Writer Brian Kiley
By Katherine Boutry

"My advice [to the aspiring novelist] would be to make bold choices. Let the story takes you where it takes you and don't worry about hurting anyone's feelings."

kileyBrian Kiley is the head monologue writer for Conan and has been nominated for 15 Emmy awards. He is also a stand-up comedian and has appeared more than 30 times on national TV including The Late Show with David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and in his own "Comedy Central Presents" special. He has a recurring role on Cartoon Network's Delocated and his jokes have been quoted many times in Reader's Digest, GQ Magazine, Entertainment Weekly and the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle. Brian is originally from Boston and he now lives in Los Angeles with his family.

Brian took a moment out of his busy schedule to talk to editor Katherine Boutry about his novel The Astounding Misadventures of Rory Collins (excerpted in this edition of West Magazine.

Click for novel excerpt

Katherine Boutry: You're a great stand-up comedian and Emmy-award winning joke writer. What made you want to get into novel-writing?

Brian Kiley: As much as I love writing for Conan, everything is gone the next day. You write it, he does it and it's gone. A late night show is like a newspaper. No one wants to see that episode six months later. I long to write something that someone will want to read 10 or 20 or more years later. For years now, a mentor have mine has badgered me with "When are you going to write your novel?" It is something that's been on my mind for a long time.

That being said this one happened a little bit by accident. I was taking a class and I wrote what I thought was a short story until the teacher said, "That's not a short story. That's the first chapter in a novel." So the next week, I brought in the next chapter and so on. It was one chapter a week for a while and then that whole Tonight Show nightmare happened and I was out of work suddenly. Then I started writing four hours a day and my novel started to take shape. I had just moved my family across the country and now that I was out of work so it was either work on my novel or wallow in depression. It was a tough call.

KB: How was the experience different? Which format is harder?

BK: Writing a novel is much harder than just writing jokes. Writing jokes is usually (but not always) a superficial process. Especially monologue jokes because I really don't care about the Kardashians and Snooki, et al. Writing a novel you have to really delve inside yourself even when it's not based on your life. It's still based on your imaginary life. Whenever I wrote a chapter afterwards, I would wonder, "What made me write that?" or "Where did that come from?" I never ponder deeper questions after writing a "Larry King is old" joke.

KB: What advice would you have for a new writer trying to break into writing his or her first novel?

BK: My advice would be to make bold choices. Let the story takes you where it takes you and don't worry about hurting anyone's feelings. People need to understand, it's fiction and the wife in the story, isn't really your wife and the mistress isn't really your mistress and your other mistress isn't really your other mistress and so on.

KB: Did you start with shorter fiction? Should a new writer start with smaller pieces or just dive in?

BK: That would be up to the individual. Some people like to start with short stories and develop their writing style that way. One advantage is it's easier to get people to read a short story for you. I noticed when I asked people to read my novel they tended to move to other parts of the country and change their name. However, I'm told selling a short story is harder than selling a novel. So to sum up, if you're already a famous writer, feel free to write short stories, otherwise, you might want to write the big one.

KB: Were there any books, classes or mentors that helped you with the process?

BK: The class I took was really part class/part writing group. It was probably 90% women which I think was a good barometer for fiction. The teacher would have me go last each week and read one to three chapters aloud. It really helped me gauge where I had them and where I was losing them. Whenever anyone was left I knew I was onto something.

KB: How long did it take you to write the novel?

BK: It took me a year or I'm still working on it depending on who you ask.

KB: Where did your inspiration for Rory Collins' character come from?

BK: That is the toughest question of all and not one I'm sure I know the answer to. Rory and I have certain things in common and certain things we don't share. I'm afraid I better not reveal which is which.??

KB: Speaking of revelations, did you share the book with family members? Did your father read the book? Did he have a reaction?

BK: I did not share the book with any family members with the exception of my wife. I am terrified of what they would say. In fact, it's my dream that my novel becomes a best-seller and is turned into an award-winning movie without anyone in my family ever finding out about it.

KB: What is your writing process? Do you write every day? How many pages? Special desk? Pen? Computer? Time of day? Inquiring, aspiring writers want to know!

BK: When I was younger I tended to write late at night but the older I get the less productive I get later in the day. I now agree with Hemingway, the best time to write is first thing in the morning when your mind is fresh. Then, you have all afternoon to hunt lions on the African savannah.

One thing that did help me was we have a guest room that is empty except when my in-laws come and overstay their welcome. It has no computer, no anything and when I can go and spend a couple of hours in an empty room with no distractions, no books, no Facebook, no emails, etc. I know even if I'm not in the right frame of mind initially, all that solitude will eventually lead to an idea that I feel excited about and can run with.

KB: Speaking of exciting ideas, what's your latest project about?

BK: I was going to say my next project is a labor of love but then I remembered how much I hate that expression. (Do people have a labor of hate?) My Dad before he passed away last September he jotted down several pages about his experiences in World War II. My next novel is very loosely based on his life. (the key words in that sentence are "very", loosely" and "my") I'm using his notes as a jumping off point.

KB: We canĂ­t wait to read it. Thank you so much!

Editor: LinckeN@WLAC.edu | West Los Angeles College | 9000 Overland Ave, Culver City CA 90230 | www.wlac.edu
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