Author Interview: Literary Fiction Novelist Aram Schefrin

Aram Schefrin is the author of four novels. He is a pioneer in the new art of podcasting fiction, and all of his work can be downloaded from iTunes and heard in its entirety. Mr. Schefrin has been a musician – he has studied guitar with Carlos Montoya and writing for the musical theater with Steven Sondheim, and was the lyricist and lead guitarist of the jazz/rock group Ten Wheel Drive in the 60’s and 70’s. He now practices law in Rhode Island and Florida. He lives in Wellington, Florida with his wife, two dogs, four cats and three polo ponies. You can visit his website at http://www.aramschefrin.com/.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Aram. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I'm a lawyer professionally, but I've always written. I spent some time writing for the musical theater under the guidance of Stephen Sondheim, and then in the late '60's I was the lyricist for the jazz/rock group Ten Wheel Drive, which some of your readers might have heard or heard of if they're old enough (thank God we're still on iTunes and on the web, so the group is reaching another generation or two). Ten Wheel Drive did an oratorio based on the story of Custer's Last Stand with a symphony orchestra at Carnegie Hall in the early '70s. The research for the lyrics for that got me interested in Custer, and I finally sat down to make a novel out of him in the early '90s. I've written three more since then.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

The book is a fictional autobiography of one of the 9/11 hijackers. It takes the story of the plot from its inception in Germany and Afghanistan to the moments before the hijacked planes took off. There were three reasons I wrote it, and I don't remember which came first. After I'd done my research - which I did for my own information - I realized that the story of how 9/11 came to be was fascinating and suspenseful and involved characters who interested me a lot. I also realized that what the public knew of the reasons behind 9/11 was less than minimal - and I thought it was important, for the future, that people understood the terrorists' backgrounds and motivations, in order to try to prevent another attack or at least to be able to prepare for it effectively. The third reason was that I thought people would be interested in the subject.

What kind of research was involved in writing your book?

After 9/11, I realized I knew nothing about the people who had done it and their reasons for doing it. I read quite a lot of the history of the region, on Islam, on al Qaeda, until I felt I had a handle on why 9/11 happened. But it was online newspaper reports that gave me the non-theoretical material for the book - information on the characters, the settings, events, etc. Particularly Florida newspapers, since so much of the buildup to 9/11 happened in Florida. While I was writing, I was thrilled to discover that if there was a fact or a detail I needed to know, with the right question to Google I could come up with it. Before the internet, this book - or any book using history - would have kept me in the library for two years.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

I worked with a freelance designer. I gave her my ideas, and she rendered them beautifully.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Getting a publisher is hell - particularly these days, with so much product around and many publishing houses less and less interested in developing talent. With Marwan, there were unique problems. I submitted it in New York in 2003, only two years after 9/11. New Yorkers were still grieving, and they were very hostile to my book. They accused me of all sorts of terrible motivations - trying to profit from their misery, that sort of thing. One of the things they told me was that everyone already knew all about 9/11. Believe me, they didn't, and they still don't. By the way, the answer to your question depends on what you mean by published. All of my novels have been podcasted, and three of them are for sale as audiobooks. Marwan is the only one in print, so far, although another one will be coming out around April. So, to the extent you can publish in audio yourself (it costs next to nothing), it's easy to become a published author.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Two months. AuthorHouse was very good with that.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I had an agent until a few years ago - John Ware. He circulated Marwan and one other book. He was a great editor and helped me immensely with that. He did not, however, place my books. He was not interested in working with the last book I wrote - I think it's my best, and he couldn't get with it - so we had an amicable parting. I think if you're looking for a publisher it's essential to have an agent. Obviously you don't need one if you self-publish.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Haven't decided yet. I have the ideas, but not the motivation right now. Anyway, I have a chance to get an opera performed, so that's what I'm working on at the moment.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

Definitely night. I can stay up all night writing. Like I am right now. But I'll write any time an idea comes to me.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

Spending a year in New York.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

I used to believe talent was enough. I still think it's useful, and I think promotion (self and otherwise) helps (using PR people I think is better than doing it yourself, because they're not invested in your ego - that is, unless you happen to be a self-promoting genius like Truman Capote), but the best way to get a book off the ground is to know the right people. What I did offline was get the book to people I respected, and into local bookstores. Online, with Dorothy's help, I've built good websites for all my books and for myself, and of course I'm doing this virtual book tour.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

I don't have any wisdom. Just do the best you can.
Aram Schefrin's virtual book tour is brought to you by Pump Up Your Book Promotion and choreographed by Dorothy Thompson.
Leave a comment here and you can win a free copy of his book, Marwan: The Autobiography of a 911 Terrorist!
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