David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Tag: novel

PITCHAPALOOZA Main Point Books: September 21, 3PM

PITCHAPALOOZA MAIN POINT BOOKS  Bryn Mawr, PA

SUN. SEPT 21, 3PM

SPECIAL GUEST JUDGES: CARLIN ROMANO & ANNE WILLKOMM

Copy of pitchapalooza Naperville

WHAT:   Pitchapalooza is American Idol for books (only kinder and gentler). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their book. Each writer gets one minute—and only one minute!  Many writers have gone from talented amateurs to professionally published authors as a result of participating in Pitchapalooza, including Genn Albin, our KC winner who got a 3-book mid-six figure deal with Farrar Straus & Giroux.

WHO: Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company dedicated to helping authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully(Workman, 2010). Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of seven books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 12 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today.

HOW: At Pitchapalooza, judges will help you improve your pitch, not tell you how bad it is. Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much, much more. Authors come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Whether potential authors pitch themselves, or simply listen to trained professionals critique each presentation, Pitchapalooza is educational and entertaining for one and all. From Miami to Portland, from LA to NYC, and many stops along the way, Pitchapaloozas have consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors.

PRIZE: At the end of Pitchapalooza, the judges will pick a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book. 

PRICE OF ADMISSION: To sign up to pitch, you must purchase a copy of The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who buys a copy of receives a FREE 20 minute consultation, a $100 value. If you don’t want to pitch, the event is FREE.

WHEN: Sun Sept 21, 3pm

WHERE: 1041 West Lancaster Ave Bryn Mawr, PA 19010 (610) 525-1480

New York Times article: http://tinyurl.com/3tkp4gl.

Pitchapalooza on Kansas City Public Radio: http://bit.ly/eBlMUy

Pitchapalooza video trailer: bit.ly/mVj4uA
Pitchapalooza mini movie: http://tinyurl.com/3jr8zte.

Pitchapalooza on NBC: http://www.thebookdoctors.com/the-book-doctors-pitchapalooza-on-nbc-television

Here’s what people are saying about Pitchapalooza: 

“We came to Pitchapalooza with an idea and six months later we got a book deal with a prominent publisher. We simply couldn’t have done this without this opportunity and without David and Arielle. We had been working on this project for several years, on our own, and struggling without any guidance. We were really discouraged by the entire process. Winning Pitchapalooza, and working with these two, really helped us focus and renew our enthusiasm in the project. And now we’re going to be published authors!”—Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu, Pitchapalooza winners Litquke, San Francisco, Oct. 2010

Read more testimonials

Here’s what people are saying about The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published: 

“I started with nothing but an idea, and then I bought this book. Soon I had an A-list agent, a near six-figure advance, and multiple TV deals in the works. Buy it and memorize it. This little tome is the quiet secret of rockstar authors.”—New York Times best-selling author Timothy Ferris, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich,

 

Pitchapalooza

PITCHAPALOOZA South Dakota Festival of Books: September 26, 2PM

South Dakota Festival of Books

Holiday Inn, Skyline

Sioux Falls, SD

2:00-3:30 PM

Click here to visit South Dakota Festival of Books website.

ADMISSION REQUIRED TO PITCH – Purchase The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published ($16.99) and receive a 20-minute personal consultation with The Book Doctors. Observers attend free!

 

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WHAT:   Pitchapalooza is American Idol for books (only kinder and gentler). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their book. Each writer gets one minute—and only one minute!  Many writers have gone from talented amateurs to professionally published authors as a result of participating in Pitchapalooza, including Genn Albin, our KC winner who got a 3-book mid-six figure deal with Farrar Straus & Giroux.

WHO: Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company dedicated to helping authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully(Workman, 2010). Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of seven books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 12 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today.

HOW: At Pitchapalooza, judges will help you improve your pitch, not tell you how bad it is. Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much, much more. Authors come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Whether potential authors pitch themselves, or simply listen to trained professionals critique each presentation, Pitchapalooza is educational and entertaining for one and all. From Miami to Portland, from LA to NYC, and many stops along the way, Pitchapaloozas have consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors.

PRIZE: At the end of Pitchapalooza, the judges will pick a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book.

PRICE OF ADMISSION: To sign up to pitch, you must purchase a copy of The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who buys a copy of receives a FREE 20 minute consultation, a $100 value. If you don’t want to pitch, the event is FREE.

WHEN: September 26, 2PM

WHERE: Holiday Inn, Skyline, Sioux Falls

New York Times article: http://tinyurl.com/3tkp4gl.

Pitchapalooza on Kansas City Public Radio: http://bit.ly/eBlMUy

Pitchapalooza video trailer: bit.ly/mVj4uA
Pitchapalooza mini movie: http://tinyurl.com/3jr8zte.

Pitchapalooza on NBC: http://www.thebookdoctors.com/the-book-doctors-pitchapalooza-on-nbc-television

Here’s what people are saying about Pitchapalooza: 

“We came to Pitchapalooza with an idea and six months later we got a book deal with a prominent publisher. We simply couldn’t have done this without this opportunity and without David and Arielle. We had been working on this project for several years, on our own, and struggling without any guidance. We were really discouraged by the entire process. Winning Pitchapalooza, and working with these two, really helped us focus and renew our enthusiasm in the project. And now we’re going to be published authors!”—Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu, Pitchapalooza winners Litquke, San Francisco, Oct. 2010

Here’s what people are saying about The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published:

“I started with nothing but an idea, and then I bought this book. Soon I had an A-list agent, a near six-figure advance, and multiple TV deals in the works. Buy it and memorize it. This little tome is the quiet secret of rockstar authors.”—New York Times best-selling author Timothy Ferris, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich,

Read more Pitchapalooza testimonials.

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David Henry Sterry

Smart Smut: Litquake: San Francisco October 16, 8PM

Litquake

 

The Make-Out Room 3325 22nd St. San Francisco, CA

Click here to register.

David Henry Serry rides herd over a Litquake Who’s Who of sexual provocateurs, spinning tales of bawdy yet thoughtful perversions in the sexiest city in the world.

Sherilyn Connelly is a San Francisco-based writer and film critic for the Village Voice and SF Weekly. Her work can be found in the anthologies Atheists in America, More Five Minute Erotica, and Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation.

Nina Hartley is a pioneer superstar in the world of adult cinema. She is an actress, writer, director and producer, and author. She appeared in Boogie Nights, and is in the AVN Hall of Fame.

Scott James is best known for his columns about San Francisco for The New York Times. He also has the worst-kept secret identity as novelist Kemble Scott, author of the bestsellers SoMa and The Sower.

Richard Martin has contributed creative writing and journalism to books, magazines, newspapers, and literary journals. He lives in San Francisco and works in Oakland as a grant writer.

Dylan Ryan is the Gary Oldman of porn. She is also a writer, sex and relationship therapist, sexuality educator, performance artist, and yoga teacher who’s saving the world one porn at a time.

David Henry Sterry is the bestselling author of 16 books, including Chicken, which has been translated into 11 languages, and Hos, Hookers, Call Girls & Rent Boys, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

Madison Young is a sexpert, artist, activist, and award-winning feminist pornographer. She is founder of the nonprofit arts organization Femina Potens, author of the newly released memoir Daddy, and a college lecturer with focus on feminist porn studies.

Read my interview: Madison Young on Beautiful Porn, Revealing All, Fearing Nothing & Daddy

Click here to register.

Jonestown, Kids, Gorillas & Tragic Death: Fred D’Aguiar & Children of Paradise

To read on-line click here.

I’ve long been fascinated by the events surrounding the Jonestown tragedy. I’m particularly interested, as a parent, in what would lead someone to poison their own child. It seems unthinkable. And yet we all know it happened. So I was drawn to Children of Paradise, and I found the treatment of this very disturbing and real-life tragedy beautiful and compelling. The New York Times said, “D’Aguiar depicts the plight of Trina and the other children with heartbreaking immediacy.” So I sat down with its author, Fred D’Aguiar to talk about Jonestown, kids and how he wrote this wonderful book.
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DAVID HENRY STERRY: What was your inspiration for writing a book about the Jonestown tragedy?

FRED D’AGUIAR: Jonestown happened in Guyana. My parents are Guyanese and I grew up there. I was in London when I heard about the murder suicides. In 1998, twenty years after the event, I wrote a long poem in an effort to understand why so many Americans ended up in such an idyllic landscape — the Amazonian basin interior of Guyana — only to die en masse. I made a radio program for the BBC about Jonestown in 2003 and it occurred to me that the psychology of faith had to be explored by me in a sustained work driven by character narrative rather than the lyric of the poem. I’ve been writing (and rewriting) the novel since then until now with breaks for poetry and plays, teaching and life. But don’t ask me about my failed novels — writers hate to air dirty laundry (this writer does).

