5-STAR Fantasy / Sci-Fi

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Indie Author Interview: Ann & Joe Cipriano

Indie Author Interview with Ann & Joe Cipriano - Authors of the Memoir Living On Air.

Joe Cipriano is probably most recognized as the signature voice of the Fox Television Network since it’s early beginnings and for the following 20 years, on shows such as Married…with Children, In Living Color, The Simpsons, That 70’s Show, Family Guy and many others. He is currently the signature voice of CBS comedies like Mike and Molly, Two and a Half Men, The Talk, and more. Joe has been the live announcer for TV’s biggest events, including the Emmys, Grammys, and the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards.
His co-author is his wife Ann Cipriano, an Emmy award winning television news writer and producer. Ann has worked for NBC, ABC News, WJLA TV in Washington, DC and KABC TV in Los Angeles.

Interview with Ann & Joe Cipriano

Authors Ann & Joe Cipriano
Authors Ann & Joe Cipriano
Alan Kealey (Indie Author News): What is your (writing) background?
Joe Cipriano: My writing background lies mostly in radio, writing for my shows when I was in local radio in Washington, DC and Los Angeles. Once I started hosting a daily long-form radio program which was broadcast in Japan in Tokyo, Yokohama and Kobe in the 1980s, I would write that entire daily one hour show along with another weekend show that aired in Tokyo as well. I later co-hosted The World Chart Show and while we had writers for the show, I would re-write my segments. My wife Ann is a journalist, she’s written news for ABC, NBC and CBS and as a news producer/writer, won an Emmy for one of her mini-docs.

Ann Cipriano: I started out working in news radio, doing phone interviews and editing the answers together. My job was to format the responses with enough information wrapped around the answer so the anchor could write his or her own story to read on the air. Later, I moved over to local television news and wrote stories for the six and eleven o’clock newscasts, plus I wrote and produced mini-documentaries for those same broadcasts.

Who are your favorite writers, your favorite books, and who or what are your writing influences?
Joe: My vacation reads tend to be James Patterson books, but I’m a big fan of memoirs and biographies. Anything from the golden era of film, television and radio fascinates me. I’m a fan of James Kaplan, his book on Sinatra called, “Frank” is wonderful. I also enjoyed his books, “Dean and Me” and the John McEnroe bio. I love Andre Agassi’s choice in bringing on the Pulitzer Prize winning J.R. Moehringer for his “Open” memoir. It’s a beautifully written book. Groucho Marx, Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, you name it, these are the kind of books I love immersing myself in, where the authors recreate that era. When I started working on my book, I wanted to transport the reader back into the time and space I was writing about. I started in radio as a 14 year old kid in 1969. We start the book with that story and it was great fun to visually rebuild the sights and sounds of that time. As much fun as Ann and I had painting a picture of whatever era we were writing about, the late 60’s, Top 40 Radio, the disco era of the 70’s, Los Angeles in the 80’s it was another level of satisfaction and joy for me to then tell those stories in the audiobook version and create another level of visualization utilizing original music, sound design and the actual sounds from those different decades.

Ann: I always have a stack of books on my nightstand, coffee table, and on my desk, by all different authors. I’m not sure that I have a favorite but some of the books that continue to resonate with me are “What Is The What,” by Dave Eggers, Joan Didion’s “Year Of Magical Thinking,” and also absolutely anything about dogs including Amy Hempel’s “Unleashed,” and “A Three Dog Life” by Abigail Thomas, and our son Alex just gave me “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein. I love them all!

It seems like I’m drawn to books about people overcoming adversity, any major obstacle. “I Am Malala,” “The Tennis Partner,” “The Bridge,” by Gay Talese. Now that I think of it I was probably influenced more by Gay Talese than any other writer. Reading “The Bridge” was the best non-fiction book I had ever read up to that point. It flowed like a novel and as an aspiring journalist that kind of writing made a lasting impression on me.

