My Interview with Bill Boggs!
It is a great honor to interview you today. You’ve had an esteemed career as an actor, writer, award-winning TV host/interviewer, news anchor, and producer. You’ve appeared on the stage, have a presence on YouTube, and you’re an entertainment industry insider. You’ve lived a rich and excited life that most people can only dream about. I am excited have the chance to speak with you – to have the renown interviewer become the interviewee!
1. I find it very telling to hear how people see themselves. Therefore, my first question is always the same: please tell us how you’d describe yourself?
A blessed, lucky, happy man who is grateful for his life.
2. Literature is my passion, and knowing you were an English teacher, I’m guessing you can relate. 😊 You have experience with academic writing, expository or journalistic writing, creative writing, and scriptwriting, which is thrilling. Therefore, I’d like to focus this first set of questions on you as a writer.
· When did you first begin writing?
o I first began writing creativity around age seven, and on one level or another have been doing it ever since.
Ø You began your career comedy writing. Was this the start of your entertainment career, and if so, what were you employed to do?
§ I was working at a boring corporate job right out of grad school at Penn at Armstrong World Products, in Lancaster, Pa. Two of my equally bored co-workers started writing sketch comedy for themselves as a two-man “Comedy Team.” I began my career in show business managing that team, producing comedy shows with them and writing from time to time.
Ø How did you acquire this job?
I had a “coup de foudre” when I saw them doing a routine on a lunch break for two secretaries. The strike of lightening was, ”We will quit our jobs, go into show business and I will be their manager.” A few months later they made their national TV debut on “The Merv Griffin Show.’ They were that good, that funny, and I wasn’t too bad a manager, either, since I set up the audition.
· What did academic writing teach you? How did it help develop your style or voice?
o Nothing that I can say specifically except the challenge of learning by having to write on many subjects and somehow get a passing grade so you could get out of school and get on with your young life.
Ø How much input did you have on the stories you reported as a news anchor, and what impact did academic writing make on those reports, if any?
§ As a news anchor for two years at WNBC, I exercised very little input. I showed up groggily at 5 A.M. in the morning, and was lucky that I was able to read, let alone offer writing suggestions to the equally bleary-eyed news writer.
§ Of course, for the rest of my 40-year career in TV, I have been writing everything you could imagine- from introduction of guests on my various talk shows, to questions, to opening monologues, to show pitches, on and on. Being able to write has been an enormous help.
Ø How did academic writing help or hinder you when it came to scriptwriting?
Ø Doing it for the first time in an academic situation in quest of my master’s degree was valuable- I saw how to get a bead on the basic craft required.
Ø Did it affect you in any way as a creative writer?
§ Not in the least. Only to be creative enough to get a passing grade.
· What do you think if the most important aspect of writing?
o Having the discipline to do it, and finding your own voice, and having confidence in that voice.
· What is your writing process? Do you use outlines or let the story/characters drive you? Do you prefer silence or music? Tea or coffee?
o Deep-focus silence. Runa Tea. Character-driven, and it’s like I have a movie going on in my head. I am a child of the last days of classic radio, “The Theater of the Mind,” and that has helped my vivid imagination to develop.
Ø Does your process change depending on what type of writing you’re doing? Why, or why not, and how?
§ Of course. Fiction is completely different than some of the essays I’ve written for the NYT.
Ø Where do you find your inspiration?
From my churning brain from which my ideas flow. and by quietly observing people.
3. The industry has changes vastly over the years. I am curious to hear your thoughts about the past, present, and future. This section will be about the publishing industry and your personal experiences regarding it.
· What made you decide to publish your writing?
o “The Adventures of Spike the Wonder Dog:” as told to Bill Boggs is the best piece of individual work of my life. I wanted to share it.
Ø What was your first publication, and who was it with?
§ “At First Sight,’ a romantic novel was published by the firm of Grosett & Dunlap.
Ø Do you have the same requirements for publishing an article or script as you do a novel? How do these processes compare?
§ I do not grasp what you mean here by ”requirements.” I just want my work to be as good as it can be, and I want to share it.
Ø Are you required to have a literary agent in all instances? Why, or why not?
§ I am not required to have an agent. It surely helps.
