To many, Buzz Bissinger is best-known as the author of the 1990 best-selling nonfiction book “Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team and A Dream,” the result of a year-long immersion in the small town of Odessa, Texas. Ostensibly, “Friday Night Lights”—which inspired not only a movie but also an award-winning, critically acclaimed television series—was about high school football, but the book also tackles small-town politics, racism and other meaty subjects not usually considered the stuff of sportswriting.
But then, Bissinger is no mere sportswriter. He is, in fact, one of the nation’s most honored and distinguished investigative journalists: winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Livingston Award, the American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award and the National Headliners Award, among others; a regular contributor to both Vanity Fair and The Daily Beast; and the author of the highly acclaimed nonfiction books “A Prayer for the City” and “Three Nights in August.”
Recently, however, Bissinger might be best known for his angry (and very public) tirades: either attacking technology—in 2008, on Bob Costas’ HBO show “Costas Now,” he cursed the blogosphere for killing journalism—or harnessing its reach and immediacy to engage in Twitter warfare with the likes of Dallas Mavericks’ owner, Mark Cuban; St. Louis Cardinals’ manager, Tony La Russa; Glenn Beck; LeBron James; Penn State; or any of his nearly 25,000 followers.
I caught up with Buzz at his suburban home just outside of Philadelphia, the day before his newest book— four years in the making—was due to his publisher. Over a couple of diet sodas, we talked about the new book and how important honesty is to memoir; the sense of outrage that fuels Bissinger’s journalism; and the mixed blessings of having written “Friday Night Lights.” Despite his rapidly approaching book deadline, Buzz was as focused and articulate as ever—always outspoken and occasionally fiery, but also incredibly insightful, grounded and, most of all, empathetic. —Lee Gutkind
CNF: I’ve always admired what you’ve done.You seem to interview anybody you want but also say anything you want—and get away with it.
Bissinger: That’s true, I guess, although some people do run from me. And Twitter.
CNF: But even before Twitter.
Bissinger: Yeah, I’ve been lucky. I figure if you’re going to say something, you might as well say it. I think, in general, there’s a real lack of honesty about the world, about things that are going on, about people. Everything is tamped down, and I don’t like doing that. I’ve always been extremely honest, particularly about myself.The book I’m finishing is a very personal book about one of my twin sons. He was born with trace brain damage because of his prematurity—he weighed 1 pound 11 ounces at birth. At that time, in 1983, male twins born 13 weeks premature were very difficult to save.The book is about how you never want a child like that. Everyone says they’re angels, little gifts from heaven, but they’re not. They can turn into that, but you don’t want a child like that.The book is very honest about why that happened to him, my fear of failure as a writer—which is constant— and my self-doubt. I’m not trying to brutalize myself. If you’re going to write anything, you have to write with honesty and candor as opposed to doing it and piping, which too many memoirs do.
I like being outspoken. I think that’s the way you should do it. I can be excessive. I know that. But more, in my mind, is always better than less as long as it is honest and from the heart, not some TMZ gotcha.
CNF: Is it the way you always were?
BISSINGER: Yes, even when I was writing newspaper columns in high school in Andover, I was extremely outspoken. It’s the way I have always been, for better or worse. I tweet a lot, basically to avoid writing, and it’s very over the top—things that I mean at the time but regret. I ruined a very good friendship, although I am happy to say it has mostly been repaired. But it took more than a year.
CNF: Through tweeting?
BISSINGER: Yeah, with [recently retired St. Louis Cardinals’ manager] Tony La Russa. I was very critical of him for appearing with Glenn Beck at a time when the team was losing. But it wasn’t that. I think Glenn Beck is a source of evil on this country. I tweeted about it, and Tony got upset. And I criticized the team. Tony was right: There should be certain things that are sacred, and you should not be criticizing your friends. That is an example where my outspokenness really hurt. I did it because I felt what he had done was wrong, but I wouldn’t do something like that again. Not when it involved a friend.
CNF: You weren’t particularly complimentary to LeBron, either.
BISSINGER: No, the thing with LeBron that upset me was, I didn’t know if I got the real LeBron when I did the book [“Shooting Stars”]. There was a side of him I hadn’t seen—the arrogance, the self-centeredness. I began to wonder: Was he playing me? That’s always a fear when you’re doing a book for someone. It wasn’t a book I was particularly proud of. It was a book I would never do again. I did it for the money, which writers sometimes have to do, and I felt he was doing it just to create a certain image of himself. Of all the books I’ve written, it was the worst. I hated doing it. But money is money, and living is living, and having a son who has special needs and another kid in college—you gotta do what you gotta do.
