Saturday, September 10, 2011

Interview with Author Eric DelaBarre

The Amazing Eric DelaBarre's Website:

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Eric: It feels like the minute I left Law & Order. The schedule of primetime television is a killer, not to mention all the stories of murder and mayhem. When you spend all your creative time killing people in your mind, it takes it's toll on one's soulful expression. I wrote a script version of Saltwater Taffy years ago, but the story didn't work. I wondered if it would ever work, but after a ghost writing gig with Random House/Harmony Books, I decided it was time to make another movie. The thing I didn't count on was how strong my "long hand" was and before I knew it, the 'outline' for the new script was 8 chapters of the book. 85,000 words and 3 months later, I had a first draft. My wife thought I was crazy because I wrote 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was wild, but a wonderful ride.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Eric: Transformation in my own life and the life of my readers. Now that I have dedicated my creative expressions to tweenagers, I love it when a parent writes in to tell me how their kid carried around my book for days after finishing it.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book Saltwater Taffy?

Eric: long can this paragraph be? Saltwater Taffy has been with me since my days at Universal. Even though I was walking onto a major studio lot, working on a hit show like Law & Order, something wasn't working within me. It wasn't until I met a man named Leo Penn that things sort of clicked. Leo was directing an episode for the show and he lost his wallet. This was back in the day when "dailies" were projected. I went back to the screening room and found his wallet. He was outside of our offices smoking his big 'ol stoggie and I walked up with his wallet. He asked me to sit down. So, there I was sitting with the father of Sean, Chris and Michael Penn. He told me something that I remember to this very day. He said, if you want to be a director, you have to get out of here to become one. Dick Wolf isn't going to one day wake up and say, "hey Eric, direct this episode for us." Hollywood rarely works like that and be careful....the money you're making today can create complacency. It's a snake charmer and years will pass. You'll wake up one day and say, 'wow...all I've done is made money." He died years later, but I'll always remember that conversation.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

Eric: Unconventional. When 9-11 hit, the entertainment business, like every business, took a turn. This was when reality tv started to enter the network business too. Like a plague, reality shows were replacing scripted shows and independent financing was drying up. I wrote WHY NOT: Start Living Your Life Today because I felt like I had something to say. The self help market is flooded and I never tried to 'get a publisher.' Much like an indie movie, I made the book and got distribution with National Book Network. We sold 3500 copies at churches and out of the trunk of my car. The next book was a ghosting gig for Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul), so he already was set up with a publisher. I sort of rode into the house on his wave of success. Someone once said, it doesn't matter how you get there, just get there.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Eric: Believe in what you're doing. If you don't LOVE it, find something else. When your heart is involved, you can withstand the games of the book trade.

Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Eric: Right now it's changing diapers. My wife and I are proud parents of an 11 week old little girl. She is our everything and demands pretty much all of our time.

Deirdra: Congratulations!

Deirdra: With all your talents, when do you find time to write?

Eric: Even before my daughter arrived, I am part of the dawn patrol. I wake up at 4 am and begin writing before 5 am. 5 hours race by and then it's time for family. I grab a few hours in the afternoon to sift through the dribble I wrote that morning. Writing is re-writing, so yeah...write, revise, repeat.

Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?

Eric: Someone once said, write what you know. Saltwater Taffy is about growing up with my brother. Put it this way, we were never bored. Boredom is the activity of the mind to block creativity. We used to make up games. Challenge each other. Mostly, we were off exploring whenever we could. This is probably why Saltwater Taffy is a book of adventure, because I want every kid to remember that each moment is another adventure waiting to happen.

Deirdra: How many beta readers review your manuscript before you send it to your editor?

Eric: I read it about a million times...then I read it out loud (a big secret most writers skip). When you hear your words out loud, you can really hear the bumps and grinds of dribble. I have a network of about 15 people who scour through the latest thing. Reading a script is an art that most people don't have. Each one of my readers have different strengths and weaknesses. This gives me a wide range of responses. If I find the same note by more than one person, I know I have a problem. I am also not afraid of breaking the 'rules' of New York. I am NOT a literary snob and I am NOT a literary snobbing writer. New York seems to be filled with so many opinions about how a writer should write. Keep your voice and don't allow anyone to gentrify your talents. Look at Charlie Kaufman. He has made movies about breaking the rules, so yeah...stay true to your own voice, but keep an open mind and ear.

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Eric: That their lives matter. Their dreams are gifts to the rest of us, so never ever fit in. If you aren't standing out, pushing the envelope, you're simply taking up space. Dive into the deep end of the unknown.

Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?

