Although Richard Hine presented a 25-step advice list on How to Write a Novel in 30 Years or Less, he might have left out one “crucial-for success” point: Write a timely story. For when his book, Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch, debuts tomorrow — October 12, 2010 –, the author’s perfect timing will become obvious.
However it wasn’t always that way. During his years of working in publishing companies that included Adweek in 1988, Time in 1992, and The Wall Street Journal in 2002, Richard accepted each job by being told he “had just missed a great party.” And, in the celebratory aftermath, everyone was stressed as the print media tried to be creative in the digital age.
Nevertheless it proved inspiring for the author who took a creative look at what was and what was not happening. As he says of writing his book:
“I’ve tried to peel away the outer cloak of seriousness that people bring to their workaday lives and reveal some truths about the specific challenges and pressures facing today’s media business.
I do hope that my novel will appeal to a broad audience of readers—especially those who like the humor and humanity of “The Office” or movies like “American Beauty.” But I also hope I’ve created a document that records what it was like to work specifically in the newspaper business in the first decade of the 21st Century.”
With both his professional and personal plates heaped with problems, Russell Wiley is out to lunch, literally and figuratively. Here’s the Synopsis:
Russell Wiley is in deep trouble. A media executive for the failing Daily Business Chronicle, his career is teetering on the brink of collapse, and his sexless marriage is fast approaching its expiration date. With his professional and personal lives floundering, it’s no wonder Russell is distracted, unhappy, and losing faith in himself. Making matters worse are his scheming boss, a hot-shot new consultant determined to see Russell ousted, and the beguiling colleague whose mere presence has a disconcerting effect on Russell’s starved libido. Disaster seems imminent…and that’s before he makes a careless mistake that could cost the paper millions. Russell realizes he must take drastic action if he is going to salvage his career, his love life, and what little remains of his self-respect. Sardonic, edgy, and true to life, this gripping novel offers an insider’s view into a newspaper’s inner sanctum and the people who oil the wheels of the “old media” machine.
Now please watch a Video Interview with Richard Hine.
Applying the adage of “Write what you know,” the author has taken on the corporate failure of the media to adapt to the times and then mixed in an Everyman to give the book heart, soul, and humor. In truth the complicated issues are reflected in the humanity of Russell (and some of his colleagues) as they throw ideas/darts at the wall, hoping a few will stick to become their salvation and allow them to maintain their power.
Of course power tends to equate with sex and sexiness — according to the author — is “at the core of the novel.” In general terms this makes perfect sense since the media is driven by sex. And Russell is in the throes of realizing he isn’t as sexy as he once was, whether at home with his wife, or at work with his corporate bosses and the advertisers whose cash keeps the company going. It’s all very real and understandable when one considers that the print media has not adapted their content to connect with Internet users. In other words, to succeed in the future, newspapers simply need to sell enough ads to bankroll their high-priced content.
It’s simple in business terms but what about in human terms? Ah, therein lies the humor. Although Richard admits that he doesn’t know what the future holds for newspapers and magazines, he does know and care for the personalities who work in the industry:
“I do know that the media business I worked in is filled with some of the most intelligent, passionate, committed people you’ll ever meet. Scratch the surface and you’ll find they’re wacky, too. Some even have quite a repertoire of silly walks.”
Based on that intimate knowledge, the writer has given us Russell Wiley along with a newspaper staff trying to survive. Um, well, since it is a corporate business some are trying more than others. TRUST: Corporate work experience is not required to identify, appreciate, and understand these characters. Richard Hines’ flawless writing “shows and tells” what is needed to know, including how Russell Wiley could use something close to a miracle to salvage his life.
*SPOILERS* are not allowed on The Divining Wand but creative endeavors found on the Internet are. Take, for example, the Daily Edge (definitely a part of the novel) which appears in its secret design on the home page of Richard Hine’s website.
The author worked with top website designer Jefferson Rabb to create/build what you see as an internal document that allows for the addition of marginalia — the poking fun notations at today’s newspaper business. It’s brilliantly clever but that’s not the best part. Richard explains taking this a step further:
“When we added a Twitter feed, the first thought was to just leave it, let it sit there inactive. But then I started tweeting fake news stories, and we decided the inactive part of the site should actually be the Blog, which is promised on the home page, but is still undelivered. It’s worked out quite well so far, @TheDailyEdge actually had the Top Tweet on the Twitter #news hashtag a few days ago — take that CNN and New York Times!”
What fun and what more proof is necessary to claim that Richard Hine is the wily one? Beginning tomorrow Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch at your local bookstore and online retailer. Please stop by, pick him up, and take him home. His tale makes a wonderfully juicy, after dinner treat!
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Richard Hine’s Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.