Author Bio of Obren Bokich: I grew up on a farm near Boise in a family with deep Idaho roots. My grandparents homesteaded there, my grandfather was a rancher, prominent attorney, senator and gubernatorial candidate, and my grandmother was a librarian who helped to create the Idaho State Library. Nearly every wall in our home was covered with books. I learned to read early, and was already book obsessed when I started kindergarten—I spent an entire month of my summer vacation reading a book a day of the thirty-six OZ books when I was eight. I started spending my allowance on book clubs that year, and when the boxes with fresh paperbacks arrived in the mail it was like Christmas in April (or July or October). The first thing I always did was smell them (I still have to do this with children’s books—the fresh ink scent from all those colors is amazing). I’ve written poetry and songs, have had two plays and one feature film produced. The Cinderella Blues is my first novel. A children’s book, A Christmas Card For Mr. McFizz, was published by Simon & Schuster. I’m now deep into my third novel, and a marvelous young Dutch artist is illustrating my second children’s book.
Describe yourself in five words: I’m a gangster of love. Oh, sorry, that’s Steve Miller (although the picker and grinner parts of the song fit pretty well).
Tell us about your book, The Cinderella Blues: OK, that’s a much easier question to field. The Cinderella Blues is a Romantic Comedy about a smart woman who doesn’t know her own strength and believes she needs rescuing by a “prince.” Also, inspired by my disgust at seeing Sandra Bullock forced to kneel in an elegant short skirt suit before a man on a New York sidewalk in the film The Proposal, it was important to me that the humor in Kat’s story not be degrading to her or her girlfriends. Kat is a funny, strong whole person who doesn’t suffer fools easily, although she deals with more than a few, living and working and yearning for love in Los Angeles. One of a writer’s deepest pleasures in creating fictional characters is when they become so three dimensional you start thinking of them as a real person. When I got your questionnaire, I went to your site to see how other authors had fielded your questions, and I liked what Nancy Scrofano said: “The (Chick Lit) characters remind us of ourselves, our close friends, our families, and our colleagues.” The reader responses to The Cinderella Blues that have been the most gratifying have been from women who have said Kat is the kind of best friend they’d love to have.
What is your favorite word? Yes. Why? The best answer to this is Molly Bloom’s soliloquy at the end of Ulysses. She isn’t just saying yes to whether she’ll make love, but to the whole voluptuous thing that is life.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Yes. But it took me a while to figure how to do it. There’s a line in a Bob Dylan song, “I got a head full of ideas that are driving me insane.” I’m classic ADD, and it wasn’t until I created strict rules for myself that I was able to translate those ideas into completed work.
Your readers would be surprised that you…? Have a gold record.
What is the writing/editing/publishing process like for you? Writing: To describe writing I must first describe not writing, which is a kind of primal despair in which I’m not only an abject failure as a human being, but a near-total waste of food and air. Writing, on the other hand, is a God-like immersion in the minds and skins of my characters 24/7 with a burning desire for the project to be completed, at which time not writing sets in. Editing: I love reading the first draft of a work, in a large part because it’s the first time I’ve allowed myself to read it from start to finish. This might sound strange, but there’s a method to my madness. I’m a compulsive editor. If I start reading, the raw creative part of the day is over. Upon completion of the first draft I’ll usually go through three to six drafts, back and forth from printout to the computer, before I let someone else read it (my wife). Again, there’s a critical reason for this. It allows me to write with complete freedom from self- consciousness. These may sound like gimmicks, but until I started working this way I couldn’t finish anything (see: two questions above). I’ll process my wife’s notes, print it again and do two or three more passes before giving it to my editor, who is great at beating me up in a way that makes me feel it was my idea in the first place.
Being a male author in the Chick Lit genre, how do you feel that you compare to female writers? According to Wikipedia, “Chick Lit is a fiction genre that addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.” Which is interesting because, while that is what I set out to do in writing The Cinderella Blues, I had no idea I was working in an exclusive genre. The first clue came when my editor pronounced the book “Chick Lit” (my wife thought I knew). The second was when the publicist suggested publishing it with a female pseudonym! Writing fiction is very much like method acting, one needs to be able to empathize with your characters, inhabit their skin, experience their thoughts and emotions. There are no gender requirements for doing this.
What do you do in your spare time? I’m a serious cyclist. I trail ride my mountain bike in the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy every day, weather permitting (a great place for working out writing problems). Los Angeles is a weird place in that it’s this huge megopolis, but you can be in almost total wilderness in five minutes on a mountain bike. I love cooking and eating. My pizza is the best I’ve had in LA (but not San Francisco, Rome or Milan). Like most guitarists of a certain age I have too many (they’re harder to be rid of than children). I play mostly blues and jazz.
Hard/paperback or eBooks? Why? I’m compulsive about formatting, so hate the generic look of Kindle files, but what are you going to do? The e-book version of The Cinderella Blues has vastly outsold the paper version. Ultimately it’s about the marketplace. My wife hasn’t bought a “real” book since she got her iPad.
How did you celebrate The Cinderella Blues being published? My wife and I opened a very special bottle of wine.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring male authors within the Chick Lit genre? Don’t let them talk you into a pseudonym. And this goes for women writing in “male” genres too. If it’s an engrossing, well-written story people won’t care whether it was written by a woman or a man.
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects? The Cinderella Blues was optioned last summer and I finished the screenplay in September. As I said earlier, I’m about halfway into my third novel, a Contemporary Fantasy Dramedy, also set in LA, that my publicist thinks fans of The Cinderella Blues will enjoy. My second novel, Never Never Man, is planned for release in early December. It’s a metaphysical Western, set in 1865, and much more ambitious both philosophically and in its narrative structure. While it’s definitely not Chick Lit, at heart it’s extremely romantic, and I hope that readers who enjoy my language, humor and imagination will like it. The proposed jacket blurb ends, “Mysterious and violent, darkly erotic and magical, Never Never Man is, above all else, the story of a great love and its triumph over evil.”
Additional comments by Obren: As I said, when I got your questions I went to your site to see how your other guest authors had navigated them. I really liked what Lauren Clark said about the importance of readers writing reviews for books they’ve enjoyed: ” The highest compliment a reader can pay an author is to write a quick review for sites like Amazon, BN.com, and GoodReads.” This is especially true for books from independents who rely on word of mouth, rather than a big promotional budget to find an audience for a book. It’s also a helpful for the writer (and no matter what we say, we read them!) An interesting example: it’s impossible to include everything in a three hundred-page novel in a hundred and ten-page screenplay. About the time I finished the first draft of the screenplay version of The Cinderella Blues, a GoodReads reviewer included this line from the book in her review: “Anyone who dreams about Prince Charming as much as you do doesn’t deserve to end up with his evil half-brother Prince Whiny.” The line had been cut in the screenplay. After reading her review I put it back.
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