Posts Tagged ‘hard hitting interviews’

Lucky

As an indie writer, networking is everything. You share, critique, promote, and above all help each other because it is us against the system. I came across Christian Cipollini while looking for readers for my first book, “Straight Dope: A 360 degree look into American drug culture.” We exchanged books and information and have been keeping in touch ever since. I have always admired Chris’s drive and willingness to “put himself out there.” Chris’s first book, “Diary of a motor city hitman: The Chester Wheeler Campbell Story” opened up the world of one of the most notorious hitmen that had ever lived. His newest project, “Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of Gangster Legend” takes you inside the rise of one of the most well known mafiaos. The great thing about Chris’ writing is that he is a digger. He mines tirelessly for information and tries to give you a complete picture of who the man is. I got a chance to chat with him on his writing style, influences, why gangsters, what he thinks of modern crime books, and what is next. Check him out

Tell me about how you grew up?
My dad worked the narcotics detail for the State Police. My mom was a former flight attendant. Grew up in middle class edge of suburban/rural area outside Pittsburgh PA. Was a shy kid, maybe a bit nerdy, but definitely had good parents. Not perfect, but they certainly tried. Besides my dad’s influence and what I learned from him regarding what I’d one day be writing about – I also had some friends who, well, were a little more familiar with the ‘other’ side of things. I sort of consider it a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario of learning.

What were some of your favorite writers coming up?
I was that kid who had to read something twice before I could completely absorb it. I was never checked for a learning disability, but I think I definitely had to try hard as a kid to comprehend. That said though, I would consume everything in the library – short stories, novels, but I think historical and biographical subjects always got me most hooked. Reality of worlds unfamiliar with my own… fascinating.

What influenced you to start writing books?
I truly believe I determined in fourth grade I wanted to write a book someday. Loved my teacher and something in class made me realize even though reading comprehension was hard for me I was able to write some wildly clever stuff. Or at least I thought so! But really I just always had an easier time, as I got a little further along in school, with grammar and formulating thoughts into full length stories.

What is it about the gangster genre?
That I credit my dad and my friends with, to start. Dad loved gangster movies. My friends, well some of them did a little work for local bookies, you get the gist. Anyway, the real kickstarter was in very early 1990’s and I picked up a copy of the New York Times in the library and saw a guy named John Gotti splashed all over the front page. I had to find out who this movie-star looking guy was and what was his story. From there I went on to devour every mob and gangland history related book I could get my hands on. The fire was certainly lit, just took me a while to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up! Write my own!

What was it about Chester?
Wow, Chester. I could not believe nobody had written extensively about this guy. It all started from a photograph I acquired. See, I sort of work in reverse. I collect rare photos then study them and the press or police notes on them. Then I work my ideas and research from there. Chester’s photo had me mesmerized. Just his look, his clothing, this sinister aura. I had to find out more. And once I contacted an old friend from the Detroit area about it, well, I was on my way to writing my first book.

What were the challenges in writing the first book?
The first challenge for any new author is how to publish. I had already been doing a few years of solid networking, meeting the right people I suppose is best way to put it. And when I proposed the concept to my publisher – he said if I think I can get a whole book’s worth out of my research… I’ve got a deal. Besides determining who or how to publish, the other big challenge was basically taking tons of research materials and translating it all into a flowing tale that is both informative and entertaining. It’s not an easy task!

Why did you focus on Lucky?
Lucky Luciano has, for whatever reason, been the most fascinating gangster to me. When my publisher invited me to participate in a “Gangland Mysteries” anthology series the topic of Luciano was one idea he had. I thought how daunting it would be to cover someone already so heavily written about, but then I thought – hey, this is my chance to dig into his mythology and pop cultural effect. I wasn’t about to say no. Plus, I’ve been collecting original photographs of Lucky and all his cohorts for years – I finally got to put some of them in a book!

What was some of the most fascinating things you learned about Lucky Luciano?
Besides the fact there is a ridiculous amount of misinformation taken for fact about him, I think for me the coolest thing I learned was how much collusion and unification of other ethnic groups and allies it took for him to reach such infamous status. He wasn’t a boss of all bosses. He really hated that old school mentality and it truly appears his credibility was built from a unified effort of a lot of other brilliant, albeit criminal minded friends.