DHS: You write from the perspective of a gorilla with shocking verisimilitude, how did you research the inner mental and emotional landscape of Adam the gorilla?

FDA: I’ve always believed that the danger of a reflex tendency for anthropomorphizing nature (of always seeing things in terms of our own primate and primary conceits) brings with it an over-assumption of empathy when all that is gained is a domestication of the unknown in terms of our limited, superior colonization instincts. We have an encounter but learn nothing from it. And not only a colonization of nature’s prowess in terms of our limited human understanding of it but a gesture of intuitive admission that nature has a language that we need to learn in order to really function in harmony with the planet. Right now our civilization is built on using up the earth and finding some other location for the future of the species (a stupid gamble, look at Las Vegas; think of Shelley’s poem <em>Ozymandias</em>). I’ve maintained my interest in nature writing from my first encounter with the works of Desmond Morris during my teens to the euphoric and vatic veneration of nature by Barry Lopez.

I wanted Adam (what’s in a name?!) to be the outside figure, in the commune locked in a cage but outside the commune’s reasons for being together, and in league with his Edenic surroundings as he witnesses a slice of humanity spiraling towards self-destruction. I’ve been to Jonestown and seen a bit of the landscape in the Amazonian region. The jungle with its rock escarpments, rivers, trees and waterfalls and flora and fauna, is a cathedral in its grandiosity (here I am anthropomorphizing but in keeping with the Romantics), it is a place of worship, a spiritual reliquary (if only we paid attention to it).

DHS: For that matter, how did you get into the mindset of a kid who was at Jonestown during one of the most unspeakable tragedies of the 20th century?  And the POV of Preacher, who seems very much to be Jim Jones in this scenario?

FDA: I trained and worked as a psychiatric nurse way back in my early 20s and the work experience has remained with me ever since in the focus of my writing on the psychological and psychical aspects of a character’s experience. There are writers who have helped me to frame this in my fiction. First, Wilson Harris (b.1921). His  fiction reacts to the landscape as if it were a structural determinant of his prose. Meaning, when you read him you feel as if the jungle’s architecture dictated his sentence structures. Harris is Guyanese and worked as a surveyor in Guyana’s interior and he wrote a 1996 novel titled <em>Jonestown</em>, which connects the tragedies in the jungle to a tradition of dying and sacrifice going back to antiquity, to Olmec Mayan times. Second, Derek Walcott. He handles imagery with metaphoric zeal. He ties the blood rhythms of thought to a sensuous instruction gleaned from our world. Three other seminal texts have been Alejo Carpentier’s <em>The Lost Steps</em> and Juan Rulfo’s <em>Pedro Marano</em> and Jean Rhys’s <em>Wide Sargasso Sea</em>.

DHS: You gave your novel the same name as a very famous film about the German occupation of France, why was that?

FDA: That happens to be my second most favorite film ever! The definite article in the title of the film means a lot. The sly mechanisms for defying despotism while it surrounds you, all rooted in art has to be instructive or my whole grain bread and peanut butter breakfast consumed this morning for its goodness is a cruel hoax. I wanted to connect with a former period of despotism in history and prompt the reader to think about children in history and how childhood is constructed and destroyed in turn and made anew by the experience of the arts.

Don’t laugh, but my first most favorite film ever happens to be one I got into in my early teens — <em>Roots</em>, the TV series. Yes! Don’t ask me why! Ask me why! Well, Alex Haley’s <em>Roots</em> (include the book as well) made me aware of the importance of knowing about black history and the necessity of art for a vital and examined life, and storytelling, character, landscape, emotion, intuition and persuasion as ethical frames for understanding (though puzzlement endures) and improving (though the work is never done) the world (and what a beauty it is) in a short life (and how prized).

DHS: Why do you think, in the end, people were willing to kill themselves and their children when their messianic leader told them to?

FDA: By the time the moment of murder-suicide arrived the people in the commune had experienced a prolonged period of indoctrination and torture (sleep deprivation, starvation and humiliation through public beatings and public shamings). They were at the end of their tether, nerves strung out, exhausted and ripe for manipulation. Add to that their isolation in Guyana’s jungle interior from the scrutiny of the outside world and the communards entirely subjected to the maniacal will of Jones. What was left of their will had been systematically eroded by Jones’ technique (think of Erving Goffman’s Total Institution) of repression to a point of hypnotic obedience (though it must be said that there was resistance by some to the bitter end as proved by the group that escaped by running into the jungle). They were told to drink or be shot, some choice.

DHS: Do you outline your plot before you start writing?

FDA: No. I began this lucky artsy-fartsy life that I now lead way back in my youth when I was a hungry and angry poet (hungry for meaning, angry for justice). As a result, I continue to write from a feel (mostly of terror) and a string of images (that play havoc with my nerves). The feeling is deeply linked to the imagery. Next, I find the people in the picture who might best exemplify that mood and exude the things that I am feeling. In the case of this novel the plight of the children attacked my nerves and left me wanting to replay their probable instances of childhood before their inevitable and painful deaths.

DHS: You are also a poet and playwright.  How did poetry and writing for the stage affect writing <em>Children of Paradise</em>?

FDA: Poetry is the art of compression, of distillation; fiction appears to expand like an accordion pulled open limitlessly for a beautiful sequence of sound and meanings. Plays speak through characters on a stage in a suspension of real time for a dramatic carve-up of time as feeling and instruction. I crave instances of articulation in all mediums depending on my mood. I blame my multi-genre body on my experience of three landscapes, my birth and long residence in the UK, my childhood spent in Guyana and the adult realities of settling for life in the US.

DHS: You were teaching at Virginia Tech when a student went on a shooting rampage.  What was that like, and how did this lead to you writing about Jonestown?

FDA: April 2007 was a nightmare for me. (I’ll count is as such until I die.) I lost a student who was in my Caribbean class. She was shot dead while in her French class. I happened to be on campus that morning. I have always loathed guns due to my residency in the UK where guns are blessedly rare. But after 2007 I am now so very much desirous of a ban on the possession of all firearms by private citizens — they belong to a primitive remnant of our warlike bodies. And we have a standing army anyway. I worry about the ready availability of personal firearms and the lack of respect for mental illness. It is a serious affliction in need of structural investment by this remarkable country. But what do I know? I think the education budget should be swapped with the defense budget.

DHS: Why do you think “drinking the Kool-Aid” has become part of our everyday vernacular?

FDA: It is a cruel misnomer extrapolated from Jonestown and one of the reasons why I wrote my novel to depict resistance rather than blind obedience to messianic sadism. We apply the term to denote a total surrender to an idea or force. In Jonestown there was resistance to Jones and that is why he needed a remote location and a regime of mental and physical torture that resulted in an erosion of the will of his followers. It seems as if the media has succeeded in its cookie-cutter way of leaving the popular memory with an unimaginative phrase to represent a tragedy. I took pains in my novel to chart the stages of this breakdown of the will of the community and I showed pockets of resistance to Jones as well. The cool aid was just the final act in a play of death, along with bullets, beatings, sleep deprivation, starvation and marathon sessions of Jones’s preaching that was recorded and relayed on speakers around the compound, all hours of the day and night. I wish it amounted to more than yet another example from recent history of a failed ecumenical tool.

DHS: After living with this story for so long, what are your final takeaways?

FDA: I quote as an epigraph, 1 Corinthians 13:13 and I stick with that. If I say it, people will hear the Beatles tune, “all you need is love” pah dap-pah, pah bah-dah, because it is so obvious that it precludes speech. But I’ll say it anyway for the record. Love (with cooperation) is a stronger (and preferable) force to hate (and competition). The evidence for the latter is technological advancement at a price of a dying planet… some advancement when we’ve mortally wounded the host of all species.

DHS: What advise do you have for writers?

FDA: First, Oscar Wilde’s adage that, ‘advice is an excellent thing not to follow but to disregard.’ Second, that they should read, read, read and get involved in something other than writing, and write, write, write. The arts of the imagination help us to understand the present and the past, and live coterminously with the planet and everything on it. Doing so should affect in positive ways what the future will be; not doing so merely accelerates our terminal decline. The literate imagination may well be our most powerful asset of our naturally inquisitive bodies and it is free.  Go for it!

Fred D’Aguiar is an acclaimed novelist, playwright, and poet. He has been short-listed for the T.S. Eliot Prize in poetry for Bill of Rights, a narrative poem about the Jonestown massacre, and won the Whitbread First Novel Award for The Longest Memory. Born in London, he was raised in Guyana until the age of twelve, when he returned to the UK. He teaches at Virginia Tech. Children of Paradise is his newest novel.

