Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Interview on Hungry People website

Dear Les,
HungryPeople would like to thank YOU for agreeing to this interview. HungryPeople loves to provide exciting and thought-provoking insights on the art of living and working from people (from all walks of life).

Check out the site at http://hungrypeople.posterous.com to learn more about why we mean by thought-provoking.

Let's eat...

1. What do YOU do for a living?

Ans. Write books, teach writing online for Writer's Digest, and coach writers privately on their novels.

2. What's the best thing about being a writer?

Ans. Don't have to wear a tie or have business cards. Can write in the nude. All the groupie chicks. (I lied about the last one. I wish!)

3. How does one find their inner voice?

Ans. Drink lots of Jack Daniels. Only mix with water and/or ice and never pop unless you want to be considered a kid or a punk. Seriously, just write as if you're relating a story to your best friend who knows the same things you do. You'll use that "shorthand" voice you do in such a case and therefore end up with writing that trusts the reader's intelligence. Get rid of your thesaurus—there is no such thing as a synonym anyway. There's just the perfect word. The perfect word doesn't come in groups.

4. What's key to being a great writer?

Ans. Be willing to go deep inside you to that place everyone tries to hide from others and be willing to expose it, warts and all. Tell the truth.

5. YOU had an amazing life, tell us what YOU learned while serving time in jail? While being a homeless man?

In prison, I learned to always find something you can use as a weapon when entering a room. An ashtray, a beer bottle, a fountain pen. Always try to keep your back to a wall. Don't believe or trust anyone. While homeless, the biggest lesson I learned was to try not to go hungry. It's not always easy to accomplish that, especially when you don't have access to food. The Salvation Army has the best meals on holidays, except for the one in Baltimore. It's okay but I'd hesitate to give it four stars. New Orleans has the best food in shelters. Shelter food there is better than the best restaurants in Indiana. California is maybe the worst. They don't believe in meat in California—they're all ruminants and eat lots of grass dishes. At least, I think it's grass. (And not the good kind that you use in brownies.)

6. If YOU were Secretary of the Interior, what would YOU change in how we manage our prisons? What would be the top 3 things YOU would be remembered for after YOUR term?

Ans. This is easy! Except, I have more than three.
1.Provide real rehabilitation that leads to a real and good-paying job, not being a dishwasher or fry cook. There is virtually no rehabilitation these days and it's a big reason why people come back more than they ever have.
2. Get rid of those prisons as businesses located in other states. An inmate from Connecticut, sitting in a prison in Texas has lost his entire support system. Not to mention, many of them just warehouse prisoners and let them vegetate in a cell 23 hours a day.
3. Educate the politicians and media who have created all kinds of problems by scaring people about criminals unrealistically and without factual basis for their claims. Be aware that no matter where the institution is, doing time is never easy for anyone. "Lock 'em up and throw away the key" is a moronic concept. I guess that's why politicians and the media use it so much—they're infinitely qualified to espouse on moronic ideas.
4. Spend more money on good mental institutions and separate the folks with mental problems from bona fide criminals. I'd guess that at least 60% (and probably more) of those incarcerated aren't really criminals in the traditional sense, but are mentally ill. The state just feels it's cheaper to warehouse them in prisons than provide mental health care.
5. Develop decent libraries. If funds are an issue, take the money spent on teaching them to get a G.E.D. and spend it on more books. People will (truly) educate themselves if they have sufficient books available. Getting a G.E.D. "looks" like an education, but it's b.s.
6. Make prisons safe for inmates. Being sent to an environment where chances are excellent you'll be assaulted or raped constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in every way and is unconstitutional.
7. Get wardens/superintendents out of the food business. Most are given a monthly budget for inmate meals and if they come under, they get to keep the rest. I don't think any of them use even close to the budgeted amount.
8. Police inmates working in the dentist's and doctor's offices better. In case you don't know it, they're stealing the Novocain and other drugs and watering them down. It's why nobody wants to go to the dentist—who wants your tooth pulled when your gums have been deadened with saline?
9. Get women out of male institutions, at least in population. That's the nuttiest idea so-called "progressives" ever came up with. Just makes doing time a thousand times harder. Give those women jobs holding the flag at construction sites. (Am I being a male chauvinist hog? Sorry!)
10. If you're going to "lock 'em up and throw away the key" at least provide a bed for each inmate.

