Thursday, October 30, 2014

Scott Pinsker Visits on the Eve of Halloween

So on this eve of Halloween, I have an interesting little interview.  Scott Pinsker has authored the start of a series asking the question - is the Devil involved in a marketing scheme?  And which side would you be on if two men claimed to be the second coming of Christ?

It kinda gets you thinking a bit, doesn't it? 

Join me this evening in welcoming author Scott Pinsker to the interview table.

DAB:  Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?

SP:       Writing is a wonderful career option for introverts who yearn to be extroverts.  I guess what motivated me was a love of books – but also a dissatisfaction with books.  All authors hope to capture an emotion, or tell a story, in ways never before imagined.  We’re driven by this obsessive need to take a blank canvas – and then paint a picture of such poignant originality, others are inspired by it.

(And on a personal level, what better way to excise the demons in my head than to write about the Devil?)

There wasn’t one seminal moment that led me to be a writer, but a multitude of smaller moments.  I tried fighting it.  Lord, I tried fighting it!  But after the first few decades-or-so, I began to feel like I was constantly swimming upstream against the universal current, exhausting myself to stay some place I didn’t belong.

So I guess more than anything, I became a writer because I had exhausted all other options.

DAB:  That’s a good way to look at it.  What was the catalyst for this novel’s premise?

SP:       It was the extension of a bizarre thought-experiment: If the Devil was a real-life entity – and if the Devil’s primary objective was to win new followers – then what would be his marketing strategy?

As a publicist and marketing expert, I’ve worked with countless sports stars, singers and entertainers – everyone from troubled athletes to Saturday Night Live alums to various celebs-in-peril.  Most of the time, my job was to safeguard their reputations, rebuild their brand and monetize new opportunities.

But what if Satan was my client?  What if I was literally the Devil’s advocate? 

What would be the smartest strategy for the Lord of Darkness to activate new followers?

After toying with this idea, it soon became clear: All those horror movies have it wrong!  The Devil wouldn’t woo us with something as obvious as horns and a pitchfork… because it would be bad marketing.  Instead, a creature as old & wise as a 6,000 year-old Demon would recognize that very few people will do evil in the name of evil – but billions will gladly do evil in the name of good.

So what would be Satan’s best marketing strategy?

Why, it would be to pretend to be a savior.  And that’s what The Second Coming: A Love Story is all about.

DAB:  Bet you could find plenty of fodder for that marketing strategy these days.  Do you have a character(s) in your novel with whom you closely identify?

SP:       Oh, I closely identify with all the characters, God and Satan included.  In one way or another, every single character is a distorted exaggeration of something deep within me.  It’s not intentional, but sometimes I can feel my personality creeping in… 

Out, damned spot!

The Second Coming: A Love Story is a bit different, because every character is a modern retelling of a specific Bible character.  For example, Margaret Magdala is an update of Mary Magdalene – only instead of being a New Testament prostitute who sells her body, she’s an American attorney who sells her mind.  Each character is a rat trapped in a maze, searching for salvation, but heading down dimensionally different paths.

DAB:  Interesting!  Speaking of women, do you ever have difficulty writing from the point-of-view of a member of the opposite sex?

SP:       No.  I mean, as a guy, women continue to be a source of great mystery, intrigue and confusion(!), but I’m not writing from the point of view of women in general.  I’m writing from the point of view of one specific character, and the more I understand each character – be it a man, woman, gay, straight, old, young, etc. – the easier it is to wrap my head around ‘em.

I’ll give you an example: How would a woman react to meeting the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in a sleazy Charleston, South Carolina bar?  Scared?  Excited?  Titillated?  Beats me.  When it comes to the intricacies of the female mind, I’m the wrong fellow to ask.  (And how!)  Wouldn’t have a clue.

