The Story Behind the Book – “Going Both Ways”

Most ofGoing Both Ways my writing has been centered on interpersonal relationships and the male-female dichotomy. Despite being a heterosexual male, my writing often portrays the male characters as boorish while the women tend to be more likeable and far wiser. It’s been said a million times that men don’t really understand women and vice versa. And it almost has to be that way because we’ve never taken the proverbial walk in the other gender’s shoes. But what if we did? How would that change our perspective?

That was the inspiration behind Going Both Ways. This idea of a body/age/gender switch is a fairly common conceit (think Big and 13 Going on 30) – so I added the unique twist of having the Patrick/Trish character alternate gender every other day. I thought having the same mind in alternating bodies would create optimal opportunity for growth, insight and humor.

I wrote the first third of the book very quickly, but I had no idea where the story was going or how it would be resolved. That’s not unusual for me. I’m not very good at outlining. I tend to have a general idea about the primary characters and storyline – and then start writing. Some writers get freaked out by that approach, but I find it energizing. To me it means the characters have ultimate freedom to take over the story and lead it wherever it needs to go. That’s exactly what happened with Going Both Ways. Patrick/Trish got into a situation that forced them – and the book – to move in a new direction, a direction I’d never envisioned but one that gave it more power, breadth, and resonance (if I say so myself). Once that plot resolution was revealed to me, the writing again came fast and easy.

I write because I love to. I publish because I want my stories to be read. But while I love the writing, the selling and marketing process has always given me fits. I have a literary agent who sold my nonfiction books, but he handles very little fiction and declined to represent Going Both Ways. I tried to find another agent who specialized in fiction but couldn’t find any takers. Many of them said how much they liked the writing, but they declined primarily because I was an unknown. I loved the book and had decided to self-publish – but first tried some small independent publishers. That’s when Wild Rose Press and I discovered each other – and I couldn’t be happier.

Interview with PUYB Virtual Book Club

GoingBothWays_w10441_300Before you started writing your book, what kind of research did you do to prepare yourself?

As a novelist, most of my research comes about during the course of my daily activities. I like to write about relationships – pulling them apart and (sometimes) putting them back together – so the most effective research comes from watching and listening. I’ve always had a lot of female friends, and in my heart of hearts I do believe women are superior to men in the vast majority of ways. I think that’s why my two most recent novels feature guys who tend towards frat-boy boorishness while the women are far more evolved and mature.

Did you pursue publishers or did you opt to self-pub?

I have a literary agent who sold two of my recent nonfiction books, but he handles very little fiction and declined to represent Going Both Ways. I tried to find another agent who specialized in fiction but couldn’t find any takers. Many of them said how much they liked the writing, but they declined primarily because I was an unknown in fiction. I loved the book and decided to self-publish – but I first tried some small independent publishers. That’s when Wild Rose Press and I discovered each other – and I couldn’t be happier.

If published by a publisher, what was your deciding factor in going with them?

The Wild Rose Press has an excellent reputation among authors. They have a strong corporate culture focused on frequent communications. Their editing and publishing process is very efficient and involves the author at every step of the way. I was impressed with the way they considered my query, requested the complete manuscript, and kept me informed as it moved from editor to outside readers and then up to senior editor for contract.

If published by a publisher, are you happy with the price they chose?

I think the eBook price of $4.99 is excellent. The paperback is a little pricey at $15.99 – but I fully understand that small publishers struggle with printed books and often do it more as a courtesy for the authors than for their own bottom line.

How did you choose your cover?

My publisher has a team of independent designers who design the book covers. Once the book was in the pre-production process, I was given access to samples from all the designers. One designer, Debbie Taylor, jumped out at me as having the kind of style I was looking for. I was able to provide specific input following the first round of design and the final result was dead-on.

Did you write your book, then revise or revise as you went?

I edit as I go and then do two in-depth copy edits before I consider a manuscript “final.” I’m not very good at outlining. I tend to have a general idea about the primary characters and storyline – and then start writing. I very rarely know how the story will resolve itself, and that was indeed the case with Going Both Ways. I loved the idea of a gender-switch that alternated every other day. I wrote almost half the book without knowing how the story would end. Some writers get freaked out by that, but I find it energizing. To me, it means the characters have taken over the story and they will lead it wherever it needs to go. And that’s exactly what happened. The lead character got into a situation that forced the book to move in a new direction – a direction that gave it more power, breadth, and resonance (if I say so myself).

Did you consider making or hiring someone to make a book trailer for your book? If so, what’s the link?

