Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with non-fiction author Zack Peter. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Zack. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Zack: Hi, Morgen. I’m Zack. I am a comedian, an author of three best-sellers, and I am an autism activist. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and currently reside here. As far as becoming a writer, I always enjoyed voicing my opinion. I’m very opinionated. However, I never really thought I would actually write a book. It first came about through my activism work. I have a brother with autism and someone suggested I write a book about my experience as a sibling. I was completely against the idea at first, but reluctantly agreed to do it. After that, I enjoyed the freedom that came with writing and decided to keep it going. I am now a proud best-selling author, which I am extremely thankful for.
Morgen: You write non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Zack: I really enjoy writing non-fiction. I’ve thought about writing fiction, but there’s just something so real and candid when it comes writing about my life that I just can’t let it go. I love sharing my stories because people not only find them entertaining, but also relatable.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date?
Zack: My first book about my family’s journey with autism, Saving Deets!, which was published twice. My second book about my life as an activist, Charity Bites!, and my latest comedy memoir, When Life Hands You Lemons. . . Throw Them At People!
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Zack: My books are available in print and e-versions. I find e-books very convenient and easy to take on the go, but I don’t know, there’s just something about a hard copy that just feels right. I love being able to hold the book and flip through the pages, and though I’ve read a lot of books electronically, nothing replaces the experience a hardcover can provide.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Zack: At the moment I am focusing on promoting my latest book, When Life Hands You Lemons. . . Throw Them At People!. I have been doing little tour stops around the country performing stand-up and doing some speaking engagements. I am now hosting a new show, Just Plain Ridiculous with Zack and Ry, which is an entertainment talk-show with my good friend Ry Romero. You can check out more about that at www.youtube.com/JPRidiculous. As far as writing goes, I am not currently writing another book. That’s not to say I’m never going to write another book, but at the moment, I am enjoying my break from writing!
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Zack: When I first began writing, so many people told me that you have to write every single day. Some people told me it had to be at the same time every day, for the same amount of time every day. I just couldn’t do it. I am strongly against that method. At least for myself. I prefer to only write when inspiration strikes, so if I’m in the process of writing a book and I don’t touch it for a month, so be it. Because when I’m ready to get back to writing it, it’s gonna kickass.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Zack: Oh yeah! Aside from writing candid and humorous non-fiction, I’ve also written some music. Which is a secret that I’ve never really told anyone before. So you’re the first I’m revealing it to. I enjoy writing very raw and real and emotion filled songs about my life and my experiences. I’m so ridiculous and comedy-based in everything else that I kind of need something to balance that out to keep me sane. But I don’t think any of those writings will EVER be released. In fact, I know they won’t!
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Zack: Rejection is tough. I think every writer faces it. I’ve faced it a lot. I think the best way to deal is by constantly trying to improve your writing. Sometimes we get rejection because our material is too premature, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just stay true to yourself as a writer and don’t change just to avoid rejection. That’s the biggest mistake a writer can make.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Zack: Marketing is extremely important and you can’t rely on just managers or agents to take care of that for you. Build a brand for yourself, stay true to it, and market, market, market! Through social media, online publications, print publications, personal appearances, etc. I do majority of my market, and that’s by choice. I’m kind of a control freak. And that’s an understatement.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Zack: I love the freedom. Don’t like the time consumption. Surprised at how much of that freedom we really have as writers.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Zack: Just start. Just sit down, even if you don’t have a direction of where you want to go as a writer, just start. That’s what I did. I didn’t know what my first book was going to really be about or what it was going to be titled. I never expected to write more than one book, let alone three! If you really have a knack for it, it’ll take you exactly where you’re meant to go. And if it’s something you’re passionate about, don’t give up on it. Even if you continuously pitch submissions and constantly get rejected, don’t stop. Self-publish if need be.
Morgen: If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Zack: Maybe the launch night of my newest book. I was performing at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood and it was such a great night. My performance was one of my best, I had my best friends there with me. I had family there to support me. It was just a great night.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Zack: My answer to that was always, No. I just never found a quote that really touched me and brought meaning to my life until recently. It wasn’t from some legendary author or well-known humanitarian. It was actually something my friend told me. He’s probably the one person I’m the closest to and this was at the beginning of our friendship. He saw me at one of the most vulnerable times in my life and said to me, “You know, Zack, sometimes people just like you for who you are.” And that just really stuck with me. And I talk about why in my When Life Hands You Lemons book. So you can buy it to read more about that!
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Zack: My Lemons book would be my favourite. It’s the most entertaining and most honest. And the one piece of work I’m the proudest of. If it was made into a film, I would play the lead, of course!
