You might not expect the author of a novel entitled, How To Fail: A Self-Hurt Guide, to be a friendly, well-adjusted human being, but Aaron Goldfarb will prove you wrong. In fact, his satirical debut novel has nothing but good intentions, and with chapters like, “How to Live On a Couch” and “How to Fail to Do Something Productive All Day,” screwing up has never looked so good. Today, Aaron shares with Daily BR!NK his keys to success, future projects, and why book signings are infinitely better when alcohol is involved.
So Aaron, how did you end up where you are today?
Well, I was born in Manhattan, but around age three my parents realized this was no place to raise a child, and dragged me to Oklahoma City. The second I turned 18, I headed back to New York and went to Syracuse University for film school. I tried to make it as a screenwriter for most of the first decade of the 2000s, but nothing was getting onscreen so I got fed up and switched to prose. I hadn’t written prose stuff since high school or maybe college, but I quickly fell back in love with it. Around 2007, I finally had the courage to write a novel, and now I like writing books a lot better than I like writing movies.
Was How to Fail your first novel?
It’s not only the first one that was published, it’s literally the first one I even took a stab at.
What on earth prompted you to write a self-hurt guide?
I was just walking down the street and thought, “Huh? Has there ever been the opposite of a self-help guide?” So I went home and Googled it and amazingly, there hadn’t. I had the title and the idea, so I asked my writing buddies, “What do you think about this?” and I saw the look on their faces of, “Aw shit, I wish I thought of that!” I knew writing it I wanted to cover lots of things – work, love, sex, family, friends – so that was easy. It gradually grew away from being a guide, and now it’s essentially a fictional novel. It’s part-novel/part-guide.
What are a few examples of some of your how-to’s?
The ones that draw people’s attention immediately are the ones like, “How to Masturbate at Work,” or “How To Get The STD That’s Right For You.” I won’t lie, those are intentionally to be provocative. I wrote a very provocative table of contents on purpose, so you open it and immediately go, “I know I wanna read this!” And those were fun to write, but I also like some of the basic ones that don’t even sound that provocative like, “How to Fail in Love” or “How to Avoid Your Ex in a Small Town.”
You also embarked on a more unusual book tour – 30 Bars in 30 Days.
That was great! The final year leading up to the release of the book, I started going to book signings around New York City just to see how they went, and 99% of them were really boring. Even the authors looked like they were having a miserable time. So I did what I usually do when something I have to do sounds like it’s going to be awful – I just add bars and alcohol to the mix. I thought, well, I’m not a huge celebrity, and there’s certainly a chance that no one will show up for some of my events, so at least I can drink a few beers and watch sports. That’ll make what could be a bad event somewhat fun, and it was true!
I’d think in that type of venue you’d have much more vocal fan responses.
What I always hated about book store signings was if I actually wanted to talk with the author – I’m in a long line, I get his signature, say, “Hey, I love your work, man,” and the handler pushes me to the side. Well, at the bar, I’m just a drinker like anyone else, and I’d have hour long conversations with fans and even strangers. I didn’t just sell books, but I made friends. At the end of my events I might sell fifty books and then I’d check Facebook and have 40 friend requests. On the negative side, I’m selling books at a bar, and people don’t usually go to bars to buy books. People would show up at the bar and see a bozo in the corner selling books and go, “What the hell’s this guy about?” But that was great too, because then I could start talking to them, and I could tell them about my book, and usually I could turn those people who approached me to make fun of me into some of my best fans and readers.
Have you had any responses from people who actually followed your advice?
I didn’t intentionally write it to be an advice guide. I tried to write it more as a, “life’s gonna be alright” guide. But my email’s in the back of the book, so people have written me and said, “Your book really did inspire me to leave the job that I hate.” This one guy from my high school actually sent me an email saying, “My whole life I’ve been trying to start my church, but I’ve gotten a lot of negativity from my church group. I obviously don’t agree with all the sex and curse words and drinking in your book, but it actually really inspired me to start living my own life.” Then I asked him if I could speak at his church and he said probably not.
You’ve also written a collection of short stories called The Cheat Sheet.
The Cheat Sheet (tales of “the sexes, sex, and sexiness in New York City) was just an e-book from the start available on Kindle and PDF, but the paperback version of that book’s finally coming out in two weeks. I’m really proud of it. A whole class in Syracuse this last semester’s only curriculum was to adapt a short story from The Cheat Sheet into a short film, and that film festival was last week.
That’s amazing! So do you have any new projects in the works?
I have too many projects in the works. My manager and I are currently working on getting How to Fail adapted for the screen, and I also just finished the first draft of a new novel on Friday.
If you were to write another “How To,” what would your focus be?
The funny thing is – and this is completely accidental – the novel I just finished also has “guide” in the title – it’s called A Guide for the Single Man. What happened with that was years ago I had a movie project with the same name that was getting some traction but it never got made. I always loved the idea, though, so early this year I decided to backwards adapt it, and that’ll presumably be my next novel.
What would you suggest to Daily BR!NKers who want to connect with you, aside from, of course, buying your books?
Since The Cheat Sheet film festival at Syracuse was such a success, we’re actually going to go worldwide with it and have a contest where anyone can make their own adapted short film from a story in The Cheat Sheet and upload it to a website (which isn’t running yet). Hopefully we’ll be the biggest film festival ever made from short story works. Also, my manager and I love to do these cross promotions, so if we meet people with weird jobs who you’d say, “What does that have to do with writing?” we always try to figure out how can we pair with them. For instance, we have a friend who’s a fashion designer, and she had a trunk show, so we sold there. BR!NKers are welcome to pitch me a cross promotion idea. We do things with bars, we do things with beer – those are obvious cross promotions – but I always like to figure out what other audiences and fans we can branch out to.