Is "Waiting for Dorfman" the next great Russian novel? If it's not,
what is it?
It's actually "What's Wrong With Dorfman?" and it's in English. What is it? A 240 page book printed on paper with covers.
When is the Russian translation coming out? Before or after the English version? When is the English version coming out?
Haven't sold it to Russia yet. English version will be out in August 2003. Why the Russian questions?
Sorry John, we ask the questions here. So what is "What's Wrong With Dorfman?" about?
Okay. "What's Wrong With Dorfman?" is a comic novel about a burned-out screenwriter with a dysfunctional family, who wakes up one morning with a mysterious disease and thinks he is dying.
We often hear that writing comedy is more difficult than writing drama or something that isn't comedy. What is your take on this? was it difficult writing 'What's Wrong With Dorfman?' compared to something that you may have written that wasn't comedy?
I've always just written comedy, except for my column at Playboy, which was entertainment oriented or the occasional Playmate bio, which was drudgery. (They all said the same thing -- they want to be models and then get into acting. How many times can you repeat that without getting bored?) Writing comedy comes fairly easily to me while I find drama almost impossible. Depends largely on where your talents lie.
Have you slept with any playmates?
That's none of your beeswax I'm afraid.
Speaking of beeswax, you've written screenplays for several movies. Which is more fulfilling to you as a writer, writing a screenplay or writing a novel? Are they fulfilling in different ways?
I prefer novels because they don't get rewritten by scads of other writers, which is the norm for screenplays. In my case thus far, screenwriting has been more financially fulfilling but less artistically fulfilling. That's probably because my 2 produced films -- SHORT TIME and BLUE STREAK -- were written with only one thing in mind -- commerciality. I have no desire to ever write another cop film.
What if it's a screenplay about a cop who writes poetry and is a little feminine but isn't gay?
It's still a cop movie. Also, it's probably already been done.
How do you write?
With my fingers. Seriously? On a computer, very very fast. 1500-2000 words a day but only when I'm actually writing something which is maybe 6 months per year.
Do you have a fixed schedule?
Yes, I try to write as infrequently as I possibly can and still make a good living.
Do you wait for inspiration?
No. Professionals don't need inspiration, just a good idea and a decent plan of attack.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?
Back in the 9th grade when I suddenly realized I would never be a musical prodigy or President of the United States. I liked the idea of writing because you could do it anywhere in the world and the utensils were relatively cheap (i.e. pen, paper).
What's your answer to the next question?
My answer to the next question is this: Ask it.
Do you feel that when people stop you on the street and ask you for your autograph that you have to be funny because you write comedies and that's what people expect?
Nobody has ever stopped me on the street and asked for my autograph. I'm not an actor or rock star and writers are usually not that indentifiable in public. Would you recognize Charles Dickens if you saw him at your local Burger King. I think not.
I saw Charles Dickens the other day actually. Is he one of your favorite writers? Who are some others and why?
Right, and I had lunch with J.D. Salinger and Thomas Pynchon at the Polo Lounge last Friday..
As for my favorite writers: I like Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, Philip Roth, Douglas Adams, others. Why? Because they write with humor and generally have well-drawn characters, although I'm not crazy about everything each of these men have written. Vonnegut's "God Bless You Mr. Rosewater" and Joe Heller's "Catch-22" are a few of my favorites.
What about women writers? Everybody knows that most of them aren't any good, just like most men writers, but do you have any favorite women writers?
You'll never get me to agree to that statement. I like Nora Ephron's writing quite a bit, Dorothy Parker too. Certain Jane Austen novels are quite engrossing if you have the patience which usually don't, but then I also found Tale of Two Cities incomprehensible the last time I tried to reread it.
Why is WriteThis.com your favorite e-zine on the web?
Because you had the amazing prescience and wisdom to interview me.
Which of these do you think is most important in a city? Graffiti, a hotel that books rooms at an hourly rate, a chef school?
Chefs who paint graffiti on hotels that have hourly rates.
As you've stated, you've done screenplays. Do you envision "What's Wrong With Dorfman?" as a movie some day? Would it translate well to the big screen? Who would play Dorfman? Martin Lawrence or Abe Vigoda?
I think "Dorfman" is a hard sell to the movies for 2 reasons: 1. It's about a guy who thinks he's dying which is a downer. 2. It's about Hollywood and Hollywood movies rarely do well. Martin Lawrence is definitely wrong for the part -- I just don't see him as a neurotic Jewish guy. Is Abe Vigoda still alive? If so, he's a trifle old to be playing a 40 year old. Somebody like John Cusack would work though.
How did the book come about? It would seem that the story of a burned-out screenwriter might have something to do with you, a screenwriter yourself? Were you just sick of it all one day and started typing and this is how the book came about?
A lot of the book is autobiographical. I would have written it as a non-fiction memoir except that I like making things up and I didn't want to get sued by my own parents. I'll leave it at that.
Is there anything that you would like to add? Dates of appearances? future work? Anything?
The interview was fun. Odd questions, but that was what made it interesting. I've sold another novel to St. Martin's Press which will be out in 2004. It's a neurotic love story called "Millard Fillmore, Mon Amour, A Love Story."
As for appearances -- not much, just the mandatory appearance at Stockholm (or is it Oslo?) to accept my Nobel Prize for Chemistry.