Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Garry Berman about his writing career, what inspires him, and the writing of his new book, The Funniest Decade.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Garry Berman, and I am a freelance writer living in Pennsylvania. I’m the author of several non-fiction books, covering various aspects of entertainment and pop culture history.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I’ve been writing all my life – both fiction and non-fiction– but I first wanted to write a book back in the mid-1990s, on a favorite topic of mine for which no book had been written or published in America: British TV sitcoms.
When did you take a step to start writing?
In 1995, I began doing serious research and contacting people who I hoped would be of help to me.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
About four years. My first book, Best of the Britcoms, was published in September of 1999.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
It’s difficult to tell, because I often allow many ideas for books to float around in my mind—to “gestate” if you will—and I collect random bits of information before deciding if I want to get down to business and actually begin the work. My latest book, The Funniest Decade, celebrates a topic I first became fascinated (obsessed?) with since I was barely in my teens: American comedy in the 1930s.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write The Funniest Decade?
I see it as coming full-circle in a way, finally writing about one of my lifelong favorite topics/hobbies dating back to when I was a kid, and, at my age now, presenting it between the covers of a book.
What were your biggest challenges with writing The Funniest Decade?
The sheer wealth of material, not all of which was accessible me, was a big challenge.
What was your research process for The Funniest Decade?
I used whatever means I could, including books and other materials I already owned, a great deal of information online, films, videos, printed articles from that time, the help of other authors on the topic, etc. I would have needed a staff of researchers to help me make it even more complete, but I like to feel I did a pretty good job on my own.
How did you plan the structure of The Funniest Decade?
I like to organize and present my material chronologically. My mind works easiest that way. And, since the book covers a single decade of entertainment history, it was easy to simply place each event along the timeline and write about each one (the debut of a radio program, premiere of a film, etc.) and then move through the calendar as I go.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Funniest Decade need?
Very little support with editing for this particular book. I had to rely on my own instincts.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Research the topic as best you can—and only if you’re sincerely fascinated by it–using as many sources as possible, then organize the material, and decide how you want to present it on the page (or, ask me).
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I’m working on a book about how real-life, big-scale tragedies affected the world of comedy, and how comedy has responded to tragedy.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I like seeing my efforts culminate in a finished work between two covers—something I can hold in my hand and say “I wrote this.” But the initial excitement only lasts a few hours.
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