Monthly Archives: January 2006

NAKED

My History and Why FUTUREPROOF Is (and has always been) A Novel


Frank Daniels, age 24 1998

I’ve really struggled on whether or not I was going to go this route, and just dump it all out on the table so that everyone would see everything. But after what has happened with James Frey, I feel that the only option is complete disclosure.

I was raised in what can only be described as abject poverty. My mother and step-father had very little, if any, income. We moved all the time, many times evicted, all of our belongings thrown onto the lawn by Sherriff’s Department deputies in accordance with law. I fucking hated my step-father, who was a total deadbeat and brutal man all around. By the time I was sixteen I was living in different friends’ houses and getting as drunk and high as possible on a daily basis. I dropped out of high school and progressed up the ladder of drug abuse until I came to the grand mother of all drugs, heroin. My heroin addiction progressed as any other heroin addict’s usage does: it got worse and worse and more and more expensive and unmaintainable until I lost pretty much everything. I had an infant son that was taken from my girlfriend and me and placed in state custody. I was told that if I did not immediately enroll in a long-term residential drug treatment center that I would never see him again.

This CRUSHED me.

My son was all I had to live for. I got into a treatment center and after seven long months inside, and another six months living on my own, I proved sufficiently to the state that I was an able and capable father. They gave me back my boy. He is with me today.

About a year later I was given a full scholarship at a very highly ranked college in Kentucky. I wanted to go to school to make something of myself, to make the life for my son that I’d never had. For two years I went to class and my son went to daycare. When I picked him up at 5 o’clock he was my light, the one that made everything worth it. In my second year of college I met a wonderful woman who loved me, and most importantly, also loved my son. We were married soon after, and eventually a baby girl joined our little family. For a while after I graduated (with honors!) in 2002, I attended Graduate School in North Carolina, but hated it. Somehow I got three A’s in that one semester I attended, despite the fact that my work was half-assed, at best. I realized that grad school (at least that one, and, I assume, all state graduate schools) was for serial pontificators and blowhards. I was an English major and these people were desconstructing everything about the field that I loved. They had no love for stories or language. They had no experiences in what I consider “real life”. So I had to make a choice: either I continued on like that or I dropped it and went back to construction work while spending my nights trying to write a book, as I’d always wanted to do. I obviously chose the book.

If a lot of the story sounds familiar, that’s because you’ve read it, in novelized form, in FUTUREPROOF. So why is my book a novel and not a memoir? Because I wanted to have freedoms with my story that I didn’t think memoirists have, and I didn’t want to be forced into the little box that it would seem a memoirist would be forced into. I wanted, if I so decided, to write a book about penguins on Mars and have it still be given the same respect and benefit of the doubt that anything I wrote would get, based on my own life or not. I also wanted to maintain a certain level, or aura, if you will, of mystery, and let the books speak for themselves over the personality of the author. I wanted to carry on the tradition laid down by others such as Henry Miller and Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kerouac, where I used my life as a starting point to some great fiction. But these days, everything is so compartmentalized. We are put in smaller and smaller boxes. Hell, a lot of FUTUREPROOF is about that very concept. But this is where James Frey fucked up. He, too, I believe, wanted to continue that same tradition, the tradition of the Beat writers. But he ran into the same walls I’ve run into, where publishers insisted that there just wasn’t an audience for that kind of writing.

James, as everyone but the most culturally removed knows by now, has been subject to what amounts to a public flogging over his lies and embellishments in his book A Million Little Pieces. From my point of view, it’s a grey area, as far as how far a writer can go in his writing when changing details. I think what ultimately led to James’ current situation is that he opened his mouth too much, was too willing to back up the embellishments in the book in order to continue the illusion that every single detail was accurate. To me it matters not one iota that Lilly killed herself by slashing her wrists as opposed to hanging. That is writer’s license, and I think can also be defended on the grounds that he was trying to protect her identity. The less defendable stuff would be the jail time, and the reason I think it is less defendable is because in interviews to promote AMLP, he continued the illusion that he had spent time in jail, going so far as to call it “boring and scary.” I think James owes everyone an explanation for that, especially long-time defenders like myself. Because once he began talking about details that were in the book (that could have presumably been defended on the grounds of “writer’s license”), he crossed the line into straight-up lying. That’s all there is to it. And I would like an explanation for why he would do that. It doesn’t make sense to me. And no, for the record, I don’t think what happened on Oprah last Thursday was justifiable, either. She treated him like a piece of garbage, which I find inexcusable.

So what does all this have to do with me? I met James in June 2005. I met him at a crucial time in my life as a writer. I had tried for over a year to get an agent who would represent FUTUREPROOF, and to no avail. Nobody would give me the time of day. Then I met James at a booksigning and he told me to send him my manuscript. I don’t know how, but it’s like…..that meeting made something click in my head. Suddenly I had all these ideas of how I could just bypass the houses and take FUTUREPROOF straight to the readers. And that’s what I’ve done.

