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Meet the WritersImage of James Frey
James Frey
Biography
James Frey in his own words:

"I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. I spent most of my childhood in Ohio and Michigan, and I have also lived in Boston, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, Sao Paulo Brazil, London, Paris, Chicago, and Los Angeles. I graduated from high school in 1988 and received further education at Denison University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1993, I was sent to the Hazelden Foundation for the treatment of cocaine addiction and alcoholism. I moved to Chicago in 1994, where I worked variety of jobs, including doorman, stockboy, and member of a janitorial crew. In 1996, I moved to Los Angeles where I worked as a screenwriter, director and producer. In 2000, I took second mortgage on my house, and spent a year writing A Million Little Pieces. It was published by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday in May of 2003 and became a New York Times bestseller, a #1 national bestseller, and an international bestseller. In 2004, I wrote My Friend Leonard, which is a sequel to A Million Little Pieces. In June of 2005, Riverhead Books published My Friend Leonard, which also became a New York Times and international bestseller. I live in New York with my wife, daughter, and two dogs."

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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Good to Know
A few fun and fascinating facts from our interview with Frey:

"I've cut my own hair since I was 18, which is probably a bad thing."

"I once worked as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny at a department store."

"I have about 15 tattoos."

"I love baseball, boxing, football, and playing with my daughter."

"I read for a couple hours a day. I surf. I love looking at art, spend tons of time in galleries."

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Interview
In October 2005, James Frey took time out to tell us about some of his favorite books, authors, and other interests.

What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?
The Tao te Ching, by Lao Tzu, translated by Stephen Mitchell. Completely changed how I think and live my life. It's an ancient book of Chinese philosophy, the basis for most Eastern religion and thought. Teaches the principles of patience, simplicity, compassion, and acceptance. Helped me get through some hard times in my life, and still helps me.

What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?

  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy -- A great, great book. Deserves to be considered one of the finest novels of all time. Long, and hard work, but worth it.

  • Paris Spleen by Charles Baudelaire -- A slender volume of sad, bitter, ridiculous, and poignant pieces of short (1-8 pages) prose.

  • Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline -- Another angry Frenchman. A tale about a doctor in Paris who stomps around the city yelling at people.

  • Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller -- A great, great book. No other has had more of an impact on my career as a writer. Profane, ridiculous, liberating. One of the great books of the 20th century.

  • To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway -- About a smuggler making runs between Florida and Cuba. My favorite book by Hemingway. The smuggler is a grouchy drunk with a quick gun and a 250-pound wife.

  • Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald -- A tale of the disintegration of a marriage. Mirrored Fitzgerald's own. A heartbreaking book.

  • The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac -- Kerouac's other masterpiece. Japhy Ryder lives in the woods, reads, drinks, tries to figure s--t out. My favorite Kerouac.

  • The Great Santini by Pat Conroy -- Story of Conroy's father, a Marine fighter pilot. Funny, sometimes brutal, very, very moving. My favorite Conroy novel.

  • The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien -- A brutal, crushing, perfectly written book about a group of soldiers in Vietnam.

  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez -- A beautiful, beautiful book. About a man who lives through 60 years of unrequited love. A selection from it was read at my wedding.

    What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?
    I like all sorts of films, watch all sorts. Not a snob in my film tastes. Favorites include:

  • The Shining -- Scary as hell.

  • About Last Night -- Reminds me of part of my life. Very authentic. Very funny.

  • Cyrano de Bergerac -- I love the character. It's a beautiful film.

  • Breaking the Waves -- An incredibly emotional experience. A magnificent ending.

  • Conan the Barbarian -- Hilarious, and awesome. I love Conan.

  • Pale Rider -- I named one of my dogs after the main character.

    What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
    I listen to all types of music. I have 2,500 songs on my computer and have them set to Shuffle. Sometimes I'll listen to something specific to help me with emotional aspects of my work. When I'm writing about anger, I'll listen to angry music, such as punk or heavy metal. When I'm writing about love I'll listen to opera or ballads. Music is a huge part of my work and also helps with rhythm and pacing.

    If you had a book club, what would it be reading?
    I'm reading The March by E. L. Doctorow. Club would probably be reading that, it's a very cool book.

    What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
    I give first editions and signed first editions. I usually try to find out someone's favorite book and buy that, or find out their favorite writer and find them a good example of the writer's work.

    Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
    I work normal hours, nine to five, and waste time like most other people do while they are at their jobs by talking on the phone, surfing the Net, reading the paper, and reading magazines. I have a quota of one page a day of polished, finished, publishable writing. I always meet it, though I usually do more. The only unusual thing I do is listen to music all day, sometimes at a high volume. My two dogs are also always in the room with me, usually sleeping.

    What are you working on now?
    I'm writing a pilot for a P. I. show called Tremaine for 20th Century Fox and writing a film about the Hell's Angels for director Tony Scott and Fox 2000.

    Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
    My first book was published eight years after I started writing. Most of that time was spent teaching myself to write and finding my voice. We got rejection slips from 17 publishers before we heard yes. They day we heard yes was a great great day for me.

    If you could choose one new writer to be "discovered," who would it be?
    My friend Mike Craven, who wrote a book called Body Copy. The pilot I'm writing is based on the book. It's a great piece of work. I hope someone publishes at some point this year.

    What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
    Work hard. Believe in yourself. If I can do it, you can do it.



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  • About the Writer
    *James Frey Home
    * Biography
    * Good to Know
    * Interview
    Chronology
    *A Million Little Pieces, 2003
    *My Friend Leonard, 2005
    Photo by Stuart Hawkins