CNF: You’re outspoken. … Do you get in fights? You’ve made a lot of people angry.
BISSINGER: I made people angry in Odessa. If I had gone down there at the time [“Friday Night Lights”] was published, someone would have tried to do something.That’s why I canceled a book tour there. No one’s punched me. People have yelled, but I yell back.The best defense is a good offense, and if the reporting is true and there’s something to back it up—if I believe it—I have nothing to be ashamed of, and I’m not going to back off.You have to get your neck out there, and you have to say things. Too many columns aren’t really saying anything; they’re glorified feature stories. My thing is different. Certainly a lot of people get upset. That’s the way it goes.
CNF: People say you’re angry.
BISSINGER: I am angry. I’ve always been angry, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. I’ve been in therapy for a long time. Amazingly, I’m much less angry than I was. At my first newspaper job, I was insane. I was constantly having fights with editors, hanging up on people, editors, telling them to go fuck themselves—really over the top. It’s gotten better, but the anger is still very much there.You ask any of my wives; they’ll tell you. I like writing with passion. Those, to me, are the best columns. I wake up in the morning, and I’m usually angry about something. I look at the paper, and something will infuriate me, and I just really want to write about it. My last piece for Vanity Fair [“The Runaway Doctor,” January 2011] was about this doctor who was allegedly an ENT and ran into money problems. He was living a very fancy lifestyle and reportedly started doing unnecessary surgeries, bilking insurance, and basically hurt people, putting worthless holes in their skulls. That story outraged me, and that guy outraged me. I made every attempt to talk to him. I must have tried 12 different ways. If he had made a compelling case for what he did, or why he did or didn’t do it, the story would have been different. But he didn’t. I really felt a sense of moral outrage, much like I did when I wrote about Stephen Glass [“Shattered Glass,”Vanity Fair, September 1998]. Glass made a mockery of journalism; he made a mockery of all of us. I don’t care why he did it, although in applying to be admitted to practice law in California after 13 years, he went after his parents and described them like Mommy and Daddy Dearest. Of course it all came from Glass’s mouth, so it’s almost like he is spinning another yarn. Who knows it if it’s true? We really don’t know why anyone does anything. The subjects don’t know, and psychologists doing superficial and worthless studies justifying every form of behavior often don’t know. I spend very little time in stories trying to figure out the psychological motivations of people. They’re generally, to me, quite simple. Glass made up all those stories because he wanted to get ahead. This doctor did what he did because he wanted to make money, but in both of those cases, I felt a very high sense of outrage. I think that came out in the stories.
CNF: You never talked to Glass, either, right?
BISSINGER: No, not for the story. I tried many, many times to talk to Stephen. I had met him very briefly at the Daily Pennsylvanian banquet. He was the head of the DP, and I was the guest speaker. All I remember is his mother asking if I could get him an internship somewhere.
CNF: Did you?
BISSINGER: No. I thought it was outrageous she would ask me. I didn’t know who this kid was, except he was very annoying and was working for all these places you have to work 25 years to work for, and he came out of nowhere—and now we know there was a reason. I never spoke to him; I had phone numbers for him and went through intermediaries— the lawyer he had at one point was a classmate of mine at Penn—and his father pretty much told me to go fuck myself. Every attempt was made to try and talk to him. He didn’t want to.
CNF: What’s an example of some time that people said no, no, no, and you tried and made the connection?
BISSINGER I don’t even remember his name—I could look it up—it was a Vanity Fair piece I had done about Pete Rose [“A Darker Shade of Rose,” September 2001] and what an awful person he was. There was an associate of Rose, when all the crazy stuff was happening, who knew about the gambling and a lot of other things. … Generally, what I do is find their addresses—I never call because that doesn’t work—then I write a long letter and FedEx it. He said no, so I just went to his house unannounced. He wasn’t happy to see me. That’s the way it goes.You can’t write any type of nonfiction without reporting it.
