Tag: books about hollywood

An Interview With Writer Rob Neighbors

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Rob Neighbors is the author of Palm Avenue; here is a link to his website:

 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rob-neighbors-98493239

 

 

Q: What is Palm Avenue about?

 

A:Palm Avenue,” is a classic tale about a farm girl from Kansas who comes to Hollywood to become a big star. It is a story about the “Hotel California.” I believe that song by the Eagles refers to how people come to California seeking fame and fortune and how they get caught up in that whole pursuit to the point where they can never return to place that they were before. They can “check out, but never leave.” The two main characters in “Palm Avenue,” Ashley and Brady come to California for completely different reasons, but they both become addicted to action in different ways, where they can’t return to their native state of Kansas. Not intact anyway.

Q:  What inspired you to write it?

 

A:  I received a phone call one day from a friend and he said, “Hey, write a book like “50 Shades of Grey” and you will make millions of dollars.” I had always wanted to write a novel, so I guess I needed a little push, and that was it. Millions of dollars would be nice, but it was time I wrote a novel for the experience of it. I went out and bought the book (50 Shades) out of curiosity.  I tried to read the book and hated it – I was only able to read four chapters. I thought about the demographic for that book (mostly women) and wondered if I could write something for that audience. I remembered an outline for a script I had done years ago and I dug it out. That outline had a strong female protagonist, and I decided to turn it into a novel, which is now “Palm Avenue.”

Q: What makes Ashley Duncan different than other characters like her?

 

A: Ashley is a character that has been written about many times and mythologized in reality and fiction.  Think of real life success stories like Marilyn Monroe, or more recently, Jennifer Lawrence.  Ashley is like Dorothy following the yellow brick road to the Emerald City. The difference is that Dorothy wanted desperately to get back home, but Ashley wants desperately to escape Kansas. Ashley decides early on to do anything it takes to be a part of the Emerald City (Hollywood) and everything that represents.  Ashley is a strong female character by the fact that she is driven and will not let anything stand in the way of her goal, but she is also very flawed.  She has self doubt and falls into some of the usual Hollywood traps of sex and drug addiction. By the end of the book she is transformed into someone very different than the person she arrived as.

 

 

Q: Who inspired the character of Brady?

 

A: Brady is like a lot of guys those of us who grew up in small towns remember. Brady was the big fish in his small pond (hometown Colby, Kansas). He was the award winning quarterback, homecoming king, and son of the beloved local veterinarian. Ashley was his “queen” in high school.  They were the dream couple everyone envied. Brady’s ego can’t handle it when Ashley leaves him and the hometown in pursuit of her Hollywood dream.  Brady runs to LA after her and quickly realizes  his hometown hero status will not get him a cup of coffee in this town.

 

Q: Who are some of your writing influence?

 

 

A: Probably my earliest writing influence was Larry McMurtry.  I used to visit my grandparents house when I was 10 or 11 and I was drawn to the book, “The Last Picture Show,” in their book case.  It is a very risqué book. I was able to find the dirty parts like a heat seeking missile. I didn’t understand sexual content at the time, but it made quite an impression. The sex in that book is not there for exploitation, but to show the often tragic consequence people face due to their choices. The movie was great also, but the book is fantastic. Other influences include Hemingway, Bukowski,  Carver, Steinbeck,  Mailer , and Tennessee Williams. I tend to like writers who go into depth about the human condition, rather than focus on plot points and fantasy.

Q: Why do you think there are so many books and movies set in Hollywood?

 

A: Everyone seems to be fascinated with Hollywood. There is the glamour aspect of course that everyone is drawn to – the red carpet premiers, movie stars, swimming pools and palm trees. Then there is the seedy underbelly that is equally fascinating. The whole setting lends itself to desperation and drama, which makes for good fiction.

 

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned about promoting yourself as a writer?

