Have I mentioned how much I love author interviews? (I'm sure I have, but if you missed it ... I love them!!) I'm always excited to see the answers that I receive and to find out more about the person behind the books that I read. Of all the interviews that I've done for blog tours over the last year, this is one of the ones I looked forward to the most - I knew he had to be interesting with the book that I read. And I was not disappointed. (I also have to say that he is the first author from a blog tour that has made the rounds liking me everywhere that he could - they usually wait until after I've reviewed their books to just hit follow over on Twitter, but he really took an interest and I appreciate that.)
Ladies and gentleman, I give you Benjamin W DeHaven ..... :)
Hey, Benjamin! Welcome to The Gal. Let's start off by you telling us a little bit about yourself.
DeHaven keeps his heart in Chicago and his soul in New Orleans. He holds a MBA from Tulane and a film degree from Columbia. Once removed from a community college for arguing Frost's agenda in the poem Birches, he has since written screenplays, tread futures in Madrid, and was Editor in Chief of the Nola Shopper Newspaper. Described as a thinking man's Tucker Max as well as an idiot's Hunter S Thompson, his goal is to die from an unwavering commitment to be more like Hemingway. He and Michael Enzo were friends.
What are 8 things about you that most people don't know?
*I believe all dogs go to heaven, but most people don't.
*My best friend is a priest, but I never go to mass.
*I was the best man in a female porn star's wedding.
*I was asked to be on the Oprah show, but my life just wasn't interesting enough to make it on the air.
*I have a "shout out" in a Jay "Z" song.
*I have been interviewed by the FBI 7 times - once as a candidate for potential employment.
*I believe you should do something nice for a person without being discovered, and for this reason I am often alone.
*I read the Bible cover to cover once a year (usually in December).
What is the first book you remember reading?
As a child, I was tricked into an antique shopping event with my mom and bought a 5 cent book called "4 Minute Essays" by Rev. Brown. It was a tiny brown hardcover pocket sized book full of stories hiding underlying moral questions. Each of the lessons had completely different writing styles and it was the first time I felt an author purposely pull the reader out of the text and toy with them. The opening story is about a young man who wants to be a church deacon, but because he is unable to read or write, they won't accept him into the church. A cigar salesman observes him weeping outside and takes pity on him. The salesman tells him to go into town and sell some cigars to take his mind off his predicament. He does as instructed and years later he owns multiple stores and has become a pillar in the community, helping everyone he can. One day he runs into the bank in a fuss and asks the teller to extend his credit for an emergency. The teller hands his statement over and the main character says, "I need 250,000 can you please lend me the money." Confused, the teller says "Sir you have over thirty million dollars in the bank! Can't you read? If you are this wealthy, just imagine what you could have been if you could read and write." He looks up and smiles, "I could have been a church deacon."
What made you decide to begin writing?
Is there an option of not writing? For me it's as important as breathing and it's the ultimate release of tension.
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?
I'm lazy, followed by bouts of insane commitment. When I write, I'm an addict. I write sloppy and loose, my grammar and spelling are terrible. I have no idea what diagraming a sentence means. I have to write with a legal felt tipped pen, so everything for me is long hand. It's funny, because I type quickly, but after I have the long hand version, I usually use the dictation software to read the story into the computer. It's amazing how many problems you will find when reading something out loud. I don't like people to look at me when I am writing. I feel like an asshole. But I don't feel weird editing in public. Which seems strange because how in the world would the people watching know the difference? I guess I feel like I am "wide open" when in the groove and don't want to let too many people see that. I'll spend months throwing ideas on paper, but then I drive till the tank runs dry, check into a hotel and lock myself down until I have something to work with.
I am the type of writer that wants to connect with people, but never have Matt Dillon play me in a movie (although he did personally request a copy of Confessions - Jesus save me).
Do you have a special place you like to write?
For me a clean, well lighted place is an ideal writing space. If I am writing dialogue, I like to be in a busy spot or a bar. But if I am really working through something I would prefer days alone in an ice-cold hotel with a room service menu in hand. I spend tons of time organizing thoughts, characters, and an outline. Then when it's time to get some serious writing done, I will grab all my materials, a laptop, my bug out bag, and I will drive until the tank runs dry, check into a hotel, and turn off the outside world until I am at a stopping point.
For Confessions I wrote ten pages a day for thirty days, then drove into the mountains with a 5th of vodka, a carton of cigarettes (when I smoked), and my dog. I emerged 4 days later with 38 pages. I thought a 10% return was pretty good!