To me, it’s the reporting that makes the nonfiction—that’s what makes it resonate. And then, if you’re lucky, you also have the ability to tell a narrative and make it come alive. But it’s the reporting that’s going to do that. What made “Friday Night Lights” special was the fact I lived there for a year; I was a member of the community, and my kids went to school there. I’ve seen other books done where people parachute in and out, and the books are terrible. When I sat down to write “Friday Night Lights,” because of the amount of reporting I did and the amount of time I had spent there, I really knew the community. I didn’t know it in some surface impression; I’d done a tremendous amount of research and interviewed close to 100 people beyond spending hundreds of hours with the kids and the team. That, to me, is the only possible way you can do it and the only way you should do it. To do any nonfiction well, you have to report it out. Unless it is a straight essay, in which case you’re interpreting —that’s different.
CNF: Can’t you both report it out and interpret it at the same time?
BISSINGER: Sure, you can, but you have to report it out. It was pretty clear what my point of view was in “Friday Night Lights”—it’s pretty clear what my point of view is in many of the pieces I write— but it’s got to be rooted in reporting. It can’t just be some essay in which you’re expounding upon something. To me, nonfiction is nonfiction. I sometimes wonder, in a weird way, if nonfiction is becoming more like fiction and fiction becoming more like nonfiction. So much of fiction now is based on real events thinly disguised, and in nonfiction, it seems, you can make things up, imagine conversations.That was true of [Ben Mezrich’s “The Accidental Billionaires.” He] never spoke to [Mark] Zuckerberg. He said, “This is how I think he would have talked.” What is that? That’s a play; that’s not nonfiction. Berendt did the same thing in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”That whole wonderful first chapter was made up. The protagonist and the antagonist had not met each other. “The Perfect Storm,” which was a wonderful book … Junger doesn’t know how those men died. He based it on how other men had died. Dying is a pretty unique act.
I just see this happening more and more and more. Everyone wants a good story. Publishers want a good story. Publishers don’t fact-check—not because of money, but because they don’t want to know. They know if they did some fact-checking, a lot of what’s in the book would have to get thrown out. They really don’t want to know.They just want the best story possible, and they don’t really care whether it’s true or not. This is one man’s opinion, but more and more nonfiction is being piped. It’s people saying: How can I get a movie made out of this? How can I put the right spin on this to have it sell? A lot of it is not necessarily made up, but they assume a lot of things, and they had no idea whether they happened or not.
CNF: So for publishers, it’s like the military: Don’t ask; don’t tell.
BISSINGER: That’s exactly what it is. They don’t care. Their response is always the same: It’s the author’s responsibility. Trust me, anyone who’s written a lot can read something and say, you know what, something’s wrong. It’s too perfect—the dialogue is too perfect, everything is seamless, the narrative all breaks the right way. It doesn’t pass the smell test. Editors can do that, as well. But I’ve never heard of them turning down a book they thought would sell.They deal with it if they’re discovered, and then they go, “Mea culpa, mea culpa.” It was the author’s fault; they trusted the author. And whatever. And, of course, the irony is that once it’s made public, the book sells more anyway. I wrote a piece about Augusten Burrough’s “Running with Scissors” [“Ruthless with Scissors,”Vanity Fair, January 2007].That book was rife with inaccuracies, was (in my opinion) solely written to sell, and he really wounded that family.They were thinly disguised and easy to identify. I met with them, spent a lot of time with them.
I was the only one they talked to. It took months of negotiations, months for them to trust me. He really embarrassed them, and I think a lot of it wasn’t true, or was embellished. I felt a tremendous sense of moral outrage about that guy. The good thing is he doesn’t really sell anymore—no one gives a crap. When they turn to fiction, you know they pretty much have run the pipeline dry of their so-called memoirs. But he hurt them, and he humiliated them, and he was devious in the way he got information. He would call one of them and not say he was writing, not say he was reporting, not say anything, and then use the material.
CNF: When you went into the story, did you know all this?
BISSINGER: I had a suspicion when I read the book that something wasn’t right. This was a book in which conversations were being recalled verbatim from 25 years ago. It was just too perfect—every act was funny, everything was resonant— so I had a feeling.The family had filed suit—they were challenging the veracity of the book—and like most stories, you get lucky.They lived in the Northampton, Mass., area, and a very good friend of mine knew them, or knew one of the sisters, and vouched for me. It took months to gain their trust; they had lawyers, and I had to work with them, and I met with them six or seven times.That’s the one thing I’ve learned: We get nervous as journalists because we want the story, we want it now, we get scared, they’re not going to talk to me, they’re not going to talk to me, my god, I want to get this over with because it’s tense. The more time you take, and the less you push—and I have that luxury—the better the chance you may get something. If you go in with barrels blazing, it’s not going to happen.
