Spotlight on Novelist Arthur Wooten
One of the most popular novelists on the scene today, Arthur Wooten has recently released his third book. Birthday Pie is the story of a dysfunctional family coping with illness, sorrow, grief, and the undeniable strength of the human spirit to overcome. It tells the tale of a son returning home to mend some very old fences and to spend time with his ailing father. This book is impossible to put down and the feelings the reader experiences while consuming it are akin to the most powerful emotions one can imagine. Birthday Pie is yet another triumph from the author of the popular novel On Picking Fruit and it's sequel Fruit Cocktail.
Arthur is a personal friend of mine. He and I have been fans of each other for ages. We also share a deep enjoyment of the series Survivor. In fact, we attended the finale of the Heroes vs. Villains installment of the show and I don’t know which of us had the better time! Arthur is also someone you can easily open up to because he is so easy to talk to and his ear is always handy when you need it. I'm in awe of this man and with good reason. His talent is one that is destined for greatness, and he's already there.
CP: Arthur, it's great to chat with you again!
AW: Carey, the pleasure’s all mine. I love Sole Focus and consider you a great friend.
CP: Your new book Birthday Pie is really coming on strong. Where did the idea for this one come from?
AW: My dad died of cancer back in the early 90’s and of course it was a stressful, frightening and difficult passage to process. But what also appeared was humor. Humorous situations and behavior of family members. Laughter comes in as a coping mechanism. Birthday Pie is a very tragic story and critics are acknowledging that, but they also are quick to say how funny it is. Reminds me of the old saying…”If you don’t laugh, you’re gonna cry.”
CP: How do you feel about its success?
AW: Birthday Pie is far succeeding all of my expectations both critically and financially. I’m very proud of the work. And it’s giving me the drive and inspiration to continue on with more work.
CP: The subject of the dysfunctional family is a recurring theme in modern media today. How do you approach such an enduring phenomena with a fresh eye?
AW: Writing about dysfunctional families has been around since the beginning of time. Look at ancient Greek theatre or even Shakespeare. The three ingredients that I think are imperative when an author is discovering new storylines surrounding the concept of dysfunctional-ism is truth, honesty and sincerity. All three are similar but very different. Actually, that’s a must with whatever genre you’re dealing with. Readers demand it. And I always strive to bring humor, heart and humanity to everything I write. Hey, it’s the 3-H Club!
CP: (Laughing.) What message do you hope readers take away from the book?
AW: Hope. And unconditional love. I think you can see with all my novels, they don’t end up all resolved and tied up with pretty little bows. Life isn’t like that. But with Birthday Pie, as heartbreaking as the ending is, the reader leaves the Martindales with a sense of they’re going to pull it together and be OK. There’s a quiet healing. It also leaves rooms for a sequel. (grinning)
CP: At one point, there was talk of a movie version of Birthday Pie. Is that still in the works?
AW: It is. Sometimes I wonder how films ever get made when you consider how many obstacles stand in the way. The play version is also alive. After completing the novel and discovering unexpected back-story for some of the characters, I revisited the play and did a rewrite. It’s now being considered for productions both regionally and here in NYC.
CP: On Picking Fruit and Fruit Cocktail remain very popular reads as well. Are you planning a third book in that series?
AW: With the release of Birthday Pie, On Picking Fruit and Fruit Cocktail have become more popular than ever. Everyone wants a third or more in the Fruit series. Ideas are bouncing around in my head. Hmmm…Curtis Jenkins has already traveled around the US. Maybe he should hop on over to Europe and see if he can find the love of his life over there? (PS…I love to travel.)
CP: Are you working on a new book now?
AW: My current project is a children’s book series called Wise Bear William. The first of nine books will be out this October. Very endearing story – similar in genre to the Velveteen Rabbit. My hope is that adults will love the stories as much as kids. And Bud Santora is doing BRILLIANT illustrations for the books.
CP: What have you been doing in your "Arthur" time lately?
AW: Carey, I’ve honestly been working so hard with my new publishing company that I haven’t had any “Arthur” time. Now that I’m happily away from my traditional publishers, I created Galaxias Productions. I own the rights to all my properties and have republished them in paperback and eBooks. Honestly, I never thought I could do it. There’s a lot of hard and complicated work involved but all three novels are under my company’s umbrella, as will all the new works. I write the books, design the interiors and Bud and I create the covers. I’m also handling all press. But I had to do that when I was with a traditional house, anyway. So maybe I should thank them for forcing me to be resourceful.
If feels great to cut out the middle-man and really start enjoying the rewards for all the hard work. Isn’t it funny? Six years ago when I self-published On Picking Fruit (before it was picked up by Alyson Books) it was frowned upon as a “vanity” production. Now, with the success of Galaxias and doing everything on my own, I’m considered this “pioneer” and applauded for it. Like most readers, I never cared who the publisher was, as long as it was a good book.
CP: Are you still active in Shiatsu?
AW: Yes. I love shiatsu. And I’ll be doing it as long as I can. This is my twenty-seventh year! When you give shiatsu, you receive it. It calms me down – like deep meditation. And it’s so complimentary to the writing career.
CP: How have you been beating the heat in NYC?
AW: It has been tough this season. But hey, it’s summer. It’s supposed to be hot. But the humidity really does me in.
CP: Looking forward to the next Survivor?
AW: Of course! I openly admit, as you know, to loving “some” reality shows. I’d kill to go to another Survivor finale with you again. The experience was awesome considering we’re both big fans. I correct myself, YOU are the biggest fan. ;)
CP: What's next for you, Arthur?
AW: I’ve finished the manuscript for Wise Bear William and while Bud is completing the illustrations I’m beginning a new novel called Leftovers. Set in 1955, it’s the story of a divorced and destitute suburban housewife who finds self-esteem, financial security and true love selling Tupperware.
CP: And what advice or wisdom can you pass along at this point in your life?
AW: I’ve said it before, regarding success with writing, but I find it’s true in life too. Be careful of the dominant thoughts you have running through your brain because they will tend to manifest. The law of the universe doesn’t care if they are positive or negative. So choose wisely. Also, if there’s something you want in life, keep your eyes open. Listen carefully. You have to learn to be lucky. An opportunity may be right in front of you and if you’re not aware of it, it will escape you. It could be seizing the right moment, noticing a great connection, thinking outside of the box. And in order to be struck by lighting (in a good way) you have to stand out in the rain. But you have to be willing to stand out in the rain longer than anyone else. I’ve been poured on. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
CP: Arthur, it's always a pleasure to be with you. Big hug, my friend!
AW: All the best Carey.