Were there any road blocks when writing Lucky Luciano?
The biggest difference between the book on Chester and this one on Lucky was finding people alive to interview! With Lucky, a roadblock is quite frankly – nobody is alive anymore from that era. But, I dug where I had to and worked around the obstacle. Plus, I did get in touch with a relative of one of Lucky’s old pals and what a treasure trove I was graciously provided!

Any backlash from the underworld? Feds?
Great question! No, thankfully no. Actually I’m extremely grateful that most of the feedback I get, from both sides, has been very good. I try to write in a realistic way, but without too much judgment either way. I certainly have opinions which filter in just like any writer does, but at the core – I try to tell the tales from all sides and perceptions, but always allow the reader to form their own opinions.

Dream project?
Movie deal!!! Whereby I at the very least consult on the project.

Hardest thing as an indie writer?
Surviving, just like everybody else trying to survive. Indie writing is for the passion and love. If the money comes… that’s great and you do have to be smart about the financial element. However, and again, don’t start just thinking big payday. That takes time and tons of hard as hell work. Lots of self-promotion work we indie writers have to do. The bulk of it all falls squarely on us.

Whats next?
Well I recently appeared on Biography Channel Series “Gangsters: America’s Most Evil” and History Channel Series “United Stuff of America” and did some consulting work for the producers of National Geographic Series “Drugs, Inc.” But as for book projects? My next one comes out in February 2015. Another installment in the “Gangland Mysteries” series, this one being on the notorious enforcement arm of the New York mob. Murder Inc.: Mysteries of the Mob’s Most Deadly Hit Squad

 

Pick up “Lucky Luciano:Mysterious Tales of a Gangster Legend” now at Amazon.com

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I had the great pleasure of meeting and connecting with CJ Davidson, host of the dope web video show aptly titled, “That Other Web Show.” CJ, also a Mo native who bounced to California, and I had a great time talking about back home, the LA music scene, legalizing marijuana, and Straight Dope.The  interview was done using Skype, so this once again proves that with the internet, you can reach out to anyone, anywhere.  In all I made a new bud that I will be coming to see when I make it back to Socal. Check it out.

 

This was an interview that I did with the wonderful Dee at the site, “At The Water Cooler.” Check her site out, it is great.

 

BookZone: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

LeRon: I have always loved to write, ever since I was a young child. Creating my own comics, writing poetry, to writing scripts, and finally my first book. Writing has always been a part of my life.

BookZone: What inspired you to write your first book?

LeRon: Writing a book has always been a goal of mine. Being a writer, I have always felt that a book would be the ultimate task.

BookZone: Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.

LeRon: Straight Dope exposes the reality of drugs in America without any biases.

BookZone: Why this subject matter…why now?

LeRon: I have always wanted to write something that was real and with drug use so rampant, I feel that Straight Dope is so current. With my first book, I wanted it to hit hard and to make an impact.

BookZone: I believe that every author infuses his or her book with a piece of himself or herself. What piece of you would you say resides within the pages of your book?

LeRon: I am all over the book (laughs). Seriously, when I am asking the person the questions, sometimes I may say, “Damn” or ‘Wow.” But when you hear the answers, there was only one way to respond.

BookZone: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in this book?

LeRon: I wanted to speak with some police officers and lawyers to make the book more well rounded, but I believe that it is fine the way it is.

BookZone: What did you learn about yourself while writing this book?

LeRon: That is a good question…

BookZone: How did you come up with the title?

LeRon: I wanted a title that would catch people’s attention and also pertain to the subject of the book.

BookZone: Who designed the cover?

LeRon: My man David Valin. I sent him a couple of pics and we worked around the concept. David is great. You can contact him at: gbdavid1@yahoo.com

BookZone: How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?

LeRon: My book has not come out yet, but I do not know. Maybe scream out from the rafters? LOL

BookZone: If readers get nothing else from your book, what is the one takeaway that you hope they do not miss?

LeRon: That Straight Dope is real, uncut. It is realistic, unbiased, and presents people talking about a very important subject. Straight Dope is not political, just real.

BookZone: Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.

LeRon: The opportunities that have come forth and the new ones that will come. It feels great to be a published writer.

BookZone: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

LeRon: My ex gf. She was and still is one of my biggest supporters.

BookZone: What would equate success for you, with regards to the release of this title?

  • Purchases
  • Kudos on your writing skills
  • Message received by intended audience
  • All of the above?

LeRon: All of the above. I really want to be respected as a writer. The money and the sales are good, but at the end of the day, I want to be looked at as a great writer that can open the door for other artists – writers, painters, filmmakers….

