Interview – Norm Spitzig, author of Private Clubs in America and around the World
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Norm Spitzig, creator of Clive Endive Ogive IV, and author of Private Clubs in America and around the World. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Norm.
Norm Spitzig: Thanks very much. It’s my pleasure to be here.
SPS: For any of our readers that haven’t come across your works previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself?
NS: I’m happy to. I currently serve as a Principal & Senior Partner in Master Club Advisors, a firm, I am proud to say, that is regarded by many leaders in the worldwide private golf club industry as a the “general manager executive search firm of choice”. Our firm also works with numerous private clubs boards of directors facilitating their strategic plans as well as providing assorted operational and governance consulting. My work is challenging, fun, and keeps me as busy as I want to be (and sometimes more so!).
When I am not busy with my Master Club Advisors “day job”, speaking at assorted professional association gatherings and company retreats around the world, or attempting to craft my next book, I enjoy taking a long run. I hope to achieve my lifelong, and admittedly weird, pursuit of logging one hundred thousand running miles about nine years from now. Let’s hope the old knees hold out.
My wife Cody and I have been happily married over thirty-two years, have three adult, long-out-of-the-house, gainfully employed, semi-normal children (Adam, Mark and Kate), and live in the historic town of Mount Dora, Florida with our ball-obsessed chocolate Labrador Lucy.
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
NS: If I had my druthers (What exactly are “druthers” anyway?), I prefer to write in the comfort and familiarity of my second-floor home office with Lucy happily chasing cats in her sleep on the tattered paisley couch opposite my desk. That’s where we both are even as I type these words.
I am one of those authors who, once the specific idea for a book sufficiently “settles into” my head and the first sentence is actually typed, is able to come up with a decent first draft in relatively short order (maybe two months of steady pecking away at the keyboard). Given that context, writing Private Clubs in America and around the World was relatively easy–with the emphasis on “relatively”–and straightforward. No, it was more than that; it was a true labor of love that weaves into one coherent (hopefully!) book a number of topics that are all near and dear to me: the wonderful and zany world of private golf clubs, whimsical humor, conservative values and political satire.
SPS: Can you put your finger on the moment where you decided that you wanted to publish your work?
NS: Yes, I think I can. I remember being particularly frustrated one dreary winter afternoon after presenting my Board Leadership Orientation to a particularly dim-witted, humorless group of people. This particular group, as I recall, didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. In the proverbial flash of lightning, it occurred to me that I might be more successful in communicating my various insights into private club operations and governance using humor as the primary tool. As Ruth Westheimer, the famous sex expert of yore, once so wisely observed, “A lesson taught with humor is a lesson retained.”
SPS: Why do you think it is that you have decided to write satire / comedy fiction?
NS: Bottom line: I like to think that I can be a pretty funny guy. I enjoy making people laugh, especially at their own foibles. I enjoy using satire and irony to help people better understand and appreciate the absurdities of this crazy world in which we all find ourselves. I especially enjoy the intellectually gratifying cleverness of a great pun.
SPS: So, tell us about what someone could expect if they picked up a copy of Private Clubs in America and around the World?
NS: In Private Clubs in America and Around the World I, under the nom de plume Clive Endive Ogive IV, unloose upon the unsuspecting world THE comprehensive handbook detailing “EVERYTHING one needs to know about the wonderful world of private clubs.” One, for example, gets a thorough understanding of the key terms and phrases used at most every type of private club, how the board of directors and committees operate, and the zany characters that often belong to private clubs as well as those who are crazy enough to be employed therein. Of course, most everything I say is the exact opposite of what is actually the case. Interestingly, while a good portion of my loyal readers are members and employees of private clubs, many more are not. Basically, ANYONE with a decent sense of humor will come to really like Clive in relatively short order(or, as he pompously refers to himself, The Clive-man).
SPS: Where did the inspiration come from to create a character such as Clive Endive Ogive IV?
NS: Clive Endive Ogive IV, who plays a pivotal role in all four of my books, is the fictional personification of the “perfect” private golf club president. He is a true composite, based in part upon the foibles of several real people I have met in the world of private clubs and in part upon my especially fertile (or so I like to think) imagination. Accordingly, Mr. Ogive belongs to at least eighteen exclusive private clubs around the world—certainly all the ones that matter. The fact that he has a Roman numeral “four” after his name and is exclusive heir to a trust fund whose annual interest is sufficient to pay all his annual club dues in perpetuity—and also somehow manages to write all this money off on his taxes as legitimate business deductions—is more than enough to fully qualify him to author multiple groundbreaking and awe-inspiring books.
SPS: Are there any other characters we should be on the lookout for?
NS: Esther is a long-time waitress—and I do mean “long-time”—at Clive’s primary golf club, the Old Bunbury Golf Links & Reading club, one of the world’s most prestigious and exclusive private clubs. Esther is about eighty-five years old (give or take a decade), has by now had at least seven official retirement parties thrown on her behalf (the club just can’t seem to get rid of her), reacts slower than an American Democrat on FOX News (neither of which is all that conducive to quality service), has the personality of Bea Arthur when she played Maude (which some would optimistically characterize this “feistily endearing”), and works WHENEVER and WHEREVER she wants at Old Bunbury. She also has a heart of gold, knows all the members’ children and grandchildren by name, can recite, either alphabetically or chronologically, the names of each and every member of the Old Bunbury Board of Directors for the past half-century, and can tell you at any given time exactly “who at the club is having an affair with whom” (thus granting her job security in perpetuity). She and Clive are the perfect complement to each other.
