Confessions of a Self-Help Writer: An interview with Benjamin W. DeHaven

Confessions of a Self-Help Writer: An interview with Benjamin W. DeHaven

A ghost, a philanthropist, a con man, a devout Catholic, a gigolo, a savior, an heir, a common man, and an addict are just some of the words used to describe Michael Enzo, who some sources credit with ghostwriting more than 108 self-help books on behalf of celebrities, politicians and business leaders. After failing to make what he considered to be a positive impact on society he began to destroy those closest to him, including Benjamin DeHaven – the author of this book, and a former collaborator.

Defrauding an industry for almost 20 years by exploiting people’s insecurities and profiting from them, more than likely these friends contributed more to the field of self-help – while also profiting from it – than they will ever know. Believing they could only understand people’s problems by suffering along with them, they lived on the razor’s edge. If you’ve ever picked up a tell-all biography of a celebrity or a title from the self-help section at the bookstore, certainly you would question the source.

This is an inside look at the mind of Michael Enzo and it is the author’s hope that people will start helping themselves again after reading it. Discover what turns someone from preaching salvation towards seeking its destruction. You won’t believe this could be true.

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You can purchase a copy of Confessions of a Self-Help Writer at Amazon or B&N.

About the Author

A graduate of Columbia College in Chicago, Benjamin DeHaven keeps his heart in Chicago and his soul in New Orleans. He holds an MBA from Tulane and a film degree from Columbia. Once ejected from a community college for arguing Frost cried out for acceptance in “Birches,” he has since written screenplays, traded futures in Madrid, and was Editor in Chief of the Nola Shopper, a free art newspaper and the second largest monthly paper in the New Orleans MSA. He also has a shout out in a Jay-Z song.

DeHaven, who currently resides in Las Vegas, began his writing career with Stone United, a Chicago based Film Company, which works primarily in independent film. As an unknown fiction writer, he feels the best description of himself is a sarcastic one and is as follows:

“Benjamin W. DeHaven was born on a pool table after a Waylon Jennings’ concert in 1977. His personal success is outweighed only by his stunning good looks and adherence to unwritten moral guidelines. He has been described as a thinking man’s Tucker Max as well as an idiot’s Hunter S. Thompson. His goal is to die from an unwavering commitment to be more like Hemingway.”

He and Michael Enzo were friends.

You can connect with Benjamin on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Amazon, Goodreads, or his website.

An Interview

Your book is billed as literary fiction, but seems intent on
 blurring the lines between fact and fiction. How much of the book is
 true – or “based on a true story,” as they like to say in Hollywood?

I guess it’s a little fiction and fact from Ben’s Almanac. Sadly though, all of it is true, but I’m not sure many readers realize that it is. So is it realistic? I guess it depends on your vision of realism. If you are looking for a celebrity exposé you are going to have to dig deep, because I can’t legally give much. Originally, I hadn’t even considered the backstory coming out, but I guess in a world as fragmented as publishing, marketers are looking for any angle they can grab. I actually had a few negative reviews that were based solely on the fact there weren’t enough celebrities mentioned. I completely understand your frustrations if that happened and you were mislead. Enzo was a celebrity ghostwriter, but my intention was not to mislead anyone. Blur the lines? Absolutely.

On a funny side note: if you are a Vine reviewer who is versed in the art of literature, are you then admitting the only reason you accepted this “come from nowhere author” is because at your core you are a gossip whore who’s just been let down? Seems like a conflict of interest to me. LOL. Actually, the reviewer might be the only person who hit the underlying thesis of the book: “disappointment that did not deliver on a promise… Perhaps that is what I did learn about the self-help industry, after all – it’s crap.”

Certain websites claim this book is part of a revenge plot against
 Michael Enzo. Are you concerned that he will resurface to combat the 
book’s allegations or to take some revenge of his own?

Originally, I wrote this work as an act of revenge and an act of forgiveness. As one reviewer put it, “The reader of ‘Confessions’ is forced to question DeHaven’s motivation… Does he truly want to ruin Enzo’s legacy or is this an act of love? Reaching out to someone who is still lost.” So in the beginning, I was motivated by revenge. But that was personal and never meant to be publicized. Although it lead to several interesting pieces of PR.

One reviewer said, “I think this is a multi-platform fail.” I hope so, and wish the actual backstory would have never come out. I had no trouble letting this ride as a book of fiction and hope readers will enjoy it for that reason.

I don’t know if Enzo will ever resurface. The opening line of the journal is: “There is nothing more jarring to a person’s self esteem than having Oprah explain your entire life is not interesting enough to carry a ten minute segment.”

I thought for sure when we ran this line as ad space next to Oprah’s book that just came out, we would at least get sued. But Oprah, much like Enzo, knows a sad fact of life. No one really wants to hear the truth, they only want to re-affirm what they already believe. Additionally, I’ll run out of marketing dollars way before it becomes an issue for Oprah or Enzo.

So I would be shocked if he popped his head up to say hello.

“Two of the world’s ten wealthiest men used Enzo as a ghostwriter and while they attribute their status in life to Enzo’s words, not a single one willingly admits to knowing him.”

“Although, none of the suspected subjects of the Enzo Journal have disputed the book as anything more than a complex work of fiction, the connective descriptions of particular characters draw obvious corollaries with specific public figures.”

“The most disheartening admission presented is that Enzo would only fall back on his tremendous gift, of writing self-help, as a last act to pay debtors and sustain a ridiculous lifestyle.”

