It may not always feel l like it, but I’ve been very fortunate in my life; while others have run across fearsome trolls, stalkers, and Republicans, I’ve met some truly amazing people on Twitter.
Like this guy, the one who has taken time from his ridiculously-busy schedule to join us today. There are some writers who can make anyone sound cool. Today’s guest proves that with this interview.
Paul Eisenberg, after accompanying his travel writer dad to the Peruvian Amazon, (where apparently he did not come across an ancient Peruvian idol that bestowed upon him all the powers of the jungle creatures, or did he?) had his first trip report published at age 15 in Junior Scholastic magazine and has been a fan of family travel and journalism ever since.
He’s serves as editorial director at Fodor’s, where for nearly a decade he directed a guidebook program including U.S. and family travel titles. He has reported on travel for Barclaycard, Shermans Travel, and FoxNews.com, has written about parenting for Nick Jr. magazine and authored the sixth edition of Fodor’s Around New York City with Kids. (I’ve done nothing in my life compared to Paul.)
In 2010 his article about medical tourism received a Lowell Thomas Award, the highest honor in travel journalism. (Told ya so.) Paul and his wife live in New York City with their three children. That’s right, NYC. In a totally unelated note, my daughter, the ultimate Broadway fan, has filed for political asylum and is planning to take up sanctuary at Paul’s house in the Big Apple.
Now on with the show!
PAUL: If no one reads any further than this question, what is the one thing you would want the world at large to know about you, something that’s not obvious that might make someone’s jaw come unhinged or, at the very least, drop a little bit in surprise?
RH: In spite of the tone of my Twitter feed and my blog posts, I’m not as cynical as I appear to be from my writing. Now that I’m in my fifties and have been through a crisis or two, I get emotional at the drop of a hat. Heck, I even cry at Kleenex commercials; ironically, there are never any tissues around when that happens.
PAUL: Let me not bury the lead any further. I read your latest work, Into the Dark: Book One of the Infinite Crossover Crisis, and will repeat here what I told you privately: Your storytelling is simply great. I appreciated how fun your story settings were — they were places I enjoyed escaping to as a reader. And, I’d like to think, I got most of the references. To that point, there are a lot of pop culture references in the book, which itself is genre-defying — it has elements of sci-fi and fantasy, a respectable amount of mystery, and wisecracks at every turn. If you were pitching this book to me in a publishing meeting and I asked you, what part of the bookstore should I put it in, how would you answer, after perhaps stifling an eye roll?
RH: That’s a good question! (Told ya this guy was phenomenal.) First I’d suggest establishing a Superhero Fiction section, then I’d suggest you could get away with filing Into The Dark in the Sci-fi, Fantasy or even the Mystery sections. Dealer’s choice, really. The only thing keeping it from the Graphic Novels section is the lack of images. It really is a shame bookstores don’t have aisles dedicated to “Pop Culture Smorgasbords.”
PAUL: Into the Dark is not your first book. You also wrote The Bellman Chronicles, which I think is not-so-secretly based on your life in the hospitality industry. How did this book come to pass, and for those hotel guests past and present who might be too squeamish to really dig into your book, what’s the one thing you desperately want hotel guests to know, especially in our current age of pandemic travel?
RH: I wrote The Bellman Chronicles because I couldn’t afford therapy. Period. Being a fly on hotel walls isn’t as much fun as one would imagine. I’ve seen the very best and the unbelievable worst humanity has to offer; I can’t prove it of course, but I’m certain I’ve shook hands with more than one actual devil. And I’m not referring to O.J. Simpson. (The Juice was actually one of the nicest guests I’ve ever served in all of our encounters.) And so I desperately needed to vent while entertaining readers in the process. As far as a message to guests: “Hotel staff are people, too. Like you, they have feelings, and, like you, should be treated with respect. Cross them and you will pay a price… whether you realize it or not. I guarantee it.”
PAUL: You and I are members of a very large, probably intergalactic club — people with “day jobs” who are driven to write on the side. And by several measures, you are successful at it, having now published two books. What would your best piece of advice be to a fellow day jobber who comes home too tired to write or perhaps lacks the drive to keep at it?
RH: If you can only write five minutes a day, every day, you’ll reach the finish line eventually. In fact, every word you jot down, every paragraph you complete, every chapter you sign off on will leave you feeling empowered. Before you know it, you’ll be editing your first blog post or short story or novel. You can do it, you just have to believe there’s a world within you worth sharing. (Yes, it’s corny, but it’s true.)
PAUL: Let’s segue from writerly wisdom into fatherly wisdom. You once suggested that the cure for writer’s block was to step away from the keyboard and spend time with your family until you “annoyed them enough to inspire them to collectively yell, ‘Get back to work!'” But we both know that part of a good dad’s job is to be annoying, often reliably so. What is your best piece of parenting advice for a new dad?
RH: Boys can wear pink and girls can play sports. When you see your kids discovering what works for them, regardless of what it is, help them embrace it. Make sure your kids, especially boys, have a good moral code to guide them through an increasingly-hostile world. There aren’t enough men out there today who truly respect women.
PAUL: You and I came to know each other on Twitter. Since all of us — writers and civilians alike — are doomed to spend at least part of the rest of our lives on social media, what would be your best piece of advice for someone brand spanking new to Twitter, who perhaps doesn’t know what they’re in for?
RH: Try not to get involved in cyber-feuds. (I was guilty of replying in a snarky tone before considering the consequences of my actions quite often in the early days of my Twitter “career”.) You get back what you put out in this life and social media is no exception. So be encouraging and do your best to raise people up rather than tear them down.
PE: In addition to being a fan of the sound of my own questions, as everyone can tell, I like trying to get other writers to distill their thoughts into pearls of wisdom, in part because it is devilishly hard — for instance, whether you’re writing a haiku, a tweet, an email subject line, or something similar with a limited number of characters, sometimes, you really just have to be brief. So, to close on this on a cheerfully morbid note, what would you want your epitaph to be?
RH: “He just wanted people to like him more than he liked himself.”
PAUL: Anything else you’d like society to know about you, your life, or your work that my often-narrow questions may not have given you the opportunity to answer?
RH: Into The Dark came to life as the world appeared to be imploding. The American president weaponized his followers to stage an insurrection. Whole societies appeared to be crumbling both literally and economically as their citizens fell prey to an insidious virus that some still refuse to believe even exists. It became a crime to be Black in North America.
But the Infinite Crossover Crisis takes place in a world of my choosing, one that I can control. One where my best friend killed himself. But his story doesn’t end there. A world where there may actually be a single ray of hope somewhere in the all-encompassing darkness, if my heroes are willing to sacrifice enough to find it.
There were literally 48.5 million books available on Amazon.com as of last year (I can’t type those numbers anymore, not without throwing up in my mouth a little) so there are no lack of choices for readers, but I hope people will give Into The Dark a chance. My style is unique, I cross genres – and even realities – in this book and I’ve tried to lay the groundwork for a world I think we’d all be happy to inhabit for a little while.
Into The Dark is available on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, and even .MiddleEarth. (I don’t seem to have the link for that one.) Paul Eisenberg is available on his Twitter feed and TravelingDad.com. As for me, just come to Niagara Falls, ask for The Hook, he will help you. Wait, that was Kung-Fu. If you’re here, you already know where to find me, so never mind. Just take care of yourselves in the meantime, okay? The so-called real world has never been more dangerous.
See you in the lobby and the virtual bookstores, friends…