Interview with Warren Adler, Bestselling Author and E-Book Pioneer
In the literary world he is considered a superstar. A number of his novels, including The War of the Roses, starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito, have been turned into Hollywood blockbusters. He is a pioneer in digital publishing, and has been self-published before the term was even coined. We’re talking about Warren Adler, of course. A dedicated writer in the truest sense, with a strong entrepreneurial flair, we interviewed Warren to find out about his passion for writing and his approach to storytelling, his bestselling books and recent releases, what motivated him to take up self-publishing, and to learn just what it takes to be a successful self-published author.
Can you please tell us a bit about your career and how you got into writing?
My mother was a prodigious novel reader and I watched her read day after day, getting her books out of storefront lending libraries for what I think was ten cents a day at that time. When she finished her daily chores and I returned home from school, she would be sitting and reading, waiting to serve the evening meal. That image of her engrossed in this parallel world seems to be the root of my own obsession to create works of the imagination. It is almost as if I am writing my stories and novels to feed her with the content that she required for her own fulfillment. It has taken many years to discover this as the seed that grew my own obsession to write. As a child and even now, storytelling has also offered me a paradise away from the reality of a contemporary world of struggle and strife.
My freshman English teacher in college, Don Wolf, also inspired me. I was passionate about wanting to write stories and I loved my English literature courses. In the class that Professor Wolf taught were two enormously talented writers, William Styron (Sophie’s Choice) and Mario Puzo (The Godfather). We bonded. We had kitchen sink readings. I was really inspired by my fellow writers. We published three books of short stories.
I have always been disciplined and determined never to work for anyone except myself. In my thirties I owned my own advertising firm. I woke up at 5 every morning, wrote until 10:00 AM, and went to the office right after because I was the boss. I have kept that routine all my life. Although I had published poems and short stories in my early twenties, I didn’t get my first novel, Undertow, published until I was 45 years old. It was about a senator who had an affair and the way in which he worked to get his reputation back.
I will be 87 soon, have written 42 books, the stage adaptation of my bestselling novel The War of the Roses will premiere on Broadway within two years, and a number of my works, including The War of the Roses: The Children and Target Churchill, are in development as movies or television series. My passion for writing will never extinguish. I can no more stop writing than I can stop breathing. That’s what a real writer or artist knows in their gut. Write what you know, but write.
You’re best known novel is The War of the Roses, which was turned into the hit movie starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. Can you please tell us how the idea for this particular novel came about?
I’m always writing a story in my head and never pass up the chance to listen in on a good conversation (even bad ones). The idea for The War of the Roses came to me at a dinner party in Washington. One of our friends was dating a lawyer, who was her guest at the party. At some point, he looked at his watch and announced that he had to get home or his wife would lock him out of the house. When asked why, he said he was in the process of getting a divorce but had to keep living under the same roof, so part of the agreement was a strict set of rules on coming and goings.
I can’t tell you how many times over the years people have accused me of “stealing their divorces.” I’ve tried countering this accusation by explaining that a novel’s story grows out of a novelist’s imagination and an amalgamation of observations and experiences, but to no avail.
You’ve published more than 30 novels and short stories. Which of these did you enjoy writing the most, and can you please tell us why?
With the release of my newest psychological thriller Treadmill, I am now up to my 42nd novel. My favorite book is always the one I am working on. Once written, made into a film or play, it is over for me as a favorite. The conception had taken place. Others will have to make their judgment.
I will say, though, that each of my novels has had an interesting backstory attached to them that I never forget. For instance, in the case of my Fiona Fitzgerald Mystery Series, I lived in the Washington metropolitan area where I had been well connected with the political and social scene. I had previously served as the White House correspondent during the Korean War, was the co-owner of Washington Dossier Magazine, owned an advertising agency that specialized in real estate promotion and politics, and was a strategist to President Richard Nixon. I decided to use the police department that covered the nation’s Capital as my focal point. In casting around for a knowledgeable member of the force who could give me some insight into the inner workings of the department and the law enforcement psyche I was lucky to find Judy Roberts, an experienced female homicide detective who happened to be no stranger to attending glittery dinner parties with a revolver tucked in her evening bag. Judy led me deep into the entrails of the mindset and procedure of police work, and my crime-fighting heroine Fiona Fitzgerald was born.
The Fiona Fitzgerald Mystery series is now slated to be made into a new television series titled CAPITOL CRIMES, in development with Grey Eagle Films and Sennet Entertainment.
You’re considered a visionary when it comes to self-publishing and e-Books, and you started publishing independently long before this area had become widespread. Can you please share some of your thinking from that time and how you foresaw that digital publishing was the way industry was moving towards?