But I know exactly how Margaret Magdala would react: She’s haunted by a purposeless existence and an empty, emotionless heart.  (Margaret is often paired with another character named Peter who has the opposite infliction: As an addict, he feels and desires too much.)  Once you understand what makes your characters tick as three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood human beings, it’s not about male versus female, but staying true to each character’s personality.

DAB:  Who is your favorite character in your novel, and why?
 
SP:       There’s a satirical bent to the book that provided an opportunity to lampoon some of the biggest names in pop-culture, including a shock-jock-turned-conservative talk-show host named Nat Konrad, a slightly-senile cable TV personality named Matt Housinglaw, and an academic egghead who writes boring books that nobody ever reads named Solomon Basemath.

Skewering society’s so-called elites is always fun.

DAB:  That’s what makes life interesting!  :-)  How long did it take for you to craft this novel?

SP:       It took 15 long, tortuous years!  If I live to be 75, this book will have taken 20 percent of my entire flippin’ life!  In the immortal words of the great American philosopher Homer J. Simpson: “D’oh!”

I developed the initial concept in 1999 while attending law school in DC, and finished the initial draft a few years later.  But I was dissatisfied.  And so I continued writing and rewriting…

A ridiculous degree of research went into studying Christian theology, folklore and eschatology, and I’ve inserted hundreds of hidden clues and numerical symbols throughout the story.  But it was worth the investment, I hope.  And of course, a good portion of the 15 years was also spent developing the totality of the story arc: This book is the first third of a three-part trilogy.  (The sequel, Three Days Later: A Revenge Story, will be released in 2015.)

My intent is to offer readers the following transaction: In exchange for your time and attention – and Lord, nothing’s more personally precious than that! – I promise to give you something of immense value in return.  In fact, I’ll escort you on an idea-driven adventure that will challenge you, thrill you, piss you off and then make you smile.  

To me, writing is a solemn blood-oath between author and reader.  If both sides don’t benefit from the trade, then the transaction wasn’t successful.  Believe me, I worked VERY hard to ensure that you’ll be pleased with the transaction.

DAB:  Tell us about the moment you received your first real fan correspondence.

SP:       I was contacted several weeks back by a Norwegian fan who tracked me down via Twitter, requesting an autographed copy.  How cool is that?  (I’m @ScottPinsker, by the way.)

DAB:  Very cool indeed!  When I write, I have particular composers and music that gets me in the mood for certain scenes and characters.  Have you ever written to music?

SP:       Sometimes I write to music.  When I’m trying to write something intellectual, my preference is for total silence, but when I’m writing something emotional, music is a great stimulant.

My two all-time favorite performers are Tori Amos and Iron Maiden, by the way.  (I keep waiting for ‘em to go on tour together, but they never do.  What gives?)  It’s probably not coincidental that Tori Amos and Iron Maiden both entered my life during my tumultuous teen-years and tri-polar twenties.  Music is like an emotional bookmark: Just one note can transport you to any moment of your life.  I like that, because sometimes an author needs to poke at his bloodiest scars to trigger a visceral response.  In gamer-speak, music is a cheat-code. 

So is alcohol.  Alcohol and music both heighten emotions and loosen inhibitions.  Sometimes, that’s helpful.  Sometimes it’s not.

DAB:  Never tried the alcohol route to writing, so I’ll take your word for it and stick to music. There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not.  What is your preference?

SP:       I prefer an open-ended outline, because an outline represents your best thoughts and sharpest observations – but only at that time.  Chances are that you’ll continue to be thinking about your story while you’re writing, and it would be folly not to take advantage of your own imagination.  If you ultimately think of something better, definitely include it! 

Outlines are helpful, but only as a starting point.

DAB:  Agreed.  How do you handle negative feedback about your novel(s)?

SP:       I’ve developed a healthy, mature, five-part process for dealing with negative feedback:

Step One: Thrash arms & legs
Step Two: Swear vengeance against all who’ve wronged me
Step Three: Sob inconsolably
Step Four: Booze & Buffalo wings
Step Five: Give kids a hug

(Interestingly, this is also my strategy for dealing with Tony Romo’s boneheaded interceptions during the football season.)