CNF: What did they want to know from you initially?
BISSINGER: I think they wanted to check out my character. I remember meeting with them. I got the OK from one of the lawyers; they wanted me to sign a confidentiality agreement that this would only be used for the article if the article ran. Everyone was there, but it was clear that some wanted to do it right away, some did not, and some were very, very nervous. I had my tape recorder with me, and I just put it away and said, “I’m turning this off; this is all off the record. What are your fears?” Their fears: “We’ve been screwed, we’ve been humiliated, we’ve been made fun of, and we don’t really know who you are.” It took a long time to convince them I was sincere, which I was, because they had been so terribly ravaged by the book.
CNF: You’re a journalist who is supposed to stay distanced, but you don’t seem to do that.
BISSINGER: I’m involved journalistically, and if you’re involved journalistically and spend a lot of time with people, you end up caring about them. I do take a point of view, and I take an emotional stance. That’s one of the reasons I can get people to talk. I’m very conscious of what Janet Malcolm said: Basically, it’s this push and pull between the subject and the journalist, and both are con men. The subject wants a certain story told, and the journalist wants to tell a certain story, and if I interview someone and it turns out to be B.S., if they’re really playing me, then I’ll change gears. I may go in with a point of view that will change over the course of the story, but in the cases of Weinberger and Glass and Burroughs, it was pretty clear to me what my point of view was, and I felt that to be correct. The goal, then, is to get involved with people, to care about them and really to listen to their story. I still hear from the [“Running with Scissors”] family. I still hear from people in the Weinberger piece. I still hear from many of the people I’ve written about. Except for the subjects, basically.
CNF: Hearing from them because they felt supported?
BISSINGER: Because they felt supported, but also because we’ve established a relationship. When someone gets screwed like that, I really care. It’s not made up. I looked that family in the eye, and they were ravaged and humiliated. It could have easily been fixed, but [Burroughs] put them in Northampton so everyone knew who they were. I don’t understand that. That, to me, was malicious. Put it in Arizona; put it in North Carolina—that’s what people do. He didn’t, so everyone knew who they were. They were pariahs, ashamed to go out, and that affected me emotionally. I think where I sort of learned that was actually with “Friday Night Lights”; I learned it with the black running back Boobie Miles. This was after the book had come out and people wanted to make a movie. I remember him saying, “Do you know what it’s like to be called a nigger in a book? Do you have any idea what that’s like? I know who said it. He was an assistant coach. I know he said it. I thought he liked me. I thought he cared about me.”
Imagine seeing that in print; imagine if you were called a nigger. That’s always resonated with me. Issues of trust are hard. “Friday Night Lights” had to be written the way it was, but I didn’t feel any victory in certain people hating me or not talking to me ever again. I know what I wrote was true based upon the reporting and based on what I had seen, but people’s lives are at the end of this. I think about that all the time; a story can damage people. Weinberger is in jail awaiting trial. Glass is a piece of shit. Burroughs is a piece of shit, as well. So I don’t really worry about them, but I worry about those who have been damaged.
CNF: You pick these frauds—Glass and Burroughs and Weinberger and Pete Rose. Is there a reason? These are unsavory people whom other people think are pretty good, and then something happens.
BISSINGER: I think I gravitate to these stories because, whether it’s right or wrong or righteous, I have this kind of high moral standard; I don’t like it when people lie.The story really wasn’t about Pete Rose; the story was about how Pete Rose destroyed this very naive kid. He was the only person who never ratted on Pete, went to prison for Pete, and Pete rewarded him in an interview by addressing him by the wrong first name.This kid had lived with Pete for four or five years; he’d do anything for him. He never talked to the Feds, and Pete could have cared less, so I felt a tremendous outrage about that. Glass made a mockery of journalism, made a mockery of all of us, and was willing to do anything. He didn’t care who got fired. All he was doing was trying to save his ass; all he was doing was lying. And Weinberger— There was so much public record available about what he had done, and medical experts, and over 350 malpractice suits, and the criminal case, and I spent a lot of time with his ex-wife, who had to file for bankruptcy, [and] he bankrupted his father, too. I like stories like that. I like stories where you can legitimately stake out a position. “Friday Night Lights” was like that. There was a lot of empathy in “Friday Night Lights”— certainly missed by the town—but it took a position that high school football was completely out of control; it was controlling this town and using up these kids at the ages of 17 or 18.