And like Joe I can’t get enough of memoirs and essays, Ann Patchett’s “This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage,” and anything that Nora Ephron wrote. Right now I’m reading Thomas Pynchon’s “Bleeding Edge,” another suggestion from Alex, and at the same time I just started “My Age of Anxiety.” For the classics, “Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck is right up there as a favorite but I have to admit I just didn’t get “Moby Dick.” On vacation, give me anything light and fun, a mystery where I won’t be able to guess the ending!

"I enjoyed surrounding myself with the music [...]"

Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?

Joe: Ann and I worked together on this book in perfect harmony, possibly because we were hardly ever in the same room. I enjoyed surrounding myself with the music of the era I was writing about, listening to the top 40 hits of the late 1960s for example, while I was writing about those early years. When I wrote about my big Italian family and growing up in a small town, I listened to Sinatra, Dean Martin. Our process was unique. I would do what I call a data-dump. I would just get the whole chapter out of me and onto paper or in my case into my laptop. I’d write it as if I were telling the story to a friend and we’ve heard from so many people that they could hear my “voice” while reading the book, it’s a memoir, but it reads like a novel. I would work on a chapter for several weeks and then slide it over to Ann via iChat or email for her to start doing her magic.

Ann: As partners I tell people we worked together like sportscasters. I did the play-by-play announcing and Joe provided the color. He would send me his story, I would make edits, add a little bit, embellish here and there, then send it back to Joe. We went back and forth like that until we ended up with a completed chapter, then moved on to the next one. Of course it’s Joe’s story so I always kept his voice in mind, more training I picked up from writing news for other people to read.

After working in a newsroom with lots of noise, I found out that I most like to write in quiet. For this project, we didn’t have a hard deadline, so it was a luxury to sit at my desk, tune out the world, and take time to think about what I wanted to say. I don’t really have a routine, except for whenever I got stuck. If I hit a wall, and couldn’t find a particular a word, or the right image I wanted to portray, I would get up and walk to the kitchen for a quick snack and by the time I got back to my desk, most times I had found my inspiration. Amazing what a little chocolate can do for me!

"You must identify what your goal is [...]"

Please, describe your desk/workplace.
Joe: I wasn’t a creature of habit with my writing. I enjoyed writing on my laptop on our outside patio, which is covered and has the feel of an outdoor living room. We’re fortunate enough to live in Los Angeles, so I could work out there even in winter months. I also wrote in my recording studio, which I call The Clubhouse and also on planes. I tweeted a couple of times to Virgin America mentioning how I wrote much of the book on their flights from coast to coast. They re-tweeted a couple of those and sent congrats to us on the book upon publication. There is one rule that I follow and I talk about in the book this is meant for anyone going after a goal. You must identify what your goal is, for me in this instance it was the writing this book and then you must commit to it fully. My rule for going after goals is to spend one hour a day on it as a minimum. Ann and I spent much more than just one hour many, many days, but the rule is to dedicate at least that one hour every day and never miss a day. It didn’t need to be solely on the writing. But you must do something that moves you further down the line towards your goal. I had a lot of interviews to do with characters from my past to help bring out more texture in the stories I was telling. I did telephone interviews with these people from my past, Ann and I took trips to do interviews for the research of the book. We spent a wonderful couple of days sitting on the back porch at my brother’s home in Connecticut with a recording device, interviewing him and my sister-in-law about our family. My brother is 9 years older than me and he had some wonderful details about my parents and the stories from their youth and also about my big Italian family that went into the book.

Ann: My desk is in our den and I have a window that looks out at the trees. That’s where I did most of my writing. I preferred if my desk was clear but that’s not usually the case, so I would shove papers off to the side if I felt like I was too cramped. Like Joe, sometimes I sat outside on the patio, mostly to clear my head and get some fresh air. Also, the patio is closer to the kitchen. Much quicker for picking up snacks!

