Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Writing in Exile | The Lenox Parker Interview

Forgive Lenox Parker if she hasn't seemed herself lately. One of the most dynamic, outspoken, and enthusiastic indie authors emerging onto the scene, she had just launched her first book, steadily developed an online following, and plugged away tirelessly lining up readings and getting her book into stores. Then real life intervened and she found herself forced to start over from square one with a new name, a new book, and a new website.  Luckily, she still writes with the same passion, humor, and keen insight, as seen in her new novel, Back(stabbed) in Brooklyn.

The novel follows Howard Kessler, an over-the-hill actor  known for playing the streetwise tough guy.  Having fallen from favor with the superficial Hollywood scene, he decides to go back home to Brooklyn and track down his old childhood gang.  Part of the appeal comes from the fish-out-of-water story as the Hollywood icon tries to adapt to his friends' lives of domestic strife, waning health, and broken dreams.  But it's just as much a character study, as each of the men grapple with their own troubled pasts and Howard's stab at self-discovery dredges up some motives that might not be as Norman Rockwell squeaky-clean as he'd like to believe.

MM: First off, I just want to say I'm so happy that you're releasing Back(stabbed) in Brooklyn. I fucking loved the draft I read late last year, back when it had that other title. Without giving too much away, obviously, have you changed anything drastically since then, or has it mostly been edits and fine-tuning?

LP: Thanks, I'm happy I'm releasing it, too. I really love this story. I changed a couple of the perspectives, which was tough and I'm still not sure I made the right decision, but I decided to put the pen down and just leave it. I tightened the language, too. Going through it word by word, chapter by chapter, I was able to see words that were skipped, double the's, things like that which are a dead giveaway for a book that hasn't been edited professionally.

MM: Talk about the decision to serialize it on your blog how you're approaching the print & e-book release?

LP: Serializing it on the blog so far has netted me about zero degrees of interest, except for a few stragglers. I think it's my failure to publicize it consistently so people can't wait two weeks in between chapters. I don't blame them. I'm doing the "soft" release. I did a blog post a couple of months ago about a book release and what it means and I tried to downplay my own expectations. I had so much excitement about my last book release that when it happened, it was like, eh, fizz out, blah. So I'm not doing a full-blown release. I have a whole philosophy about that. We as writers get all hepped up about our book releases, which is of course justified since writing them took up like a year of our lives. So a reader flips through it in a weekend and moves on to the next thing! I have to get over myself, as a writer, and just pump out the fiction as it comes to me, because readers devour stuff so much now that we can't look upon all our work as pedestal-warranted studies of brilliance. We are producing a commodity. I know that sounds harsh.

MM: Has the promotion of the new novel been impacted by your recent exile/identity crisis/bullshit HR nightmare?

LP: Thankfully not so much. However, before my exile I had garnered a couple thousand "followers" on Twitter and now that's shot to shit. So my "platform" has shrunk. I'm starting afresh. And it's easier to market a novel than a nonfiction humorous memoir anyway, so I expect I'll get more traction on this one anyway. It's sad that I really only had four months to promote my last book before the Gulag treatment happened, but I can't dwell on it. I'm still paranoid though. That's why my web presence isn't where it should be, because I won't log on anywhere on my work computer and I'm paranoid about my keystrokes. (Me = over the top, I know)

MM: How has life as a pseudonym been treating you? Do you find the anonymity liberating, or is it strange not to be able to write as yourself?

LP: I've gotten used to it. It's been nearly four months and I'm Lenox. I'm cool with that. It's a ridiculous name and that was the purpose, to bring attention to the fact that this is not my name. It was weird, I did an author event as my old self a few weeks ago and I couldn't promote Back(stabbed) In Brooklyn at all and it was frustrating because I had a few press interviews, but I had to keep it sealed. At first I was really depressed. But now I'm alright with it.

MM: What about your last book, the book that dare not speak its name... are you still promoting that as well?

LP: Nope. I did my last author event and that's that. It's not dead, though. It can't be, it's my life. I do still have expectations that I'll be able to get that book made into a film too, but that may go along with my general delusions.

MM: One of the things I've admired about you is that while you're fiercely independent, you're also totally uninhibited when it comes to promoting your work. You make it clear you are going after as big an audience as possible, and made clear to use your writing as a springboard to film and other media. Do you think that with the current growth in self-publishing/e-publishing, we're primed for indie authors to start breaking into the mainstream?

LP: I have hopes that the line between mainstream and independent will continue to be blurred when it comes to the publication of written work. Hollywood could give two shits about how a book was published, as long as it can be packaged and marketed the way they like to do things. I love movies. I fucking love movies more than people. I am a wannabe filmmaker. Every word I write I am simultaneously envisioning it as a movie. But as with mainstream publishing, I can't get behind formulaically produced films and I prefer experimental our non-conventional works.

Constitutionally I can't write commercial mainstream stuff. Just can't. I couldn't write a vampire romance novel to save my life. So will I ever see my work on screen? I will have to produce it myself, most likely.

So the short answer to your question is, really excellent independent authors are independent for a reason--they are unconventional. Only snippets of unconventional art are processed and molded into mainstream entertainment. It's how we feed the beast. We will always feed the beast, but we will never be the beast.

MM: What's next for you? More shorts, or are you working on anything big? And really, what I'm trying to get at is: will I ever get to read a full Maggie & May novel?

LP: Maggie & May is next! I'll do a little more research for that and go over to 47th and 9th Ave to the specific bar I'm modeling the story on. So I'm like Woody Allen, I'll release my book next month and start a new project. Ok I'm not really like Woody Allen but still, I'll do the fall project thing every year. After Maggie & May is probably going to be Jean-Baptiste is a Brilliant Liar. I love that character and wrote a few pieces on Year Zero I think, and on my blog. Probably the first one was my old name, but I have to re-release it somewhere.

Lenox Parker blogs at Eat My Book and tweets as @LenoxParker. 
Back(stabbed) in Brooklyn is available as a free e-book at Feedbooks and Smashwords.

1 comment:

Dan Holloway said...

This is a fantastic interview. Lenox is incredible. That she's still standing is a miracle and a tribute

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