If you are, in fact, a former self-help writer, what’s your best
 piece of advice you could pass along to writers or readers of 
self-help books?

Your life is not going to be changed by a book, a 30-minute talk show, or anything you could ever buy – because what you really need is free! People will spend thousands of dollars on health books, diet fads, gym memberships, and personal trainers before once considering taking a walk or changing their diets. Buying a self-help book is not “part of the process” to change, it’s just another detour. You want to change your life? What’s stopping you?

I think some of the greatest advice and some of the messages can be found in these interviews:

Various media have mentioned a “mutual 
involvement with an adult film star” – is this book really just about a fight over a girl?

“When women go wrong, men go right after them.” –Mae West

There was a broken person at the center of our friendship that we both had feelings for. Like most men, for a long time I thought I had to rescue women. But being the white knight is exhausting, and my armor has been put away for some time. Because I was raised by my mother I have a great respect for women, and respect for women and pornography do not go hand in hand, in my opinion. In this case the woman in question was a vision of lust for many men, but our involvement with her was not the basis of the book.

When I originally set out to do this book there was a lot of malice in my heart, but one of the most important lessons I learned while doing the project was forgiveness. It’s funny because if you watch my Twitter feed you will occasionally see a big name adult film star “chime in.” This is a world I would barely know if not for Michael, but I think because I pride myself on meeting people as who they are, not who they were, I have lots of friends from different walks of life.

Your book seems to have captured readers’ imaginations. Why do you think people are so drawn to this story?

I hope readers are drawn to the story because they want to laugh, read some shocking stories, perhaps even find a spiritual meaning that is hiding underneath. Of course, if readers are drawn to the book because of a press release I think some might be drawn in because its fun to try and figure out who Michael Enzo actually is.

If that’s the case I can tell you that Enzo is not the real name (but is a pseudonym he used), which opens the door to the possibility he could have written for anyone. There is a Michael Enzo Twitter feed and a Michael Enzo website. And below are some of the excerpts from the book. I’m not saying he worked with them, just quoting book passages:

George Clooney: “I hit Clooney in the face with a snowball during [the] filming [of] ER.”

Martin Scorsese: “One time I actually sold a paper gangster a Scorsese journal about how he kicked heroin. It’s amazing how people want to hear about the struggles of famous people.”

David Mamet: “I was jammed up to my bookies, I was strapped and I thought I knew how Teach felt in Mamet’s American Buffalo. I was a low-level aging gangster who needed a score to set things right.”

Charlie Sheen: “Self-destruction is inevitable because existence is a full-time job. He told me and I agreed.”

Chris Rock: “Even when telling jokes that would make Chris Rock blush”

Drew Carey: “Cleveland is a rough freak’n city. Don’t let Drew Carey fool you.”

What’s your Jay-Z shout-out all about?

In a former life I did a lot of work in film and shot/produced a bunch of hip hop videos. I did an interview with King College Radio in Chicago and I think the only reason they wanted to speak to me was because of the connection. However, the interview became so spiritual I think the host felt guilty. Sadly, from a marketing standpoint the show had no impact, but it’s one of my favorites, because it gets to the core thesis of my writing.

It’s funny because after the interview was over, the host actually apologized and admitted he had me on the show to question my reason for wanting to expose Enzo. His original theory was “If someone had been helped by a book, what was wrong with the idea that the source was terrible – and why expose that idea and risk hurting those people?”

So Jay-Z, I’m not 100% sure it is a “shout out to me” and a little bit of research would show you there is another man named Ben DeHaven who often sued Jay-Z over lyrics rights. The line from the song is “Fuck the world my defense came / Ben DeHaven introduced me to the game.”

Is it truly me in the song? All I can say is, if you were Sean (Jay-Z) and your career exploded, would you rather have Ben DeHaven be a drug dealing New York friend from the projects, or a chubby white kid from Cicero who knows how run a “legal hustle” which has tons of facets and never carries the fear of worrying about what’s in your pocket?

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Mint chocolate chip as a general rule, although in Detroit I always have to get “The Superman,” and in Italy I ate fresh gelato every day. If you have never tried to fit into a pair of European jeans after a month of daily gelato injections, you are missing out on a truly American experience.

Which mythological creature are you most like?

Luckily, BuzzFeed had a quiz to take. I got Unicorn. LOL. “You got: Unicorn. You magical, perfect creature! You have a pure heart and you always see the best in people. You value the simple pleasures in life, and you’re an eternal optimist. You’re protective of those close to you, but you avoid conflict at all costs. You do best in small crowds and one-on-one situations, and when you trust someone, you trust them entirely.”

I would have guessed Sphinx.

What are four things you can’t live without?

Laughter, my health, hope, the promise of love.

What is your favorite television show?

I can’t get enough of the Walking Dead or Game of Thrones – which is funny because I don’t care for RR.

What is something you’ve lied about?

My taxes. Otherwise I’m brutally honest.

Who is the last person you hugged?

My mom.

What is the story of your first kiss?

Fifth grade: Brad Henry’s sister in Arlington, Texas at Corey Elementary School. I remember because to impress her I threw a baked bean from my lunch onto the ceiling – which is still there. I wonder what she’s up to?

Do you like kissing in public?

Anyone who wants to kiss me in public is welcome to. I don’t like to hold hands in the mall though, because that makes a statement.

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