What do you find easiest about writing? What the hardest?
Joe: I’m a storyteller at heart and having grown up on the air in radio, I’ve always told stories without the benefit of pictures. So, I’ve spent a lot of time relating stories using only words and doing my best to make those stories as visual as possible. So I found my comfort zone there, where I struggled was with the big picture, telling individual stories is one thing but weaving them all together is another and Ann was so good at that. We changed the timeline and order of chapters many times over and when you do that you suddenly realize your referring to something that in the 5th draft happened previously, but after the restructure that’s not true anymore. Our editor Meghan Stevenson was a great sounding board for the flow and suggestions for when to step on the gas and when to slow down.

Ann: Because of my background in newswriting, I tend to be literal when telling a story. I don’t like to jump around too much because the viewer at home needs to hear the most important part of the event in the quickest and most concise way possible. It took me a little while to get used to elaborating and also to be more flexible in the timeline. Joe was good at leading the way and once I let go of those old habits, I had more fun with the stories we were trying to tell.

"[...] the biggest hurdle for me to get over was setting aside the time to write."

But without a doubt the biggest hurdle for me to get over was setting aside the time to write. Working from home there are just too many distractions. The best advice I got about time management was from a friend of mine, Janeen Damian. Janeen is a screenwriter and movie producer along with her husband Michael. She told me I had to set aside eight hours a day to sit and write. Janine reminded me that this was my job and like any other workplace I had to put in the time. I didn’t always give it eight hours a day but I absolutely took her advice to heart.

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Joe: In this instance it was a joy to write these stories and see it all in my mind while I was writing it. My hope was to paint those same pictures in the reader’s mind. I have to say I relished the process of writing, it was a 3 ½ year endeavor, but it was a joyful one. Sure, there were times I wasn’t positive we’d get to the finish line and there were times we set the book aside for a month or two. I would still do interviews and read other books for inspiration, but there were times we didn’t write for a long time.

"My greatest joy in writing is that we actually finished the book!"

Ann: My greatest joy in writing is that we actually finished the book! I think we accomplished what we set out to do, tell fun and inspirational stories that might help someone else reach their goal in life. I can’t believe I was able to help tell a story that started in my head and ended up on paper. That is a joy that I hope to accomplish again in my life. On a much smaller level, it always gave me great satisfaction that whenever I got stuck, took that little walk to the kitchen, and on the way, found the right word or the image I was looking for, it made me smile! Sometimes I couldn’t wait to get back to my desk to get back to work. It makes me smile right now just thinking about those moments!

Please tell us a little about your memoir Living On Air.
Joe: At the outset, Living On Air is a coming of age tale about a small town boy who makes it to the top of his profession in the world of radio and voice-over. I hope it’s perceived as a heart-warming, funny story filled with the ups and downs all of us face on the roller-coaster ride your life and career can take you on. While there are laugh our loud stories about the characters, celebrities and situations I’ve encountered along the way, it’s really at the heart of it, a book about believing in yourself and going after your dreams, no matter what comes down the pike. That’s what I hope to inspire in anyone who reads this book or listens to the audiobook. Continue to work on your skills and never stop learning and reaching higher. I think the tipping point is when you achieve a confidence in your own abilities. People respond to confidence, I’m not referring to an arrogance, but the confidence you exude when you enter a new situation, whether you’re interviewing for a job or showing up to do the work, that self-assurance puts everyone at ease and lets them focus on the task at hand.

Living On Air (Joe Cipriano)
Click to Read an Excerpt

What inspired you to write the book?
Joe: I’ve been asked often for over 30 years, “how did you do it” types of questions. How did you get into radio and achieve some success with it, how did you get into voice overs and end up working for all of the networks, game shows, The Emmys, The Grammys and how did you transition out of radio into voice over. So I’ve shared those experiences over the years in different venues and variations, and I thought it would be wonderful to put those all into a book and then tell the stories from my past that I love telling, but do it in a new way where it’s all tied together and as I said earlier, reads more like a novel.

