Continuing my series of interviews with authors whose books appeared in the Guardian’s Self-publishing Showcase, I’m welcoming comedian, radio DJ, and host of the “Sick and Wrong” Podcast, Dee Simon. Dee’s book Play Something Dancy is a collection of comical and gut-wrenching personal essays about his experience as a strip club DJ in San Francisco in the early 2000s. Most, he warns, concern sex, drugs, venereal disease, and diarrhea or a combination thereof. (If you lack a sense of humour or are easily offended, you should probably skip this one.) Having the “wet dream” job of most adolescents, Simon offers a biting, realistic, and hilarious “behind the black velvet curtains” depiction of a gentlemen’s club from the perspective of the guy upstairs with the cheesy voice spinning Def Leppard songs.
Jane: Dee, please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Dee: My father was a Rabbi and he really wanted me to be a professional cantor.
Jane: No pressure then.
Dee: I chose to become a radio DJ and strip club DJ instead. Though he was mildly disappointed, he was always very tolerant and supportive of all of my endeavors and strongly encouraged me to create my own path in life. Once I began writing, I would let him proofread stories and he was very proud that I was writing a book. He definitely influenced my decision to become a writer.
Jane: Where is home and how does your environment influence your writing?
Dee: I live in Los Angeles. There are many creative people in this city who are working on a diverse assortment of projects. People are incessantly talking about their screenplays or television shows. Though there are some who may find that aspect of LA to be annoying, I find it very inspiring.
Jane: What were the key factors that influenced your decision to become an indie author?
Dee: In the age of the internet, I don’t feel that authors are dependent upon a large publishing company to release their work. We have the means to professionally produce a self-published work and the avenues in which to promote it.
Jane: Which professional services won’t you skimp on? (editor/ professional proofreader? designer for your book interior.)
Dee: I feel that a good editor and a decent graphic designer are integral to a self published book’s success.
Jane: In general, do you think the media gives enough coverage to books?
Dee: I think the mainstream media is biased towards books that are published through traditional methods. It’s difficult to get a mainstream media outlet to review a self-published work.
Jane: But this hasn’t held you back. For most authors, marketing is a bug-bear, but you’ve really made the most of multi-media to sell your work.
Dee: I am the host of a popular comedy podcast called “The Sick and Wrong Podcast.” I marketed the book to the fans of the show. They loved it and helped spread the word.
Jane: Have you ever bumped into a member of the public reading your book?
Dee: I sat next to a woman on a flight to Las Vegas who was reading my book. I struck up a conversation and learned that she was a stripper who worked at a large club in Las Vegas. She said that she found the book rather amusing at times.
Jane: What was your first recognition/success as an author?
Dee: My first successes were being reviewed in Playboy’s SFW website “The Smoking Jacket” and the Daily Mail.
Jane: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Dee: I sent countless emails to magazines, blogs, and radio stations asking for reviews and rarely received a response. My reaction was to send another email and then move on to the next
Jane: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Dee: I’m currently working on a follow-up book entitled “Live Nude Dancers” and that will be my last book about strip clubs.
Jane: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Dee: I get my inspiration from early-to-mid 90s hip hop such as Tupac, Notorious BIG, Outkast, Nas, Wu Tang Klan and De La Soul.
Jane: Do any of your books have dedications? If so, to whom and (if appropriate) why?
Dee: Play Something Dancy is dedicated to my best friend who passed away last year from a drug overdose. He cajoled me into going to a strip club for the first time using a horrible fake ID. I write about this coming-of-age experience in the book. My friend has always been and will continue to be an inspiration to me.
Jane: Some writers like quiet, others plug into the headphones or like the bustle of a coffee shop. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Dee: I have a laptop that doesn’t crash too often, several Screamin Jay Hawkins records, and a decent bottle of rye whiskey.
Jane: I don’t normally drink while I’m writing but I believe in ‘method writing’ so when I was writing a chapter in which a character drowned her sorrows in cheap whiskey, I drank the cheap stuff. And I write in the mornings so this was early in the day. I won’t name the brand but let’s just say I’m normally a single malt kind of girl, but that was one hell of a hangover.
What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
Dee: I prefer first person.
Jane: Any advice you’d like to give aspiring writers?
Dee: I learned that writing a book and then self-publishing it is a gruelling process. If you’re not a masochist, your time would be better spent watching “Breaking Bad” or “Mad Men,” adopting a puppy from a local rescue, or baking cupcakes for your sister.
Jane: I love that!
What do you like to read? Any authors you could recommend?
Dee: Nicholson Baker, Hunter S Thompson, and Cormac McCarthy.
Jane: My favourite books when I was growing up were The Owl Service by Alan Garner, Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery and The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay. What were yours?
Dee: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the Story of the Eye.
Jane: Just looking at my book shelf and I have The Proud Highway and Better than Sex sitting next to Churchill by Himself. Sadly I didn’t discover Hunter S Thompson fan until my late teens. His kind of wisdom could have helped me through a few tricky situations earlier on!
The shift from paperback to digital books appears to have plateaued in 2013. Was this a glitch or will the upwards trend resume?
Dee: I feel that with the price of tablets lowering, digital books will only increase in popularity.
Jane: At the beginning of 2013, Smashword’s Mark Coker predicted that ‘Global’ would be the year’s biggest story. Do you have a readership in a country other than your own?
Dee: Apparently, my book is quite popular in the UK. There are a lot of podcast fans who live in the UK and they are avid readers of the book.
Jane: Is there a phrase or quote about writing that you particularly like?
Dee: I begin the book with a quote from the Butthole Surfer’s song “Sweatloaf.” The quote states that “it’s better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t.” As much as possible, I try to live my life according to this maxim. Though I had many negative and depressing occurrences at the seedy strip clubs of San Francisco, I do not regret the experience whatsoever. What’s the point of living if you have no stories to share?
Jane: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
Dee: In addition to writing, I’m also a comedian and host of two podcasts. I’m the host and producer of one of the longer-running comedy podcasts on iTunes: “Sick and Wrong Podcast.” I also host an internet television show in Los Angeles called The Obscenesters.
Jane: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Dee: I have a Facebook page and a GoodReads page for Play Something Dancy. I feel that both sites are very helpful in generating exposure for your book.
Jane: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
Dee: Please visit my website at www.deesimon.net. Also, please check out my podcast at www.sickandwrongpodcast.com.
Thank you again for taking part in this blog interview. I’m really grateful that you took time out to answer these questions and wish you all the best with your future projects.