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Zack: I try to plot. But it usually just ends up as an idea that runs with me.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Zack: First person. It feels more genuine.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Zack: I’m a workaholic. So when I’m not writing, I’m usually working on another project, whether it be my show or my stand-up comedy or my activism, I’m always working on something!
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Zack: I don’t, actually. I mean, I’ve looked through websites that I guess were helpful, but I think the best way to learn about writing and about learning about yourself as a writer is through experience. Also, I like to watch my idols. I love watching interviews of people I look up to. I found that helpful.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites?
Zack: I’m on the social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook. For comedy, I use LaughStub. I use them almost every day. It keeps me interactive with people and I enjoy that.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Zack: Writers are important. Writers dominate almost every industry. So they aren’t going away any time soon. I hope the future hold a lot more great writers from this time era that future writers can aspire to be like.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Zack: You can find out more about my writing and other projects on my website www.justplainzack.com.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Zack: Buy my book, When Life Hands You Lemons. . . Throw Them At People!. It talks about my journey and how I became the writer and performer and personality I am today. And watch my show, Just Plain Ridiculous with Zack and Ry every Wednesday. And hopefully I’ll see some of your readers at an upcoming stand-up show. I guarantee they’ll enjoy themselves.
Morgen: 🙂 I’d say about two-thirds of my blog visitors are from the US so you never know. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Zack: As a writer, what do you think is one thing non-writers don’t know about us? Or what do you think is the most common misconception about writers?
Morgen: Probably how difficult it is to get published and make any money at it. Jules Renard is quoted as saying, “Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money” and I think he’s right. We’re expected to do a lot for free (I do on this blog but that’s different). We write articles just to add to the CV, a bit like interning (they still get paid, though don’t they?). It’s a tough profession and I’m only a year into it (officially) but the one thing I have found is that writers who really want to be writers will stop at nothing to achieve that because they are passionate. And other writers (on the whole) are so supportive of each other. I often compare us to learner drivers because we know how hard it is to ‘pass’. Slightly went off-piste to your question. Thank you, Zack.
I then invited Zack to include an extract of his writing from the Introduction of When Life Hands You Lemons. . . Throw Them At People!…
My name is Zack. (And yes, I know I look like a lesbian.) My name’s plain and simple; and spelled with a “K”, so get it right. I live a pretty eccentric life. At times it’s hectic, at others it’s unpredictable, and sometimes it can be pretty damn depressing. But luckily I was blessed with a sick sense of humor to keep myself from jumping out the window of a multi-floored building.
I have not spent my days like most teenagers have. Most teenagers are out dry-humping each other leading to unexpected pregnancies, babies, and other responsibilities that I do not want to see any time soon. Including marriage. Don’t believe me? Turn on MTV. They’ve decided to make television-gold out of it. It’s a show they call Teen Mom—with dads that know nothing about real commitment and the moms that beat them; and then go to rehab.
My great-grandma Tammy likes to share her words of wisdom with me on occasion in hopes of keeping me from ending up on a show like that. I wish I could say that she was witty enough to have come up with them on her own, but they’re just a lot of one-liners that she incorrectly scribbled down on scraps of paper after seeing them on one of her favorite SOAP Net shows. She once made me a little booklet of all these quotes. She told me to hold on to it and never lose it. (I haven’t seen it in about two years.) One of the quotes is the ever-so- common “lemons” quote:
“When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade.”
Tammy told me to not only produce lemonade, but to manufacture smoothies, and lemon-drop candies, and lemon meringue pie. I decided that stuffing my fat face with lemon-flavored pastries was not the way to go.
Why be selfish and make lemonade, when I can have fun with the lemons and throw them at all the jackasses “Life” has crudely thrust in my adventures of what old people like to refer to as “growing up.”
And a synopsis…
When life has handed him way too many ridiculous absurdities, the smart-mouthed and quick-witted Zack Peter decides that life’s lemons aren’t bestowed for selfish affairs such as making lemonade. In a wild concoction of hilariously brash narratives, Zack recounts all of his life’s most erratic moments, shaping the character he is today. Whether it’s trying to convince his principal that the reason his hair is orange is because his mother made him color it, arguing with his great-grandmother over whether she’s taking a shot of gin or just drinking her “medicine,” or being voted the team’s least valuable player, Zack really knows how to take life’s lemons. . . and chuck them in the other direction, for the sake of his sanity; and sometimes at the cost of others’. Welcome to very unique life of Zack. . .
“Zack’s self-deprecating sense of humor shines in his witty stories about everyday life. A fun and relatable read.” — Jenny McCarthy
Zack is an American comedian, #1 best-selling author, and internationally recognized activist for autism. He is currently on a stand-up comedy tour.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on the mixed blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
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