Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest Herbie J Pilato. Herbie is a writer, producer, and consultant who has worked for the Discovery Channel, Syfy, A&E, TLC, E! and Bravo; Universal, Warner Bros. and Sony, among other television networks and studios.
As the author of a number of acclaimed media tie-in/pop-culture literary companions (such as The Bionic Book, Life Story - The Book of Life Goes On, Bewitched Forever, The Kung Fu Book of Caine, The Kung Fu Book of Wisdom, and NBC & ME: My Life As A Page In A Book), Herbie recently served as founder and executive director for The Classic TV Preservation Society (a nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the gap between positive TV shows and education).
Today, he presides over Television Ink, an entertainment/publishing consulting company; makes frequent television appearances on shows like the TV Guide Channel's 100 Moments That Changed TV and Entertainment Tonight.
Herbie's newest books include Twitch Upon A Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery, which was published by Taylor Trade in November 2012, and The Essential Elizabeth Montgomery: A Guide To Her Magical Performances, which Taylor Trade will release in October 2013.
Good day Herbie and thanks for participating in our interview
Glad to be here, Norm.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated and what keeps you going?
It's just always been a natural development of my communication skills. I've always like to talk - and from there I just started to write. I enjoyed it. I used to write poems and such as a kid. I never really kept a formal journal or anything of that sort. But I did write down my general thoughts and observations about life from time to time. I remember, too, in elementary school and high school, how much I enjoyed and preferred the essay sections during exams, like a lot of people did, I guess. But I really went to town on those essays. And then later, in college, when I started directing plays, part of that job was forming thoughts and visions for the characters and the designs for the set, and so forth. And I remember enjoy that part of the process more than the actual directing of the plays.
What helps you focus when you write and do you find it easy reading back your own work?
In this very distractive world it is definitely not easy to write and compose one's thoughts. In fact, I had to remove myself from social media, unfortunately, specifically Facebook and Twitter, because I found myself responding to my reader's various questions about my work - and not getting any work done in doing so. So, it was counter-productive for me. I've tried to get back on Twitter from time to time, but the same distractions remain for me. So, I get off it again. I've now been formally off Facebook for the last two years - and as a result, I wrote two books, and established several different blogs.
What's the most difficult thing for you about being a writer?
Well, staying focused, as mentioned, on the work at hand...and not really appreciating the sense of isolation that comes from being a writer...whether that isolation stems from not being able to interact socially, on-line or in person, as much as I'd like to. I'm a "people-person." I very much enjoy group interactions. But much of that must be sacrificed to complete the work that needs to be completed as a writer. At the same time, writers of all genres receive much of their inspiration from life experiences, so we still must participate in life as much as we can and as much as possible. But that goes without saying for everyone, not just writers. Interaction, of the positive kind, is just plain healthy, any way you look it.
How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing and do you have a specific writing style?
I was raised in a very loving family in the inner city of Rochester, New York. My parents, in particular, both of whom have passed away, were beautiful people and I miss them dearly. And they each had ten brothers and sisters, and our home was the center of the family. So on any given day or night there were globs of people around, celebrating one birthday or another, and the holidays, etc.
Our house was always filled with the laughter and life of countless aunts, uncles and cousins...and their friends, as well as those from the neighborhood. So, it was quite a beautiful childhood. We didn't have a lot of money, but my parents had a lot of love...and my sense of security came from that love. Subsequently, that love finds its way into my work, all of which I classify as inspirational...which is really kind of different for media-related and/or celebrity and pop-culture books. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I would never hurtful, mean-spirited, vulgar words, assessments, descriptions or commentary. That's just not my style.
What is a media tie-in/pop-culture literary companion book and how do you go about writing one?
It's a very specific genre that can easily fall prey to ignorant, gossipy reporting. I never wanted that for any of my books, which are ultimately guides to various television shows and the lives of the actors, producers, writers and directors who were involved with each of the shows. For example, with my books about Kung Fu: I wanted those who were fans of the that classic show to pick up the book and be able to not only reference certain episodes of the show but to understand fully why the show was popular, or the meaning of its core message. A lot of people like various TV shows, or films for that matter, and that might not know exactly why they like them. And my books help to fill in those gaps.
I understand you are the founder and executive director for The Classic TV Preservation Society. What is this all about?