I started out as an author with traditional royalty contracts, having my books, The War of the Roses (Warner Books), Random Hearts (Macmillan), The Sunset Gang (Viking Press), Mourning Glory (Kensington), and Trans-Siberian Express (Putnam), among others, represented by large publishers. I now have my own publishing house, Stonehouse Productions. Traditional publishers could not offer me what I wanted for my work, especially as a non-genre fiction novelist. The fact is that in a competitive market, traditional publishers are reluctant to invest in promoting non-genre novels, even by branded novelists. There is occasionally the attempt by publishers hoping for a breakout success to brand a very limited number of authors, but many are quickly abandoned if their books don’t sell.
The motivation for my own authorial decision to turn my back on traditional publishers was both psychological and entrepreneurial. The psychological was purely personal. I am a Depression Era baby. My father was hard hit during the Great Depression and it was difficult for him to get and hold a job. He was always at the mercy of others, and I vowed early on never to be beholden to others to make my living. Controlling my own destiny has always been one of my principal obsessions. I went into the e-book and Print on Demand formats in the nineties convinced that the new technology would radically change the future of book publishing, and would allow authors a chance to control their own destiny.
I digitized all of my then published novels and short story collections. There were twenty odd then. There are now forty and counting. This required getting rights reversals from all of the traditional publishing houses, something that I was successfully able to do.
Above all, an e-book will never go out of print and, with luck, be around for one’s heirs and the general public to see and perhaps read. It gets a gold star for legacy and there have been cases of joyous and profitable resurrection. The e-Book revolution continues apace and the print book business will continue to decline, despite the optimistic media huckstering. There can be no denying the impact of the digital reader, whether in the form of a feature or app on a tablet, cell phone, laptop or whatever device the future will bring. Like it or not, the printed book as an economic model is in the process of unraveling.
Can you please share 3 top tips with authors in India who are considering self-publishing their work?
India has a robust literary culture and is slated to be the top readers market in the world. There is no better time for Indian writers to self-publish their works. Before I delve into my own self-publishing tips I will say this: To be a writer requires a healthy ego, total self-confidence in your talent, and an unshakeable belief that you have been anointed with the right stuff. You’ll need obsessive focus, a draconian ruthlessness and total devotion to a belief in your artistic ability. Fancy words, I know, but with the absence of luck, you will need these attributes to sustain you through the process.
What this means for real authors is that we must continue to soldier on — keep writing and keep trying.
My top 3 tips are as follows:
1. When you decide to self-publish, you’re going to wind up doing most of the marketing on your own. Luckily there are many new ways you can locate and make contact with potential readers, either in person, and especially online. Make sure you are doing a thorough amount of market research in order to deal with the challenges of discoverability in today’s saturated online retail market. Understand the particular market your book belongs to and be creative about how you can insert yourself and your book into those spheres. Perhaps you can contribute a blog post that references your book and also fits in with the theme(s) that a certain publication is known for.
2. There are pockets of passionate readers springing up everywhere – readers groups, book bloggers, chat rooms and forums about all kinds of books, from romance fiction, thrillers, mysteries, fantasy-sci-fi, to nonfiction categories like parenting, travel, and cooking. Many smart, serious authors pursue these devoted and passionate readers for their work.
3. Generate Curiosity: Never overlook the crucial job of finding reviewers for your work. The more reviews you accumulate, the more curiosity is built around your book – sparking curiosity is the key to making any work attractive to new, potential readers. Giveaways are one good way of gaining honest reviews. My website currently features a “Book Review Bonanza” wherein you “Join the Giveaway, Pick a Book, and Write a Review.” This particular giveaway is meant to offer readers a chance to experience some of my original novels before they hit the silver screen in 2015-2016.
I blog frequently on the challenges and benefits of publishing independently, you can read about my journey as an indie author on my blog and in articles such as Why I Went Independent As An Author.
How can writers find out more about you?
I am an avid user of social media – I am constantly engaging with my fans on Facebook and Twitter directly. I post all of my latest blogs and interviews on my website at www.warrenadler.com, as well as on most social media channels, especially Facebook, so everything is fresh and up to date. All of my books are available on Amazon, and if you have any questions for me visit the “Ask the Author” forum on my website or feel free to send me a message on Facebook or tweet to me @Warrenadler.
25th Anniversary of the release of The War of the Roses
We would like to give a big thank you to Warren for answering our questions. This year also happens to mark the 25th anniversary of the release of The War of the Roses. To celebrate, the e-book version is currently available for just $1.99 and this offer ends today. You can find out more at this page. The Kindle edition is also available on the Amazon India store.