The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Richard Hine and
Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch

October 11, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

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.

Guest Richard Hine on
How to Write a Novel in 30 Years or Less

October 05, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Rather than a wishful dream, Richard Hine’s real ambition was to be a novelist. But in the meantime he decided to try to make his fortune in the world of advertising. And, though the fortune in advertising didn’t quite result in a windfall, his debut novel, Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch, launches October 12, 2010. In today’s guest post, the about-to-be author shares how he never lost sight of his real ambition….more or less. ]

How to Write a Novel in 30 Years or Less

When people who’ve known me only a few years find out I’ve written a novel they are usually quite impressed. “Wow!” they say. And, “Congratulations!” And, “How did you find the time?” To these people, the fact that I’m a 47-year-old debut novelist does nothing to detract from the accomplishment.

Others, those who remember me from my brash, youthful, overconfident days, remind me that I’ve been talking about writing a novel for quite some time. “What took you so long?” these underminers ask. They say things like, “After all this time, your novel better be good.” And, “I’ve raised three children since you told me you were going to write a novel. Would you like to see a picture of my granddaughter? Her name’s iPadora.”

I do understand that we live in a fast-paced world. It’s possible to write a novel in 30 days if you really want to. That’s the whole promise of National Novel Writing Month each November. (Or NaNoWriMo if you’re in a rush.)

But what about those millions of people who dream of writing a novel, but aren’t in a particular hurry?

Perhaps you are one of them. If so, this article is written for you. If you follow its advice, you will have written at least one full draft of a novel in 30 years or less. And hey, even if you’re not happy with the result the first time, you can always go back and start over.

1. Set a deadline. The key with any project is to plan it effectively and execute it rigorously. If it’s a big project, like writing a novel, it’s best to establish the overall goal before breaking it up into smaller pieces. With my method, the key is to start out with a deadline that seems eminently doable. For example, tell yourself: “I will finish my novel before October, 2040.” You can do that, right?

2. Relax. Take a breath. There’s no need to be paralyzed by fear. Congratulate yourself on taking that important first step. You are now on the road to becoming a novelist.

3. Don’t start writing immediately. Heck, you’ve got too much to do already. As a reminder, please circle all that apply: Get out of bed. Eat breakfast. Think of a witty Facebook status update. If you have kids, remember to feed them. Do something personal-hygiene-related. Go about your day. Try not to get too grumpy/inebriated/lost on the way home. Don’t forget the kids (if applicable). Check for comments on your Facebook page. WTF? Not even a “like”? Don’t any of your friends get your humor anymore? If it’s a weeknight, cereal’s OK for dinner. Find remote. Watch TV. Remember to brush or remove your teeth. Go to bed. Recite your nightly mantra: “No pressure, I’ve still got 29 years and 364 days to complete my novel.”

4. Repeat step three for eight years and seven months. (But remember to subtract a day from your current time remaining in your nightly mantra.)

5. Now circle your age: a) 17; b) 29; c) 38; d) 53; e) celebrating the 25th anniversary of your 39th birthday

6. Take a long hard look in the mirror. Ask yourself: “What made you think you could ever be a writer anyway?” Don’t answer.

7. Investigate new technologies. Is it possible yet to transmit your thoughts to a computer wirelessly and have them spell-and-grammar-checked and put directly into an ebook format? If not, check again at three-month intervals. You never know when a breakthrough will occur.

8. Sort out your closets. Don’t become a hoarder. Make three piles. Keep. Donate. And throw away.

9. Throw away pile three. You know you can. Don’t second-guess yourself.

10. OK, you can keep one thing from the donate pile. But only one.

11. Clean your house or apartment. If you have a yard, you can also:
a) Build a “writing” shed out back.
b) Move your old couch into the new shed in your yard.
c) Hook cable up in there, too.

12. Ask yourself: “Is my lack of productivity caused by: a) a diet too rich in saturated fat; b) lack of exercise; or c) the 37 cats I have somehow acquired.” If you do answer this question, email it to me. Your answer will remain confidential, and be used for statistical purposes only.

13. Find a medical issue to worry about. If you can’t think of one, use this list of idea starters: i) Gum disease; ii) Did your ears always look like that?; iii) What’s that smell?; iv) Have you taken that “Real Age” test yet?

14. Stop regretting that one item you wish you hadn’t thrown away. Move on.

15. Read lots of critically acclaimed books. Tell yourself you could never write like that. Also tell yourself that you’re not scared of failure, you’re just protecting yourself against future disappointment.

16. Try a new workout regime. Minimum one hour of cardio, plus weight training for your bones. Commit to three sessions per week. After four weeks, reduce to twice a week. After six weeks, stop.

