Sunday, 8 December 2013
Author Interview: Zack Love
Zack Love graduated from Harvard College, where he tried to create a bachelor’s degree in Women. With the bachelor portion of that degree in hand, he settled in New York City but – to afford renting his bed-sized studio – found himself flirting mostly with a computer screen and stacks of documents. Determined not to die a corporate drone, Zack decided to sacrifice sleep for screenwriting, an active social life, and Internet startups offering temporary billion-dollar fantasies.
To feed his steady diet of NYC nightlife, he regularly crashed VIP parties in the early 2000s and twice bumped into his burgeoning crush, a Hollywood starlet. But – much to Zack’s surprise – neither of those awkward conversations led to marriage with the A-list actress. Zack eventually consoled himself by imagining fiascoes far worse than those involving his celebrity crush. In the process, he dreamed up a motley gang of five men inspired by some of his college friends and quirky work colleagues. And thus was born Sex in the Title. But the novel is not autobiographical: Zack never had his third leg attacked by any mammal (nor by any plant, for that matter). In fact, keeping his member safe has been one of Zack’s lifelong goals – and one of the few that he’s managed to accomplish.
Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
It's a combination of the two. Sometimes an idea or character will seize me and take me along for a ride, and I just have to let my imagination run its course. Other times, I have to plan how certain events happen (or combine/collide with other story elements).
Do your characters ever want to take over the story?
They did get unruly at times, but I politely reminded them who was in charge.
What is your favourite food?
Indian, Mexican, Israeli, Thai, and vegetarian.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Definitely a night owl.
Where do you dream of traveling to and why?
I'd love to visit Angel Falls because -- as the tallest waterfall on earth -- it's one of those magnificent wonders of nature. But it's a bit of a hassle, with Venezuela's serious inflation (which means walking around with tons of US Dollars) and crime problems (that will take away all of those US Dollars on you). And then there's the related malaria precautions that are recommended for Angel Falls and other health risks. But it's definitely on the bucket list.
Do distant places feature in your books?
I guess it depends where the reader is. If I'm lucky enough to get some New Zealand or Australian readers, then New York City could be very distant indeed...
Do you listen to music while writing?
Only if I'm trying to kill my own concentration (unless of course there's some far worse noise nuisance that needs to be blocked out with the music).
Could you tell us a bit about your latest release?
The novel could be described as a male version of “Sex and the City” (the series) with Milan Kundera-esque observations about life and human psychology. The first and only time that I submitted it to anyone in the publishing industry was back in 2003, after sharing it with about a dozen (mostly female) test readers who thought it was hilarious. The book was conditionally accepted by two reputable literary agents. One agent offered to represent the book if I made it more outlandishly raunchy, while the other agent asked me to do the exact opposite. Both agreed that – despite centering on male misadventures – the comedy avoided misogyny, which was key because most fiction readers in 2003 were female (and, in 2013, probably still are). But I was puzzled by what to do with the agents’ diametrically opposed comments.
In the end, rather than write three different versions of the same novel (more raunchy, less raunchy, and as is), I concluded that maybe I had struck the right balance, and so never bothered to do anything more with the book other than let it clutter up my hard drive. But over the years, my original test readers have encouraged me to publish this novel, and – for better or worse – I finally listened. Of course, there’s no pleasing everyone – as the reactions from those two agents illustrate. Nevertheless, I genuinely think (and hope) that those intrepid readers who haven’t been scared away by the above will be more amused than offended.
What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?
In some ways, things are much easier for indie writers today than in 2003 (when there really wasn't even such a concept). Today there are no gatekeepers (agents, publishers, etc.) who can absolutely (and sometimes arbitrarily) block the path to publication. But in other ways, the challenge of making it as a writer is far greater today, because -- with so much content saturating the market constantly -- it's that much harder to be noticed.
Ironically, a title like "Sex in the Title" might have really stood out a decade ago. Today, I'm not sure it has the same effect, if only because there are countless other titles cleverly competing for a potential reader's interest.
To give one of countless examples of how hard it is to get a new title by an unknown author noticed, I paid $50 to promote a free download of my new release to an email list of 50,000 readers. There were about 2,500 downloads, which translated into all of 20 "adds" on Goodreads and one review. Still scratching my head about that one. But it's a learning process.
Is there anything you would do differently?
I probably shouldn't have waited ten years to do something with the manuscript. Who knows where the book would be today, had it already been on the market for the last few years...Probably nowhere, but it might have been a bit easier to stand out when e-books were still relatively new...
Who, or what, if anything has influenced your writing?
There have been too many major and minor influences to list them all, but some writers who stand out are Milan Kundera, Samuel Beckett, Mark Twain, Plato, and film-makers like Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen, and Stanley Kubrick.
Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft?
Take notes on life and let your imagination run wild. Everything is potentially raw material and/or a source of inspiration.
What are three words that describe you?
Averse to self-description
What's your favourite book or who is your favourite writer?
This question always makes me feel like I'm cheating on someone. There are too many favorites for me to name one (or even a few) and then not feel as if I've slighted all the others.
New York City, May 2000. The Internet bubble has burst, and Evan's boss fires him with an email. The next day, his girlfriend dumps him, also via email. Afraid to check any more emails, Evan desperately seeks a rebound romance but the catastrophes that ensue go from bad to hilariously worse. Fortunately, Evan meets someone whose legendary disasters with females eclipse even his own.
To reverse their fortunes, they recruit their friends into a group of five guys who take on Manhattan in pursuit of dates, sex, and adventure. With musings about life, relationships, and human psychology, this quintessential New York story about the search for happiness follows five men on their comical paths to trouble, self-discovery, and love.
Any websites/places readers can find you on the web.
Books and Tales will be closing in January 2018.