But why did I have to do that? James has proven that people, yes even now, after he’s been “exposed” as a fraud, still back up his story, still take great comfort from the books he has written. So while I’m not excusing the actions James Frey decided to take, I want to make a very clear and concise point right now, that the publishing houses are fucking retards and don’t rightly know their asses from a hole in the ground. Whether you think James Frey was unethical or not in the moves he made to get his book into print is irrelevant. Because let me tell you, it has been a fucking trial with FUTUREPROOF, especialy since I’ve gotten so many people telling me they’d love to read the book and I STILL can’t get a house to return a letter or an email or a phone-call. So am I resentful? Yes. Will I be changing the category of FUTUREPROOF from ‘novel’ to ‘memoir’ so that it has a better chance of gtting picked up by a house? FUCK NO. Why? For the reasons I already stated, and because this book is a fucking novelization of a life. I am a novelist, not a memoirist. I am a writer, and I back up James Frey as a writer and a fellow flawed human being. I know that he made the wrong choices, but I also know how this industry, with its aging baby boomers at the helm of the ship, don’t know a goddam thing about what people want to read. THEY created James Frey, they also brought him to the brink of ruin, and while they were at it seriously damaged FUTUREPROOF’s chances of ever getting published. So now I could give a fuck. If I have to, I’ll go back to the same work I’ve always done, and continue hoping that my first novel picks up some readers along the way who will continue to spread the word on this underground phenomenon. Thanks for all your support, guys. As soon as the proof gets here from Fed-Ex (it’s supposed to arrive today) and I can make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed, it’ll be up for sale. Thank you all so much. Thank you for everything. Talk soon. ~Noah Frank Daniels

P.S. If you’re an agent or publishing house reading this, fucking grow a pair. People want to read this book, and others like it.

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Developing……….

The time grows shorter until futureproof will be unleashed on the world. All I’m waiting on now is the final proof to arrive here via Fed-Ex. As long as everything looks good, there aren’t any mis-printed pages or anything of that magnitude, then we are looking at Monday, January 30, 2006 as the official release date of futureproof. Of course, there will be a direct link posted on the site pointing to the lulu page where it will be available for $15.

With this impending book form of futureproof, I need to give a few shout-outs to people behind the scenes, without whom I never would have gotten this P.O.D. edition off the ground. First and foremost, I need to thank Leah Pfeifer, who has spent literally days designing the cover and the interior layout. She has been unfailing in her efforts to get it all perfect, and I am so thankful to her for being as dedicated to this book’s success as I am.

Next, I need to thank Billy Jacobs, whose incredible artwork graces the back cover of futureproof. Billy actually came up with three separate pieces for consideration for this project and we ended up only using one. He is a great artist with a major career ahead of him. I’m just glad I found him first.

I am grateful to have Wayne Smith on board. Wayne is actually the first monetary contributor to futureproof, and he shelled out a nice chunk of his own money to help pay for the distribution of the book. Wayne has been here from the start and is a great supporter of the movement to get futureproof into print and into the hands of readers.

All of these people have worked for NO PAY, and I am forever grateful that they would lend their time and creativity to this book. It is going to feel especially good to send them personalized copies of futureproof in the coming days. They have all put their best into making the book the best it can be.

Of course, all of you have played an integral part in getting futureproof to where it is today, and I thank you profusely for supporting this movement. Look for the book in the next few days, as well as other promotional items such as stickers and t-shirts to help fund the cost of putting this book in stores in cities around the country and the world. I’ll post the design here first, of course.

Oh, and I have a myspace page now, so if any of you would like to join me there, the address is myspace.com/nfrankdaniels

Talk soon. ~Frank

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Mixtape

 

Here’re some songs that I listened to while writing/editing FUTUREPROOF. I’m in a pretty weird mood right now, so I’m listening to this mellow shit. I’ll post a different track listing of more upbeat shit in a few days. Hopefully F’PROOF will be ready to go by then.

1. Michelle–The Beatles
2. Car Crash–Tricky
3. Today Is the Day–Yo La Tengo
4. Hidden Place–Bjork
5. Ego Tripping At the Gates of Hell–Flaming Lips
6. It’s My Life–Talk Talk
7. Feel Free–Son Volt
8. Scatterbrain–Radiohead
9. Future Proof–Massive Attack (yes, the book was already titled futureproof before I heard this song)
10. Paddy’s Lament–Sinead O’Connor
11. In Spite of Me–Morphine
12. This One’s Gonna Bruise–Beth Orton
13. Old Man–Neil Young
14. Across the Universe–Fiona Apple

15. Closedown–The Cure
16. Names–Cat Power
17. Fog–Radiohead
18. Parasite–Nick Drake
19. We Will Become Silhouettes–The Postal Service
20. It Is Safe–Matt Pond PA
21. The Sea & The Rhythm–Iron & Wine
22. Second Self-Portrait Series–Rachel’s
23. Take Care–Yo La Tengo
24. Stories of the Street–Leonard Cohen

