, writing is a disease.”
The irony, at least for me, is that the disease saved my life.
Q: Which stories surprised you the most, and why?
A: Again, what surprised me was how hard every single one of them had to work in order to create that first book. I used to joke that I am the opposite of a prodigy, but one of the authors told me that other than Rimbaud and the Brontë sisters, the writing racket is filled with precious few prodigies. I wonder how many great writers out there quit three weeks before it all came together. The sentiment that writing is our salvation didn’t surprise me, but what did is that every writer expressed this in some way.
Q: The essays range from the recollections of Jerry Stahl, a homeless heroin addict-turned-author, to how Cynthia Bond spent 14 years writing her book amid a divorce, a miscarriage, a foreclosure, and years of working with at-risk youth. What can novice writers learn from “My First Novel” about the dedication and determination of writing a book?
A: The message I take away from it is that why we write is far more important than what we write. There are few experiences greater than the feeling of having expressed something in precisely the way you had imagined it, or the surprise that comes in saying something that you didn’t know you knew. Writing is magic. People are drawn to the act because it is a way of accessing the unconscious, of meeting God, of visiting the afterlife, of communing with the angels, and sometimes the devil.
It is thrilling and subversive. It is a drug. And once you take it, you are hooked for life, and if you ever quit, you never stop feeling guilty about it. The only cure is to write, and as hard as it is, it only feels worse when you don’t do it.
Q: Did any of the essays by the other novelists parallel your own experience in writing your debut, “Diamond Dogs,” in any way?
A: I related to Cynthia’s story in that the gestation period was long, although when I finally sat down to write it, it was like an exorcism. It came out fast and violent. Writing that book was like putting all of my forbidden thoughts down on paper as quickly as I could before I got called to the principal’s office.
Q: I think we've all met people who dream and talk about writing a book some day. What advice would you give those would-be writers about how to make it happen rather than continually putting it off?
A: There is no magic pill, and I don’t think there is anything you can say to get someone to write. I’ve been teaching writing for 15 years and a number of my students have gone on to successful careers as novelists, memoirists, and screenwriters – but I’ll be damned if I can predict who they will be. There are people with middling talent who work really hard and find their voice and have a career, while there are others who you would think are born writers and they can’t finish anything.
The irony of becoming an artist is that when you let go of the result, and lose yourself in the process, you are going to create something special. The other thing I would say, and it might sound esoteric, is that the universe does not want you to fail. When we commit to something with our whole heart, it is amazing how events conspire to bring that thing to life.
Q: All net proceeds from “My First Novel” are being donated to PEN Center USA’s Emerging Voices Fellowship. Tell us a bit about it.
A: PEN Center USA was founded in 1943 and is a non-profit organization committed to fostering a vital literary culture. They provide outreach programs for writers in the U.S. and support oppressed writers around the world through letter-writing campaigns among many other programs. The Emerging Voices Fellowship is a mentorship program that helps writers develop their craft.
Last year I taught a workshop for PEN called The Mark, which is a finishing school for a selected group of writers. That is where the idea for the book really took root. The 90-Day Novel workshop focuses solely on completing a first draft. We never talk about publication – in fact, that is verboten. But the PEN workshop was designed specifically to bring these writers to publication and I realized that there needed to be a paradigm shift. It made sense that I would put this book together as a way to support their cause.
Q: Will there be a sequel at some point – and, if so, do you have any writers on your wish list of contributors?
A: We just had a baby and bought a house and I need to get back to my own writing so that I can practice what I preach. If there is another book, it’ll be down the line. Of course, the list of authors is endless. I would love for Chad Harbach to write an essay. He has quite a story in bringing “The Art of Fielding” into the world. Michael Chabon, Alice Sebold, Russell Banks, Cormac McCarthy.
I would love to hear about Leonard Cohen’s experience in writing “Beautiful Losers.” A neighbor just told me he lives at the end of our block.
Q: You started a publishing company for literary fiction called Writers Tribe and you also have The 90 Day Novel press. What are some of the imminent books you’re about to publish?
A: We’re putting out a book called “The 90 Day Play” in 2014. It’s written by Linda Jenkins, who was the top playwright at Northwestern and was the teacher of John Logan – who won the Tony for “Red” – and Bruce Norris, who won the Pulitzer for “Clybourne Park.” It’s going to be a really good book. She teaches the 90 Day Play workshop for the LA Writers Lab.
Q: Who are some of the notable alumni who have taken courses through the LA Writers Lab?
A: Jennifer Scott wrote a book called “Lessons from Madame Chic” and she just last week sold her second book. Allen Zadoff, who wrote his first two novels in the workshop that were published by EgmontUSA. He just sold a thriller series to Little, Brown called “Boy Nobody.” Lucinda Clare wrote a bestseller in the workshop called “An English Psychic in Hollywood.”
Frank Wilderson, who won the American Book Award for his memoir “Incognegro,” wrote is first novel in the workshop. Jessica Sharzer has taken the screenplay workshop three times. In August, I helped her with her screenplay “Nerve,” which she sold to Lionsgate and then, immediately following that, helped her with her pilot “No Way Back” [which sold to ABC]. She’s getting very successful. She writes for “American Horror Story.” There’s a bunch more, including Jordanna Freiberg.
Q: What's your upcoming novel, “Days are Gone,” about?
A: It’s about a woman who leaves her marriage and ends up in a small town where she gets into a relationship with a guy who murdered his wife. It’s about forgiveness as a gateway to freedom. That’s all I can say.
Q: You're hoping to make “Diamond Dogs” into a movie, but it's taken a long and torturous road to get there. Tell us about the script's journey and where things stand now.
A: It’s been optioned to a producer every year for 13 years. There have been three scripts written, my own being the most recent, and hopefully the last.
I have witnessed first hand the vagaries of the film business. I have watched the movie come close to getting made so many times, and then get sidelined by ego, greed, control, perfectionism, sloth, and bankruptcy, but I continue to cash the checks. I think I’ve actually made more money not having the movie made. Whatever lawyer invented the term “film rights” ought to have a monument built for him.