My guest today is one of the east coasts most award-winning advertising writers and president of Bubble Advertising, Kelly Simmons. She is also the author of the newly released novel, The Bird House and the crime thriller, Standing Still.
The concept actually came from an assignment my daughter brought home in 5th grade: To interview her grandparents about the family history. I just thought, wow, if the grandparent was hiding something, and a little unstable, and the kid was really curious, that could blow up big time. And voila, novel. Stayed up all night and wrote the whole thing. (Oh, wait, no, that was the history museum campaign I wrote in one night.)
In advertising, a good ad tells the truth. Are there any personal truths to the secrets in your book? (If this question ends up being answered in the above question, feel free to ignore it).
Well, the novel deals with early Alzheimer’s disease, which our family has had to deal with also. And there is a perfectionistic, slightly slutty daughter in law in the book that may seem familiar to people.
I literally just wrote copy about a $0 fee transaction account for a bank. Did writing fiction help with your writing in advertising? What about the other way around?
Advertising is great training for novel writing because you are used to deadlines – you don’t waste time moaning about stuff, you do it. And fiction is good for advertising because, let’s face it, it’s fiction too. And it really helps make your dialogue sing – great for radio, TV, videos.
If you had to run The Bird House by your worst ad client for approval, how would it have turned out?
I love this question! (I often tell people the only way I survived the editing process was by imagining my editor was just a bad client and I had to find a way to ignore her and please her at the same time.) But I’m just guessing my bad ad client would have made me take out the sex scenes and deleted all my sentence fragments. (My first book, STANDING STILL, I’m sure would have been killed by the client because the hero is a criminal.)
Banksy was quoted as saying, “The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.” How true or false does this ring in your opinion?
I think he’s right – and yet, let’s face it, advertising needs more help than art galleries do. We need ads to keep the world safe from communism, and it’s way, way harder to do a great campaign than anyone imagines. We need all the bright people we can get just to keep the crap off our screens.
What’s worse, reading a bad review of your book or listening to feedback from a marketing coordinator?
Those are pretty equivalent. But I’d rather do almost anything than attend a casting session with children.
Yes, I was. It always used to annoy me that journalists always got their novels sold. I mean come on, they write non-fiction. Advertising people are much better positioned to write and promote their books, and far more determined than anyone else.
What feels better, seeing people react to an ad you did or seeing them react to a book you wrote?
It took me over ten years to get published, so I’ll let you guess what my answer is.