Negative feedback is always tough on an author, because it means you’ve failed in the transaction.  Yeah, we all know that opinions vary and you shouldn’t view negative feedback as a reflection of who you are as a person… but sometimes you and your work are intertwined.

See, this is why I wouldn’t want to be the President of the United States: In 1991, President George H. W. Bush had an approval rating of 90 percent.  That’s the highest ever recorded… which means that 10 percent of Americans STILL didn’t approve of him – and in a nation of 300 million people, that’s 30 million citizens who think you suck!  Hey, if the best you can ever do as president is have 30 million people hate you, NO THANKS!  I don’t even like it when my neighbor doesn’t wave to me in the morning…

DAB:  So we better not harsh your buzz, huh?  Of all your novels, which one is your favorite, and why?

SP:       Hmm… well, not just novels, but my four all-time favorite books are Richard Bach’s Illusions, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, George Carlin’s Braindroppings and Frederic Bastiat’s The Law.  It’s an odd list, but what all of these books have in common is that they kind of stick with you, even after you’ve finished reading – and better yet, even when you disagree with the authors’ conclusions.  I like that.  It’s what I’ve strived to emulate in The Second Coming: A Love Story.

DAB:  Usually authors are also avid readers - what are you currently reading?

SP:       [Laughs] Truthfully?  My Brother Sam Is Dead by Christopher and James Collier.  I read to my two little boys every night.  Sometimes my book choices are self-indulgent; I’ll cherry-pick the library books that I loved as a kid, ‘cause I want my children to fall in love with ‘em too.  We’ve recently finished Judy Blume’s Fudge books, Beverly Cleary’s Mouse & the Motorcycle series, and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (which is a far cleverer book than I had remembered… I guess much of the irony flew over my 10-year-old head).  Sometimes these YA authors are awfully sly when it comes to the double entendre…

DAB:  Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?

SP:       Like I mentioned, The Second Coming: A Love Story is the first book in a trilogy.  I’m simultaneously writing the second and third books.

There are some really cool cliffhangers in The Second Coming and I can’t wait to reveal what happens next!

DAB:  Well keep writing then, but now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.

SP:       If you love debating theology, politics and morality – or if you’ve ever stayed up late at night, trying to figure out why bad things happen to good people – then you’ve got to read this book.  It’s a playground of explosive ideas, but I must explicitly caution you: It’s not for everyone.  This book will make you think. 

Here’s the plot:

Two men claim to be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Each claims the other is Satan in disguise – but
only one is telling the truth, and the reader isn’t told who’s who.  The United States soon splits along ideological lines, with Red America swearing allegiance to the conservative “savior” and Blue America (naturally) worshiping at the altar of the other.  A furious Culture War-turned-Holy War erupts, with both sides waging a win-at-all-costs marketing campaign to prove their savior’s supremacy.

It’s finally happened: Red America and Blue America are headed for Armageddon!

I’m a PR expert who has analyzed marketing trends and political brand-building strategies for FOXNews.com, Jewish World Review and the Washington Times.  This is, I believe, the very first thriller about God vs. Satan written NOT just from a theological perspective, but from a marketing perspective… because unlike God, the Devil is a marketer.

…isn’t he?

Thanks again, Scott, for stopping by and sharing with us about your novel and writing process.  If The Second Coming:  A Love Story piques your interest, be sure and pick up a copy at Amazon on Kindle or paperback.

Author Bio:
A celebrity publicist-turned-author, Scott Pinsker has worked with a vast array of Super Bowl champions, Grammy-winners and entertainment icons, managing everything from crisis communications to film properties. His analysis of publicity trends has been showcased multiple times on FOXNews.com, where he occasionally contributes as a marketing expert. His debut novel is The Second Coming: A Love Story. Learn more at www.secondcomingishere.com.

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