HOTEL REX SAN FRANCISCO — 11/10 6-8PM READING AND SIGNING!

Also part of the festivities, the celebration of two new elements being added to the Periodic Table.

1. Li – Lincecum

Date of Discovery: 2007
Discoverer: Bruce Bochy
Name Origin: From the Latin word lincecumnes (lint)
Uses: steel, batteries, starting pitching, relief pitching
Obtained From: Cape Cod Baseball League

2. Ov – Overman

Date of Discovery: 2012
Discoverer: Bruce Ferber
Name Origin: From the Latin word overmaniaculus (insane)
Uses: steel, batteries, comedy
Obtained From: Saul and Irma Overman

QUESTIONS FROM ASPEN, ANSWERS FROM BRUCE

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Author Interview: Bruce Ferber [Elevating Overman]

Bruce Ferber
Elevating Overman
Bruce Ferber is an Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated comedy writer and producer whose credits include Bosom Buddies, Growing Pains, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, Coach, and Home Improvement, where he served as Executive Producer and showrunner.  In addition to being recognized by the Television Academy, his work has received the People’s Choice, Kid’s Choice and Environmental Media Awards.  Ferber lives in Sourthern California, with his wife, children, large dog, and assorted musical instruments.
Elevating Overman is his first novel.
Blog: http://bruceferber.net/blog/
Website: http://bruceferber.net
Interview: questions by Aspen, answers by Bruce

Elevating Overman is your debut novel, but you have been involved in producing and writing for television sit-coms prior to this.  Would you tell us a little bit about your background as a writer and what it’s like writing for television? (PS I was a big fan of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch). 
I had always thought I’d be a feature film writer, but you learn very early on to go where the opportunity takes you, and my first assignment was writing for a show called “Bosom Buddies” starring Peter Scolari and some guy named Tom Hanks.  It was a freelance script that I wrote with a partner.  Our goal was to impress enough people that we’d become staff writers on sitcoms.  That eventually happened, and I found myself, first as part of a writing team, then solo, working on many different shows, including “Growing Pains”, “The Facts of Life”, and an early FOX show called “Duet.”  Eventually, I worked my way up to the producer level, becoming the Executive Producer of “Home Improvement” and “Sabrina.” Writing for TV is a hugely collaborative process – one writer turns in the script, then the staff helps re-write it.  During the production week, the network and studio watch rehearsals and give notes, and it’s the job of the writing staff to address the things they (and we) think aren’t working.  It’s an intense process, because teh minute you’re done producing one episode, you start on next week’s.
Is the approach to writing a novel different from writing a sit-com? How so? 
Network television requires that your story be told in either 22 or 44 minutes, depending on whether it’s a comedy or a drama.  There are act breaks before commercials, which are designed to make the audience eager to come back and see what happens next.  With a novel there aren’t such time constraints, but as a writer, one still must be able to keep the reader’s interest.  TV requires a rigid outlining process.  Novelists work in different ways — some do details outlines, others let the character take them where the story goes.  In “Elevating Overman”, I started out with the character and the idea of wanting a second chance.  Then I happened to go to my mailbox and see a Pennysaver ad for “Life Changing Lasik Surgery.”  That became the springboard for everything.
How do you feel your background in writing for and producing television shows has helped or hindered your novel writing process? 
I don’t think it has been a hindrance at all.  One way it’s helped a lot is that TV writers are used to rewriting all the time.  So if an editor says “You can do better here” or “This isn’t really working for me,” I’m not offended.  Working in TV has taught me that a first draft is just that.  Get it down and improve it afterward.  Rewriting is much more fun than writing.
Why did you decide to make the switch from television to novels?
Frankly, I’m not very taken with the kind of comedies that are currently on TV–the ones that use “penis” and “vagina” as punch lines.  I had had a lot of success in TV, which afforded me the luxury of trying to stretch and explore other kinds of writing.  I remembered enjoying writing prose back when I wrote short stories in high school.  So I decided to see whether I could actually take on the Great American Novel.  Just finishing was a victory.
What inspired the idea for Elevating Overman?
It may sound pretentious, given the fact that a lot of the book is comedic, but it’s really about a search for meaning–something I grapple with in my own life that I think is pretty relatable to anyone looking beyond material success.
We meet a lot of personalities in your novel and each character was well developed.  Were any of your characters inspired by people that you know or have met in real life? Do you have a favorite character in the book?
Every character in the book is a composite of people I have known.  I love Janie because I want her to be karmically compensated for what happened to her in the past.  And I love Big Dave because despite his craziness, he believes in Overman from the get-go and is a true friend right to the end.
Comic book superheroes were utilized as a parallel to Overman’s transformation in your novel. Why the superhero theme?
Superheroes are bigger than ever in today’s pop culture.  I think it’s because people are looking for heroes.  But what does it take to be heroic? I wanted to explore the idea that you don’t have to jump off buildings and shoot death rays to do that.  To me, the small measures of kindness and consideration that people used to take for granted now fall under the banner of “heroic”.  I think it’s because people are more afraid to speak their minds, are wrapped in themselves or their iphones, and can easily get lost in a world where people named Kardashian are given money and credibility.  I wanted to wade through all that crap and dig out some human decency.
Can you see Elevating Overman as a television series or a movie? Who would you cast as Overman, Jake Rosenfarb, and Big Dave?
Movie.  Paul Giamatti as Overman, Phillip Seyour Hoffman as Rosenfarb, Matthew McConaughey as Big Dave.
Your novel got me reminiscing about my high school days as well, particularly the scene where Overman was flipping through his high school yearbook.  Did you have a quote for your senior year picture? Would you share with us what it was? If not, if you could have quote, what would you have chosen?
My quote came from Woody Guthrie: “Take it easy, but take it.”
What would you say is the take home message of your novel, Elevating Overman?
Pay attention to what matters.  Weed out all the extraneous bullshit and stand up for what’s right.  Admit your mistakes. Is that three messages?
What is next for you? More books? More Television?
I’m writing a second novel, there is some movie interest in “Elevating Overman”, and I have a TV project out there that I may be developing for next season.
In your bio you mention that you live at home with your musical instruments.  What instruments do you live with and do you know how to play them all? What else do you like to do in your free time? 
Piano, guitar, banjo, ukulele.  I play them all at levels ranging from poorly to decently.  The uke is my latest infatuation, and I’m very excited to be taking a one day workshop in October with the Hawaiian master, Jake Shimabakuro.
If you could have a best friend with a superpower, what would it be?
Getting “Elevating Overman” on the bestseller list.
***
Thank you so much to the author for taking the time for the interview.
My review of Elevating Overman can be found here.

