Month: November 2017

An Interview With Writer Tony Jerris

Tony Headshot2 (1)

Tony Jerris is the author of Marilyn Monroe: My Little Secret; here is a link to the books Amazon page:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Marilyn-Monroe-My-Little-Secret/dp/1475101406

 

Q: What made you want to write about Marilyn Monroe?

 

A: As a former New Yorker, I’ve always had a fascination with “all things Hollywood.” Actually, one of my first term papers in college was on the conspiracy theory surrounding Marilyn Monroe’s death and the Kennedy’s. So, when I was introduced to Jane Lawrence, who started Marilyn Monroe’s first fan club, I thought, “Okay, this is kismet.” I always found Marilyn to be groundbreaking in so many ways, including one of the few actresses of her time to start her own production company.

 

Q: How is your book different from other stories about Ms. Monroe?

 

A: The story of Marilyn Monroe has been told many, many times and from many different angles. This is not what “Marilyn Monroe: My Little Secret” is about. The book is twofold, in the sense, that it’s a human interest story about two kids from the same orphanage, thirteen years apart, who would become friends, and grow to love each other. When Marilyn died, it took a failed marriage, and many years for Jane to come to terms with her feelings for Marilyn, their relationship, and the big question about Jane’s own sexuality. The book also debunks the Marilyn that the public knew, you know; unpredictable, flighty, talented, ambitious and naughty. Instead, “Jane’s Marilyn” is soft, attentive, gentle, fiercely protective, and loving. That was the Marilyn Jane wanted people to meet, her Marilyn. The Marilyn who used to call her “my little secret.”

 

Q: What makes Jane an interesting narrator?

 

A: I think it’s important to first say how I met Jane Lawrence. I was introduced to her to assess her collection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia and help her get it on eBay because she needed money to buy a new pacemaker. In the first few weeks of our relationship we spent a lot of time sifting through various items, with me guessing what they might go for. Jane had what Sotheby’s or Christie’s would characterize as a “collection” because it was so extensive. Some of the stuff, through years of neglect, wasn’t in the best of shape, jammed into boxes or what-have-you, but some of Jane’s items were pristine and, perhaps, priceless. She also had the most bizarre collection of little odds and ends of Marilyn discards: tissues, napkins (with lipstick and not), notes, matchbooks, and other such dreck that had real value because of the provenance. And as we took our journey through this detritus of memory, I was treated to all of the stories that went with it. Memory can be cruel, but for Jane her recall was spot on, and as her story poured forth about her Marilyn, I began to visualize her story in a bigger context. She always wanted to tell her relationship with Marilyn, only never trusted anyone to tell it “her way.” So, who better to have as a narrator than Jane.

 

Q: What kind of research did you do for the book?

 

A: A lot! You know, one of the biggest challenges I faced when writing “Marilyn Monroe: My Little Secret” was to never second guess myself as I delved into the life of probably the most celebrated of all actresses. But I’m only human and, at times, feared how some people might react to the book, especially the diehard Marilyn fans. I knew what I was up against, and knew I had to verify everything Jane told me so they wouldn’t tar-and-feather me! (Upon the book’s release, I did receive a few death threats from a couple of “those fans.”)  Jane struggled with her sexuality growing up, and claims how Marilyn taught her “how to make love to a woman.” But that is not the core of the story. These two women had a special bond for ten years, and I have hours of audio-tape with Jane telling her story, and contacted those – who were still living – to verify what she said, including actress Polly Bergen, Patrick Miller, who headed FOX’s archive department, archivists at RKO, just to name a few.

 

Q: Several actresses have played Marilyn in plays, movies and biopics; who do you think did the best job?

 

A: I think we can all agree that there’s only one Marilyn, but Michelle Williams did a decent job playing her in “My Week With Marilyn.” There was also a 1980 TV movie titled “Marilyn: The Untold Story” starring Catherine Hicks. I thought Hicks did an amazing portrayal of Marilyn. I also think Charlize Theron would be a perfect choice to play Marilyn.

 

Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your writing?