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, including <em>Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money and Sex</em>, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  His new book Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition</em></a>, has been translated into 10 languages.  He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.

Slashed Reads Interview on Making Yourself a Better Writer by Having Lots of Great Sex

To you the interview on Slashed Reads, click here.

mort morte coverx3000wDavid Henry Sterry is the author of Mort Morte, an absurd, hilarious, tragic and disturbingly haunting comedy published by Vagabondage Press in January 2013. David is the author of 16 books and a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.

What is your book about?

On my third birthday, my father, in an attempt to get me to stop sucking my thumb, gave me a gun.  “Today son, you are a man,” he said, snatching the little blue binky from my little pink hand. So I shot him.

 So begins my novel Mort Morte.  It’s a macabre coming-of-age story full of butchered butchers, badly used Boy Scouts, blown-up Englishman, virginity-plucking cheerleaders, and many nice cups of tea.  Poignantly poetic, hypnotically hysterical, sweetly surreal, and chock full of the blackest comedy, Mort Morte is like Lewis Carroll having brunch with the kid from The Tin Drum and Oedipus, just before he plucks his eyes out.  In the end though, Mort Morte is a story about a boy who really loves his mother.

Is the book based on events in your own life?

Strangely enough, Mort Morte was my attempt to tell my life story. Fortunately, I didn’t kill my father on my third birthday. But my real life story is even more sick and deranged. Eventually I did tell my agent about my real life story and she urged me to write a memoir. This became Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent. The 10 Year anniversary edition of that book has just been released. As a result Mort Morte got put on the back burner. For 20 years. That’s why I was so excited when Vagabondage agreed to publish the book. 20 years is a long time to go between writing a book and getting it published.

What twists did the book take that surprised you?

The first twist came when I wrote the first sentence.  Honestly, as I said, I was trying to tell my life story, and the first sentence just came out fully formed.  I have no idea how or why.  Clearly I must have some sort of repressed desire to shoot my father.  Fortunately I have been able to repress that desire.  For now anyway.  Actually, the whole book was a series of twists.  I didn’t plan it out or outline it or plot it in any way shape or form.  It just came flowing out of me.  The first draft took me three weeks to write.  Mind you it took me over a year to revise and edit the book.

But it was almost like being in a fever dream.  It just kept pouring out.  All I had to do was get out of the way.

 Are you a people watcher? If so, are they in your stories?

Absolutely.  I learned most of the things I know about humans by watching them.  I was a professional actor for 15 years before I wrote my first book, and I spent a lot of that time learning how people walked, talked, what they were saying with the language of their body, what was being communicated between the lines.

I moved around a lot when I was a kid, I never went to the same school for two years in a row until I was in college.  So I was always the new kid, the outsider, the person who didn’t have friends.  So I watched.  I observed.  I learned how to act like everybody else.  And whenever we moved, I learned how to imitate the local accent.  It was great training as an actor.  It was also great training as a writer, to get the rhythms of the way people really speak.

One of my pet peeves is when you can actually hear the writer writing as a character in one of their books is talking. Almost all the people in my books are human beings I have observed.  When I’m writing a memoir of course I try to remember exactly what they said, exactly what they looked like and exactly how they acted.  When I’m writing a piece of fiction I take what’s there and let my imagination run wild.  Either way, it starts with the way people really look and talk and act.

 Do you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert?

Yes.  I am a Gemini.  But I don’t really believe in all that astrological crap.  Even though that’s exactly what a Gemini would say.  But as a Gemini I have two very distinct parts of my personality.  I’m a hermit and I love holing up in my man cave and escaping into my imagination.  Woody Allen once said the only things in life you can really control are art and masturbation.  I try to keep my fingers in both those pies every day, in the privacy of my subterranean lair. But I’m also kind of an exhibitionist, and I love to go out and do book events and go on tour and present at writers conferences and book fares.  So I kill both birds with just the one stone.

What are our thoughts on writing as a career?

In addition to being the author of 16 books I’m also a book doctor.  I help talented amateurs become professionally published authors. So I’ve consulted with literally thousands of writers.

And I tell them all that by far the most important thing you can do if you want to have a career as a writer is to figure out how to make money.

It’s very hard to make money as a writer.  I’ve been lucky in that way. But I’m also a hustler.  That’s one of the things I learned in the sex business.  How to hustle.  Lots of writers don’t know how hustle. Let me be clear, I don’t mean hustle as a way of scamming, grifting, or ripping someone off.  I mean hustle in the sense that you get someone to do what you want them to do.

I want publishers to give me money for my books.  So I identify which publishers I want to work with who are most compatible with what I do, then I research them to the point of stalking.  And of course I want readers to buy my books and fall in love with them.  So I identify individuals and groups who I think will love what I’m doing and be passionate about my books.

As is the case with all hustles, you actually have to have Game.  You have to make a good product if you want someone to buy it over and over again.  If you try to pull the wool over someone’s eyes, eventually they will stop buying what you’re selling, and in the worst case scenario they will come at you with a lead pipe and try to split your skull open.

The great maxim of businesses as far as I’m concerned is: “Find out what people want, and give it to them.”

Mind you, I have books that I write for love, and books that I write for money.  Mort Morte was more of a love book.  That being said, I have made money off it.

What is your advice for other writers?

Research.  Network.  Persevere.  And oh yeah, write.  Write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write.

 What inspired you to write your first book?

I was a drug addict and a sex addict and I knew I was going to die unless I changed who I was and what I was doing.  After a long search I finally found a hypnotherapist.  She helped me get my addictions under control.  I was a professional screenwriter in Hollywood at the time.

My hypnotherapist suggested I write about my life, since it was so much more interesting than the stupid ridiculous screenplays I was selling to Hollywood.  I took her advice.

I found I really enjoyed it.  And it was absolutely essential in staring down and overcoming the demon monkeys inside me which were destroying my life.

 What do you want to say to your readers?

Buy my books.  Tell your friends to buy my books.

 How do you prepare to write love scenes?

Fall in love.  Have lots of great sex.  Have lots of bad sex.  Get dumped.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Author Profile

David Henry Sterry

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.

His new books are Mort Morte, and The Hobbyist (Vagabondage, 2013).

His memoir,Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition has been translated into 10 languages.

He’s also written Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money and Sex, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.

He has appeared on, acted with, written for, been employed as, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, a marriage counselor, Disney screenwriter, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, a sodajerk, Michael Caine, the Taco Bell chihuahua, Penthouse, the London Times, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a human guinea pig and Zippy the Chimp.

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“I learned a lot about the publishing world but more about pitching my book. Prior to attending I had no idea what a pitch was.  The feedback you provided was never derogatory, or demeaning you offered helpful and hopeful feedback.  As a result I rewrote my own pitch and am hopeful.  Thank you again.”

“I came to The Book Doctors with nothing but a dream. Now I have a book deal and I’m so excited & grateful.”

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Mort Morte Review: “Absurd, hilarious and tragic”

“By turns absurd, hilarious and tragic, Mort Morte tells the story of Mordechai Murgatroyd Morte, a young man who follows his mother through her unfortunate marriages to several physically and sexually abusive men.”

Buy the book here.

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Books, Dexter, Rejection, Art, Masturbation, Good Sex, Bad Sex