7. Tell us more about the story of YOUR favorite quote: Never let anyone rent space in your head.

Ans. My son Mike and I saw an episode of "Candid Camera" where the setup was a shop in a mall where a sign was placed by the register that read: "No change given back today." As various people came up with their purchases, there are a variety of reactions. Some argued, some got mad, some withdrew their purchases. One guy came up, handed over a bill and was due 99 cents in change. The clerk pointed to the sign and told him, "Sorry, we're not giving change back today." He smiled, shrugged, and walked out with his purchase. The interviewer caught up with him and asked why he didn't react differently. "Because," he answered, "I never let anyone rent space in my head." Mike and I thought it was a perfect life philosophy. This is a guy in charge of himself!

8. What's YOUR favorite book?

Ans. The Stranger by Albert Camus. A close second would be anything by James Lee Burke (today's Faulkner), Harry Crews, Lee Child, Christopher Moore, Elmore Leonard (his Killshot would be my second-favorite book), early David Sedaris, Dennis Lehane, Robert Crais... oh, you just wanted one... my bad!

9. Who are YOUR personal heroes?

Ans. Thomas Jefferson, my wife Mary, Paul Newman, and the person who invented tennis shoes.

10. What are YOU hungry for?

Ans. I assume you mean food? My top three are Oysters Rockefeller, crawfish etoufe and crawfish bisque. None of which are available in Indiana, alas! At least not done well.

11. What's the best job in the world?

Ans. Being a stunt man in porno movies. Great pay, low hours, they never show your face, good union, big cheesy award ceremony once a year, kind of like the Academy Awards with sexier people... The only drawback is you have to like large animals. Seriously, I have the best job in the world. Nothing can possibly be better than being a writer. There's all those groupies, you know...

Please include a short description about YOU including your own blog or businesses or advocacies.

I'm an incredibly rich, handsome man with a beautiful wife and three children. I live in paradise (Fort Hooterville Wayne, Indiana). All of my nine books are huge bestsellers and everybody wants me on their TV show and to give interviews for the NY Times. I'm 66, but I look about 30. I can bench press 6,000 pounds and am probably the best lover ever. I'm also a fiction writer, as perhaps you can tell by the above. The key to good fiction is to include about 2% of the truth and people will then believe the rest. The 2% that's true above is the stuff about my wife and kids.

The boring part of my bio is that I did time in Pendleton, got out, went to college and got my B.A. from Indiana University and an MFA in Writing from Vermont College. Among other things, I was a burglar, armed robber, worked as a male escort for wealthy older ladies, sold and did drugs, was an award-winning hairstylist, drove in high-speed car chases with the police (and got away), have been shot at and fired back several times, been beaten by the police but without anyone there to film it (I have to say I probably deserved it—I was kind of a smart ass), acted in an Indy movie (really bad one...), acted in commercials, coached youth baseball, hung around with rock stars (they actually do have groupies... serious ones with virtually no physical blemishes...), taught in various colleges and universities, and have nine books in print. I'm finishing up my memoir right now (tentative title: Adrenaline Junkie) which is a 350-page bio, basically, so if anyone reading this is interested, rush out and buy 10-15 copies when it comes out (Christmas is right around the corner and it'll make a perfect gift).

I coach writers on writing their novels and if interested you can check me out at: www.lesedgerton.com.


No... thank you, Jay! This was fun!
Blue skies,
P.S. If my answers run too long please feel free to edit as you see fit.
Chief StoryTelling Officer
The HungryPeople team

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