It’s an investigative memoir called “Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography,” and it’s about what I witnessed over a 16-year period as an editor for such magazines as High Society, Swank, Stag, and D-Cup. I then combined these first-hand accounts with research and reporting to create a detailed insider’s portrait of a multi-billion-dollar industry in a state of traumatic upheaval. Michael Musto of the Village Voice called “Beaver Street” “entertaining, insightful, and hot.” It’s available as a paperback and all e-book formats. You can get it at Amazon and any number of indie bookstores.
What inspired you to write this particular story?
After working in porn for a couple of days, I realized I was seeing things both shocking and absurd that had never been written about. I knew immediately that this was the basis for a book.
Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
One of the themes of “Beaver Street” is that the biggest crooks always cry “Ban pornography!” the loudest. The four great anti-porn warriors of the 20th century–Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Attorney General Edwin Meese, and banker Charles Keating–either had to resign their offices in disgrace to avoid prosecution or were convicted of multiple felonies and sent to prison.
What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?
I didn’t have a book deal when I was writing “Beaver Street.” It took me six years to write and I had to motivate myself every day to keep writing.
What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?
It took me 18 years to find a publisher for my first book, “Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon.” It then became a bestseller in five countries. I went from obscurity to what passes for writerly fame these days. I knew my life had changed when “Nowhere Man” was a Jeopardy clue. Finally, my parents were impressed.
What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?
I keep a time sheet on myself to make sure that I do 2-3 “real” hours every day. In other words, when I’m sitting in front of my computer, staring into space, I clock out and that doesn’t count towards my hours. People tell me this is nuts, but it works.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a novel called “Bobby in Naziland.” In part it’s about a child growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s and early ’60s where, to quote from the book, “World War II lingered like a mass hallucination on East 17th Street and large swaths of the surrounding borough.”
What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?
The first draft!
What writer influenced you the most?
My Holy Trinity is Hunter Thompson for “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” Henry Miller for “Tropic of Cancer,” and Philip Roth for “Portnoy’s Complaint.” George Orwell, Joan Didion, and Joseph Heller are not far behind.
Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received and what was it?
Francine du Plessix Gray, who was my graduate writing professor at CCNY. She told me to keep a notebook and write in it every day.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing?
Don’t listen to what people tell you about your work because nobody knows what they’re talking about. And never give up.
Where can people learn more about your books?
At my website: http://www.robertrosennyc.com/