Again, this ties into my
writing style and the way I was raised. My books have a running
theme: all the shows I have profiled are about prejudice:
On Bewitched Elizabeth Montgomery's Samantha is a witch in a mortal
On Kung Fu, David Carradine's Kwai Chang Caine is an
Asian in a western world; Lee Majors as The Six Million
Dollar Man and Lindsay Wagner as The Bionic Woman are
half-human/half-machine; and Chris Burke's Corky, who has Down
syndrome, and Chad Lowe's Jesse, diagnosed first as HIV-positive
and then with full-blown AIDS, are all outsiders in their
And I connected with that because as a kid, I was
bullied and I identified with the isolation of each of
these characters...and which also too adds another layer to the
conflicts of the isolation that I feel as a writer.
rate, there was an episode of Bewitched called Sisters at
Heart, which dealt directing with the theme of prejudice. And
that episode was written by the multi-cultural 1971
graduating class of Jefferson High School in Los Angeles, and it also
just so happened to be Elizabeth Montgomery's favorite episode.
And when my first Bewitched Book was published (by Dell)
in 1992, I knew that I wanted to employ with what I call "TV &
Self-Esteem Seminars" that I take to schools, colleges, and
community, business and senior centers.
And it is with these
seminars that I talk about the positive influence that positive
television shows can and have had on society - from an historical as
well as personal standpoint. Millions of people flocked to
shows like Bewitched in the 1960s, an era which was invaded with all
kinds of social upheavals.
People were looking for escape and
inspiration, and shows like Bewitched, Kung Fu, The Six Million
Dollar Man, and so many more provided that escape.
there were those who learned to love each other despite differences
and to concentrate on what makes us the same: our humanity. And
also, too, there were those who became doctors because of Marcus
Welby, MD, or attorneys because of Perry Mason, or just plain learned
to communicate more and in healthier ways because of shows like The
Consequently, the Classic TV Preservation Society as a formal extension of those thoughts and developments. The organization is going through some changes right now, and it may dissolve...but I'm hoping that I can one day reestablish it...because it has a grand mission and mission statement: "The purpose of the Classic TV Preservation Society is to educate individuals, community, arts/media, business and academic organizations and institutions on the social significance and positive influence of classic television programming, with specific regard to family values, diversity in the work place, and mutual respect for all people of every cultural background and heritage, race and creed."
What do you think of the new Internet market for writers?
Can you briefly tell our readers something about your most recent book Twitch Upon A Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery? As a follow up, what motivated you to write the book and what purpose do you believe your book serves and what matters to you about the narrative?
Twitch Upon A Star is a result of my initial and exclusive interviews with Elizabeth Montgomery that were first published with The Bewitched Book and subsequent revisions known as Bewitched Forever.
books were just about Bewitched and not about Elizabeth's life.
And after interviewing her, I realized that she had such an
incredible life and career before, during and after Bewitched that
all of that needed to be addressed in a full-scale biography.
But I went back and forth on it, because she was a very complicated
person and I did not want to address those complications in any
negative way - or in the usual "Hollywood expose" fashion.
But I also knew that if I didn't write the book, a lesser publication
would have been written by another author, who would have
not have cared so much about her - as a person or as a public
So, I was compelled to write as honest a biography of her as possible in the most respectful way. And the result, I think, is a very unique perspective; part celebrity biography, part inspirational book and part entertainment guide. Also, too, as it turned out, there was so much information about her life and career, that a sequel was in the making: The Essential Elizabeth Montgomery: A Guide To Her Magical Performances, which is more of an encyclopedia, will be published at Halloween of this year.
What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
Be true to your life and your words, find your own voice....don't follow the crowd, and write with respect for yourself, your subject or topic and your readers. I used to teach acting, and I would tell my students: "Impress me with your talent - not any vulgar use of dialogue or violent scenes." And I would say the same to any young, aspiring or established writer. "Impress your readers with your TALENT."
Where can our readers find out more about you and your books and what is next for Herbie J Pilato?
My MAIN WEBSITE is the best place to visit first. It has several additional links and pages which any visitor is invited to peruse.
As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Truly...all of your questions were spot-on, and allowed me the opportunity to express exactly what I've wanted express about the life, work and style of a writer.
Thanks again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
Thanks so very much, Norm. And many blessings to you.