Making video trailers is my favorite part of book marketing. I use Final Cut on my Mac and I edit like crazy to make sure the pace, images, and music all work well together. I became even more disciplined with cutting extraneous material because Twitter only allows 30-second videos. Take a look here and let me know what you think: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3UXGkBVPV0

What’s your opinion on giving your book away to sell other copies of your book?

I think it’s a tactic that’s better suited to self-published books. Publishers make a big investment when they sign an author and hope to receive a return on their commitment of time, resources and money. Having said that, I do believe in raffle-style giveaways of the sort that Goodreads offers and have participated in several for my books. The exception to all this, of course, is books that are part of a series. If the reader likes the free book, they’ll likely buy additional titles in the series.

What are three of the most important things you believe an author should do after their book is released?

First, stay with it. Bringing a book to life is akin to having a baby – and similarly is sometimes accompanied by post-partum depression. On publication day and the weeks immediately after, sales and promotional opportunities are all you can think about. For any author who’s not a household name, initial sales tend to be low – probably lower than expected – and it’s easy to become disheartened. In addition, marketing takes a ton of time – 25% to 50% of your day – and is virtually impossible to measure; so it’s another catalyst for disappointment. You simply have to believe in your work, believe it will find an audience, and stay with it.

Second, write something else. The best way to boost sales and visibility of Book ABC is to publish Book XYZ. In addition to helping sales of the first book, writing another keeps your head in the game. Keeps reminding you that writing is what you do and what you’ll always do.

Third, sit back and enjoy the moment. Writing a book is a big accomplishment. Everyone thinks they have a book in them, but very few make the commitment to go through with it. I’m a believer in celebrating the big and little things in life. Too many people focus solely on the past or the future and miss the opportunity to savor the present.

What kind of pre-promotion did you do before the book came out?

I added the book to my website, Facebook author page, and Twitter account masthead as soon as the cover was finalized. I created a short “teaser” video trailer that I promoted on all three of those platforms. I signed up for this tour with “Pump Up Your Book,” added the book to Readers Alley to encourage reviews, and created a Goodreads giveaway that ended one week after the publication date.

Do you have a long-term plan with your book?

In my mind, this book is destined to be a movie. It has all the characteristics of a big-screen hit – humor, sex, and suspense. So my plan is to keep promoting it as a book, trying to boost sales and visibility, and either write a screenplay myself or pitch it as a film adaptation.

What would you like to say to your readers and fans about your book?

Writers write in order to be read – not to garner fame or riches – but simply to be read. Going Both Ways was a true labor of love for me and I want it to be read by as wide an audience as possible. I believe it’s a book that will make readers laugh out loud while also delivering eye-opening insights. I always encourage fans to spread the word and to contact me via any of the social media platforms to share their thoughts and ask questions.

If the Character Is an A-Hole, Is the Author One Also?

stupid-man-punchEdna St. Vincent Millay said, “A person who publishes a book appears willfully in the public eye with his pants down.” I’ve long agreed with Millay’s observation, but never more than since the publication of my new novel, Still Counting.

Based on the early reviews Adam, the male lead character, is universally disliked. Readers find him dumb, insensitive, clueless, and far worse. Here are some of my favorite comments:

  • “This is a great book for any woman who has dated a moron in the past.”
  • “Adam truly is a male archetype (duh, get it: Adam?)”
  • “The fact that he just kept digging himself a deeper hole is a typical man.”

The thing is I’m okay with all of this as long as readers don’t feel the same about me. That’s where it gets complicated. Is Millay’s “public eye” viewing me with my pants actually down or only imagining my pants being down?

As the reviewers wrote these comments, they carefully danced around the issue of whether the author had actually intended this reaction and purposely created such an unlovable character. They seemed to hope so – partly, I assume, to not insult the author and partly because they hoped and prayed there was at least one non-A-hole male in the world.

The good news is that I did intend that reaction. Adam is a fairly typical twenty-something guy who tends to believe the universe revolves around him. Women are there for his pleasure; and they need to accept him, warts and all, even if he can’t reciprocate the courtesy. To top it off, if he can’t understand something, he attacks it rather than asking questions and taking the time to learn more.

The bad news is that the author – that would be me – shares some of these traits and is an admitted A-hole in many ways. Like most men I’m significantly over-confident regarding my intelligence and abilities (and maybe even my attractiveness to the opposite sex?). I have a hard time looking a woman straight in the eye if she’s displaying serious cleavage (or even not so serious). And – with sincere apologies to all womankind – I have a deep-seated belief that women are inherently better at cleaning and cooking than the mass of men. On the flipside, particularly as a husband and father to a young woman, I have never underestimated or demeaned women. The two best bosses I ever had were women. In the classes I teach at Boston College, the female students tend to be more engaged, diligent, and insightful than the males. And I think it’s an embarrassment that the U.S. has never had a female president.