Interview from the Dan O’Brien Project

Tell us about your most recent release.
My new book is Mort Morte, with beautiful pictures by Alain Pilon.
On my third birthday, my father, in an attempt to get me to stop sucking my thumb, gave me a gun. “Today son, you are a man,” he said, snatching the little blue binky from my little pink hand. So I shot him.
mort coverSo begins MORT MORTE a macabre coming-of-age story full of butchered butchers, badly used Boy Scouts, blown-up Englishman, virginity-plucking cheerleaders, and many nice cups of tea.
Poignantly poetic, hypnotically hysterical, sweetly surreal, and chock full of the blackest comedy, MORT MORTE is like Lewis Carrol having brunch with the kid from The Tin Drum and Oedipus, just before he plucks his eyes out. Or Diary of a Wimpy Kid as told by Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver
In the end though, MORT MORTE is a story about a boy who really loves his mother.
A new review:
“Who do you think of when someone says black humor? Johnathan Swift? Joseph Heller? Kurt Vonnegut? Perhaps Roald Dahl?
Well, add David Sterry to your list. His newest book, Mort Morte is as black as sin and twice as fun. It all starts innocently enough. Our three-year-old protagonist, vengeful over his father’s depriving him of his binky, seeks revenge by shooting dear-old-dad with the very gun he had given Mort as a birthday present. Be forewarned, though. After that, things take a violent turn. This pithy little book with its delightfully cheeky artwork escorts us through murder after murder, each more hilariously executed than the last, before our hero is figuratively ridden out of town on a Texas-sized rail. Where does Mort go from there? Surely, you jest! Where else but Harvard? Buy a ticket on this one. You’ll enjoy the ride.”
Here’s where to buy it:
From publisher Barnes & Noble Amazon Bookadda (India’s favorite on-line bookstore) Books for less
What else do you have coming out?
I have a new anthology called Johns, Marks, Tricks and Chickenhawks, it’s all writings by people from the sex business. It’s a follow-up to the anthology I put together a few years ago called Hos, Hookers Call Girl and Rent Boys, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times book review. “Eye-opening, astonishing, brutally honest and frequently funny… unpretentious and riveting — graphic, politically incorrect and mostly unquotable in this newspaper.” It is a unique sociological document, a collection of mini-memoirs, rants, confessions, dreams, and nightmares by people who buy sex, and people who sell. And because it was compiled by two former sex industry workers, the collection is, like its predecessor, unprecedented in its inclusiveness. $10 crack hos and $5,000 call girls, online escorts and webcam girls, peep show harlots and soccer mom hookers, bent rent boys and wannabe thugs. Then there’s the clients. Captains of industry and little old Hasidic men, lunatics masquerading as cops and bratty frat boys, bereaved widows and widowers. This book will shine a light on both sides of these illegal, illicit, forbidden, and often shockingly intimate relationships, which have been demonized, mythologized, trivialized and grotesquely misunderstood by countless Pretty Woman-style books, movies and media. This is hysterical, intense, unexpected, and an ultimately inspiring collection.
Next up is a book that I cowrote for Norton with my partner Arielle Eckstut and two brain scientists from Duke, it’s called What Are They Thinking? It’s all about this amazing research they’ve done on the teenage brain. It’s absolutely horrifying! But fascinating at the same time. Really gives insight into anyone who’s ever been, or will be, a teenager.
Then I have a novel which I wrote with twins Keith and Kent Zimmerman, they’re best-selling authors who’ve done books with everyone from Johnny Rotten to Alice Cooper. This collaboration is called The Hobbyist, it’s about this strange real-life website in the Bay Area where men rate sex workers, kind of like a Zagat guide for prostitutes. The book can be described as About a Boy meets The Graduate meets The Happy Hooker.
And finally, the 10 year anniversary of my memoir Chicken I coming out in the fall. It’s about when I was studying existentialism with a bunch of nuns at Immaculate Heart College, while I worked as a rent boy, servicing rich ladies in Hollywood. The book has been translated into 10 languages, it’s an international bestseller, and has been optioned by Scott Buck, the show runner for Showtime’s Dexter. He has written a screenplay based on the book.
Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?
I also run a company called The Book Doctors, which helps people figure out how to get successfully published. We started the company when our book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published came out a couple of years ago. Anyone who buys a copy of our book after reading this interview will get a free 20 min. consultation from Oz. We helped dozens and dozens of talented amateurs become professionally published authors. Just send your proof of purchase to: Sterryhead@Gmail.com
What’s the most blatant lie you’ve ever told?
I once tried to pick up girls at Venice Beach by telling them I was a photographer for Playboy.
What is the most demeaning thing said about you as a writer?
This was from the editor of a poetry journal that went out of business about six months after he sent me this very helpful critique of my work I am now the author of 14 books.
How do you react to a bad review of one of your books?
First I tried to figure out if there’s anything useful I can get out of the criticism. I’ve had some reviewers say really helpful things as they lashed me with their poison pen. After that, I plan revenge. What can I do to wreak havoc on their miserable lives? That kind of thing.
When are you going to write your autobiography?
I’ve written two memoirs, the above-mentioned Chicken, and I wrote a book about when I was the master of ceremonies at a male strip club called Chippendale’s in New York City in the mid-80s, when it was the hottest show in the city that never sleeps. My boss was shot in the head, executed by a hitman. It’s called Master of Ceremonies.
Are the names of the characters in your novels important?
Absolutely. The hero of my novel was called Mort Morte. The E on the end of the second Mort of course means death.
What about the titles of your novels?
Yes.
Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?
I think if you spend too much time in your imagination you can get stuck there, and it gets hard to interact with the other humans. Of course it’s hard to make money writing novels. But I absolutely love it. As Woody Allen said, there are only two things in life can control, Art and Masturbation. And as a novelist, I get to engage in those two things every day.
What’s your favorite fruit?
Raspberry.
How many people have you done away with over the course of your career?
In my new book, our hero kills four or five of his dads.
Ever dispatched someone and then regretted it?
In the novel I’m working on now, a character gets exterminated. But my readers love this guy, so I kept expanding his role in the book. I’m definitely going to bring him back for the sequel.
Have you ever been in trouble with the police?
I was once thrown in jail for hitchhiking through Highland Park, which is one of the richest suburbs of Dallas. I was 18 at the time and had very long hair.
So when were you last involved in a real-life punch-up?
When I was eight years old, in Hueytown Alabama, my neighbor was really mad at me, I can’t remember why, but he came running straight at me like you was going to kill me. I reared back and punched him right in the nose, and fell like I shot him. It was very satisfying.
If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it?
I been watching a lot of Breaking Bad, and I think I would get a big plastic tub and dissolve the person in acid.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Happy. If I can’t be happy, I’d like to be really really rich.
What is your favorite bedtime drink?
Chamomile tea laced with liquid opium.
Do you ever wish that you had an entirely uncreative job, like data entry or working in a factory?
I was a building inspector. I fried chicken for a living. I was a telephone solicitation technician. I learned a lot about life from all these medial, deadening, dead-end, underpaying jobs. But I would not want to do them again.
Do you believe in a deity?
I guess I categorize myself as a Pagan humanist. I worship the earth and the sky and food and sex and love and music and creativity.
Do you ever write naked?
I’m naked right now!
Who would play you in a film of your life?
Actually, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who was a teen heartthrob on the show Home Improvement optioned my memoir Chicken so he could play me at 17. Sadly, that never happened. Right now we’re trying to get Justin Bieber to play the lead role in Chicken, he would be portraying a 17-year-old sex worker. I’m not kidding. That’s totally real.
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What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
Surrounding yourself with people who like you. I had a lot of trouble doing that in the first 40 years of my life. I really enjoy reading my work in public, that’s part of what keeps me sane as a writer.
Have you ever read or seen yourself as a character in a book or a movie? 
I was a professional actor for many years and did portrayed everyone from George Washington to Abbie Hoffman to Leif Ericson. Among many others. I see myself as every character in every movie or book I read or watch.
What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing novel?
Getting people to read your work.
What do you consider your biggest failure?
I trust people too easily. I assume they’re going to do what they say they’re going to do. I suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, and I sometimes fly into a crazy rage. I’m really trying hard not to do that, but there are just so many RIDICULOUS HORRIBLE ASSHOLES!
 Do you research your novels?
I tried to do is little research as possible, because I want to make the most money per word as possibly. One of my heroes as a writer is Dr. Seuss. There are only 232 words in Cat in the Hat, and he’s made approximately $1 billion from that book. I don’t think he had to do much research on it. The novel I’m working on now involves the main character living with the Shakers, who were a pretty well known religion in the mid-1800s. The Shakers are famous for two things. They made great furniture. They didn’t believe in sex. There are no more Shakers. I did lots of research on them.
How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?
Enormous. As you see above, in my new book, a three-year-old kills his father with the gun his dad gives him as a birthday present. It’s the first book I ever wrote. I think I was trying to work out some stuff.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
I got turned onto a lot of great books and music. Beethoven to Nick Drake to Robert Johnson to Taj Mahal to Jean Pierre Rampal. Thomas Pynchon to Charles Dickens to Hunter S Thompson. The list goes on and on.
Do you laugh at your own jokes?
Only if they’re really really funny.
Do you admire your own work?
Only when it’s really really good.
What are books for?
Escape, laughter, adventure, information, thrills, chills, romance. My partner and I wrote a book called Putting Your Passion Into Print, which got updated into The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. So we got a bunch of boxes of the hard cover version of PYPIP, which are essentially useless now. But they throw off a lot of heat when you burn them in the fireplace. And living in northern New Jersey as we do, that can be highly significant.
Are you fun to go on vacation with?
Oh yes. I love to swim. I also enjoy playing all kinds of games.
How do you feel about being interviewed?
I love it.
Why do you think what you do matters?
It keeps me out of trouble. Also, I talk about things that are forbidden in our culture. I was raped when I was 17. It’s in my memoir Chicken. When I get up in public and talk about that, there are always a couple of people in the audience who’ve been through the same thing. And when I talk about it, it gives them license to talk about it. They don’t feel like such a freak anymore. Or maybe they realize that we’re all freaks in one way or another. Part of my mission has been to expose how kids get exploited and abused by grown-ups. I think this is very important. I also write a lot about se work and create a forum for writers who have been in the sex business. I want to normalize this occupation, remove some of the taboo and stigma. I consider this to be important.
 