 

A: I’ve been lucky enough to be a work-for-hire on a couple films, which are finally going into production, and also a ghostwriter for a couple stand-up comics. I did start my own catering company a few years back called called Mangia, Mangia! That means Eat, Eat! in Italian. Growing up, my family owned an Italian restaurant in Upstate New York, where my mother was the head chef. Over the years, I’ve been mastering her recipes, which includes her homemade bread dough recipe. In my spare time, I’m working on a cookbook called “If You Can Make Bread, You Can Make Dough!”  Mama’s words, so you can’t steal it! I’m also the in-house caterer for AMIA’s (Association of Moving Image Archivists) annual events at The Mary Pickford Building. I’ve always said, if I wasn’t a writer, I’d be the Next Food Network Star! As far as how this influences my writing, I believe you write what you know from experience. I’ve drawn upon a lot of my “survival jobs” to create characters that represent “me.” Especially the early years when I bartended, waited tables, or worked as the “dreaded telemarketer!” But I never followed a pitch, and actually developed a loyal client base who looked forward to my calls, which is rare for a telemarketer!

 

Q: What was the most surprising thing you learned in the course of your research?

 

A: One of the most surprising things I learned over the course of my research was, “Old age can be cruel.” It’s actually a chapter in the book, where Marilyn tells Jane how hard it is for a woman in Hollywood to find work as she gets older, and Marilyn was only 36 upon her timely death. The same held true for Jane. I would discover that Jane, at 61 years old, had few friends and lived a guarded life. She had learned that in Hollywood many people will befriend you for what they think they can get from you or what you can do for them. There’s a real cynicism that informs many relationships in this town. Jane knew that all too well, and while she knew a lot of people, they were mostly just acquaintances and not true friends you could confide in or lean on when things got tough, especially as she got older. In other words, she was very lonely, but when I entered her life, she had a new reason for living.

 

Q: There has been a lot of talk about sexual harassment in the news recently. Do you think being a woman in Hollywood is better, worse or basically the same as it was in the 1950s?

 

A: I think sexual harassment in Hollywood back in the 1950s is similar to today – for both sexes – only, nowadays with Social media, it’s like a flood gate for both genders to spill their stories of sexual harassment to entertainment and cable shows. It’s like everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon and have their fifteen minutes of fame. Back in the ‘50s, stars didn’t reveal these things in fear of being blacklisted.

 

 

Q: Why do you think Marilyn is still interesting to so many people?

 

A: Marilyn is still so interesting to many people because she was one of the cultural linchpins between the simpler, naïve world of the first half of the 20th century, and the loss of innocence in the second half. She wasn’t as “shocking” as some celebrities of today, as she was a breath of fresh air with a naughty streak. There’s a mystery about both her personal life and death that people will always find intriguing.

 

Q: What is your personal theory about Marilyn’s death?

A: I’ve always had my suspicions that there may have been a cover-up surrounding her death, however, after what Jane’s told me, I tend to believe that Marilyn accidentally overdosed. Jane said Marilyn used to break capsules of Nembutal (a short-acting barbiturate) into her champagne because it would digest in her bloodstream quicker. Leading up to her death, Marilyn was very lonely and in a fragile state. She had just purchased her first home in Brentwood (which I had the privilege of actually going through), and had a lot of time to think. She was fired from “Something’s Got To Give” and wasn’t sure what the future held for her because she had a reputation of not being reliable. The four special tiles in the walkway leading to her front door might have foreshadowed things to come. They read: Cursum Perficio. It’s Latin for, “My journey ends here.”

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.

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An Interview With Writer Chris Minnick

 

 

 

Chris Minnick is the author of Ferment; here is a link to his website:

http://ferment.chrisminnick.com/

 

Q: What is Ferment about?

 

A: Ferment is about a guy who grows up in the circus, and then spends his adult life running away from it.

 

Q:  What made you want to write about carnival life?

 

A: I spend about 5 years writing the first chapter about a depressed and scared guy who drinks too much. Then I got over myself and decided to just have fun with it and write a novel. The first thing that came into my mind was a fireside scene I had a dream about that involved dwarfs. I just took off from there.