Eric: Don't think it, ink it. I am a cocktail napkin writer. When an idea strikes, I grab my pen and excuse myself in whatever situation I am in. A writer needs to answer the bell when it goes off. Don't say, 'I'll remember that.' Most of the time you won't. Sometimes I use a voice recording app on my iPhone, but most of the time it's pen and paper. The idea goes into a project folder marked IDEAS. That folder is then broken up into sub folders. Whatever idea speaks the loudest and most frequent, I sit down to investigate. Writers block is a myth in my book. I used to be an outlining junkie. This came from network tv where everything had to be 'approved.' I never liked that process because it takes away from the discovery. Now I sit down and just write. If it's an investigation story of sorts, I'll map things out to keep it all straight, but yeah...'beat sheets' are a thing of the past.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your past work with the Boys and Girls Club. Has this helped you stay connected with young readers?

Eric: I got involved through playing softball with some guys in Santa Monica. They invited me to a meeting and brainwashed me to this crazy idea that children need our help. LOL Kidding about the brainwashing, but yeah....the minute I walked in, I knew I wanted to be part of the cause. Whatever I'm involved with I give 110%. I was council "rookie of the year" and then, six years later, I was Council President.

Deirdra: Can you tell us about your work with film?

Eric: I got a job offer while still in college to work on a show called Nasty Boys. It was an NBC show and the Executive Producer was Dick Wolf. I had to get clearance from my teachers to leave without taking my last semester finals. I never got to walk through graduation, but got my Bachelor's Degree in Business Marketing via the mail, but there I was, working for this producer who came off Miami Vice. Law & Order was a pilot at CBS when I began working in the industry. With the help of Brandon Tartikoff, Dick bought the rights away from CBS (who said the show would never work because it was two shows in one), and then it was off to the races. I moved into the development department on Law & Order and learned how to write. In TV, the Writer runs the show. In features, the Director does. I wanted to do both, so I began to stay late and try my hand at one of the toughest shows on tv to write for. At least, it was when it was still on the air. No fluff with the show. It was plot, plot, plot. Once I got into the Writers Guild of America, and was officially a writer, I wanted to direct. When I finally left Law & Order, I wrote and directed a commercial for the American Lung Association. I was nominated for Best Director by the ITS Monitor Award Society in New York. I was up against Budwiser, Coca Cola, Ford, and NFL Films. My budget was $5000 for the entire shoot, theirs were in the millions. I then wrote and directed a thriller called Kate's Addiction. Shot for $78,000, I won the Newport Beach Film Festival and sold the film to Lions Gate. I don't believe in road blocks or getting permission to do something. If you want to do something, go out and do it.

Deirdra: How has working in diverse medians helped you in your writing career?

Eric: It's kept me hungry. Every industry is changing faster than lightning and writers need to adapt. The one thing I refuse to be part of is "un" reality television. American entertainment has turned into one big talent show that is written and NOT organic. Films like FOOD INC and INSIDE JOB continue to lift the curtain to what is really happening in America, and I'm glad they are out there trying to show people the real truth and NOT the spin, I need to create my own thing. I am forever an independent and I believe in the saying, "IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME."

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Eric: My wife. The second I met her, it seemed to lift me off! Love will set you free. ;-) Wow...I sound like a hippie.

Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?

Eric: Model them after people you find fascinating. Why try and invent the wheel when you have a stable of characters walking around you every minute of the day.

Deirdra: What is it like being a ghostwriter? Who should become a ghostwriter? What are the Pros and Cons of ghostwriting?

Eric: Ghosting is both good and bad. The money is awesome, but you feel robbed at the end. The money has to be really good for me to do it again because I tend to pour my heart and soul into a story.

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Eric: The publishing industry is SOOOOO different nowadays. Writing a great book is is 90%. Without a platform of celebrity or some kind of publicity scandal-come-lately, you will be passed over. How many publishers turned down J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers? Publishers have bottom lines to deal with and they want to mitigate their risk with SURE THINGS.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Eric: I am adapting Saltwater Taffy as we begin shooting the film version next summer. It takes about 9 months to really get a script right, but I have a leg up since I wrote the source material. That and changing diapers!

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

Eric: I am proud to report that Saltwater Taffy is distributed around the world wherever books are sold. eBook versions are available on the Kindle, iPad, Nook, iPhone, Kobo,....shoot, I think it's even available on the Etch-A-Sketch!

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?

Eric: Every moment is another adventure waiting to happen. Make sure you are creating something AMAZING in your life and forget about FITTING IN. High school is over, it's time to let your life rip!


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