RAVE ON!!! IT’S A CRAZY FEELING!!!

ELEVATING OVERMAN REVIEW

Bruce Ferber’s protagonist, Ira Overman in his debut novel Elevating Overman could be succinctly described as a “nebbish,” which is the Yiddish expression for someone who is dismissed by many as ineffectual, luckless, timid, bumbling and pitifully ineffectual. A character we could associate with Woody Allen or George Costanza of the Seinfeld television series, and incidentally either one would be perfect for the role of Overman, if the novel were ever to be adapted as a movie.

Overman was not always a “nebbish,” as he graduated from Columbia University with honors and initially was successfully employed as an entertainment executive for the studios, as well as positions with various management firms and talent agencies. Unfortunately, his talents were no longer needed and he is forced to accept a job as a car salesman with Steinbaum Mercedes of Calabasas, California.-a job he hates. He is also going through a mid-life crisis, and family wise he is divorced while his two children have abandoned him, blaming him for being a terrible father. His ex-wife, who remarried a sleazy doctor, is constantly putting him down. Not a pretty picture.

When Overman discovers a discount coupon in the Pennysaver for Life-Changing Vision Correction, he decides to follow it up and agrees to have Lasik eye surgery. The eye surgery is not only a great success but it also results into something he never imagined-being transformed from a useless individual to someone that now possesses super powers.

The results are immediate when he is able to defeat his obnoxious childhood friend, Jake Rosenfarb on the tennis court-a feat that rarely happened in the past. In addition, he is easily seduces the sexy Marciela, a co-worker and receptionist at his work of employment, which makes him the envy of Rosenfarb, who can’t understand his friend’s transformation and believes he has entered into some sort of alternate universe.

Rosenfarb convinces himself that Overman had been disguising himself as a failure for fifty-five years just to fool people. As a result, he sets out on a mission to find out the secret and key to his friend’s success. Moreover, he automatically takes on the role as side-kick and protector to Overman, who is not exactly enamored with this new relationship, that eventually evolves into something bordering on insanity, particularly when Rosenfarb has the crackpot idea of reshaping Overman’s life based on some famous comic book heroes. In other words, he is out of control.

