Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dick Cheney Saves Paris...Interview with Ryan Forsythe

Hi writers,

This interview kicks off a new series of author/writer interviews on the blog.  If you are interested in being interviewed, please email me asap at  Ryan Forsythe's book is a novel about Dick Cheney and time travel, being released the same week as Cheney's own memoir.  Read below to learn more about Ryan and his book.


Ryan, how did you become interested in writing?

In college I was disappointed with the majority of my classes. I asked all my friends to recommend one decent professor, and I almost signed up for an engineering class (I was a psych. major at the time). At the last minute, a friend recommended Michelle Herman's fiction workshop. I signed up, and on the first day of class—just my luck—learned she was having a baby and would be out all semester. The replacement teacher wasn't very good, but I enjoyed writing the short stories so much that I kept adding writing classes (including Michelle Herman's the following year). Soon I added a creative writing major. Been writing ever since.

What was your first success?

My first writing success was having a travel story selected for an anthology published by Lonely Planet. It paid $100! But it was also an odd start to my writing career, as they made me sign a contract giving them all rights. When it was published, major parts of my story had been changed—including actual quotes. This was nonfiction, mind you, so it was odd that my name was still attached to it, yet I don't believe that the events happened as noted in the final draft. But they bought it—it's their story, and so can apparently change it as they see fit. I will say that since then I've certainly paid much more attention to contracts. Also, I now rarely submit stories to publications seeking all rights.

Do you enjoy writing or is it hard for you?  Describe what your writing process is like.

The hardest part is finding time. When I have the time and space to write and revise, I find it fairly easy and enjoyable. My process is usually to try to get as much down as possible—typing as fast as I can, with almost no editing at first. Sometimes this includes just describing what I want to write, like "insert here a part about how they drive across the state" and then I'm on to writing the next scene. Once I have something to work with, I find I constantly move around from part to part. I might spend an hour working on the first page, then jump to the end for ten minutes, then jump to the middle for five minutes or thirty. In that way, I'm kind-of revising the entire thing at the same time. Eventually, each part feels "finished" and I know the whole thing is ready to share with others for more feedback.

What kind of books do you most enjoy reading, Ryan?

I get bored easily and so I like authors who take changes and try new things. I particularly enjoy novels that play with the idea of genre. Three of my favorites are Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves, and Mark Leyner's Tetherballs of Bougainville, though my favorite author is probably Percival Everett. I appreciate that he seems to cover new and different ground in every book—whether western, sci-fi, political satire, epistolary, children's book—you name it, it's always something different. By the way, you didn't ask, but my least favorite books are self-help books.

I may still have one of Everett's novel's I borrowed from you, have to check around and see.  Do you just write books, or do you also write other kinds of things?

I used to write mainly travel stories—even had a newspaper travel column for a bit in Oberlin, Ohio. But I don't travel as much anymore, so my focus has shifted to fiction—both short stories and novels. I've also written a few "children's books for adults"--books that look and sound like children's books, but which cover adult themes. I published one a few years ago, titled The Little Veal Cutlet That Couldn't. It's about the happy cow that goes to the slaughterhouse—told in rhyme with full color illustrations. I have a few more I'd like to get out there, but lately I've been putting all my attention on the novel. I don't do poems.

How did you get the idea for your current book?

I wrote the first draft in 2006, when Cheney was V.P. One day I was thinking of all the things he'd done in his life, wondering what would make a person, for example, vote against a resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela. For some reason I pictured Cheney as a time traveler, stuck in our time and doing what he had to in order to get back home. Soon I had a rough draft, which sat in my computer for years. When I found out Cheney's memoir would be coming out this year, I decided to revisit the book. Since his has the subtitle "A Personal and Political Memoir," I decided to add a similar subtitle to mine. In order to make mine more "personal and political," I added the parts to my book about my own history with politics, as well as my thoughts on politicians and their memoirs.

Will people confuse your book with the book by your subject, Dick Cheney?  If they do, will it help or hurt your book?

I don't think anyone will confuse Cheney's memoir with my novel. If they do, I think it would just draw attention to the book, which certainly won't hurt.

Do you have an agent?  Tell us about your experiences with/without an agent.

No agent. For people really trying to sell the next bestseller, agents are probably necessary, but given the tiny market for the type of things I write, I don't see the value. Or rather, I don't think they'd see the value in having me as a client. Really it's not something I spend any time thinking about.

What are your thoughts about marketing?  Any tips about how to do it well?

A lot of authors seem to hate that part of the process (or say they do), but I enjoy having different things to work on—website or ad design, writing press releases, contacting newspapers, and so forth. It's not my favorite part of writing, but more and more often, independent writers have to manage all aspects themselves, and I'm comfortable with that. As for tips on marketing, I would probably suggest authors try to have more than just the book to discuss. It could be an event or a giveaway, but I think having something extra can help draw attention. For example, With Dick Cheney Saves Paris, we have a soundtrack due out the same day as the novel. It's been fun putting together, and I think the songs fit well with the book. But it's also one more avenue for getting the word out on the book.

If you could achieve one marketing coup for your book, what would it be?

I would love to see a book review somewhere that examines both books side by side, but I'm not convinced a review in the New York Times or someplace similar would help the book reach its true audience. For me, the ideal mention of the book would probably be by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! or by Rachel Maddow on her show, or perhaps a review in Mother Jones. Anywhere that will help the book find an appreciative audience would be great.

If you could go back in time and start over, tell us one thing you have learned that would help you succeed better/faster/with less struggle.

One thing I've learned is the necessity of the struggle itself—in order to grow as a writer, one needs the many moments of doubt and pain, as well as the small successes along the way—all are part of the process.

Any other thoughts to share, Ryan?

As I note in the book itself (it is a meta- novel, after all), I hope the book will not be taken as simply a joke. Yes, it is an absurdist time travel tale about Dick Cheney. But part of my point is that we need to more deeply examine memoirs written by those in power, and not blindly accept their versions of events as the true story. At the end of the day, it's possible that an absurdist sci-fi novel is just as true as a memoir.

To preview an excerpt of the novel, visit 


Anonymous said...

Wow, I love the picture, you look like an adventurer! I guess I would worry that Cheney might sue you. Do you think he might?

Timid Writer

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of a challenge book to Cheney's memoir! How cool is that! I'll have to go order this one. Laura, thanks for interviewing Ryan so I'd hear about it.
Gweneth R

Voni said...

I just got my copy and I can already tell this is going to be a great read.