Who do you see as your target audience and where can we buy the book?
Joe: The obvious audience and the most supportive have been from the acting community, people who do voice-overs or aspire to do them. People from radio and broadcasting as well, because there are a lot of shared experiences. But what is wonderful about the book is the way people who have never been in broadcasting and to a certain extent don’t even know what a voice over is, have responded to it. That’s so rewarding to see that the strategies I employed that were so natural to me, do translate into any career and any goal. Committing to your dreams and being single minded in having them come true, works in all aspects of one’s life.

Ann: I agree with Joe that there are ideas in the book that could help anyone who is looking for guidance in achieving their personal goal. It’s also good to know how different people handle adversities in life and Joe has lived through his share.

"I personally sign all the books before they go out [...]"

Joe: As for where to buy it, it’s available at amazon.com, you can get the printed book, the ebook for Nook, Kindle, IDevices at all the outlets where books are sold. The audiobook is available at audible, Amazon, iTunes as well. If you would like an autographed and personalized printed book you can still purchase that at www.livingonairbook.com and I personally sign all the books before they go out from our website fulfillment.

What makes your book special?
Joe: While there have been books on broadcasting and voice overs, they are mostly a “how to” format. We wanted to give some “how to” advice but do it within a story. The storytelling is and always was the upmost of importance, while the message and the advice is revealed within the story.

How would you describe the success of your book so far?
Joe: Ann and I are thrilled with the response. I’ve been asked to be a guest on so many tv and radio talk shows to tell some of these stories. I’ve been on Fox morning shows in Washington, DC, Connecticut, Las Vegas, the Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends” show, We’re heading to New York again in February to be on CBS This Morning and more and more radio stations as well. We love doing book events in cities around the country. I do a live reading from the book, using the original music and sound effects from the audiobook while I’m telling the stories LIVE. We’ve done bookstore appearances, which I love, at independent stores such as Diesel Books in Brentwood, CA where we had over 100 people show up. But we find the LIVE readings, especially with the music and sound design are fun to do in a celebratory, party situation, in a restaurant or some other venue. We like to do these events as a meet and greet and the Q&As after the reading are always fun.

Can you give some advice for other Authors regarding the writing process?
Joe: It’s the same advice I give to anyone pursuing a career and that is to never give up. Yes, there are going to be some very challenging days when it just doesn’t look like this is going to happen for you. I’ve been there and I’ve also been in the position where people thought I was at the top of my game but the reality was, suddenly I’d had the rug pulled out from beneath me. You just can’t let yourself become complacent; you always have to keep striving to be better. I relied on Ann a lot over the 3 ½ years we put into writing this book. She doesn’t get frazzled by hitting a wall, she’s very good at not panicking and using patience to find her way around to the other side of the wall.

"[...] keep reading other people’s work"

Ann: It definitely helped me to get fresh air, exercise, and to keep reading other people’s work as we plugged along on the book. As a matter of fact, I read plenty of books on writing and enjoyed them all, including Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and especially “Bird by Bird,” by Anne Lamott. One of the best! Keep looking for inspiration all around you, in art, nature, music, and also from children, it’s everywhere! When I see or hear something beautiful, it gives me energy and hopefully a little inspiration to create something of my own to share.

Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
Joe: Yes, Ann and I are working on a second book that really touches on the message of this book, setting goals and setting yourself up for success in those endeavors. Again, we want to do it in a way that is engaging and entertaining to read, but really touch on the strategies of success.

Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only eBooks and will book stores disappear like record stores disappeared?
Joe: I look back at history when something like this is posed. When radio and television started to become wide spread there was a great fear from the movie studios that broadcasting was going to “kill the movies.” Studios went as far as to forbid their “stars” from appearing on radio and tv. I think you would agree the movie business continued to grow and today it’s healthier than ever, even with all the myriad of other means of entertainment available. So, yes eBooks will continue to grow and sadly bookstores will continue to close, but there will be a leveling out. Perhaps a community won’t be able to support 25 bookstores, but a handful may prosper and grow. One of the most popular stores in and around Sunset Blvd and Vine St in Hollywood is the Amoeba Music Store….a record store. People are still perusing and purchasing vinyl and CDs. There is a charm about it and a great love for exploring the aisles and shelves. So the printed word will survive, there may be fewer bookstores perhaps, but the ones that stand the test of time will be strong and the community will be supportive.