 

A: I decided to self publish “Palm Avenue,” rather than to try to seek  a publisher. That could have taken years, and I don’t have that much time. I wanted to write a book that particularly people in Hollywood could relate to. This is a book that will ring true to I think anybody who has tried to make a go of it here – which could be thousands of people. I am writing two sequels to “Palm Avenue,” and think it will be more marketable as a three part series. Marketing is a challenge, but one thing about it, if I don’t market the book, nobody else is going to.

 

Q: What life experiences do you like to draw from when you write?

 

A: I have lived in Los Angeles for over 20 years and I have experienced a lot. I did the whole drug/nightclub scene in Hollywood in the 90’s. I have worked as a limo driver, a bartender, and a screenwriter. I have been married and had kids. I have been divorced, dead broke, and desperate, and I have been incredibly lucky at times.  I have been on the fringes of the industry, and an insider for a bit. I have known many actors, musicians, and writers, both wannabes and those with various levels of success.  I have seen many people wash out and die, and others rise to the top. I think I am certainly qualified to write about this subject matter.

 

Q: Why did you decide to write a novel after so many years as a screenwriter?

 

A: I have basically given up pursuing screenwriting as a career. The movie business has changed tremendously since I first started. The types of movies being produced now are generally not what I write. I am excited about the whole Netflix thing, which in the past few years has opened up a whole new world of opportunity for creative people. One thing I have noticed is that everyone wants to read a book, whereas nobody wants to read a screenplay. If someone offers to hire me as a screenwriter I will jump at it, but I am no longer seeking that out.  Novels are a product by themselves, but screenplays are only blueprints for films that are often never made. Screenwriting can be one of the most frustrating endeavors in the world.  For now, I will write novels and seek an audience, and then if people want to make them into movies, we will talk.

Q: If you could give Ashley one piece of advice what would it be?

 

A: Some folks might think my advice to Ashley would be to stay home.  Not so. I think that people are always going to be drawn to Hollywood. Those people have to do it. They have to try it. I say to those individuals, come on out and give it a shot if you have to!  Just remember you may have to sacrifice a lot for your dream. A veteran Hollywood guy once warned me before I came to Los Angeles to always “cherish my family.” I didn’t listen to him and that was a huge mistake. In the end, your family is all you can really count on. That would be my one piece of advice for Ashley – pursue your dream, but always cherish your family.

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 Stephanie Carlisi

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Stephanie Carlisi is the author of the upcoming book Father F*cker! Here is a link to Ms. Carlisi’s website:

http://stephaniecarlisi.com/?cat=15 

 

 

Q: What is “Father F*cker!” about?

A: Father F*cker! is the coming-of-age story of a young woman struggling to find her artistic voice. Sicily Terrentini lost her father when she was five-years-old and has been attempting to suppress the trauma ever since. At the age of 27, she adopts a devotional yoga practice, in which she chants to Hindu Gods, and experiences a heart opening. As she is flooded with crippling memories from her childhood, a deep desire is triggered to communicate with her father and to explore her voice, which has been blocked for years. Sicily writes her father a letter, burns it and releases the ashes into the Pacific Ocean, where his ashes were scattered. As if in response to her letter, a synchronistic chain of events leads her to a dream job, working as a “songwriter’s assistant” for Jake Easton, a legendary songwriter, who, at 58, is older than her father would be had he lived. Due to their thirty-year age gap, Sicily is unaware of Jake’s reputation in music history as a notorious heartbreaker who infamously used his ladies as muses, while cavorting with and penning hits for the Troubadours, the most famous band to emerge from the seventies Laurel Canyon scene. Sicily is hit hard with her “daddy issues” as she is drawn in by Jake’s charisma. She tries to combat their chemistry, but falls in love with him against her will. She cannot deny that her craving for Jake bears similarity to a lifelong yearning for her father. Maybe Jake can fill her void? Sicily senses that Jake is using her as a muse, but turns the tables on him and uses him as a muse in the surprising passion she finds for the craft of songwriting. Father F*cker! opens a window into the worlds of songwriting and working as a Hollywood assistant, while posing the questions: Can a girl overcome her “daddy issues?” and Does age matter when it comes to love?

Q:  What inspired you to write it?