· What was the hardest thing you encountered with getting published?
o Getting a book deal. It took me six months.
Ø If you knew then what you know now, is there anything you’d do differently?
§ Called the last person I called first. Otherwise, no.
· How has the industry changed since you published your first book, At First Sight, until now, with your new release, The Adventures of Spike the Wonder Dog: As told to Bill Boggs?
o 1980 was my first book. 2007 was my second book, “Got What it Takes?” Successful People Reveal How they Made it to the Top,” for Harper/Collins and Spike came out this year, 2020. Really the changes are too vast to start compiling.
Ø With your prestige, are you still required to submit a query letter and pitch your projects?
§ It’s a tough world out there for authors. I submitted my manuscript directly with a summary of the property included.
Ø Do you feel that the Indie revolution has made it easier or harder to become traditionally published? Why, or why not, and how?
§ Harder. More books out there in a declining market.
· What do you think the future of the publishing industry will be?
o Books on demand like HBO
4. In this this set of questions, I would love to address how your career as a TV host and interviewer influenced your new book. The protagonist, Bud’s, career parallels your own while, and Spike is modeled (in loving memory) after your own dog. It leaves me wondering how much of the book is fact or fiction. 😊
· In reality, your dog passed away before he could join you on much of the adventures you shared in common with Bud. Was it painful to revisit them while reimagining the experiences with Spike, or was it somewhat therapeutic?
o Nothing about this was painful. The adventures are fictional some of the stuff on TV is inspired by experience. Writing this was huge fun. The dog had died in 1974. I was not grieving. I just had the idea-“What if the dog hadn’t died and became a big star in today’s world with a talk show host master?” So I was writing, in part, about the TV industry I know well.
Ø What encouraged you to pen this novel? What made it important to you?
§ I just liked the idea of focusing my energy on writing after my last TV show went off the air. A week after the show got cancelled, I said to my beloved Jane, my-long suffering girlfriend, “I’m going to focus on being a writer now.” I was really highly motivated to dive into the Spike idea and create a whole world around it. The decision became a big plus socially, too. When people started asking me, “What happened to you? How come you’re not on television anymore? I feel bad for you, are you ok?” I said, “I’m a writer now. I’m working on a novel.” Interestingly, many folks seem to respect writing almost as much as they respect someone’s being on television. I was really encouraged from the first day at the laptop, when the voice of the central character, Spike the Wonder Dog, came to the page.
§ It was important because I thought it was funny and would entertain people. I tested the first draft on eight people and they all reported it was “laugh out loud funny.”
· How many of the tales are fact and how much is fabricated for the sake of the story?
o That’s Spike’s secret, sorry. He told me the story.
Ø Do you have a favorite backstage moment to share with us? Is it in the book?
§ My favorite backstage moment was with Natalie Wood, and that’s not in the book.
· Is there anything specific you’d like the readers to know?
o I’d like a reader to say, “Ok, this guy sat down and tried to write a fast-paced comic novel- did he do it? If so what made it work? If not, where did he miss?”
o I want you to know that I want you to laugh and forget your troubles. That we need to be able to get back to laughing at each other. If America is a melting pot-let’s melt! I am a non-conformist, and the book pushes the boundary of its comedy back at least a decade when there was less offense taken by humor than there is today.
Ø This is a satirical work. What are you commenting on? What is the underlying theme?
§ Commenting on human foibles, inauthentic, pretentious behavior, plus, oh yes, phony people, sexual objectification, the over-the-top world of TV today. But, start reading the book ASAP for a much more complete answer.
5. What can we expect to see from you over the coming year?
· I read that you plan to write a sequel to your new release, The Adventures of Spike the Wonder Dog: As told to Bill Boggs. Can you tell us a little about it?
o It will pick up near the end of the current Spike story.
· What is the best way for readers to connect with you?
o Website billboggs.com, @realbillboggs on twitter, @spikewonderdog twitter, and @spike_wonderdog on Instagram, BillBoggsTV, YouTube, spikethewonderdog.com, Facebook.
I really appreciate you taking the time to meet with me, and for allowing me to introduce you to my readers. You are, indeed, an intriguing man of many talents. I look forward to reading Spike’s adventures and to its sequel. Be safe and healthy, my friend!