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The James Frey Conundrum

As I’m sure all of you know by now, yesterday The Smoking Gun published a 6 page expose on James Frey’s book, A Million Little Pieces. Basically, the piece claims that after exhaustive research, they could find no corroborating evidence for much of the criminal activity Frey claims in his books to have engaged in. The evidence they did claim to find, however, shows that instead of being the “badboy” as he portrayed himself in the books (hitting a cop with a car, trying to incite people to riot, being investigated by the FBI, etc), he’s more of a pampered rich-kid frat-boy who made good by selling Oprah Winfrey and millions of readers a fabrication. As a writer myself, this is a HUGE fucking story. Not only because James Frey has been a supporter of my own publishing efforts, but also because if these claims made by the Smoking Gun turn out to be true, then there are going to be many angry people that bought into Frey’s world, not only monetarily–by purchasing his work, but also emotionally. If it turns out that the claims are true, then are the book and its writer as impactful as people once thought? Is the book worthy enough to stand on its own merit if it turns out that James Frey wasn’t insolent and confrontational, that he didn’t spend much time at all behind bars? Do these claims call in to question everything he has written? Personally, I don’t believe that this “bombshell” on Smoking Gun is nearly as big as the purveyors of that tabloid are trying to make it. At worst, Frey was taking literary license with his story, enhancing a scene here and there to give it more weight. Instead of being picked up for a DUI and blowing a 2.1, he writes that he was picked up for a DUI and blew a 3.6 or something close to it, which he claimed in the book was a county record.

But regardless of whether or not this is appropriate for someone writing and selling a book as a non-fiction title, what worries me more is that this story, coupled with the fact that also yesterday literary wunderkind and Hollywood darling JT Leroy was unmasked as a complete fabrication (his personal appearances were made under the guise of an effeminite boy who was so shy he always wore a blond wig, lipstick and sunglasses), could quite possibly put a stain on every book in the genre. My novel is based largely on things that really happened to either me or people I have known. Many readers have asked me why I didn’t want to sell futureproof as a memoir and my answer was always two-fold: I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into only writing things that actually happened to me and I didn’t want to have to adhere to the absolute truth. It’s as fucking simple as that. Now that JT’s novels have been exposed as having been written by a 40-year-old woman and James Frey is under fire for ratcheting up his tales of wantonness and depravity, it makes me wonder if there is any “reality” that is really just that. Is Milli Vanilli lip-synching worse than this? Is this along the lines of Vanilla Ice claiming the hood when he grew up many miles from anything even half-way resembling a ghetto? I don’t know. I suppose it will vary from one person to the next, how they percieve these things. James’ books are still inspirational and uplifting. Milli Vanilli songs are still played at weddings. Vanilla Ice pretty much always sucked ass. So there’s that. But the point is, when one goes into something believing one thing, and loves Milli Vanilli for not just the songs but also the image of two dreadlocked dudes singing deep-voiced disco love songs, do the songs lose all merit when you find out that the chick on the other end of the line breathing all hot and heavy is really a fat housewife like in that one Aerosmith video?

James Frey has always been good to me. He showed interest in my book and thought it looked promising when no one else in the publishing industry could give two shits about it. And now, while futureproof is getting more and more support behind it on a daily basis, James is on the ass-end of a fire-storm. To me, his books are just as good as they were before the Smoking Gun got a hair up their asses. But it’s times like these when I start getting a little heady, start realizing that I may just be the only real motherfucker out here, writing books for all us sinners. ‘Cause I didn’t have shit growing up, only was able to attend college because I got a scholarship, and was actually in a treatment center for seven months due to my drug addictions. And I believe James when he said he was, too. I just wish he would have sold his book as fiction, because then everyone could just enjoy his books without having to deal with the semantic, fine-line bullshit about where creative license ends and intentionally misleading people to make a buck begins. As James said not so long ago in an interview, “If it were my choice, it (AMLP) would be listed as literature. It doesn’t really matter though. What matters is how many people read it and how it affects them.” And he was right. At that point, it didn’t matter. He wasn’t an Oprah pick, nobody was going to take the time and effort to fact-check all the claims in his books. But with great fame and lots of money comes trouble, as Notorious B.I.G. once said in a video, “Like my man Puff say, Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” I think the biggest problem here is that instead of leaving a gray area, letting the book speak for itself, James gave answers to every question he was asked about the details of his books. When you’re courting fame on a level this big, sometimes it’s better to not say anything at all.

But still, where is the line between trying to find the truth about something and trying to wreck someone’s career drawn? For the life of me I do NOT understand why anyone would be trying to bring this man down. He’s so personable and open with everyone he meets. It’s a total fucking shame this is happening to him.

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