Monday, September 24, 2012

Interview With Hal Eisenberg

I had the lovely opportunity to interview Hal Eisenberg, author of the 2012 debut novel Overnight Sensation! Here are some questions and answers, and hopefully it will inspire you to pick up his funny book!

What made you decide to write about the music industry? Do you have any experience in that field?
Why yes! I do have experience, on both sides of the industry. From the musician’s side, I’ve played in rock bands all my life and even had a regional hit in the 80’s with my band, The Invaders for a song I wrote called, It’s A Mystery. (See if you can find the hidden clue about that in the book :) My current band has opened for a number of oldies acts including Davey Jones of the Monkees (who recently passed away), David Cassidy, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys to name a few.
On the business side, I have an advertising agency and have won numerous awards for my creative, working closely with celebrities on TV and radio campaigns for years, so I’ve had a lot of experience with the fame side as well. Given all these experiences, it seemed natural to base the premise of Overnight Sensation around the music industry and the highs and lows of being famous.
How did you create the characters of Jonah and his friends? Were any characters based on people you know in real life?
Oh geez, should I answer this one? Okay, yes – many of the characters were based on people I know in real life. And no, I won’t tell you who they are! This includes Jonah, his friends, Jonah’s dad and mom, Lanny Lambs, the evil president of Meglomania Media (who has a special place in my heart), and even characters with smaller roles like teachers, reporters, etc., were based on real people. Plus, there’s little tributes of places, and musical events sprinkled throughout the book - see if you can find them. And that’s all you’re going to get out of me on this question!
The way in which Jonah's band becomes an "overnight sensation" is very creative. How did you come up with that concept?
Thanks! And I’m glad you asked me this because some readers unfamiliar with the radio industry have said that the concept seemed unrealistic, when in fact it could have very well happened! Here’s how: In the old days of radio, especially FM, what kind of music the station played was typically in the hands of each station. Even the disc jockeys had a say into what songs got played. For example, it was not uncommon for a DJ to bring his own record collection to the station and play whatever he felt like! Each station was free to play whatever they felt like and the only way other stations found out about songs or bands was through other stations or through the record companies bringing them a copy of the records. In today’s world, radio station programming is not only a business, it’s a science, including focus groups, programmers, music testing, and more. Most stations today are owned by a few huge media companies, which produce or purchase syndicated blocks of music they send digitally throughout the country. For example, did you know that your favorite radio show might actually be playing on the other side of the country a few hours from now? Some even plug in local events or things happening around your city to make it seem like they’re in the local studio when in fact, are thousands of miles away. 
So, when Bart sent the song to the radio station and the program director for the media company, Tim, received it, he could have easily slipped the song into the station’s play list as well as placed it into the rotation of the other 900 plus radio station’s digital formats with a click of a button and presto – the song is playing all over the country at once. Are there safeguards to prevent this with most systems? Yes. But, could someone of power within the company make it happen? Yes again!
Was it difficult writing in the voice of a teenager?
Sometimes, yes. However, I’m young at heart! But the biggest help was my two teenage boys as well as their friends who would look over my dialogue and give me tips on how things should be worded and what I should definitely leave out!
What was it like publishing your first book?
Publishing was a scary thought until I decided to surround myself with experts. I hired a professional company, Streetlight Graphics, and worked closely with them to create and produce the cover as well as the various formats that were needed and I high recommend them. If you are going to self publish, you need a polished presentation that can stand up next to the big publishing houses. It was well worth the money and I’ll definitely follow the same path for all future books. The rest of the process was just a learning curve and once you understand how it all works, it’s not that scary at all.
How do you combat writer's block?
Writer’s block affects every writer now and then including me and it can be quite frustrating. What I usually do first is take a break from it all and do something completely different. If I come back to the computer and the ideas still aren’t flowing, I stop writing altogether and then right before I go to bed, I think about what I’ve written and where I want the story to go and then sleep on it. Usually the next day, the ideas start to flow again and soon enough, I’m right back in the story.
Sometimes you can get so deep into what you’re writing that it can overwhelm you. So, the best thing to do is step back and do something else and “refresh” your creative juices. It works!
Since your book is about music, what are some your favorite bands/musicians?
First, there’s the classic bands and artists like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Chicago, The Doobie Brothers, Earth Wind and Fire, Steely Dan, America, The Raspberries (some of the greatest pop rock ever created, Google them), Todd Rundgren, Van Morrison, Billy Joel, Elton John, oh my gosh - the list goes on forever. Then there’s my current faves like John Mayer, Justin Timberlake, Mayer Hawthorne, Linkin Park, Cold Play (they’re in the book!), Maroon 5, Neon Trees, Katy Perry, Train, etc. I’m really into all types of music from blues to funk to rock. Each genre is like a flavor of ice cream and I love to taste them all…
Do you have any recommendations for people who want to become writers?
Write what you know. Write about what excites you. You’re going to be tempted to write what is popular. Don’t do it. If you’re into paranormal romance, or steampunk, then write about it. But if you’re not, and your heart’s not into it, don’t even try because there are far too many writers out there who are passionate about those genres and do an excellent job. My second piece of advice is don’t give up no matter what. If you’re in the middle of writing your first novel and you start to feel it’s total crap, keep writing because the next day, you’ll be inspired and the words you wrote the day before will suddenly seem brilliant. Or, if after you’ve finished your novel and some reviewer trashes it, just smile, keep writing that second novel, and concentrate on all the good reviews you get. Remember – not everyone is going to like your book. Even authors like J. K. Rowling have learned this. You absolutely can’t please everyone, but then again, you’re not writing for everyone. You’re writing because you love to write and the reviewers that “get” your book and appreciate your passion and style will reflect that in their reviews.
Thanks for reading this long winded blather. And a HUGE thank you to Megan for interviewing me.
For more information about Overnight Sensation go to:
Watch the YouTube book trailor:
Thanks Hal for answering my questions!

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