Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fifty Shades of Schwarz - Interview with Author

Synopsis (from Amazon): Fifty Shades of Grey is hilariously sent-up by an exciting new indie author, Ed Harris, in Fifty Shades of Schwarz. Ana Steele, move over and make way for Maya Stein, a sexy 29-year old Brandeis graduate living in trendy Brooklyn and working in Manhattan for an Internet marketing firm. While Ana of that other series - which has sold a mere 65 million copies - may be a virgin who never owned a computer, Maya is a confident, experienced young woman with several notches on her belt and who spends most of her day surfing the web. As the book opens, Maya is dating Jeremy Goldberg, a part-time waiter and yoga teacher who is pursuing an online graduate degree in education and trying to develop a screenplay. Maya is ambivalent about her feelings for Jeremy. She insists that they be allowed to date other people and refuses to change her Facebook status to “in a relationship.” A chance encounter on JDate leads Maya to Aaron Schwarz, a brooding, intense commercial real estate broker with unusual tastes in the bedroom as a result of a troubled upbringing. Meanwhile, Maya’s mom, Dottie Stein, is trying to fix Maya up with a single young rabbi, David Teitelbaum. And, more than ten years later, Maya still wonders wistfully if she should have gone to senior prom with Adam Goldman, who is about to graduate from Harvard Medical School. How might her life be different today as a doctor’s wife if she hadn’t turned him down because of his teenage acne? Fifty Shades of Schwarz is laugh-out-loud funny, while also a moving story of trying to find love and romance in a modern, hookup culture. Readers will identify with Maya and the other richly drawn characters, and be entertained by a humorous and fast-paced story. Find out why Stanford grad and former contestant on the TV show The Bachelor, Britt Billmaier wrote: I so enjoyed Fifty Shades of Schwarz! In particular, I love the situations you've created to allow the reader to get to know Maya. I'm incredibly impressed at your understanding of the female psyche. In my opinion, you've nailed it.

Meet the Author:  Author Ed Harris is a Seattle resident. His children, three in number and of assorted genders, skin colors and countries of origin, are united in a common belief that their father was born fully-formed as a grouchy adult. His long-suffering wife bears silent testimony to the saying that "behind every successful man is a surprised woman." Harris was born in New York, and has lived in the US, Israel and the Netherlands. He is regarded by his friends and loved ones as a nudge, a Yiddish word that does not have a direct English language equivalent, and used to characterize someone who is particularly annoying.

The author's literary favorites include SJ Perelman, Mark Twain and Michael Chabon. Ernest Hemingway once wrote of someone going broke "very slowly and then all of a sudden." The author implores the reading public to buy Fifty Shades of Schwarz and other books of his so he can avoid the same fate.

Interview with Ed Harris:
Favorite color, food, drink and animal?  Color: red; food: Food: any type of Italian food, especially with garlic and olive oil (I am a vegetarian, and so I love cuisines that don’t require meat – Indian is another favorite); drink: Diet Coke; animal: dog

You’ll note that I did not include an alcoholic beverage under “drink” which was probably the intent of the question. I abstain from most vices (or pleasures, depending on your perspective), such as smoking or drinking and, as noted above, am a vegetarian.  I do, however, continue to enjoy the last remaining one of the Seven Deadly Sins – lust – and hope to remain consistent in my habits in that regard.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?  My favorite activity is spending time with family. I have three kids and one son-in-law, ages 24, 23, 19 and 14, plus an amazing wife (age not disclosed).

I also enjoy reading, playing golf (poorly, but I wouldn’t enjoy it any less if I played well) hiking and the outdoors, working out (mostly treadmill and exercise bike), the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle and I have one major rooting interest as a sports fan: The NY football Giants. I went to the games regularly with my dad until moving to Seattle in 1990, going all the way back to childhood when they used to play in the old Yankee Stadium. I told my kids they are not obligated to care about team sports (and in fact none of them do) but if they had any interest in football, the only team they are allowed to root for is the Giants.

When/Why did you start writing?  I started writing about six or seven years ago, when I was working on my first book, Murphy’s Bed, a coming-of-age story about a gay teen growing up in a religious family.  I have always loved reading – some of my favorite memories from childhood include books that I loved, and as a dad, when my kids were smaller, one of my greatest pleasures was reading bedtime stories to them.  I read the entire Harry Potter series, all seven volumes, to my youngest over a stretch of several years.

