I had the opportunity to listen to Peter Rosch when he first dispensed career and creative advice in 2006. Now, he has written his first novel, My Dead Friend Sarah: A Novel, and I had the chance to ask him a few questions in a mini-interview.
What have you been up to since leaving the ad industry?
Well, I’m still in it. I don’t think I’ll ever leave it completely. After trying my hand at directing commercials for a couple of years and freelancing quite a bit, I did take a six-month hiatus. My wife and I moved down to Costa Rica to see what that might be like. We loved it, and I doubt I’d have found the time to write My Dead Friend Sarah if we hadn’t gone there. Ultimately though, we ended up coming back to New York to see some family, and after a freelance gig with BBH led to selling a large campaign due out this summer for AXE, I accepted a full-time spot again. BBH was good to me the first time around, and I couldn’t he happier to be back and making great stuff surrounded by incredibly intelligent people. Even if this or future books take off, I can’t say I’d even not want to be involved in the daily creation of stuff advertising afford the creative mind. At the end of the day, even with the headaches, it’s still one of the sweetest gigs I know.
Why write a novel?
I’m a pretty long-winded guy, and a novel seemed like the best place for me to explore my voice. I had a story that I knew needed telling, and while I considered doing a screenplay, I surmised the chances of that story being heard were a lot better if I just took a gamble on self-publishing the sucker. So far, so good as over 10,000 people have purchased the book. That is well past my expectations, and knowing that there are people out there reading it, is pretty damn exciting. After years of writing ads, part of what I liked about doing a book was the idea that it would be mine and mine alone. Nobody to tell me the logo needed to be bigger, no testing, etc. It made the whole experience of putting it out there a touch scarier, waiting for people to respond and review it, and I’m sure if it hadn’t been well received I’d probably not be talking to you about it now.
Did being a CW help your writing skills?
Totally helped. Writing commercials really demands a focus to crisp story telling. You only have thirty or sixty seconds to tell a tale, and I think I applied quite a bit of that to the novel. I wanted it to move quickly, and not meander to far from what a reader needed to know. I would think that fifteen years of writing commercials had to have had some effect on my ability to engage people, and hopefully that shows in this effort. On the flip side, I suspect writing a novel will only make me a stronger writer of ads too. All of it just feeds on itself, and only in the last few years have I come to realize that practice really does lead to growth. I probably couldn’t have written this book had I not started keeping a blog of short stories. Committing to writing something other than ads is a great exercise for any writer in the business.
Any future book plans?
Definitely. I’ve started the next one already, and am hoping to get something out before the end of the year. Not that I’m full-time again it won’t be as easy to make time for it, but I’m really passionate about the whole experience, and I tend to get up too damn early. If I don’t sit down and write something, I just end up out on my deck chain smoking, and that’s no good.
How hard was it to create a kindle version?
Creating an ebook version of My Dead Friend Sarah was a challenge. But to have someone else do it meant spending two or three hundred bucks, so I just committed to trying it first. After about a week of nearly non-stop formatting, adjusting, downloading it to my own iPhone, checking it, tweaking and repeating over and over again I had something I could live with. I’m sure there are easier ways, or will continue to be easier ways to put one together, but I used some free shareware that was a little buggy. I’m not sure, but I think Adobe has software to do it. The only thing I’d advise against is just running a Word Doc through an online formatter that claims to do all the work for you. It might do seventy percent, but the end result will still be a bit sloppy. At least that was my experience. Thanks for taking the time to ask me some questions, I really do appreciate it!
Check out his blog and the official website of My Dead Friend Sarah: A Novel.