Have you ever found true love?
Absolutely. Writing Mort Morte actually led me to getting an agent, who turned out to be the love of my life. And we have a daughter who’s five years old, and I have a love for her that is so profound and deep, it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
How many times a day do you think about death?
I sometimes go days without thinking about it. But I do have these morbid images of my daughter dying in some horrible way, and me not being able to stop it. Once in a while lying awake at night I imagine what the world would be like without me, and it’s truly a horrible idea.
Are you jealous of other writers?
Constantly.
What makes you cry?
One of the ways I got over posttraumatic stress disorder, and addictions to cocaine and sex, was through hypnotherapy. My hypnotherapist taught me how to unleash the emotions within me. I was raised in an English environment, where no one ever cried. So now all kinds of things make me cry. I can cry watching a trailer for a sappy movie. The other day I was watching Love Actually, which is really cheesy movie. But I wept like a baby. I really enjoyed it.
What makes you laugh?
Buster Keaton. Richard Pryor. Lenny Bruce. George Carlin. People who can make comedy out of tragedy.
What are you ashamed of?
When I was in my 20s I used and exploited people, mostly women, to get what I wanted. I was like a vampire sucking love & sex out of women, and giving nothing in return.
What’s the loveliest thing you have ever seen?
My daughter.
Hiding eyes Edinburgh 1
David Henry Sterry is the author of 14 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor. His first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller, and has been translated into 10 languages. His anthology, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. He authored The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published with his ex-agent and current wife. His novella Confessions of a Sex Maniac, was a finalist for the Henry Miller Award. He has written books about working at Chippendales Male Strip Club, the teenaged brain, how to throw a great pajama party if you’re a tween girl, a patriciding mama’s boy, World Cup soccer, a sex maniac, and how to get a book published. He has appeared on, acted with, written for, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Penthouse, Huffington Post, over 100 independent bookstores from the Strand in NYC to Books & Books in Miami to City Lights in SF to Powell’s in Portland, Miami, LA & Teaxas Book Festivals, Michael Caine, 92nd St. Y, Smith College, Brooklyn Book Festival, the London Times, Reed College, Playboy and Zippy the Chimp. He loves any sport with balls, and his girls. www.davidhenrysterry

Mort Morte: Reminds me of Lolita, Catcher in the Rye, Full Metal Jacket, Alice in Wonderland”

This review just in for my short novel: Mort Mortemort cover
“Suspenseful, curious, moving, strange, modern, touching, angry, bitter, funny, sarcastic, absurd, pensive, violent, resentful, releasing, brave, exciting, dreamy, dangerous, experimental, honest, iceberg shard coming of age story.  Reminds me of Lolita, the Ginger Man, Catcher in the Rye, Full Metal Jacket, even Jacob’s Ladder, Alice in Wonderland, and my own experiences with psychosis, anger, homicide, suicide, PTSD, survivor’s guilt.” – Steven Favius
To buy the book click here.

 

 

WORD Bookstore: We Love You

WORD bookstore in Brooklyn is a fantastic bookstore. We had a lovely Art of the Novel event. Thanks to Jenn!

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“Mort Morte: A beautiful coming-of-age story that’s frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious.”

Here’s a new review for David Henry Sterry’s Mort Morte. To buy the book, click here. mort cover

“Mort Morte is a beautiful coming-of-age story that’s frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious.”

The Book Doctors Interview Virginia Pye, First Time Novelist, on Writing, Writers Conferences, and How to Get Your Book Published

virginiapye rodindiepickOriginally published in Huffington Post.

 

 

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We first met Virginia Pye at the James River Writers Conference,  one of the best writers conferences in America. If you’re a writer, do yourself a favor, get yourself to Richmond, Virginia and go to this conference. It’s filled with warm, generous, talented writers, editors and agents.  When we first met Virginia Pye three years ago, she’d been writing and rewriting a novel for a very long time.  It’s always exciting when you see a dedicated, talented writer who keeps evolving and changing and working, then finally gets their novel published, and actually gets lauded for it.  So we thought we would check in with her to see exactly how it all happened.
The Book Doctors: Congratulations on being named an Indie Next Pick for your new novel, how did you feel when you found out?

Virginia Pye: I felt honored and excited, especially when I learned the other chosen authors, such as Caroline Leavitt, Benjamin Percy, Gail Godwin and Therese Anne Fowler. To be supported and encouraged by IndieBound booksellers means a lot to me. They’re smart and savvy book aficionados whose opinions I value. For years, I’ve read the books they recommend.

TBD: When did you start writing your book and why?

VP: Almost a decade ago as I helped my parents clear out their house, I came upon boxes of yellowed onion-skin pages with faint typescript on it. My grandfather, who was a missionary in northwestern China in the nineteen teens, had recorded his daily experience and impressions of that pre-industrialized, desolate, and yet eerily beautiful landscape. I’d always known about the roads, hospitals and schools that he had built in Shansi Province, but now I found his actual tally book in which he kept track of his converts. I felt both pride about his humanitarian successes and shame at his missionary zeal.

As I read his papers and studied the brown-tinged photographs, I was seated on an Oriental rug in the living room were I’d grown up–a room decorated with Chinese antiques and furniture.  I was surrounded by my family’s history in China and I realized that, whether I liked it or not, part of my inheritance was a colonialist perspective on the world. I had not chosen it, nor felt that I shared it, but it was somehow mine to make peace with just the same.

The two main characters in my novel, the Reverend and his wife Grace, are upright, Midwestern missionaries who, over the course of their dramatic story find their faith tested and their world view shattered. It took some years for their story to fully emerge, but the germ for it began when I decided to wrestle with my grandfather’s legacy that I had previously tried to ignore.

TBD: What is your book about?

VP: On the windswept plains of northwestern China, Mongol bandits swoop down on the missionary couple and steal their small child. The Reverend sets out in search of the boy and becomes entangled in the rugged, corrupt landscape of opium dens, sly nomadic warlords and traveling circuses. He develops a following among the Chinese peasants who christen him Ghost Man for what they perceive as his otherworldly powers. Grace, his wife, pregnant with their second child, takes to her sick bed in the mission compound, where visions of her stolen child and lost husband beckon to her from across the plains. The foreign couple’s savvy, elderly Chinese servants, Ahcho and Mai Lin, eventually lead them on an odyssey back to one another and to a truer understanding of the world around them. River of Dust is a story of the clash of cultures and of retribution, and also of redemption. As the young American couple’s search for their child becomes more desperate, their adopted country comes to haunt them, changing not only what they believe but who they are.

TBD: You are involved with the James River Writers Conference, how did that community help you with the writing and selling of your book?

VP: James River Writers is a literary non-profit in Richmond, Virginia with around 400 members. I was chair of JRW for three years and on the board for close to a decade. JRW holds an annual conference each October, which is especially welcoming and friendly to writers of all types. I enjoyed working with everyone involved and made friends with many fellow aspiring writers, as well as the published authors and publishing professionals who came for the conference. Many of them were encouraging and offered to introduce me to their agents or fellow editors. JRW set a supportive and generous tone that I think everyone benefited from.

TBD: Did you hire an editor?

VP: For many years, I had worked on a previous novel that was about three generations of an American family with ties to China and Vietnam. It went through twenty-one drafts and dozens of agents saw it in various stages. They admired the writing and characters, but found that it just wasn’t quite working. Finally, I decided to take my manuscript to The Porches, a writing retreat in rural Virginia where I met author and editor, Nancy Zafris. She offered a different sort of editing experience from anyone else I’d heard of: she works with authors one-on-one over a weekend, discussing and brainstorming about the work. With Nancy’s perceptive questions, I began to see a new book emerging, one that was not a multi-generational story at all, but a compact and dramatic tale set in one year–1910–and in one setting–northwestern China. I left The Porches after that weekend with a new book in mind and a new, carefully conceived outline. I sat down on April 1st and completed a first draft on April 23rd. I had lived with the previous manuscript for so long– had wrestled with its problems and relished its strengths–that when it came time to write an altogether new version, I had enough previous connection to the characters and setting that the story came forth easily. It was both miraculous and not at all.

TBD: How did you find an agent?