 

A: I had just experienced a tornado of creative inspiration, working as an assistant for a legendary songwriter. When my job abruptly ended (due to occurrences detailed in the book), I was left with an immense void. I had been washed over and wrung-out, and was now sitting in the quiet after the storm.  I fell asleep on a Greyhound Bus heading from Los Angeles to Palm Springs to visit my parents for Thanksgiving. When I awoke, still miles from my destination, the start of the story poured from my pen and I’m still writing.

 

Q:  How much of the story is biographical and how much is fiction?

A: Father F*cker! is a work of fiction, inspired by real events. I would estimate that seventy-five-percent of the story is biographical. That said, even the truth is simply my perception; therefore it is 100% fiction. Perhaps if another person were asked to recall the events, it would be a different story, if a story at all.

The novel was titled “Signs in the Night,” for years while I developed it. Recently I was given insightful feedback from CAA (Creative Artists Agency), which I am using to revise the book. I have retitled it and I am modifying it from third-person to first-person. When I first started writing, I was afraid to put the story in first-person and use my authentic voice. It felt too close for comfort. I think I fell back on my influence from Danielle Steel novels I read when I was younger, writing it more like a flowery romance novel than a gritty coming-of-age story. Now, with healthy distance from the events and my subject matter, I am ready to use my voice to tell the story. This story is important to me because it ties in with how music found its way back to me, when I least expected it, and helped me to heal. As always, my hope is that my writing inspires others to find their voice and follow their passion, if they have a desire to do so. That desire has a purpose.

As I revise my manuscript, I plan to publish it, chapter-by-chapter, as a serial on a website called: channillo.com. 100% of my profits, while it is up on the site, will go to the charity of my choice, which is the MusiCares Foundation. This is a total experiment and I have no idea where it may lead.

Q:  What other kinds of day jobs have you had and what made them better or worse than being an assistant?

 

A: For a spell I worked as a substitute teacher and a tutor for middle school students. I believe wholeheartedly that to teach is to learn. I loved teaching kids and it was fulfilling in a way that being an assistant certainly was not; but I couldn’t give my all to it because I heard a calling from the arts that I needed to answer. It didn’t feel fair to the kids that I was only halfway present with them, so I quit and dove headfirst into the entertainment industry. I would like to teach again one day.

Working as a personal/executive entertainment assistant was challenging because I felt like a kid in a candy store who wasn’t allowed to eat the candy. I was addicted to my unrequited aspirations. I always had the sense that I was laboring to bring other artists’ visions to fruition while putting my own on the back burner. However, I got a lot of writing done during down time in those offices. I wrote (and re-wrote) much of my novel at Paramount Pictures, where I worked all over the lot, as an assistant, for the bulk of ten years. I also gained valuable knowledge about how the industry works and met a lot of wonderful people. I wrote my first song in the music department at Paramount. That place really was a creative playground for me.

 

My last gig in entertainment advanced me from executive assistant to a (temporary) director of development at a production pod at CBS Studio. I was working directly with creative writing, reading tons of scripts and writing coverage, preparing pitch materials, etc. At first I thought I might like to be a development executive, but by the time the gig was coming to an end, I was going crazy working on other people’s projects, yearning to focus on my own writing. I am now writing full-time and diligently working to further monetize my craft.

Q:  What are some of the differences between the way Hollywood portrays itself in movies and on TV and real life Hollywood?

A: Much of it is on target. In regard to working as an assistant in Hollywood, the movie Swimming With Sharks has always stuck in my head, although the story is exaggerated. I have seen some downright crazy behavior from strong personality types in Hollywood. I’ve worked for my fair share of “screamers” and the term “high-maintenance” doesn’t begin to cover it. I think maybe that behavior is less en vogue today than it used to be; at least I hope it is. I do not believe that acquiring success, power, wealth or fame is an excuse to act shitty toward people, especially people trying to help you. One would think that having all that would make someone nicer, not meaner.