BookZone: What did you want to be when you grew up…was author on the list?

LeRon: I originally wanted to be a stuntman, but then I realized that they get hurt (LOL). Then I wanted (and still do) to be a race car driver. I have always been fascinated by Formula One racing and have always thought those guys were real fly. I am just not that great of a driver (ask any of my friends), but there is always driving school…… LOL.

BookZone: Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?

LeRon: In the summer I am releasing, “It’s Good To Be Alive,” a free project that consists of pictures, essays, and poetry celebrating life. I wanted to write something light after Straight Dope. Everyone will be smiling and everything will be happy.

In November, I will be releasing, “All We Need Is Love,” a book similar to Straight Dope that talks about dating, marriage, and every kind of relationship – from  first time love, long distance, interracial, long distance, newly married couples, everyone.

BookZone: What piece of advice would you give to first time authors?

LeRon: Never give up. If this is your dream, then never give up and keep going. There is an audience for every kind of writer. Also, don’t be afraid of constructive criticism. Most of the time, people just want to help.

BookZone: Is there any piece of advice you would like to ask from any of our veteran authors who may stop by?

LeRon: How do you market your book successfully?

BookZone: What book are you reading now?

LeRon: 25th Hour by David Benioff and books on Malcolm X. He is my hero.

BookZone: If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you want with you?

LeRon: Books, Ipod, and nice blanket. LOL

BookZone: If you could jump into a book and live in that world… which would it be?

LeRon: You know, I have always thought that “Le Morte Darthur” was the greatest story that has been written. But, I don’t know, maybe “The Great Gatsby,” or “One Hundred Years in Solitude.” I have always liked Pilar. Ha!

BookZone: Hidden talent?

LeRon: I am a pretty good dancer and cook.

BookZone: Me too (dancing) not so much (cooking) Favorite Candy?

LeRon: Snickers. A girl in high-school used to call me that. And then corn candy.

BookZone: Favorite smell?

LeRon: A freshly showered woman…

BookZone: Favorite scripture/quote?

LeRon: I have a few:

  • “It can’t rain all the time” – The Crow
  • “Be Like Water,” Bruce Lee
  • “I am all that I have met,” Malcolm X

BookZone: Pet peeve?

LeRon: Tardiness!!! I hate when people are late. Value my time please!!!!!

BookZone: Guilty Pleasure?

LeRon: Karaoke. I love to get up and make a total fool of myself.

BookZone: TV or Movies?

LeRon: Hmmm, that is a good question. The quality of movies are horrible these days, and there are some really good writing on TV, so I will go with TV.

BookZone: Coke or Pepsi?

LeRon: Coke, always.

BookZone: Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

LeRon: You know, in the privacy of my home, Merry Christmas. But at work/school, Happy Holidays.

BookZone: What was your favorite children’s book?

LeRon: Anything by Dr. Seuss. I think he was a genius. People do not realize how tough it is to write something compelling and that catch a child’s imagination.

BookZone: What book(s) has most influenced your life?

LeRon: Non Fiction, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It has shaped the way I live my life. I look at things from an aspect of before I read it and after I read it. Confessions by Saint Augustine of Hippo, because he is another of my heroes and I could relate to it in so many ways.

Fiction, definitely Portrait of An Artist As A Young Man by James Joyce. I thought (and still do) that his form and technique was the best I have ever read. The Great Gatsby is my fave book of all time and then Of Mice and Men and the poetry of Langston Hughes. The rhythm he had, it was just, wow…..

BookZone: How do you react to a bad review?

LeRon: You have to take it in stride. It is not gonna kill you. It is just someone’s point of view. Hey, I am pretty sure people slandered Hemmingway’s work, so don’t take it personal.

BookZone: Well said. If you were a super hero what would your kryptonite be?

LeRon: Beautiful women. LOL.

BookZone: You have won one million dollars what is the first thing that you would buy?

LeRon: I would buy my Mom a house. Every young man wants to buy his Mom a house.

BookZone: True Dat. Do you have a specific writing style?

LeRon: I think that I am influenced by Joyce, Chris Clairemont, Hughes… But I specific style? I don’t know. Hopefully.

BookZone: Which authors have influenced you most and how?

LeRon: Joyce, Hughes, Marquez, Clairemont, Sir Thomas Mallory, Studs Terkel (of course).

BookZone: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about his/her work?

LeRon: My fave author is James Joyce. His technique and form are just unbeatable.

BookZone: Do you see writing as a career?