One of the reviewers brought a smile to my face with this comment, “The author clearly loves women and thinks men are idiots.” I think that’s my full monty in terms of Millay’s adage. Female readers might view Adam as a cretin but give the author credit for shining such a harsh light on male obliviousness. Male readers, on the other hand, will likely point a finger at the author and curse him out for having broken the bro blood-oath. I’m okay with that as well.

Bisexuality & Promiscuity In Fact & Fiction

Bisexual heartWhen I began thinking about the bisexuality theme in my new novel, I realized that I had a lot of gay friends but none of them identified as bisexual. Through a friend of a friend I met a young openly bisexual woman who agreed to talk with me. I learned a lot that day, but the most powerful insight was that bisexuals (whether male or female) tend to be misunderstood by both the gay and straight communities. Many people assume that bisexuality is simply a form of “youthful experimentation” and at some point the individual will make a choice. The most surprising and intriguing aspect of this assumption is that last word: choice.

Only the most virulent right-wing conservatives would maintain that homosexuality is a choice. Yet many people who fully understand that homosexuality is an inherent trait feel free to equivocate on whether someone can truly be born bisexual. Which brings me back to “choice.” The word implies selection – the purposeful selection of one option over another – and the logical inference is that people are born straight or gay but choose to be bisexual.

When I was young – and that means back in the 60s and 70s when homosexuality was still widely viewed as aberrant and sinful – I remember thinking that I more readily understood bisexuality than homosexuality. As a young straight male, I could see how two men could be attracted to each other and I had no problem with it. What I could not understand, however, was how those same two men could not also be attracted to a woman. I viewed sexuality as a “yes-and” rather than an “either-or.” My view has long since changed about homosexuality, but I’m surprised that bisexuality remains the ugly stepchild of both the gay and straight communities.

The new sexual attitudes study released by the CDC on Jan 7 has received a lot of press with most headlines focused on the finding that the number of Americans identifying as bisexual has increased significantly since the previous poll. In the 2011-13 poll, 5.5% of American women aged 18-44 identified as bisexual compared to 3.9% in the 2006-10 survey. The percentage of American males identifying as bisexual similarly increased to 2.0% from 1.2%. The more interesting aspect from my perspective is that 16.9% of the women surveyed admitted to having some level of attraction to both men and women. The corresponding percentage of men admitting to bisexual attraction was 5.8%. For both men and women, three respondents admitted to bisexual tendencies for every one that identified as bisexual.

Certainly part of the quantitative disparity between bisexual attraction and bisexual identity is due to one’s current circumstances. A woman who is in a monogamous relationship with a man would probably identify as heterosexual even if she had been and continued to be attracted to women. Conversely, a woman who was in a monogamous relationship with another woman would likely identify as homosexual despite being attracted to men. All of this gets back to my original premise that bisexuality is often defined (or demeaned) as a choice. The bisexual who commences a monogamous relationship is no longer deemed bisexual; instead she takes on the sexual preference of her partner – gay or straight. The logic appears to be that unless one is currently acting on his/her bisexual urges he/she can justly be labeled straight or gay.

This all strikes me as a giant load of reeking bullshit. A redhead who marries a blond doesn’t become blond. If you’re a redhead at birth, a redhead you’ll always be. Sure you can dye your hair, but you’re still a redhead.

Here’s what I think (and I do not profess to be an expert at anything let alone sexual identity). I think a large percentage of people view bisexuality as a euphemism for promiscuity. As a result, bisexuals fear being regarded as whorish sex maniacs ready to hop on the next train that comes along regardless of which direction it’s traveling. And that is why I – and probably you as well – know so few bisexuals. Here in 2016, even with the SCOTUS imprimatur of marriage equality, I suspect many bisexuals remain in the closet.

In Still Counting, the straight male character asks the bisexual female character “How do you decide whether you’re going to date a man or woman?” She responds like this: “The same way you decide whether to date a blond or brunette. It just happens.” He then expresses uncertainty about how he could compete with another woman, and she stops him dead in his tracks with this: “All I can say to alleviate your paranoid insecurity is that I have always been and always will be monogamous. I was born that way too.”

What do you think? Am I right? Am I a load of reeking bullshit?
View “Still Counting” on Amazon