Interview w/ Barry Wightman: Author of Authentic Rock Novel – Pepperland

Those of you who have been reading Think Like a Label over the years know that we like to cover a plethora of aspects of the entertainment business and new media industry. It’s always a personal pleasure for me to interview and learn from book authors because writers seem to working in an industry that is evolving even more slowly than the music industry. I believe it takes a lot of ingenuity to survive in industries are in the crux of their cultural identities.

Barry Wightman, author of a humorous romp of a novel entitled Pepperland, which is a story follows a would be rock and roll musician in the 1970′s through odd and sometimes insidious situations that move him through his “music career”, was kind enough to chat with us about this perceptions and personal experiences as a professional author and his understanding and connectivity with the current publishing industry.

What has publishing a book taught you about your relationship with the literary industry?

There’s an ocean of books out there, a new flood every day, and Pepperland is part of that flood. You could say that it’s a new golden age of publishing. I mean, never before has it been possible for writers to get their stuff out there like they can now. Everybody’s got some sort of blog or has self-published something – not unlike the music business – now a performer can record top quality material and get it out there. The trick, however, is to get your work read or listened to, get it reviewed, get an audience, get it in bookstores, sell. Ain’t easy. The downside of this flood of books is the editing. Not everything that gets out there should be out there – professional editing is a magnificent art and it makes a huge difference in the quality of the work. I’m lucky, Pepperland has been through many revisions and the editor at Running Meter/Big Earth Publishing, Mira Perrizo, did a wonderful job.

What got you into writing?

I’ve always been a reader and, as a result, I’ve always been a writer. Yeah, back in 4th grade, writing screwy little stories, surprising kids, making them laugh, that was cool. Then I wanted to write a novel. My dad was reading John LeCarre back then, so I tried to write a spy novel at age 12. Didn’t work. I wrote music reviews for the college newspaper, had a professor tell me I could write, but then all I did for the next few decades was travel the world, read read read, think, write endless journals, think then finally chuck it all (30 years in high tech) got an MFA and wrote Pepperland.

Give a quick synopsis, in your own words, what Pepperland is about.

Pepperland is about taking chances. Here we’ve got two very smart young people in the early ‘70s – the revolutionary fervor of the ‘60s is gone, peace love and understanding has become a joke – what are they going to do with their lives? Is it even possible to change the world? Pepper and Sooz jump off their respective cliffs without fear, uncertainty or doubt—they run off to change the world exactly as the new age of computer technology and the Internet dawns. Or maybe I’ve got it wrong—Pepper’s going to change the world with his little songs, his rock ‘n’ roll music. Could go either way. Oh, and it’s a love story too.

Do you prefer printed or digital publishing?

Digital publishing is obviously here to stay. We’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of what new coolness is possible. But I love physical books—the look, the feel of a well-made book. I can’t resist. It’s a vice. And I’ve been lugging them around the world for years. Sure, Kindles and iPads are terribly convenient, but there’s something wonderful about the pile of books sitting on my desk at this very moment. Love ‘em.

What is your writing process?

Read. Read more, read again, reread. Scribble in notebooks. Think, write, think, scribble some more. Try to write every day. Fail. Fail again. Write a paragraph, try to avoid too much self-editing, don’t think too much. Think. Fail. Keep it going. Write something good. Feel great. That’s the goal, that’s it.

How does it feel to be a professional creative artist? Many writers don’t ever get their manuscripts published, what makes you different?

Feels very, very good—Pepperland is out there, being read, with a life of its own. That’s a very good thing. But I’m no different than any other writer with a story to tell, except maybe in the persistence department. If what you’ve got is good, really good—never give up. Find a way.

Do you think education helped your creativity?

Hell yes. I was taught how to read, read widely, read classics, read current stuff, read closely and intelligently. Then I learned (am still learning) the craft of writing. Have to say that my time at Vermont College, getting the MFA, was fabulous—high-end instruction, high-end feedback on my work. Yep.

If you have any advice for aspiring writers, what would it be?

Read widely. Try to write every day. Take risks, try, fail, try again.

What’s the best part about having a book published?

Seeing your work out there. Knowing that you have touched readers, caused their minds to go somewhere new with a story only you could’ve written. Visiting bookstores, doing radio, TV, talking with readers, talking with folks like you—it’s all good. Thanks so much.