VP: After I completed my marathon first draft of River of Dust, I shared it with Nancy who passed it along to her editor at Unbridled Books, Greg Michalson. He liked it and gave me a call. It was then that I realized I needed an agent. Gail Hochman had read the earlier multi-generational manuscript as well as another novel of mine. She had always been kind and thoughtful in her replies to my work, although she hadn’t taken me on as a client. I admired her authors–Michael Cunningham, Julia Glass, Ursula Hegi–so I chose to go back to her with River of Dust when Unbridled made their offer. I’m so glad I did. As everyone knows, Gail is a brilliant agent and an enthusiastic and caring person.

TBD: What are some of the mistakes you made as you wrote and tried to sell your book?

VP: In retrospect, I think that it may have been a mistake to work for so long on that previous novel. If something isn’t working, tinkering with it probably won’t help. To give myself more credit, I did revise–sometimes extensively–but I still wanted that manuscript to be the book I had in mind from the start. I was determined to bend the characters and plot to fit the book I envisioned. Somehow I wasn’t listening well enough to the voices of smart readers, or even my own voice that was whispering that it just wasn’t working. The manuscript was telling me that it needed to be altogether different. I was trying to write a book with a complicated structure before ever truly perfecting a simpler one. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that, too: succeed first at something smaller, before trying to tackle your opus. Come to think of it, I know a number of writers who have been working on big books for years and those projects never seem to come to fruition. Perhaps aiming for something less baroque and yet doing it well is a better way to go with a debut novel.

TBD: How do you plan to promote and market your book?

VP: I’ve written a number of essays about the backstory for my novel. “A Zealot and Poet,” about my grandfather, will appear in May in The Rumpus. I’m excited to be interviewed at Caroline Leavitt and David Abrams’s blogs and in The Nervous Breakdown. Excerpts from River of Dust will also soon appear in The Nervous Breakdown, and in The Collagist and DearReader.com. I had a great time creating a playlist for River of Dust for the Largehearted Boy. Unbridled has done a great job of setting up book events up and down the East Coast: in Richmond, Charlottesville, Alexandria and Norfolk, Virginia; New York, Boston and Western Massachusetts. I’m excited about all my events, but a few in particular stand out for me: a reading in the Lucian W. Pye Room at M.I.T. (named for my father who was a prominent Political Scientist there); a reading at Back Pages Books in Waltham, Massachusetts, at which my four closest high school girlfriends are coming in from around the country to cheer me on; and what I think will be a great evening at the China Institute in NYC, where I’m eager to share my work with China enthusiasts and experts and look forward to learning from my audience.

TBD: What are some of your favorite things about being a writer? And what are some of the things you hate about it?

VP: I am completely biased towards writers and writing. I think there’s nothing better to do with one’s life. OK, being a visual artist or musician is pretty good, too. And my husband is a contemporary art museum curator and that’s not half bad. But, as a writer, you have carte blanche to express your vision of the world, however quirky it may be. You can read voraciously and remain a dilettante. Aleksander Hemon recently said, “Expertise is the enemy of imagination.” As someone who has written a novel set in a country where I have never been, I agree. People ask if I did a lot of research before writing River of Dust. I did only as much as I needed to ignite my mind, which, as it turned out wasn’t a great deal–again, perhaps because I’d grown up with a visceral understanding of China passed down to me through two generations. I think that writers have an obligation to be thoughtful in their work. Good writing needs to offer meaning on several levels at once. A novel that has strong storytelling doesn’t need to sacrifice that goal. I hope that River of Dust is both a page-turner and an intelligent read. I love Philip Roth’s rallying cry to writers at his eightieth birthday and on the occasion of his retirement from writing: “This passion for specificity, for the hypnotic materiality of the world one is in is all but at the heart of the task to which every American novelist has been enjoined since Herman Melville and his whale and Mark Twain and his river: to discover the most arresting, evocative verbal depiction of every last American thing.” The only down side to writing is that it’s no easy task. But who ever wanted easy when trying to live a meaningful life?

TBD: I hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers?

VP: Pay attention to the market: to what agents tell you at conferences and on Twitter; to what your independent bookseller says about the books he or she endorses; to what your most thoughtful and serious readers say about your manuscript. And then, put it all on the backburner while you write. Let it simmer in the back of your mind as you write the book you want to write. If their advice has resonated then it will help shape the next draft. Stick with the manuscript until it’s done and don’t start to shop it around too early. If you’re as eager as I was with numerous manuscripts, most likely you’ll shop it around too early. When you’ve written what you are truly proud of–after listening carefully for any hesitations and heeding them–reach out to agents and published authors with graciousness and gratitude. The publishing world is not waiting for you, but on the other hand, it can’t exist without you. So take up your rightful place, but politely and while keeping in mind that we’re incredibly lucky to be doing this thing that we love. At least, that’s how I try to approach it.

Virginia Pye’s debut novel, River of Dust, is an Indie Next Pick for May, 2013. Her award-winning short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence, taught writing at New York University, and The University of Pennsylvania, and has helped run a literary non-profit in Richmond, Virginia. For more about her, visit: www.virginiapye.com

The Book Doctors have helped dozens and dozens of amateur writers become professionally published authors. They edit books and develop manuscripts, help writers develop a platform, and connect them with agents and publishers. Their book is The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who reads this article and buys the print version of this book gets a FREE 20 MINUTE CONSULTATION with proof of purchase (email: david@thebookdoctors.com). Arielle Eckstut is an agent-at-large at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, one of New York City’s most respected and successful agencies. Arielle is not only the author of seven books, but she also co-founded the iconic company, LittleMissMatched, and grew it from a tiny operation into a leading national brand that now has stores from Disneyland to Disney World to 5th Avenue in NYC. David Henry Sterry is the author of 15 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, and activist. His first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller, and has been translated into 10 languages. His anthology, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. The follow-up, Johns, Marks, Tricks and Chickenhawks, just came out. He has appeared on, acted with, written for, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Penthouse, Michael Caine, the London Times, Playboy and Zippy the Chimp. His new illustrated novel is Mort Morte, a coming-of-age black comedy that’s kind of like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, as told by Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver. He loves any sport with balls, and his girls.  www.davidhenrysterry To learn how not to pitch your book, click here.

Mort Morte: “Masterful, whimsical, laugh-out-loud hilarious!”

Here’s a new review for David Henry Sterry’s Mort Morte. To buy the book, click here.

mort cover

“Mort Morte by David Henry Sterry reads like an elegantly simple children’s book designed for adults. The chapters are rarely more than a page long and sometimes just a few words in length. While the format of the book is basic, with beautifully placed and executed illustrations by Alain Pilon, the story centers around adoration, violence, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and revenge.

Mort Morte is a brutal coming-of-age story that’s frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious.

The narrator, Mordechai Murgatroid Morte provides a rollicking ride through the culture of a sophisticated and rough-and-tumble Texas with a dash of Harvard thrown in. Sterry’s use of the English language is masterful and sometimes whimsical, i.e. “The animal heads started spinning round faster and faster like I was on some kind of sick Taxidermilogical Tilt-A-Whirl….” At times Sterry’s writing is so raw it’s painful which is quickly eased by the guilty relieving pleasure of high humor. mort morte the bull pic

Sterry has created a sympathetic character in Mort which is no easy challenge. Throughout his young life Mort suffers from fantastical anxiety dreams, he pulls rhythms and lyrics from melodies that mirror his moments of ecstacy, and at one point sums up his life “as a curious mixture of violent nausea and dizzying sexual fantasy.”

There’s a lot to like in this short, breezy book, notably its imaginative style and David Sterry’s love of language. No words are wasted here; Mort Morte succeeds mightily by saying a lot with a little.” – Liz Bulkley

 

Mort Morte: Post-Modern Fairy Tale about Young Serial Killer

“A lyrical roller coaster ride through the dark mind of a young serial killer. A post-modern fairy tale about what happens to a boy who is continually abused and bullied. The plot is surreal, but somehow all too real! I was quickly sucked in and enjoyed the book.” – Mateo

To buy the book click here.

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Caroline Leavitt with The Book Doctors

Caroline Leavitt On Overcoming Nasty Writing Teachers, How to Write a Bestseller and Never Giving Up

We first met Caroline Leavitt at the Miami Book Festival. If you ever have the chance to go to the Miami Book Festival, do yourself a favor and don’t pass up the opportunity. Not only is it one of the great international book festivals in the world, it’s also the kind of place you run into people like Caroline Leavitt. Not only is she an incredibly accomplished novelist, she’s also a crackerjack human being. Lots of writers tend to be shy at best — standoffish, churlish and surly at worst. Caroline is the exact opposite. She welcomes you with open arms. If you don’t believe me, just go to her Facebook page. It’s a continuous font of information, fun and love. And she’s also that rare bird who’s managed to somehow write literary novels that sell. So we decided to take a little peek into her world and see what makes Caroline Leavitt tick.