With his new found powers, our protagonist now faces the dilemma of deciding where, when, why and how he chooses to use them. As he detests his self-important gasbag of a boss, Hal Steinbaum, Overman decides that he has enough of selling cars, quits his job and accepts a position as a filing clerk for someone that runs a loan sharking business but who is willing to teach him the ropes as to how to become a successful money lender.

Overman also reflects on his past life and is determined to ask pardon for something that occurred during his high school days concerning a young female classmate that had been gang raped by the school’s basketball team. Although Overman did not willingly participate in this horrendous crime, he nonetheless feels that he could have done more to have prevented it from happening.

There are many laughs in Elevating Overman and Ferber’s talents as an Emmy-nominated comedy writer whose credits include Bosom Buddies, Growing Pains, Sabrina,The Teenage Witch, Coach and Home Improvement are clearly in evidence. It is clever, endearing, intelligent and searching, presenting readers with a healthy dose of wry humor coupled with some slapstick as it ponders the age old question as to “what matters in life?” It is also an astute perceptive and moving reflection on the importance of identity and responsibility. The writing is technically skillful devoid of clichéd characters and weak dialogue.

Norm Goldman, bookpleasures.com

THIS WEDS. 8/22!!! SHAME IN ECHO PARK!!!

7:30 PM!  That’s right!  The author will be reading passages from Elevating Overman at Stories Books and Cafe, a fantastic neighborhood bookstore.  Be there, or convince yourself that you’re still in the thick of things, shopping on Montana!  Here are the details:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/stories-books-and-cafe-los-angeles

SHAME ON FACEBOOK OBITUARIES

R.I.P.

We hear endless chatter about how social media has changed the world, but there’s one aspect of this phenomenon that nobody’s talking about. Used to be you’d have to open the newspaper or turn on the news to find out that one of society’s luminaries had passed on, but nowadays all you need to do is look at your phone to learn that one of your Facebook friends is deep in mourning over the death of a recurring actor she used to watch on Petticoat Junction.

Social media has turned everyone into an obit writer. I, myself, waxed wistfully over the passings of Levon Helm and Doc Watson, as did many others. Afterward, I felt guilty about it. Why? Because thanks to Facebook, there’s just a glut of wistful waxing.    From obscure 80’s rock bassists to politicians who spent their entire careers in the pockets of lobbyists, all of them “will be deeply missed.”

Now don’t get me wrong –I have nothing against honoring the dead.  I just think there’s a difference between memorializing people we knew or the artists who truly moved us, and simply being the first to announce the celebrity death du jour.  But the rabid RIP-ers seem to be in some kind of a race.   The explanation — dare I speak its name?  Being number one to the finish line with an RIP is a subtle form of SELF-PROMOTION, ie: “You won’t believe who died and see how much I’m missing him before you even got the chance to?”

As both a self-promoter and a hater of self-promotion, I am especially qualified to be the bearer of this awful news.   I am also fully cognizant that taking this stand will discourage anyone from posting my Facebook obituary when the time comes.  Nevertheless, I would now like to take this opportunity to wish a long and healthy life to all the non-original members of the re-formed Canned Heat.

EAT THE DOCUMENT

For those of you who are not already aware, self-promotion is a war. Those of us pushing a new book or CD battle ferociously for precious few seconds of your attention, hoping that our pitch will somehow pique your interest in our passion. We dutifully re-configure our souls for the Facebook wall, then cross our fingers that we’ll strike a magic chord, enticing you to join us on our creative journey. But as in any war, victory cannot be ours unless we know who else lines the battlefield.

Enter the “Food Posters,” those staunch members of the Facebook tribe who need you to know everything they cooked for breakfast, or more puzzling yet, simply what they ate for breakfast. At last count, the FP’s outnumbered novelists by 100,000 to 1, which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t beg the question: “Is my novel as good as that French Toast? Sure, I put everything I had into creating deep and complex characters, but look at the way the butter melts into the syrup. It’s mesmerizing. Who am I kidding? There’s no contest here.”

I surrender unequivocally, declaring a TKO for the French Toast. Then, as I proceed to drown in melancholy, I suddenly remember that it is just a picture of French Toast — which has undoubtedly been eaten or is ice-cold by now. Not so my novel. This is a work that will live on in people’s hearts forever! Or at least until lunch, when somebody posts a bitchin’ club sandwich.

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