Hey, it’s another edition of Mad Author. This is a series of interviews with Madison Avenue’s finest advertising people who have authored a book. Today my guest is author Dani Amore. She may not have worked on Mad Ave but she was once a copywriter in Los Angeles.
Congratulations on writing your second novel Dead Wood. Why don’t you tell us about it?
Thanks, Ty. And thanks for having me here.
DEAD WOOD is the story about a violent murder in Grosse Pointe – the exclusively wealthy community that sits right on the border of Detroit. It’s also about a man who made a horrible, horrible mistake and is now seeking both the truth and redemption. Along the way, he crosses paths with an ex-con on a violent rampage, an enigmatic music star doing damage control, and a mysterious hired killer with links to his own, unfortunate past.
You had a pretty good response to your first book; did you feel the pressure on the second one?
Yeah, DEATH BY SARCASM sold, and is still selling, very well. In fact, it just hit #5 on Amazon’s hardboiled mystery list, and on barnesandnoblecom it’s in the Top 25 in Police Procedurals. It was cool to see it up there with Dana Stabenow and Joe Konrath.
But DEAD WOOD is a different series than DEATH BY SARCASM. However, since I now have readers asking me about the second book in each series, yeah, I’m feeling a little pressure.
But the pressure is nothing compared to my inner critic who hates everything I write.
Did you ever hear the Bobby Knight tirade, where he chews out his team at halftime? That’s what I hear: “I’m fucking tired of this shit. I’m sick and fucking tired of these paragraphs that don’t work. I’m fucking sick of losing to Purdue! This is absolute fucking bullshit!”
Here’s the link:
How does publishing a book compare to producing an ad or even a TV spot?
Well, when you’re writing a book it’s a lot harder to put in a long day of work, go to the W Hotel bar, drink a dozen Cosmos and wake up on someone’s front yard in Beverly Hills.
As a writer, you sign your own expenses which takes all the fun out of being creative with receipts.
The best part, though, is that producing a book means a lot fewer people are involved than an ad or television spot. It’s really you and your editor.
That’s what I love about it.
If you had to run Dead Wood by a client for approval, would it have turned out differently?
There would certainly have been issues with a couple of scenes. One involving the shaving of pubic hair, another for an attempted rape.
My first book, DEATH BY SARCASM, would have thrown clients into a hissy fit. I totally pushed the humor in that book. I think if Larry Flynt reads SARCASM he might wince at a couple of scenes: “Jeez, Dani, don’t you think you went a little too far with the old ladies at the nursing home?”
But unlike advertising, any time you want to take your ball and go home, you can. I mean, in advertising you may be willing to sell a compromised spot if means three weeks in Amsterdam drinking absinthe and outdoing your entire pharmaceutical intake during college. But a book? As an author with your name front and center, you’re not going to agree to a bunch of bullshit just so it gets published.
Do you think having a background in advertising makes writing a book easier or do you think there’s not much advantage?
There’s no advantage at all when it comes to writing a book. It’s a whole different set of skills. I will say, there is an advantage when it comes to selling your book. But writing it? I don’t think so. I’ve always loved Somerset Maugham’s quote: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.” Doesn’t matter what you do for a living – the blank page doesn’t care.
When it came to working on your first book, were you at all encouraged by the success of other ad people?
No. The only real encouragement I ever received was by reading really, really bad books.
Like I mentioned before, I think an advertising background certainly helps in marketing your book. But there’s a saying that advertising doesn’t make a bad product succeed, it makes it fail faster.
So, no matter what, you’ve got to write a good book.
What feels better? Seeing people react to a commercial you did or seeing them react to a book you wrote?
When an author you know and admire reads your book, and tells you – no bullshit – that he or she liked it, that feels awfully damn good.
But it really depends. I had a woman in a focus group rave about one of my spots. Later, she hinted she’d been gang banged by aliens in the Everglades.
Praise for Dani’s books
“Dead Wood is a fast-paced, unpredictable mystery with an engaging narrator and a rich cast of original supporting characters.” –Thomas Perry, Edgar-winning author of The Butcher’s Boy.
“From its opening lines, Dani Amore and her private eye novel DEAD WOOD recall early James Ellroy: a fresh attitude and voice and the heady rush of boundless yearning and ambition. Amore delivers a vivid evocation of time and place in a way that few authors achieve, nailing the essence of her chosen corner of high-tone Michigan. She also deftly dodges the pitfalls that make so much contemporary private detective fiction a mixed bag and nostalgia-freighted misfire. Amores’ detective has family; he’s steady. He’s not another burned-out, booze-hound hanging on teeth and toenails to the world and smugly wallowing in his own ennui. This is the first new private eye novel in a long time that just swept me along for the ride. Amore is definitely one to watch.” — Edgar-nominated author Craig McDonald
Dani Amore’s writing reminds me of the great thriller writers — lean, mean, no nonsense prose that gets straight to the point and keeps you turning those pages.” –author Robert Gregory Browne
“As gritty as the Detroit streets where it’s set, DEAD WOOD grabs you early on and doesn’t let go. As fine a a debut as you’ll come across this year, maybe any year.” –author Tom Schreck