17. Be realistic. Not everybody can be a writer. There have to be readers, too. And seriously, when was the last time you did laundry?

18. Check the calendar. Is it 2038 yet?

19. Find out if that thought-into-novel-technology has been invented yet. If it hasn’t, excuse your French, but F-that. You have a novel to write. Remember the deadline? Everyone else may have forgotten, but you promised yourself, right?

20. Don’t worry if you’re a little rusty. Just tap out a few ideas. Just let it flow. Put on some music if it helps. Remember Lady GaGa? You used to love her. God, how long ago was that? Or maybe try some classical music if it’s less distracting. That’s right. Go with it. Wow. This is good.

21. Next day. Read over what you wrote. Tell yourself: “No. That was shit, actually. No structure and it kind of just drifted into whatever.”

22. Fight that rising panic. Read a book about how to write a book. And a few writer’s magazines too.

23. Find that old short story you wrote. You know the one I mean. The one everybody liked. Read it again. It’s not bad, is it?

24. Ask yourself: “Did I really write something that good thirty years ago?”

25. Go back to step one. Pick your own deadline. Politely ask your spouse/kids/cats to fix their own cereal/dry food for dinner.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Stacey Ballis’s Good Enough to Eat in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Stacey Ballis and Good Enough to Eat. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, October 6, 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.

The Revealing of Richard Hine

September 29, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Richard Hine’s debut novel, Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch, launches on October 12, 2010 with this descriptive tagline:

Working in the media business inspires all kinds of passions in Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch

Hmm, makes one wonder, doesn’t it? However these glowing words are more than definitive:

“This wry contemporary comedy — one part Glengarry Glen Ross and two parts Sophie Kinsella — will make readers cheer…. A winner in every way.” __Publishers Weekly

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch for Monday, October 11, 2010 but, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through his “official” bio:

London-born Richard Hine began his career as an advertising copywriter. After moving to New York at the age of 24, he held creative and marketing positions at Adweek, Time magazine, where he became publisher of Time’s Latin America edition, and The Wall Street Journal, where he became vice president of marketing and business development. While at The Wall Street Journal, he oversaw the marketing campaign behind the launch of the Journal’s Weekend Edition in 2005.

Richard Hine’s fiction has been published in numerous literary publications, including London Magazine and Brooklyn Review. He is also a winner of and two-time finalist in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest, and an interview of him appears in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest Book (Andrews McMeel Publishing,2008). He lives in New York City with the novelist Amanda Filipacchi.

RUSSELL WILEY IS OUT TO LUNCH is his first novel.

And now it’s upclose and personal time with Richard:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A:I learned my lessons in the wrong order

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Be good. Have fun where appropriate.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: The absence of all irritants.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: The inauguration of President Palin.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: On an island or a mountaintop with my girlfriend.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Joseph Heller. When I worked for Time Magazine as a promotion writer, they told me I was doing his old job. Twenty years after he wrote Something Happened, I could see its echoes at the Time Inc of the 1990s.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Barack Obama, for proving that America can still be a meritocracy, for displaying civility in the face of hostility, and for demonstrating intelligence in the face of stupidity

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: I recently invented “Aujourd’hui Day,” a new holiday which occurs 365 days a year. So I wish my girlfriend “Happy Aujourd’hui Day,” every day. It hasn’t taken off yet, but it will.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: If I could sing in tune, there would be no stopping me.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Finishing a novel.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I think I’m being funny when I’m not.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m always funny.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Wasting time.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: An airborne virus that makes everyone sensible, reasonable and tolerant.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Red hair.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Joseph Andrews.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: The Joker.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Geoff Hurst was a West Ham United striker who scored a hat trick for England in the 1966 World Cup final. I would congratulate him for that fine achievement and curse him for the lifelong misery he caused by inspiring me to become a West Ham supporter.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Networks that give equal time to people who want to debate scientific theories that are already proven.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Campaigning against the return of voodoo economics.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Bestselling novelist.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Curiosity, creativity and childishness.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Amy’s Tofu Scramble.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes by Elvis Costello
Thick As Thieves by The Jam.
William It Was Really Nothing by The Smiths.
Common People by Pulp.
French Navy by Camera Obscura.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding
Something Happened by Joseph Heller
The Destinies of Darcy Dancer, Gentleman by J.P. Donleavy
Two Lives by William Trevor
Nude Men by Amanda Filipacchi

“Always funny,” creative, and thought-provoking, Richard Hine is a debut author to follow on Twitter and friend on Facebook

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Karen McQuestion’s A Scattered Life in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Karen McQuestion and A Scattered Life. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.