Sometimes (in film and television) the hard work is downplayed while the glamour is played-up. An executive at Paramount once told me that someone asked him if he “hangs out on yachts with Brad Pitt.” The executive laughed and said, “If only they could see me in my office under a pile of contracts.” I once met the lovely Catherine Zeta-Jones at an event at the Motion Picture and Television Home, where both my maternal grandparents lived out the last chapters of their lives. My grandmother introduced me to Catherine and said, “Stephanie is an actress, too.” I felt insecure and added, “A struggling actress.” Catherine looked at me squarely and said, “We’re all struggling, honey. I finally did my close-up at 4am and I am exhausted.” Her statement had an impact on me. I realized that celebrities are human, too. They have to go through (some of) the tedious steps of life like the rest of us do. It’s not all glamour and partying. It takes a lot of hard work to make it to the top, and maybe even more to stay there. The Mailroom: Hollywood History From The Bottom Up is a great read to gain an inside glimpse.

 

Q:  Who are some of your writing influences?

 

A: Ayn Rand, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, Pat Conroy, Anais Nin, Herman Hesse, Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks, Lucinda Williams, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan.

 

Q:  Why do you think people are fascinated by celebrities?

A: I think people find fascination in celebrities as a means of deflection from their own greatness. It’s a way to not focus on oneself, which can be challenging and confronting. It is also a means of escape from boredom, tedium, loneliness, sorrow, etc. When, in reality, I believe that facing oneself is a more sustainable escape from those conditions. We are all fascinating creatures. People project a fantasy onto celebrities that they do not deal with the same human conditions, feelings and emotions with which “average people” have to deal, but that is not true. I used to want to be famous so badly. I believed that grand success, wealth and accolades would make me happy, but then I realized that so many people who have all that still seem miserable. We have to become happy first, because all that will not provide happiness. Once we’re happy, we probably won’t even want that anymore, and our fascination with celebrity might lessen. Our own lives are precious.

 

Q: What is your strangest Los Angeles story?

 

A: I was born in Hollywood, into a showbiz family, at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, which was purchased shortly thereafter by the Church of Scientology and became their headquarters. It’s been a long, strange trip ever since, so it would be impossible to choose my strangest Los Angeles story; I could go on for days. One comes to mind, though:

My mom’s best friend introduced me to a business manager to the stars. He kindly promised to help me find a job in the entertainment industry. At the time I was a wannabe movie star, with stars in my eyes, so I really wanted to be a personal assistant to a movie star. Mr. Business Manager hooked me up with Val Kilmer, but the job fell through. (Perhaps it was divine intervention.) My grandparents then set up a random meeting for me with a longtime family friend who had been a songwriter/music producer for years, but had not enjoyed the level of success for which she had hoped. My grandparents were attempting to manipulate me into going to law school instead of trying to “make it” in show business. I think they thought that meeting with someone slightly disgruntled, after struggling for years, might dissuade me; but Hollywood was in my blood. While I was meeting with this family friend, listening in her home recording studio to songs that had never seen the light of day, I got the idea that maybe I should try my hand at songwriting! (Mind you, I had never been a musician, nor had I ever before dreamed of writing a song.) After the meeting, I stopped at a red light on Wilshire and Sepulveda and said aloud to God, “Songwriting, that’s what I’m going to do next.” I had no clue how I was going to go about my new plan, but, when I arrived home that evening, there was a voicemail on my landline from Mr. Business Manager: “Call me, I have a client sitting in front of me who is looking for an assistant. He’s a songwriter who needs his journals transcribed for an upcoming album. I told him how good you are with words and I think you two could be a perfect fit.” It was as if God had answered my declaration. The rest is history.

 

Q:  What other kinds of writing do you do?

 

A: I write and co-write songs—endless songs. I have co-written three television pilots and a feature sci-fi screenplay. I write blogs and short stories. Lately I have been submitting stories to online publications and have been published by Elephant Journal and The Fix, so far. I dabble in poetry and erotica.

Q:  What kind of educational background do you have?

A: I obtained my BA from Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. I majored in Telecommunications Management with an emphasis in creative writing. Post grad I took acting, screenwriting and music classes. Throughout my school years, my extracurricular activities always involved writing and drama.

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