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
Adjectives. LOL. Seriously though, I often jam so many moist, delicate, smelly descriptive lines into something it reads terribly. I have to remind myself to lave room for the readers to interpret for themselves. Finding time is a challenge lately while taking care of my mom who suffers from Lupus. I used to be challenged by worrying about how my work would be interpreted, but as I got older, this hasn't worried me so much. The hardest part about writing over all is to get enough people interested in what you have to say to turn a profit, and if you want to be a working author, you can't entirely take this time out of the equation. While this hasn't limited me, I think the hardest thing in writing is keeping that idea out of your head while trying to create.
What do you think makes a good story?
Rhythm and style are essential. I know that sounds silly, but I can read an entire book on something I care little about if it flows, or if the style is interesting. In my mind, the real purpose of art is to make something anyone can enjoy, but a scholar, or someone who thinks they are a scholar can reach deeper to question meaning or can appreciate the style choices the artist made. I remember my favorite artist's words shifting from somewhat common to difficult without losing the reader. There is a lot more going on there than meets the eye.
What book(s) have most influenced you?
Anything by Ginsburg, Brown, Fitzgerald, Mamet, Bukowski, Salinger, Hemingway, Lucado, Palahniuk, Updike, Millhauser, Vonnegut, Frost, Kafka, Steinbeck, Solondz, Tolstoy, Peale, Malcolm Gladwell, Faulkner, Joyce, Dickenson - I could go on forever, but that's what Goodreads is for.
What inspires you most?
Human kindness and cruelty. I am amazed when blessed to see kindness and shocked when I witness cruelty. I am either inspired to do something nice for someone without being discovered, or to destroy someone in public. In this case, hopefully Michael Enzo.
Where do ideas for your book come from?
Ideas come from everyday life. I once dreamed of traveling the world, but then realized how much there was to see just in America. (I still took a job in Spain and traveled; this is always remembered on my credit card.) Once you realize how rich the environment in which you exist is, it's easy to find material. Also, I keep a journal of every book I've read and add notes, ideas, even the most obscure thoughts. It is impossible not to find something to like in every book. Whether it's a writing style, a quote, a description, something not to do, or even a piece of dialogue, I have a ton of titles of books to work with and have no idea what they are all about. To me that's really exciting. This way, when I am looking for ideas, I have an inspiration reference point to turn back to.
Which of your characters do you think is the most like you?
In Confessions of a Self-Help Writer, I am one of the characters, so I hope that one. Although it was really to ugh not to re-write my own personal flaws out of the story.
What have you learned creating this book?
Throughout the body of Confessions of a Self-Help Writer, there are tidbits of advice that I tried to link to other Enzo works. Upon re-editing them, I really took them to heart.
*Beware of people who say "I love you" without hesitation. They've had a lot of practice saying it.
*There are signs everywhere. The secret is reading them.
*It's good to ask questions that make people uncomfortable.
*Your reality can be as beautiful as you imagine it.
*Escape is impossible without knowledge.
*It's easy to sell people with a glimmer of hope.
*Self-destruction is inevitable because existence is a full-time job.
*When you bargain with yourself, you always lose.
Most of all, though, I learned forgiveness.
What do you think your readers will take away from this book?
Laughter, Hope, the promise of Love, and maybe some new curse words. Most of all, though, I hope readers either enjoy the book as purely a story, or grab the sensation they should to help themselves by seeing what a tragedy people writing self-help are.
Or this is the last self help book you will ever read. Not because it's a self-help book in the traditional sense at all, but because you will see the mind of a twisted man who spent a good portion of his life writing self-help books. If nothing else, I hope readers can either find a couple of good laughs, or look at t his person's life and say, "wow - my life is not that bad, why am I not helping myself?"
What makes your book different than others that fall under the same genre?
What makes this book so different is that it can fit into many genres. If read as a work of fiction, I think it's a disturbing, funny, and somewhat insightful read. But what is completely different is the basis of the book is true, so if your interest is sparked, there is a bigger story taking place outside of the narrative that you could explore.
This is the roughest project I have ever worked on. We sold it as a work of fiction, but the majority of it is from a con man's journal who at one time was my best friend. We gave him the name Michael Enzo, but the truth is I can't even disclose his real name. If you forget about the back story surrounding the book, it's a fun read with some sick humor. It's more of a first person narrative, but its amazing to me how a lot of the people who picked the book up, did so only because of the back story. One person actually said, "This might be the greatest self-help book ever because it shows you the mind of a sick person who wrote self-help. If you realize what a joke this industry is, maybe you'd stop reading it." If you pick up the book hoping to "catch a celebrity," you'll have to follow the bread crumbs I've left behind.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I'm working on a studio movie re-write as a favor, but I am also trying to desperately get the non-fiction version of Confessions of a Self-Help Writer published. And finally, we have a really fun travel blog-beer cookbook project my publisher is trying to get together. I hope to make people forget about their problems and laugh.
Thanks for stopping by, Benjamin. It's been a lot of fun. :) One more thing before you go. Where can we find you if we're looking for you?