CNF: Did you know going into “Friday Night Lights” that racism was what you were going to—
BISSINGER: No, that unfolded when I saw what happened to Boobie Miles. Although I think the racism is institutionalized in the town, it came out with such force when he got hurt— you saw it, you heard it—so that was a situation where events unfolded and led to the book that came out. I had no idea of the impact—or how racist that community could be.
I knew Pete Rose was a bad guy, but it wasn’t that Pete Rose was a bad guy. It was really a story about—his name was Tommy Gioiosa—how he destroyed this guy and didn’t care. That outraged me. I’m still in touch with Tommy.
CNF: Do you say, “I think I might want to do a story on that guy because he’s pissing me off”?
BISSINGER: Rose was a story that I came up with because I was contacted by someone who knew what had happened to Tommy and also knew me. Burroughs was a story that I was assigned, and so was Weinberger.
CNF: And Glass?
BISSINGER: Glass I came up with. I was just so pissed off by what that little, manipulative motherfucker had done, and I remember he was so annoying at the banquet. It was so obsequious, and he was just putting the shine on me as he did with everyone else. Then his mother, “Can you get my little Stevie an internship?”
I didn’t know who the hell he was. Why would I get him an internship?
CNF: It’s amazing how these people can get away with so much initially.
BISSINGER: I guess it’s the way of the world. If you go back and look at Glass, Glass’ brilliance was—and this is part of the problem—that everyone wants a gotcha story now, a story that either exposes something big or small, or makes a mockery out of someone.They would have these meetings, and editors would say, “I’d love a story about this,” or “Gee, I’d love a story about that,” and then Stephen would always produce one.
Looking back on it, should editors have wondered what was up? Of course. There were several complaints that he was piping stories, and they were completely dismissed. He had it down: He would make up fact-checking, and he would turn one person against the other. I don’t think he was stopped. Weinberger, from what I know, was doing this fairly routinely, and then lawsuits started to be filed, and they realized the jig was up, and that’s when he escaped.
Burroughs … I think it happens a lot—that people will use other people, destroy other people without any reporting, basically to make money. That’s what happened—in my mind, at least, although I could be wrong. This was an enormously successful book, and people found it funny. I didn’t find it funny because there were people at the end of the book. Some of it was probably true—maybe all of it was true—he says it wasn’t, and I found the family to be extremely credible. At the end of the day, it’s “he said” vs. “she said.” Not only did I call Burroughs and his agents and his publisher and write him a letter, I FedEx-ed him probably 55 questions: Here’s what I’m writing. Here’s what I’m saying. Here’s an opportunity to say it’s wrong, and if it’s wrong, we’ll talk about it, and it will be corrected. Same with Mark Weinberger. The person has the opportunity to say this is wrong. The goal is the truth, and a lot of times, there are other explanations, but in these cases, neither Burroughs, nor Rose, nor Glass, nor Weinberger wanted to talk.
Cnf: What’s it like working for Vanity Fair?
BiSSingER: Working for Vanity Fair is great. I’ve been working there since 1995, and it’s been a great gig. Writers are treated extremely well; they’re given all the time they need to do a story, the time to go where they have to go. [The magazine] gets misunderstood because they always have that cheesecake photo on the front, but there’s a lot of great journalism. It’s a wonderful place to work, and I was lucky to get involved, and that was really because of “Friday Night Lights.” One of the editors there admired the piece, and there was a story he thought I might be good for because it was based in Texas.
Cnf: That was your first book.
BiSSingER: Yes. It was long ago. The book came out 22 years ago; the reporting was done 24 years ago. I was a young man at 33. The book has had great success. It’s not just the book; it’s this franchise now. The book, the movie, the television series. … I can’t think of anything else like it, where you’ve had three entities that have all been critically acclaimed in all the different iterations—except for maybe “MASH.” Having said that, I wrote that book, like I said, when I was in my mid ’30s. I had never written a book, and it went on to sell close to 2 million copies, and it still sells. I’m never going to top that. Never. I’m just not. It’s hard when you think, “Oh god, I peaked at the age of 33, and it’s never going to be as good as this.” Early success is wonderful, but then what do you do with the rest of your life? I’ve kept at it, but in this ironic way, I became the nonfiction equivalent of the high school quarterback. His glory days were way back in high school, and he’s sitting there 20 years later, wondering what the hell happened. It’s the same for me with “Friday Night Lights.” I wrote it, had never written a book, on a whim moved to Odessa, and then everything clicked. That’s just not going to happen. People say it may. It won’t. I’m tired of being known for it. That’s all I’m known for.
