From handselling his books on the streets of New York City to having his first novel, The Last Block in Harlem, published and read across the globe, Christopher Herz has not taken the traditional literary route. His new novel, Pharmacology (AmazonEncore, December 6, 2011), is set in San Francisco in 1993; Sarah Striker, recruited by pharmaceutical companies to help advertise products to the young and hip, begins a zine called Luddite, where she exposes secrets behind the pharmaceutical industry. Herz lives with his wife in Brooklyn.
On your nightstand now:
The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil; The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac; The Gospel of Hip Hop by KRS-One; Here Is New York by E.B. White.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I remember finishing that book and feeling so sad that it was over. That I couldn't turn any more pages made me understand something, though I couldn't quite get it. Stay Golden Pony Boy!
Your top five authors:
Milan Kundera, Hunter S. Thomson, Paulo Coelho, Iceberg Slim, Jack Kerouac.
Book you've faked reading:
Gravity's Rainbow (and anything really) by Thomas Pynchon. Not sure why I could never make it through. Everyone says it's amazing. Not sure he really exists.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. You get an inside look at India. The reason we're fighting in Afghanistan. Mafia. Love. 900 pages in all, and never one that drags.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Miles: An Autobiography. Just saw this crazy picture of Miles Davis on the cover and bought it. Thing is, there was no music coming out of the pages. Turns out only his trumpet can tell the story.
Book that changed your life:
Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. For me, the definition of a novel is that. Everything is there. Everything.
Favorite line from a book:
"Once the writer in every individual is realized, we are in for an age of universal deafness and lack of understanding." --Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thomson. I finished reading that at night against the wall of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Never laughed so hard from words on a page or nodded to myself that something was so true.
How social media can help writers connect with readers:
I've used Skype to join and talk to book clubs from Dubai to the U.K. to Australia to Alabama. The ability for a writer to connect with the audience these days is amazing. I'll be having a glass of wine at night in Brooklyn, and somewhere in a living room in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, they'll be doing the same. An hour later, we're all so into each other. Crying, laughing. Did I mention drinking?
Writing is often such a solitary exercise, to be able to engage so deeply is incredibly rewarding. Social media, if used correctly, can really bridge that ever-present gap between reader and author. They can ask questions they've always wanted to know, and, for me, I can discover secrets I had no idea existed in my book.