 

Q: You decided not to do any research for this book; what was the reason for your decision?

 

A: I wrote the book in short bursts every morning right after waking up. Many of the chapters are based on dreams or whatever I happened to be thinking about at the time — eating, showering, going to the bathroom — these things are all featured prominently in the book because these are the things that go on early in the morning. It wasn’t so much a decision to not do any research as it was a decision to not slow down my writing to think about what I was doing. Once I had a few hundred pages written, I went back and spent several months editing it, rearranging it, and chopping out the lame parts. But, when I was editing, I liked how it was coming together and how you just didn’t know whether to believe the narrator or not. It added a level of depth to the book that I never intended, but that I’ll happily accept when it falls onto my lap.

 

Q: Your biography says you have been compared to Kurt Vonnegut and Charles Bukowski; who compared you to these authors and what was the basis of the comparison?

 

A: My sister’s husband’s mother was the first to make these comparisons. I thought it was cool that I could say that I’ve “been compared to” Vonnegut and Bukowski and that it doesn’t really mean anything positive or negative to have been “compared to” something, so I ran with it. I’ve certainly been influenced by both, and I think they are good points of reference for anyone who might be wondering if they’ll like my writing. But I would never go so far as to claim that I’m in the same universe as either. I haven’t been compared to John Steinbeck yet, but while I was writing this book, I was reading nothing else and I became pretty obsessed with his writing.

 

Q: What kind of day job do you have and does it help or hinder your creative efforts?

 

A: I make a living by teaching computer programming and writing computer books. Until 3 years ago, I ran a website development company. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked for myself (I haven’t had a boss) for the last 20 years, but it wasn’t until the last 3 years that I really figured out how to not be a jerk to myself all the time and to let myself have creative efforts that weren’t related to my money-making efforts. Writing computer books has taught me to be disciplined with my writing time and to stick with it and finish big projects. But, lately, I have to travel pretty often to teach and that throws me out of my writing routine. So, I’d have to say that my day job both enables my creative efforts and hinders them.

 

Q: How would you describe your creative process?

 

A: The only way I can get anything done is by making it into something that I do habitually and that I feel superstitious about not doing. Once I convince myself that if I don’t finish writing 3 page every morning someone I love will get sick, I’m unstoppable. It’s messed up, but that’s my process. If I’m writing, things come out and I enjoy the process. But, sticking to it and doing it every day takes extraordinary efforts.

 

Q: What is the best and worst advice any instructor has ever given you about writing?

 

A: Best advice: You can’t edit what doesn’t exist. This wasn’t actually an instructor, I think it’s from Stephan King’s book ‘On Writing’.

Worst advice: Wait until you’re older and you understand life better before you write a novel. I spent a lot of years waiting and I eventually figured out that I’d never know anything. I wish someone would have told me that would happen.

 

Q: What trends in literature annoy you?

 

A: I wouldn’t say that I’m annoyed by anything, but I generally don’t like magic or supernatural things or rare diseases or overly sappy stories. I’d like to see a trend towards people ignoring trends, but that’s probably not going to happen!

 

Q: What are some of the things you have done to promote yourself as a writer?

 

A: Lately, I’ve been reverse shoplifting. I bring my book into bookstores and put it on the shelf in the appropriate place. I don’t know how effective of a promotional technique this is, or what would happen if someone tried to buy it, but it makes me feel like I’m doing something to be seen by more people.

 

Q: In what ways is Los Angeles like a circus?
A: I haven’t spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, actually, so I can’t speak to it too much except to say that the old saying about the grass is always greener applies everywhere you go. Any sort of job or lifestyle — whether as a clown or an actor or an electrician — can get to be a routine that you need to run away from. Running away to the circus used to be the ultimate escape hatch dreamed of by kids growing up in small towns everywhere. Running away to California replaced the circus dream at some point. But, for people who grew up in the circus or in show business in L.A. — where do they go when they can’t stand their environment? Do they dream of having a quiet desk job or a stable family? This is the main idea that Ferment tries to explore. The book is also a lot of fun — like the circus should be, but probably really isn’t all the time.

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.