Interview with Gary Fong, author of 'The Accidental Millionaire'

Gary Fong is a world-renowned photographer, inventor and entrepreneur who has made multiple fortunes in business and real estate. From his inauspicious beginnings in a tiny, hairspray-saturated apartment that doubled as his parents' wig studio, he went on to become, at a very young age, one of the world's most successful wedding photographers. After making millions by revolutionizing an industry traditionally reserved for small businessmen, he "stumbled" upon serial successes in photo printing, software, real estate and camera accessories by making unconventional decisions based on his own quirky impulses. Gary has photographed celebrities such as Sylvester Stallone, Paul McCartney and Ronald Reagan, invented and marketed the Lightsphere, and co-founded Pictage, which became the largest dedicated online digital/web solution in the United States and sold for $29 million.

His latest book which we'll be talking to him today about is The Accidental Millionaire: How to Succeed in Life Without Really Trying.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Gary. Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing professionally and how your journey led to writing your latest
book, The Accidental Millionaire: How to Succeed in Life without really trying?

This is my first book. I have always been a fan of memoirs, because reality just seems to cough up weirder stuff than the most fevered mind can imagine. As I thought about my own life, I realized I had a treasure trove of offbeat stories from my many years as a wedding photographer. I photographed over a thousand weddings, starting with $150 events and climbing to the top of my industry. So I'd snapped everything from backyard slug-fests to Hollywood celebrity extravaganzas. As I started capturing these memories in Word files, though, I realized that my story had so many other facets. It's an immigrant story, too, and an absurd comedy. It's the story of a self-made person who achieved the most when he "gave up hope" and abandoned his goals for success. It's the anti-success-book success book.

Q: I love your title…can you tell us why you chose it?

Actually my publisher chose it. It's not my style to call myself a millionaire, and initially I bristled at the name. But now I love it. The truth is, my wealth came from one happy accident after another. Nothing of value that I ever achieved was really planned.

Q: Why did you believe your book should be published?

These are very disappointing times for many. It struck me that if you have no expectations, it is impossible to be disappointed. That may sound like backhanded advice but it's not. It's kind of the same message many of the great spiritual masters dish out: trust your gut, throw yourself into the flow of life and don't be attached to specific results. Oddly enough, as soon as I gave up "trying," my vision became less myopic and business opportunities that were always under my nose became visible. I couldn't see them before because I was blinded by my rigid expectations and goals. I feel that my message of "no hope" might ironically be a strong message of hope to many.

Q: Can you tell us the story behind your book cover? Did you choose it or did your publisher, BenBella Books have full control? Were you happy with the decision or did you have something else in mind?

The publisher chose it and, quite honestly, I'm thrilled with it. I think Bill Gates liked it too. My wife and I were sitting across from him at Panera Bread and I pulled out my laptop (which had a graphic of the book cover skinned to the top) and he stared at it. My wife Melissa said, "Wow, he must be thinking - 'Woo hoo! Millionaire!'"

Q: How have you approached marketing your book? Do you have someone doing it for you or have you had to do most of the marketing yourself?

I'm embedded in the world of social marketing. I've made my life a fishbowl through the book website, my Facebook fan page, and my Twitter following. That's as much as I know. Since this is my first book, I rely on experienced professionals to augment what I do through social networking. It's truly a collaboration as well as a learning process.

Q: What book on the market can it compare to? How is it different? What makes your book special?

I can't compare it to any other book because it's an inspirational book that extolls the virtues of completely giving up trying. Zig Ziglar it ain't.

Q: Open to a random page in your book. Can you tell us what is happening?

Okay, on this particular page I'm a bored only child and I'm watching my mother take her afternoon nap, waiting for her to wake up and play with me. As she loudly inhales and exhales, I have a true Eureka! moment. I pull a little pink sweater ball off the blanket on the bed and hold it up to her nose. Zoop! It disappears into her nasal cavity. I try another and another and another. Hooray, I've finally found a way to fight off boredom every day as I wait for my mother to wake up! I don't understand why she suddenly develops crashing headaches and keeps hawking up pink-colored goo. In case you're wondering, not all of my ideas are million-dollar ones.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

My next book is called Huff and Bluff - A Story of Greed and Failure. It's a black-comedy sequel to this story... what happens when the greedy ex-wife tries to lay claim to my good fortune. The black part is she spent over a million dollars to get part ownership of my company. The comedy part is she got less than $3,000. It's also a social commentary about something rarely discussed - what it is like to have a predatory attorney trying in vain to collect money her client didn't deserve. And, of course, I've made it humorous. But I didn't have to try too hard on that score.

Q: Thank you for your interview, Gary. We wish you much success!

You can visit Gary's website at for more information.
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