Profile of James Frey: International Best Selling Author
More known for his million little lies instead of his best selling book A Million Little Pieces, author James Frey has become known as the man who fabricated his own memoir. Named “the man who rewrote his life,” by The Guardian and “the
What was the truth? His stories in his memoir were not completely true and he actually made up some to enhance his stories and his characters. Oprah Winfrey had endorsed his book after it was published, which helped boost his sales to a tremendous amount selling over 3.5 million copies. It was the fastest selling book in her book club. When the truth came out, Winfrey kicked Frey out of her book club and invited him back on her show to criticize him.
“I feel that you betrayed millions of readers," she said on Oprah in January of 2006.
Despite all the controversy, Frey kept writing. His third book Bright Shiny Morning was recently published by HarperCollins on May 13. It also became a best seller and according to The New York Times review, “James Frey saved himself.”
Frey arrived at Borders on
He sits on the third floor at a table surrounded by hardback copies of his £12.99 book, which is marked half off especially for the signing. There is a queue to the left, as he leans back in his chair. He isn’t dressed to impress, as he moves his feet around in his old blue Adidas flip flops. He has on a plain white tee shirt that barely matches his wrinkled khaki pants. His black horn-rimmed glasses are affixed to his shirt, but he never makes a point to wear them.
He speaks with ease in a very Midwestern dialect. He doesn’t make a point to pick out big words a writer would use, but instead chooses the simplest words when he speaks.
He isn’t in
His latest book Bright Shiny Morning takes place in
“Big, ambitious, important novels in which the city itself becomes the central character, have been written about many of the great cities of the world,” Frey says. “I didn't think it had ever been done about LA, a city I love. I know I got the big and ambitious parts done, [but] time will tell of the importance of the book.”
Even though it is the focus of this book, he makes a note that LA wasn’t the only place he has called home. Once Frey and I get a chance to talk, he tells me he was born in
“Oh! You’re from Cincitucky?” he says jokingly referring to the geography of my hometown. I had failed to remember the two cities have been rivals for years. “Well that’s nowhere near
I can quickly tell nothing he says can be taken seriously. He tells me how he has lived in
“More than anything else, I've learned that emotions are universal, and we all struggle and yearn for the same things, and the best books are about those universal emotions and yearnings,” he says referring to what he has learned about having so many different places of residence.
Frey is only in
But I am more interested in his writing career and how he’s handled the big scandal. It is the question everyone who meets him is dying to ask. I turn to the first page of his book where the disclaimer reads, "Nothing in this book should be considered accurate or reliable."
“It wasn't required,” he says. “It was more me having fun and making a statement of defiance.”
After the incident, a settlement required his publisher Random House Inc. and Frey to spend 2.5 million dollars to refund unsatisfied readers who bought the book prior to January of 2006. His bold personality stands out after reading that statement in his book. He has changed publishers, but they were not concerned about whether or not everyone would consider his third book completely true as well. Regardless, Frey makes a point to mock his critics. The entire situation seems like a nightmare, but he seems unfazed.
“It doesn't matter to me at all,” Frey says calmly.
Frey’s love for both books as well writing is what keeps him going. The criticism does not affect what he loves to do most.
“There is nothing else I want to do. And people are still supporting me, readers are still reading me,” he says. “The most important thing is how my readers feel about what I do and I feel like I'm in good shape with them.”
At 38 years old, Frey has spent only part of his life seriously writing. He attended
“I admire writers who break rules, and boundaries, and who change the course of literature, and of the world,” he says.
Of course the world now knows that Frey too has been breaking rules. He struggled before getting his first book published. It was rejected by 17 publishers and was finally published eight years after he began writing it. Having the chance was an exceptional opportunity, as it would be for anyone trying to make a name for himself in the literary world. For Frey, his dreams were coming true.
“I wanted to make other people feel the way certain books made me feel,” Frey says. “I wanted to live the life of a writer.”
Some of the things he says to me seem a bit deceiving like his writing in A Million Little Pieces. I ignore the critics and try to focus on Frey as a writer. His writing is different from other writers. He lacks the smooth format that most writers use. Instead he writes simple sentences line by line. He developed his own style of writing, which has brought in millions of readers.
“I write books because I love them and because I want to be considered one of the most important and influential writers of my time,” he says.
He finally puts on his glasses and hands me back the signed copy of A Bright Shiny Morning. The language within this novel is also the same style. With a new publisher and two years after the scandal, it managed to debut at number nine on The New York Times bestseller list.
Frey doesn’t mind the negative reviews. He writes for himself and plans to continue doing so even though he does not have any ideas for his next novel. Luckily, he won’t have to worry about the sales after this one became an instant success. He says he doesn’t have room to give advice on writing, but ensures me it is possible to succeed.
“You see if I can do it, anyone can do it,” he says. “Write, work, and just believe in what you do.”
After using his own advice, his new book is still being sold quickly, as readers are eager to read to find out if his next 512 pages are lies too.