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THE BOOK DOCTORS: How did you get into the book business to begin with?

CAROLINE LEAVITT: I was an outcast in suburbia with three big strikes against me: I was the only Jewish kid in a Christian neighborhood (my mother had to march up to the school to complain about a second grade test that asked questions about Jesus), I was sickly with asthma, and I was smart (only 10 percent of my high school went on to college. The rest joined the navy or got pregnant). I learned to live in books and I discovered I could keep myself from being beaten up by making up stories! The first time I told a story in front of the 5th grade and they didn’t throw spitballs at me or threaten me, I thought, how cool is this? This is what I want to do! But of course I heard no, no, no. When I got to Brandeis, I studied with this famous writer who told me I’d never make it. He used to slam my work in class while tears streaked my face, but I refused to leave the class. The day I published my first novel, I sent it, along with a rave NYT review to the professor, saying, “Hey, you were wrong.” He wrote back and said, “Oh, I just wanted to make you angry enough to keep pushing on.” I laughed and didn’t write back. I kept writing and writing and every week, those stupid self addressed stamped envelopes would bounce back with rejections. One day they came back and I ripped them both up into pieces. I happened to look down and there was one tiny, shining word: CONGRATULATIONS. I had sold a story and that story got me an agent, which got me my first novel.

TBD: What are some of the some of things you enjoy about writing?

CL: The fact that I can live other lives. The fact that I don’t have to dress coherently to do it. The fact that it keeps me sane. I write about what haunts me and I write the books I myself am dying to read. I love it. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.

TBD: How do you turn off the voice in your head that says you suck?

CL: What makes you think I can? I can’t turn that voice off. It is always in my head. It always goads me to get online and compare myself to other writers. It pushes me into all sorts of magic thinking like tarot card spells and prayers to the universe: please don’t let me suck. My big revelation was one day when I got the best review I ever received in my life from the Cleveland Plain Dealer — they thought I was a genius! And then five minutes later, I got the worst review I ever received from the Phil. Inquirer who loathed everything the CPD had loved. I had a moment when I realized, not everyone is going to love me. I try to tell myself to go deeper, to just write and write and write about what matters to me, to not think about readers and critics or anything but the story. And I eat a lot of chocolate.

TBD: Do you ever get writer’s block, and if so would you do about it?

CL: I never get it. I’m always working and there’s never enough time!

TBD: Do you ever make decisions in your book based on what you think is going to make the book more commercially successful?

CL: Never. Not ever. You can’t second guess what is going to be commercially successful. You have to write the book you want to write. And wait, actually. My third novel, for a publisher that went out of business, I was pushed into writing a book that was “more commercially.” It got only two reviews, both of them so terrible I could barely leave my apartment for months, and the book died soon after. After that I vowed to never ever write anything I didn’t feel.

TBD: Do you outline your stories or do you make it up as you go?

CL: I’m big on story structure. I studied with John Truby, who mapped out story by means of moral wants and needs, and that’s what I do. Hey, so does John Irving.

TBD: Do you finish the whole draft before you go back and edit, or do you edit as you go?

CL: I do both. I edit as I go, and I must do about ten thousand drafts. Well, more like 23. And I’m serious about that.

I love rewriting because that is where and how you discover the story. It’s like you have this skeleton and you get to put flesh on it and hair and clothes and really wonderful jewelry.

TBD: You have such a fun Facebook life, what is your guiding principle in social media?

CL: Being honest. You can tell when people are trying to do what they think they should do. I’m intensely curious about everyone’s lives and I want to get to know a lot of people. I also don’t hesitate to say how I feel or what’s going on. I am who I am. (Popeye 101) I spend so much time every day alone and writing, that social media is my water cooler. I crave contact.

TBD: Were you working on right now?

CL: My novel Is This Tomorrow, about a 1950s suburb, paranoia and a vanished child, is coming out in May, so I’m doing all this prepublicity type stuff, and I sold my next novel, Cruel Beautiful World (thanks to my 16-year-old for the title!), to Algonquin on the basis of a first chapter and an outline. So I’m writing that now, deeply immersed in that moment in when the ’60s turned into the ’70s and things got ugly.

TBD: Where you see the future of books going?

CL: I think it’s going to boom. People love stories. They need stories. More people are reading on ereaders. I know a few NYT bestsellers who self-published their next book to have more control. Maybe I’m stupidly optimistic but I can’t imagine a world without books.

TBD: I hate to do this to you, but you have any advice for writers?

CL: Yep. Never ever give up. Don’t listen to all the no’s but keep writing. Keep writing. My career was over, so I thought, when my ninth novel, Pictures of You, was rejected by my then publisher as not being “special enough.” I had no sales. No one knew who I was. I called all my friends in tears and one suggested her editor at Algonquin. So I wrote up a paragraph about the book and sent it to her. She liked it and a few weeks later, she bought it and all of Algonquin was doing the unthinkable–the thing that had never happened to me–treating me with respect. They took that unspecial book and turned it into a NYT bestseller and a USA Today ebook bestseller and it got on the Best Books of 2011 lists from the San Francisco Chronicle, the Providence Journal, Bookmarks Magazine and Kirkus Review. I feel like I’m the poster girl for second chances.

Caroline Leavitt is the author of many novels, several of which have been optioned for film, translated into different languages, and condensed in magazines. Her ninth novel, Pictures of You, was a New York Times bestseller, and was also on the Best Books of 2011 lists from the San Francisco Chronicle, the Providence Journal, Bookmarks Magazine and Kirkus Reviews. Her new novel, Is This Tomorrow, will be published May 2013 by Algonquin Books. Cruel Beautiful World will be published sometimes in 2015 by Algonquin. Her essays, stories, book reviews and articles have appeared in Modern Love in the New York Times, Salon, Psychology Today, the New York Times Sunday Book Review, People, Real Simple, New York Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, Parenting, the Chicago Tribune, Parents, Redbook, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and numerous anthologies. She won First Prize in Redbook Magazine’s Young Writers Contest, was a 1990 New York Foundation of the Arts Award, a National Magazine Award nominee for personal essay, and is a recent first-round finalist in the Sundance Screenwriting Lab competition for her script of Is This Tomorrow. She teaches novel-writing online at both Stanford University and UCLA, as well as working with writers privately. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, New York City’s unofficial sixth borough, with her husband, the writer Jeff Tamarkin, and their teenage son Max.

David Henry Sterry on Salon: How Writing a Book Led to the Love of my Life

My first piece on Salon.  Thanks to Arielle Eckstut. To read on Salon click here:  http://www.salon.com/2013/02/14/i_wrote_my_way_to_true_love/

mort morte coverx3000wxzp“You should stop writing these stupid movie scripts and write about your life, it’s so much more interesting.” Janine, my hypnotherapist, was not being unkind. She just had no filter. And she was right. That was the most infuriating thing about Janine my hypnotherapist. She was always right.

I had just gotten a three-picture deal with Disney. Well, it wasn’t really a three-picture deal. They hired me to write a script for one of their moronic ideas (Sinbad in the Army with dogs), and in the contract they locked me up for another two movies for slightly more money each time. But at the bottom of every page was writ in small letters: “We can terminate this contract for any reason at any time for perpetuity and eternity in this and every other conceivable universe and pay you NOTHING.” I asked my agent and she said I could tell everybody I had a three-picture deal with Disney. Even though I didn’t really. And that, in a nutshell, is Hollywood, baby.

But the thought of telling the truth about myself made me hot and clammy, sticky and jittery, teeth tearing into cuticles till they bled. I was much more comfortable working on my buddy script about two 12-year-olds who go to Vegas and beat the mob. Or my mobster-becomes-a-vampire script. Or my “Some Like It Hot” cross-dressing baseball script.

But I’d always wanted to write a book. So that night I started writing one. It was liberating. Gave my obsessive mind something to focus on besides my own sex-addicted self-loathing.

Turns out I wasn’t quite ready to tell that story yet. I hadn’t hit bottom. I was still living in my beautiful Craftsman home in the hills of Echo Park with my beautiful red sports car and my beautiful sex-denying fiancée. I hadn’t yet been fired by Disney, my Sinbad/Army/dog script unmade, my fictitious three-picture deal evaporated in a puff of smoke. I hadn’t yet been dumped by an entirely different beautiful damaged narcissistic sex-denying fiancée whom I DIDN’T EVEN LIKE. I hadn’t yet been whacked over the head with a metal pipe at 4 a.m. in Harlem by an angry disenfranchised crackhead while pursuing a transsexual thief masquerading as a female sex worker. That was when I hit bottom. The bottom of the bottom.

