Michael Fertik is the author of The Next Boston Band, as well as the inventor of online reputation protection and founder of Reputation.com. Perhaps because of his career’s focus on securing one’s online reputation, his own digital trail is limited to a Twitter account and websites for his book and company. After reading his most recent book – a work of fiction that reads almost like a documentary – we were curious to learn more about this mysterious author and his decision to flip from nonfiction to novels. Here’s what he had to say.
Who are your top 5 favorite authors or influences, and why?
Herman Melville. No better or more important American writer. Big themes, novels, romances. He’s so damn good that I will say it was actually a big relief to read Mardi, Omoo, and Typee and see how medium to terrible they were; even a master like he had to grow as a writer. I love Melville so much that in January I published a story in Eclectica Magazine that proposes to be a prequel to Moby Dick that explains how Ahab got that way (!). See if you can figure out who the speaker is.
The next batch is probably the American noir gang. Ross MacDonald, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett. Chandler especially: his plots can be convoluted or even bunk, but the mood is so exact, seductive, and insistent that it makes the plot points nearly disappear. Also his letters on writing are pitch perfect and right.
Right now, like someone from right now, Karl Ove Knausgaard is making me tremble.
There’s one more: John Burdett, from the Bangkok series. He writes so beautifully. It’s very unfortunate that he doesn’t seem able or willing to complete a story without resorting to sudden stretched and implausible deus ex machina devices. But his sentences and his mood. Damn.
I know there are others. And I also know someone’s gonna call me out for having only men on this list. But if you ask me the same question a month or year ago or from now, it would look different.
What type of writing fuel do you prefer, and what – if anything – do you feel this contributes to your creative process?
Mostly quiet and a setting that is either very familiar and comfortable – if I know what I’m supposed to be writing in terms of sentences and paragraphs – or quite new if I don’t yet know what I’m supposed to write.
You’ve previously written nonfiction books on the subject of internet privacy and reputation protection. How does The Next Boston Band fit in with your previous books (if at all), and why the decision to write a work of fiction this time out?
Unconnected. I wrote The Next Boston Band back in 2002, basically. Finally took it off the shelf and decided to publish it.
Here’s fiction I published this year in december Magazine that is an example of much more recent writing (and it’s quite a feminist piece, too, I think; again, the speaker is unnamed – see if you can figure out who it is).
Should readers consider your novel a roman à clef, given the main character’s name is also Michael and your bio notes that you were formerly a nightlife impresario in Boston?
Crap! I had a feeling you’d ask! I think that probably answers that.
Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, relationships, or life in general.
I feel like I should be getting advice from others.
If you were a cocktail, what would you be called, and what’s the recipe?
Whiskey. Maybe with ice and branch. Is that tough guy sounding enough?
If you were to pen the screenplay for the next summer blockbuster, what would it be about – and who would you want to see in the starring role?
I can’t get enough of Jack Nicholson or Michael Caine. Are they in summer blockbusters any more? It would have to be some kind of spy story, with old guys getting called back to duty as the Cold War heats up again following Putin’s moves in Ukraine and the Baltic.
If you were to write an open letter to a famous author, who would it be for, and what would it say?
To Martin Amis, asking him to keep going. And to his spiritual and mental cousin Christopher Hitchens, telling him we miss him.
Where can we find you on a typical Friday night, and what kind of trouble are you getting into there?
My house. No trouble. Not on Friday night.
What are you currently working on, and why does it kick ass?
The two stories to which I linked above are part of the same cycle. The third is published now, too. If you can crack who the narrators are in each, you’ll figure out why the cycle kicks ass.
You can ask the elusive Michael Fertik more questions on Twitter @michaelfertik.