Occasionally, someone will talk about “Three Nights in August”; very occasionally, someone will talk about “A Prayer for the City.” No one talks about LeBron. That’s all I’m known for. At least once a week, someone will mention it. This is 22 years later, and now they’re mentioning it all the time because of the TV series. I’m on a plane, and people say, “What do you do?” and I say I’m a writer, and they say what have you written, and I say I wrote this book called “Friday Night Lights,” and their eyes get big because they’ve actually heard of it. I wrote a piece that I actually felt was a summation of my feelings for Sports Illustrated [“Turn Out the Lights,” Feb. 14, 2011] when the last episode of “Friday Night Lights” had run on Direct TV. They asked me to write about it. I was happy the show had ended; I lived with that book for a long time. My father said, “What—would you rather not have written it?” Obviously, that’s not true, but I’ve always been haunted and fascinated by people who have had early success and then don’t have second acts.That happens a lot to actors; it happens all the time to singers. What the hell happened? Where did he disappear to? There is the sense when you write, particularly when you’re writing a book, that you say, it’s not going to be nearly as good as “Friday Night Lights,” so what’s the point? I am ambitious and want to be moving ahead, moving ahead, moving ahead, and it’s probably not a good way to think about things, but it’s true.
It also happened at a great time in my life. I was young enough and stupid enough to do it on a whim. I would never do it now. I live in too big a house and have too many responsibilities, too many bills and too much bullshit. I feel that writers … we have one great story within us, and if we’re lucky, we get it out, and then that’s it. The rest is either you doing it for money or you trying to replicate it—and you never can. Or, at least, that’s the fear. As angry as I am, I have very little confidence. I’m very hard on myself.
This newest book took me four years. It should have taken a year. I just completely locked up on it. Personal stories are hard. My son won’t understand what I’ve written, but a lot of people will, and he’s precious to me, and I don’t want to hurt him. But you have to be honest. There was incredible self-doubt on “A Prayer for the City.” I was depressed for months. That’s when I started seeing a therapist and went on medication. I’m on four different medications. I need them. If I don’t take them, I get very jittery and very anxious, and then I really get angry. I get very jumpy and very, very angry. So they’ve helped. After “A Prayer for the City,” I didn’t write a book for seven years. It’s hard enough to write a book, but it’s really hard now because there’s just this sense out there that nothing sells except maybe celebrity books. It takes a lot of time, and they’re lonely, and you’re sitting in a room trying to make it come together. It is very, very isolated. They take a lot out of me, and as we’ve talked, in the back in my mind “Friday Night Lights” is looming, and I’m saying, “Fuck, I’m not going to sell 2 million copies, so what’s the point?”
CNF: As you talk, I’m thinking about Gay Talese. “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” must drive him crazy. It’s brilliant, but still, 1966, and people still talk about that as his best piece.
BISSINGER: Yeah, and Gay Talese is obviously a wonderful journalist—and still a wonderful dresser. Joseph Heller wrote “Catch-22” and then tried to write other things, but nothing was ever as good. There are a lot of authors. …
Was I one-hit wonder? Was I in the right place at the right time? Who the hell knows? Am I just a fraud? I had one book within me; I wrote the book, and the rest has been pretty much mediocre bullshit. I don’t think that’s true, but that’s the way I think. As I say, I keep at it. I don’t know how this newest book will do.
It’s all about what sells, and we live in an “American Idol” society: People want fame instantly. Nobody wants to wait. People spend more time studying the best-seller list than trying to figure out how to do it. It takes legs. There are people out there who will take infinite amounts of time to do it right, but I think that’s dying out. I think the big, boggy monster nonfiction books … publishers don’t want them. They don’t sell; nobody reads them. Maybe that’s why I’m doing a personal story. This is something I’ve wanted to write for a long time. My heart’s really in this book whether it sells one copy or 10 zillion. I did let it out.