I think that writing is just an extension of my love of reading.  I felt that I deserved to give myself a shot at seeing if I could write something that others would enjoy.  I happen to love writing, and so that is also one of my favorite “leisure” activities.

What is your favorite writing spot?  Anywhere that is not at home. Even though, as noted above, I love my family, it’s hard to avoid the distractions associated with a busy household.  Our house has a basement level, which is where I have an office set up and where I do most of my writing.  I would prefer a separate office in a different location, but until I hit the bestseller list, for financial reasons I’ll continue the current arrangement.

Do you have writing routine?  At my most productive, I’ll get a very early start, with breakfast at about 6 am, followed by a workout and shower, and then start writing around 8 am, keeping at it until 4 or 5 pm.  Of course, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I consider it nothing less than a small miracle when I can actually get in a day like that. More often than not distractions pop up – that darn working from home again.  But like a surfer catching a great wave, a day with an early start and seven or eight hours of steady focus is one that I find grateful to experience.

Who are some of your favorite authors? In no particular order, Mark Twain, George Orwell, Somerset Maugham, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Etgar Keret, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Franzen and Stephen Pinker.

Can you read other books while writing your own?  Absolutely.  I tend to get disheartened, however, when I read someone who I truly admire, like Michael Chabon, and then feel very inadequate by comparison.  However, I have a lot of experience at feeling inadequate, so in general that’s not a problem as I am used to it.

What are currently (or last read) reading now?  The most recent book I read was Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? Before that, I read Etgar Keret’s new book, Suddenly a Knock on the Door.

What is your favorite genre?  I tend to enjoy authors first and genres second, so if I find a writer I love, then I usually enjoy their books.  A good example is John McPhee, who has written on a wide diversity of non-fiction topics, such as a profile of then-basketball star - and later US Senator - Bill Bradley (A Sense of Where You Are), the Swiss army (La Place de la Concorde Suisse) and the merchant marine industry (Looking for a Ship).  I imagine that McPhee could find a way to keep the reader entertained if he were writing about the corrugated cardboard box business (note to self – see if there is a Jewish angle I can exploit related to packing materials).

I probably gravitate more to non-fiction as a reader, and fiction as a writer, although neither is an absolute.

What is your favorite(s) song/movie/play/TV show?  For the last twenty-three years, I have mostly been consuming popular culture through my kids. In a recent conversation, I asked a friend if they remembered a particular Sponge Bob episode, and then I suddenly realized, oh, wait a second, not every middle-aged person spent hours watching Sponge Bob.  I sometimes have to remind myself to be a grownup. Memories of SpongeBob are stuck rattling around in my brain with Barney, The Spice Girls, N Sync and a host of other material produced for kids.

Les Miserables holds a very special memory for me and my wife, because it was while attending the original Broadway production in March 1990 that we heard from our adoption consultant that our application had been accepted and we had a daughter waiting for us in Peru. Because of that sentimental connection, it is probably my favorite show.

Also, because I am boring and set in my habits, I rely on my kids to introduce me to new music. In general, I find a lot of the current popular artists fun to listen to. But for the kids I would have my Pandora account permanently set to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and had no exposure to Bruno Mars, Flo Rida or LMFAO.

If you could go anywhere for vacation/holiday, where would you go?  Israel, especially Jerusalem.  I spent about a year and a half in Israel between the ages of 18 and 20, learning Hebrew and meeting my future wife.  Second place would be Encinitas, a California beach town just north of San Diego.

Which would you pick:
Ocean/beach or pool  Beach

Coffee or tea  Coffee

Fruit or candy  Fruit

A book or e-book  Both.  I love the convenience of e-readers when I travel and the feel of a traditional book while at home.

Computer or tablet/smart phone  For writing, I need the screen size of a traditional laptop.  I love my smart phone, but can’t type well on virtual keyboards.

Camping or Hoteling  I loved camping as a youth, but discovered that girls tended to prefer guys who shower regularly and wear clean clothing.  Imagine that! I used to take pride in being able to spend a week on the trail without bathing, and my sleeping bag back in my hippie days radiated an evil funk.  Later, I made the connection that my lack of success at dating was directly related to looking like the Unabomber.

Driving or Flying  Flying for anything longer than a half a day of driving.

Connect:  You can connect with Ed online at his website, Facebook and Twitter.

Purchase:  You can purchase Fifty Shades of Schwarz online at Amazon.

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