LeRon: Yes. This is what I was meant to do.

BookZone: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

LeRon: Not this book, but I have a couple of ideas for future projects that will need me to hit the road.

BookZone: What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

LeRon: My Mom told me, “Self-doubt has no place in your mind.” I think about that a lot and just push on.

BookZone: What’s your favorite season/weather?

LeRon: Fall because the trees and sky are just beautiful. Plus fall has the best fashion!

BookZone: Yeah, we see you rocking the turtleneck…lol. What do you do in your free time?

LeRon: Write (LOL). Read, explore, meet up with friends, travel, take pictures, workout, and just try to be the best LeRon I can possibly be.

BookZone: Give us a glimpse into a typical day in your day starting when you wake up till you lie down again.

LeRon: Okay, I probably wake up around 7 am and start checking emails. I cannot sleep in. My Grandfather would always say, “Boy if you’re up, get up.” LOL. I then turn my phone on, grab some water and go to the gym. If this is a non-work day, then I would write a little, go to brunch and grab some champagne (because it is brunch!), take a train to SF or Oakland, walk around, meet up with friends, and try to have tons of fun!

BookZone: In your wildest dreams, which author would you love to co-author a book with?

LeRon: Marquez. He is probably the world’s greatest living writer.

BookZone: If you had to choose, which author would you consider a mentor?

LeRon: My high-school teacher Stan Banks. He would always encourage me and I get a lot of my poetry reciting style from him.

BookZone: Are there any new authors that have caught your interest?

LeRon: I am still reading the classics, so unfortunately not.

BookZone: Name 3 top items on your bucket list.

LeRon:

  • Go on an around the world trip
  • Pay for someone’s meal anonymously
  • Buy a Ferrari (seriously).

BookZone: If you got a TV/movie deal, what would the names in yo ur cast line up look like?

LeRon: That is a good question. I like Taye Diggs, Thandie Newton, Christian Bale, and Oliver Matinez. And we can have Mark Romanek direct it. I love his style.

BookZone: If you were given the opportunity to go back to the past or to the future, which would you choose and why?

LeRon: My dream has always been to live forever. If I had a chance, I would love to go back to the 70’s during the disco era. My Mom loved disco and I love house music. Just the love that was going on back there…

BookZone: Do you prefer a bunch of small gifts or one big expensive one?

LeRon: That is a good question. Big gifts…..

BookZone: In the 1999 film, The Matrix, the main character Neo is offered the choice between a red pill and a blue pill. The blue pill would allow him to remain in the fabricated reality of the Matrix. The red pill would lead to his escape from the Matrix and into the “real world”. If you were given such a choice, which pill would you choose and why?

LeRon: I have always been about truth and reality, so I will would go with the red pill. Don’t feed me crap, I want the real.

BookZone: I hear that. Do you have anything specific that you wish to say to your readers?

LeRon: Thank you all for checking out this interview. Straight Dope is my first book of hard work, grind, and determination. I believe that everyone will find something that they like when reading it. Mainline Publications and I will continue to push the line and release edgy, innovative projects. I have a lot of stuff in the pipeline, so stay tuned. You will not be disappointed.

BookZone: We are sure we will not be. Thanks LeRon!

Hey all,

Check out http://blogtours.atwc1.com/blog/straight-dope-virtual-book-tour-for-leron-barton-march-11-15-2013/ for the blog tour At The Water Cooler has hosted. Dee the owner is awesome and is a great tour host. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a $10.00 Amazon gift card and a chance to win a free copy of Straight Dope: A 360 degree look into American drug culture.

LeRon

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Need to smile more……

After posting on Craigslist for a couple of weeks, I received my first response: A young couple who had experiences with drugs and were in treatment. I became really excited – there was some motion here! The first initial meet went pretty good, but it was ackward. I did not have a tape recorder, didn’t know what questions to ask, and was kinda nervous. Here I am, writing a book on drugs and having to ask people about a point in their life that they are trying to get passed. During the first meet, as I am feverishly trying to write everything that was said, the young lady interrupted and said, “Sweetie, you may want to get a tape recorder.” Ha! Thats how “green” I was. And within the next couple of days, I purchased a digital one (technology. I remember the ones with just tapes……).

