Interview with Michael Charney, author of 'Chasing Glenn Beck'


Michael Charney is an award-winning author and publisher from Bedford, New Hampshire, where he lives with his wife and two dogs. He enjoys a bit of surrealism now and then, and counts among his friends several people who can quote extensive passages from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Red Dwarf. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, he has managed to become a Republican anyway. In previous lives he has worked in high technology start-up companies and as an adjunct professor of English. He continues to write and converse with others on politics, political dialogue, and political marketing at his website and blog, www.chasingglennbeck.com.

His latest book is Chasing Glenn Beck: A Personal Experiment in Reclaiming Our Hijacked Political Conversation.

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

First of all, thanks for having me on The Writers’ Life. I appreciate the opportunity to share my work with your audience.

I’m a (throat-clearing)-something middle-aged man living in New Hampshire with his wife and two dogs. I grew up in Los Angeles, went to school at UC Berkeley, then came east, to New Jersey, where I lived until 2005, at which time both business and life-style drew me to New England. I love it here.

I began writing in the 4th-grade when my best friend, Stephen Leanze, and I wrote a story entitled “Johnny the Policeman” and presented it to our teacher, Mrs. Pamela Davis, who lovingly read it out to the entire class. I was hooked.

Twenty years later I had some success with short stories and essays, having had one submitted for a Pushcart Prize and another selected for a high school English textbook. Then life and work sidetracked me, though I still managed to write now and then for high technology magazines. One piece ended up in the annual anthology from the World Congress on Intellectual Capital, something I’m very proud of.

Chasing Glenn Beck: A Personal Experiment in Reclaiming Our Hijacked Political Conversation is my first book-length publication (though I have four poorly written novels still boxed up in the basement).

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

The idea, unfortunately, emerged from tragedy.

Shortly after the earthquake and tsunami disasters in Japan last spring, Glenn Beck came out and said that if perhaps we had all been just a bit better at following the Ten Commandments, then maybe this particular Act of God might never had happened. That got me thinking: this guy is just an entertainer, yet somehow he—and others like him—had managed to basically hijack all of our political conversation, moving it from a logical, reasoned center to the emotionally driven edges. The result is incredible polarization. I call this condition, by the way, “electile dysfunction.”

Curious to see how these opinions form and how these conversations happen, I went out into the “Twitterverse” (under a persona named @BeckIsALib) and spent three months tweeting with other political junkies. I ended up writing about whatever was going on at the time and whatever people were tweeting about: the GOP campaigns, the death of Osama Bin Laden, even Megan McCain’s weight problem and the issues with the Senate Candy Desk! (Yes, it’s true: the United States Senate has a candy desk….)

Along the way, though, I learned things about myself I didn’t like. I had prejudices. I could be a real jackass sometimes. Put simply, I got sucked in and had to work hard to pull myself back out. In doing so I realized that only if moderate, logical, reasoned conversation comes back into politics will we ever have a chance of creating the nation we really want.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

Time was an issue: I had set up a model that required writing over a thirteen-week period as things were actually happening, and so at any given time I was both writing a new chapter and editing earlier chapters. Beyond that, well…just regular life. When I get immersed in something—truly immersed—I tend to get a bit obsessive. My wife says it makes me cranky and keeps me from relaxing.

I also had an issue with the space on my DVR. Turns out there were more GOP debates than Comcast can store….

Q: Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it? Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

I do have a virtual press kit; it’s available on request by emailing info@riddlebrookpublishing.com. It contains the traditional information, brochures and backgrounders.

Q: Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV? What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

I have not yet done signings or appearances, but scheduling for several is underway. I’ll keep people posted through my blog, and my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Q: 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 don’t have an agent and while I do see the benefits of having one, I also see certain drawbacks. In my case I chose to do the work myself because of timing constraints. We’re in an election year, and I felt it was important to capitalize on the current interest in politics. The process of obtaining an agent and working with a conventional publisher would not have fit into the window I was looking to hit.

Q: Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

While “blitz” may be too strong a word, there was a fair amount of pre-publicity, most of it on social media. The blog site went up quite early on, and I posted excerpts, blog entries and other background material regularly (and still do). I kept thousands up to date through Twitter and Facebook, and also launched a national press release which was picked up by a number of newspapers and led to a couple of local interviews and newspaper articles. Marketing a book, of course, requires long days and nights over an extended period of time. An initial push is necessary, but it’s the consistency over time that leads to a book’s success.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

Yes, in two ways. I’m currently outlining a second book in the same vein, in which I take a close look at the rhetoric and marketing techniques used to manipulate our political views.

As interesting, though, is that I’m looking to publish other writers through my newly formed company, Riddle Brook Publishing. I’m hoping to launch two or three talented New England writers with interesting non-fiction narratives that they would like to share. I’m currently reviewing a number of manuscripts, and am accepting additional submissions at query@riddlebrookpublishing.com

Q: Thank you for your interview, Michael. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

The best place to buy Chasing Glenn Beck is at your local bookstore, particularly if it’s an independent bookstore. They may not have it in stock, but they can certainly order it. The book is also available at all the usual online outlets such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, both as a trade paperback and as an ebook.

Those interested can find me at www.chasingglennbeck.com, and on Twitter (follow @BeckIsALib), Facebook and Google+.

And one final note: if you do read the book, don’t miss the footnotes. It’s where I explain why Rush Limbaugh should have asked for a bigger loan and why Seth Rogen should never have been allowed to play The Green Hornet.

Thanks.

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