I decided I would try to get my book published. By this time I was living in the nasty skanky hovel in Venice Beach where you could satisfy all your crack needs by sticking your head out the window and yelling, “Yo!” I’d hang out at Muscle Beach with the steroid-bloated weightlifters and tourists and wannabe actresses, actors, screenwriters, producers, directors and other local whack jobs, begging people to read my book. Eventually I sent it to a woman who used to be my commercial acting agent in New York City. She said she loved my book, and asked me if I’d mind if she gave it to her goddaughter, who was a literary agent. “Do I mind?” I scoffed. “Are you kidding me? I will name my first child after you if you do me this kindness.”

I sent the Goddaughter Agent my manuscript. By that time it was called “Mort Morte.” A week after I sent the script I called to make sure she had received my manuscript. Contained herein is a valuable lesson for anyone doing business. Disregard the Follow Up at your own peril. Goddaughter Agent confessed sheepishly that she had lost it. I rolled my eyes, thinking to myself: What a bunch of buffoons these New York literary agents are. If I had done the typical writer thing, and assumed that the universe hates me, that I am a no-talent hack, and that the agent was rejecting me, I would not be writing this story now. But I did the Follow Up. My motto, which I adopted in Hollywood: I will not stop until the person I’m pursuing says yes or takes out a Restraining Order.

I sent her another “Mort Morte.” A month later, having heard not a peep from her, I called Goddaughter Agent. I didn’t snarl in a snarky voice, “Why haven’t you read my manuscript yet?” I was as nice as pie. I give good phone. I asked her how she was doing, cracked a joke that made her laugh. I never mentioned my manuscript. She promised me she’d read it as soon as she could. Later I found out she was Jewish. Well, she still is. And I was so nice that she felt guilty, and my manuscript moved up about 3 inches in the 12-foot pile by her desk. This was before the Internet, when people actually sent manuscripts through the mail! Can you imagine?!

One month later to the day I made the same phone call to Goddaughter Agent. Nice as pie. Unbeknownst to me, my manuscript rose a whole foot in the 12-foot pile. Nine months, once a month, I called her. One human gestation period. We could’ve had a baby in the time it took her to read my manuscript. Finally, guilt drove my manuscript to the top of the pile. By this time, we had a nice banter going. An idea popped out of my mouth, as if the Muse had pushed it out. I told her I was coming to New York for Christmas. She told me that if I did, she’d read my book and take me out to lunch. Of course I had no plans at all to go to New York for Christmas. I quickly accepted her lunch invitation 3,000 miles away. As soon as I hung up, I frantically bought a ticket to New York.

She took me to a swank restaurant, one of those places agents take writers when they want to impress them. She had seemed in my mind on the phone from 3,000 miles away like a very amiable dowager. Not at all. Turned out she was 20-something, totally cute, great smile, fabulous laugh, smoking hot body, kind eyes and spectacularly stylish, like she just stepped out of a magazine featuring wildly intelligent cutting-edge fashionista intelligentsia 20-something Manhattan babes. I was one smitten kitten. She told me she loved “Mort Morte.” And she had smart things to say about changes she wanted me to make. I was so used to getting the dumbest dumbass notes from Hollywood studio hacks that it was like a fragrant breeze on the first day of spring. She said if I made the changes, she’d represent me and my baby/manuscript. I was ecstatic. But there was something more. I liked this woman. A lot.

That night I couldn’t stop thinking about her. So the next day I called her and asked her if she wanted to hang out. She said she’d like to hang out. I later found out she had plans she broke for me. Nothing sexier than someone breaking their plans for you. We went to see one of Billy Bob Thornton’s most forgettable movies. I can literally remember nothing about it. Except that I was with her. Then she asked me if I wanted to go to a French restaurant near her apartment in Brooklyn. I was pretty sure that was dating code for: I want to hook up with you. Turns out I was right. The French restaurant was spectacular. But not as spectacular as she was.

Suddenly we were in her ridiculously stylish Brooklyn brownstone. She was so much fun to talk to. Religion, politics, books, America, the world, the universe. Einstein was proven right again, time really is relative. An hour passed in a minute. At a certain point she asked me in a funny, teasing and altogether endearing way, “Every first novel is about the author. But this book isn’t about you, is it? You didn’t kill your father and three of your stepdads, did you?”

I laughed. It was funny. The way she said it. What she was saying. Normally, I would’ve given her some lame retort that masked who I really was. I was like an anti-superhero. Instead of having a secret identity that was amazing and saved people, I had a secret identity that was a twisted grotesque monster bent on destroying me and all those who cared about me. But I decided to take off the mask. I was not going to lie about who I was or what I’d done. If she didn’t like it, that was her problem. I was so exhausted living a lie. I was ready to be set free by the truth. I’d hit the bottom. The bottom of the bottom.

So I told her everything. About the man who abused me when I was 17. About being sucked into the filthy underbelly of the Hollywood sex business. Becoming a drug addict and a sex addict and doing my time with Janine my hypnotherapist. I thought it would feel terrible to say all that to someone I was interested in. Just the opposite. It was such a load lifted. The black cloud that had been thunderstorming all over my life parted and the sun shone and the birds chirped and the angels sang. It was a transcendent moment. I thought if I told someone I was interested in about my sordid shameful dirty secrets that she’d be horrified and run screaming away from me. Just the opposite. Goddaughter Agent was fascinated. Spellbound. “That’s the book you should write.” Exactly what Janine my hypnotherapist said. Only now, I was ready. I didn’t care anymore. It was so good to be Out.

I moved in with Goddaughter Agent that night. I didn’t know I was moving in with her, but it turned out I was. Her name was Arielle. Well, it still is. She came out to visit me in Venice Beach. She was even better than I’d imagined. She helped me put together a proposal for my real story. That became a book called “Chicken.”

But much more important, I found the love of my life. Arielle AKA Goddaughter Agent. Two years after the Billy Bob Thornton movie and the French restaurant we were married high on a hill overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. A couple of years later we made a baby together. I know it happens all the time, babies being made, but it still strikes me every day as being spectacularly magical that two human beings, without any help at all, could make something as complicated as a human being. Olive. That’s what we called her. Well, we still do. She’s 5 years old now. Einstein proven right once again. That five years has gone by in about 10 minutes.

“Mort Morte” never got sent out by my agent/wife. As soon as we got married, she fired me as a client. But I still wanted to get that book published. I kept showing it to people over the years. Everyone seemed to love it, but they all thought it was just too weird. So I decided, at the suggestion of the lovely and talented Arielle, to go after a world-class artist to make some illustrations for my book. This led me to a French Canadian named Alain Pilon. I contacted him, and sent him my manuscript. He loved it and agreed to make a bunch of illustrations. All the while I kept tweaking and polishing, buffing and shining, making it better and sending it out there.

Finally, one day, to my shock and amazement, there it was in my inbox. An email from an editor who said how much she loved “Mort Morte.” I was used to this by now, and I knew the next sentence would be about why they couldn’t publish my quirky, wacky, coming-of-age Alice in Wonderland meets Tin Drum novel about gun violence and kids in America, and a boy who really loves his mother. But wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, this editor said she wanted to publish my book. I was gobsmacked. I showed the email to Arielle. We danced and made happy happy sounds.

Twenty years after I started writing that book I finally got it published. I’m a different person now than I was then. But every time I look at the beautiful Alain Pilon cover of “Mort Morte” I am filled with joy.

And that’s how writing a book led me to the love of my life.

David Henry Sterry is the author of 14 books, including his memoir, “Chicken,” an international bestseller that has been translated into 10 languages. His anthology, “Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys,” was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. His new illustrated novel is “Mort Morte,” a coming-of-age black comedy about gun violence and children, and a boy who really loves his mother.

Morte Morte Movie

I’m proud to announce that the first book I ever wrote, which I started 20 years ago, is finally coming out.  I’m very proud of this book, and the sublime illustrations by one of my favorite artists, Alain Pilon.  But perhaps more importantly, this is the book that led me to the love of my life.  To read the story behind that, click here it’s my first story on the wonderful website Salon.  To see the video trailer, click here.  To buy the book, click here.

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On my third birthday, my father, in an attempt to get me to stop sucking my thumb, gave me a gun. “Today son, you are a man,” he said, snatching the little blue binky from my little pink hand. So I shot him.

So begins MORT MORTE a macabre coming-of-age story full of butchered butchers, badly used Boy Scouts, blown-up Englishman, virginity-plucking cheerleaders, and many nice cups of tea.

Poignantly poetic, hypnotically hysterical, sweetly surreal, and chock full of the blackest comedy, MORT MORTE is like Lewis Carrol having brunch with the kid from The Tin Drum and Oedipus, just before he plucks his eyes out.

In the end though, MORT MORTE is a story about a boy who really loves his mother.

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