The first interview went really well. Stories and tales of this and that were flowing. I wanted to make sure that they were as comfortable as they possibly could and also that they were in a “No judgment zone.” I am here to listen, not pass judgments or say anything negative about your life. After the 2 + hours of the interview, I was spent, but so pumped. I had been listening to two stories of drug abuse, heartache, and redemption. I thought to myself, ” I have look at something happy or light. This became a pattern after I would talk to people and their stories that were very negative and sad. There were times after an interview with someone, I would have their story on my mind for a long time. Even now, some of the stories are sticking with me.

In writing the book, to gain trust with some of the people, I told them that anything criminal or that could get them prosecuted, I would omit or change some of the details. I am not a police officer and I am not trying to send any one to jail. Some of the stories were real like that! At one point, I asked one of the participants about a crime and there was something said that I cannot print and we moved on quickly. Another point was that anything that was really sensitive or involved others, I did not add. I remember talking to someone and they revealed something that happened to a family member during their story. I stopped the tape recorder and looked out into the sky, as to assess what was told to me. There was a long moment of silence and I then told her, “I am not going to put this in there.” She nodded and we slowly resumed. Some of the stories were just like that. Can you imagine listening to story after story like that and it not get to you? Yeah, tough.

A writer at work……

The thing about writing the book was that I wanted an air of authenticity. I wanted this book to be pensive, powerful, and real. No softening of the topics or stories, but the truth. A book that you could put down, walk away from, and think to yourself, “Whoa.”  A book that even after reading it, you are thinking about it for hours, even days.

After deciding the subject, I started to work on how to assemble it. Even though the meat of the book is interviewing and me listening, I wanted to interject who I was and let the reader get to know me. Again, I am a writer, and just asking questions and transposing them on paper isn’t exactly writing. So what I did was told stories of my childhood, raised in the ghetto around drug addicts, my experiences with drugs, and deciding when to put them down and escape possible addiction.

In addition my stories, I also added poems based on the chapters of the book. Sometimes before I would start working on a script, to sharpen myself up, I would write a poem. I looked at it like an exercise, or like a warm up. When I was in highschool taking creative writing with the Great Stan Banks, he would always have us do this, and I am happy to say I still use this practice to this day.

With the outline set, the only thing for me to do is: find the people to talk to! That would be a bit of a challenge. I can’t go up to an average stranger and ask them, “So, have you ever did coke or shot H?” I mean come on, who does that? So using the power of the web, I hit up Craigslist. Now, the average cat uses CL to look for apartments, cars, jobs, dates…  but I was looking for subjects. At first I put an ad up asking for people to speak with me regarding their experiences with drugs in exchange for $20, but that got expensive. So slowly but surely, the payment was reduced from 20 to 10 to 5, to just a cup of coffee and great conversation.  People were slow to respond, but I kept trucking until I was able to my first interview.

It's Me!

I knew that I have always wanted to be a writer. Let me rewind for a sec. I first wanted to be a stuntman, race car driver, and then a writer. After finding out that stuntmen get hurt and the fact that I am not the best person behind the wheel (ask any of my friends), I focused my energies on putting my thoughts, opinions, and stories on paper. Writing has always been my fave thing in the entire world. I have always said that there is nothing more beautiful than a blank sheet of paper. All of the endless possibilities, what you can do, say… writing makes me feel alive, keeps me awake, allows me to explore any world, and create any world that I choose to see fit.

From creating my own comic books when I was younger, contributing to the school paper when I was a Junior and Senior, writing for a local punk ‘Zine (and almost getting kicked out of school – long story), composing poetry, and writing a couple of scripts, I was determined to write. But, as I was finding my voice and my style, I knew that the ultimate goal in my life was to write a book. Every artist, athlete, business person I knew, etc. has that one big goal, that “Holy Grail” that no matter what you do or accomplish, it will always be starring you in the face like, “Okay, when are we gonna get started bud?”

Now to keep it all the way live, I was very afraid to get started. I mean, “The Book” was intimidating. What would I write? What if it was terrible? And more and more questions that inundated my mind. But I knew that I had to get over the fear of it being terrible and just get going.

After throwing around ideas and seeing what I wanted to write about and say, I found a couple of concepts, put them down, and decided on my first project. My very first published work would consist of  interviews with drug addicts, dealers, teachers, parents, and other folks talking about drugs in America. Why that subject? Well it’s controversial, something that I know alot about, and it is a topic that immediately strikes up a discussion.

In creating the book, I didn’t want the interviews to be your standard, “Question then answer…,” so inspired by Studs Terkel and his classic books, I wrote it in a monologue format. When read, it seems as if the interviewee is just telling their story.