SPS: What kinds of pearls of wisdom can we expect from Clive?
NS: Clive, I like to believe, is the master of clever witticisms (“People who have no vices tend to have particularly annoying virtues.”), offbeat observations (“A properly constructed sentence must always have a verb. Always.”) and, most importantly, ridiculous puns. (“A mature pun is one that is fully groan.”) In my latest book, Soul on Nice, Clive offers these particular words of wisdom to a few of his very close friends while discussing the vital importance of ALWAYS remaining wary of Esther, “I say, gentlemen, please remember that we’re talking about Esther here. You know what they say about someone who might suddenly and unexpectedly be punched in the balls: Do not go genitally into that good right.”
SPS: How has the response been from readers?
NS: Not all that long ago Private Clubs in America and around the World spiked, for reasons unbeknownst to me, to #2,782 in Amazon book sales, several years after its publication – a testament, I like to think, to the worldwide influence of, and fascination with, private club golf as well as the universal appeal of good humor.
SPS: The follow up, Murder and Mayhem at Old Bunbury, focuses once more on private clubs. How does the sequel differ from its predecessor?
NS: Murder and Mayhem at Old Bunbury, is the follow-up tale of humor and intrigue to Private Clubs in America and around the World, It’s not a handbook, but rather a novel (but still filled with an abundance of political satire, whimsical humor and offbeat observations). In it, President Clive and waitress-extraordinaire Esther team up to solve a complicated and gruesome murder at the great private club that they both, each in his and her own way, care so deeply about: the Old Bunbury Golf Links & Reading Club. Along the way Clive and Esther reacquaint you with many wacky old friends and introduce to some even zanier new ones.
SPS: Did you find the whole writing, editing, publishing process any easier the second time around?
NS: Not really. The first time was an adventure into the unknown. I hadn’t been through the process so I was excited watching it all unfold. The second (and subsequent) journeys through the self-publication process were more accurately characterized by my impatience for just “getting the job done.”
SPS: Is there a particular type of reader that you think the book and your writing style would appeal to?
NS: If you like to laugh, you will like my books. It’s as simple as that.
SPS: You have two additional novels out there, an autobiography entitled How Now, Norm’s Tao, and the further adventures of Clive and Esther in Soul On Nice. What do you see yourself doing next?
NS: When Private Clubs in America and around the World came out in 2009, I thought I had “said it all” about private clubs. But there I was, less than a year later, hard at work on its logical follow-up, Murder and Mayhem at Old Bunbury. Nor did I expect to write How Now, Norm’s Tao, my autobiographical attempt to capture the essential components of “the life well-lived” and Soul on Nice, the follow-up novel to Murder and Mayhem at Old Bunbury, in the next two years. All of which is a roundabout way of say that, while I currently do not plan any subsequent books, I obviously am not very good at planning.
SPS: You are obviously a big believer in ‘The Book Trailer’ with trailers for all of Clive’s books. Can you tell us a little about how you have gone about creating them?
NS: Two of my book trailers were developed under the auspices of Dog Ear Publishing (See the next question.) and one under the supervision of the Pump Up Your Book marketing team. (Whether or not they have actually produced a significant increase in book sales is something for minds smarter than me to ascertain.) I do, however, know this: The larger the number of venues that one uses to appropriate market his or her books, the better the chances for overall increased sales. That’s why, over the past several years, I have used everything from press releases to book trailers to LinkedIn to Twitter (“ClivetheClubGuy” has about 113,000 loyal followers!).
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
NS: I did a fair amount of research back in 2009 when I was evaluating how to best spring Private Clubs in America and around the World onto an unsuspecting world. After deciding to go the self-publishing route – I had a few literary agents who expressed serious interest, but none, as I recall, were all that impressive – I chose to work with Dog Ear Publishing, a small company that I have utilized for all four of my books. I like their “Midwest friendliness”; I like their professional and comprehensive approach to independent book publishing and marketing; I like that I am more than “just a number”; and I really like their author royalty formula. Once one sells about two hundred books, all the costs associated with self-publishing are covered. A reasonably well-received Dog Ear book can and will actually make a tidy profit for its author.
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
NS: It has, and then some. I’ve had readers from all over the world send me e-mails telling how much the like my books. A good number of private club boards of directors purchase copies of Private Clubs in America and around the World annually for all new board and committee members. I’ve also been offered and have accepted numerous professional assignments and speaking engagements as a direct result of people who have read and enjoyed my books. Great stuff!
SPS: If you could give some advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
NS: At the risk of appearing pretentious, I have three suggestions that have worked particularly well for me. First, I think it is essential that all writers write only about what they know and love. Otherwise the task becomes an unwanted, near dreaded, assignment. Ugh! Second, I think it works best, once one has settled on a general topic or theme, to just to sit down at the old computer and start banging out the words. The first draft is just that—a draft. Oftentimes there are nuggets of literary gold in one’s first efforts that, over time, can and will be duly massaged and polished into something truly worth reading. Third, make sure you hire a proven professional to edit your manuscript. A plethora of grammatical and syntactical mistakes will drive most any potential reader to drink.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word.
NS: The two books by Rodney Lacroix (Perhaps I’ve Said Too Much and Things Go Wrong For Me) are funny, very funny. He’s a member in good-standing (Are any of us in bad-standing?) of the Self-Publisher’s Showcase.
SPS: Thank you for joining us today Norm, and all the best for the future.
NS: My pleasure. Good luck to the Self-Publisher’s Showcase as well. Thank you again for all you do.
SPS: For more information on Norm and his work, please do visit his Author page here.