What is your e-reading device of choice?
Joe: I still prefer a printed book, I read 99% of my books that way, but I will read an eBook from time to time on Ann’s iPad.
I looked at Living On Air as body of work that should be unique in it’s three platforms. I made a concerted effort to make each version of our book stand out and be a separate entity and deliver something special that the other versions couldn’t.

The printed book is home base, the mother ship so to speak. Ann and I worked on the look, the feel of the book as much as the writing of the book. The font selection, format of the chapter headings, even the page numbers were chosen after much discussion. We wanted the book to be visually appealing as well as a good read.

Then there is the eBook. The flow of the eBook is different, technically from the printed book, but while the story is the same, the important addition to the eBook cannot be found in either the print version or the audiobook, and these are the media links along the way. When I tell a story in the eBook version, there is in most cases a link to the actual audio or video associated with that story. I believe that of the three versions of the book, the eBook is the most complete and immerse in telling of the story.

Then there is the audiobook. This was extremely important to me, because of my background in the spoken word. I wanted the audiobook to be more than just the author reading his book, I wanted it to feel like a radio play with audio enhancements creating a visual experience. Composer Greg Chun came on board to create original music for the audiobook and literally scored the book. AJ McKay is our sound designer, editor and mixer, he created thousands of sound effects and scene enhancers for the audiobook. It was very difficult to pull off the music and sound design because of clearance issues. We had to create music that would have the “feel” of the era and the top 40 hits because in many cases it’s an integral part of the storytelling. It was all under the direction of legendary voice coach, Marice Tobias. She kept my performance real and helped me connect with the younger me in the book, bringing out the wonder and joy of a small town kid going after his dreams. And even though the story spans nearly 50 years, and you can hear my gradual maturity, she kept me connected to that same joy and wonder as an adult.
I’m proud of the audiobook because it’s a complete performance of the book itself.

So the three versions are three separate and treasured incarnations of Living On Air.

Ann: I have an iPad and Kindle but I have to admit, give me a book I can hold in my hand and that’s my first choice. I like to underline passages and write in the margins. I like to go back to re-read lines and paragraphs and for me it’s easier to find in a printed book than scrolling through pages of text on my e-reader. Also, I like to look at the books on my shelf. If everything was stored in my iPad or Kindle, I would probably forget half of my library and that would be terrible!

How can readers connect with you?
I love to hear from readers of our book, eBook and listeners of our audiobook at joe@livingonairbook.com. I always write back and truly enjoy hearing all that our readers have to say.
Additionally, we love readers to connect with us on Facebook via Joe's Fanpage, the Book's Facebook Page, and Twitter: @joecip.

Thank you very much for the Interview, Ann & Joe.

About the Book Living On Air

Living On Air (Joe Cipriano)
Click to Read an Excerpt
Los Angeles based author Joe Cipriano, presents Living On Air, a coming of age tale about a young boy from a small town who makes it to the top of his profession in the competitive world of radio and the exclusive world of voice-over.

It's the true-life story of Joe Cipriano, one of the most successful and instantly recognizable voice-over artists in the world today.

It's a heart-warming, funny, memoir filled with the ups and downs people face on the roller-coaster ride to success, including some laughable encounters with major celebrities like Tony Bennett, Martin Short, and tennis great Jimmy Connors.

"An up close and personal account from the guy behind the voice you hear all the time. Positive, upbeat, and inspiring. A fun read."

Links to the Book

Link to the Audiobook Living On Air on Audible

Link to the Paperback Living On Air with Excerpt on Amazon

Link to the eBook Living On Air with Excerpt on Amazon

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