Date Published: January 2016
Publisher: Bobtimystic Books
: I’m not a political person by nature. Most of the time, it seems the political world plays out more like a lame ‘70s sitcom with all its predictable characters and routine storylines. However, last spring, I got tired of hearing friends and family complain about the lack of exciting, innovative candidates for president. Everyone seemed ready to vote for "None Of the Above." So, I decided to take a 10,000-mile road trip across America in May 2015 to meet several of the more than 1600 "real people" who are legit candidates for the presidency. Including a couple in New England.
The Can’t-idates is about dreamers -- not all of whom are tin-foil hat crazy -- who just want to fill a hole in their lives by running for president. And as I drove to meet them all, I realized a lot about not just my life but also about the country. If we could all take time to believe in what our parents always told us -- "Someday you can grow up to be president" -- maybe we wouldn't be in the shape we're in.
Is There a Message in Your Novel That You Want Readers to Grasp?
The message is simple – “Do Your Crazy Thing.” We all have something in us that we want to try but seldom do because we worry what everyone else will think. I worried that writing a book about real people who run for president would get laughed out of the room. But then, as I met these extraordinary ordinary people who were doing something everyone said they were nuts to try, I realized what I had in common with them all. We all just want to go for our dreams, no matter how weird they seem to the outside world. And the book shows that ultimately, that’s okay.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
There are really two things, which occur on opposite ends of the process. The first is finding and refining a story or book idea. There are countless things that might be interesting for a graph or a chapter but ultimately, they flame out. You need to find something that will keep you as the writer engaged for as long as the project takes and sometimes that means churning through dozens of ideas before finding one that resonates. The second thing is what happens once you settle on your story. It’s always very tempting to second-guess yourselves as we sit there thinking up what to say. We’re writers. That’s what we do. But the only way to actually see your project through is to ignore those voices in your head that insist you rewrite even before you’ve finished a first draft. It’s far too easy to get caught up in the cycle of doubt and become paralyzed.
How many books have you written and which is your favorite?
I have done three books over all, but the first two don’t really count in my view. They were like “starter” books, the first a quickie biography of Alanis Morrisette and the second an as-told-to tome about the life and times of a B movie actress. I don’t count them because they weren’t “my” books. I couldn’t put my thoughts and feelings into them. So my current book, The Can’t-idates: Running For President When Nobody Knows Your Name, is my favorite because I was able to dig deep and explore any and all themes I wanted to.
If You had the chance to cast your main character from Hollywood today, who would you pick and why?
My book is non-fiction, so it doesn’t really count. Although I will say that the characters I met are so vivid and engaging, I would love to see a reality show created out of the book.
When did you begin writing?
There are times I’ve assumed I was already writing in the womb. By the time I knew my alphabet, I was trying to create stories. In the fourth grade, I was so desperate to be a writer that I actually create my own superhero “books” featuring a trenchcoat-clad rodent named Marmaduke Mouse. I’d handwrite a few pages of story, illustrate them and then use the carbon copier (yes, that one that smelled great) to make copies to sell for a nickel. That led to a new series about a team of animal heroes, named The Foogaloon Foursome. And after that, I was writing my own sports newspaper for the school. I don’t recall selling a copy to anyone I wasn’t related to, but I actually still have copies of those projects. Fingers crossed they’ll make their way to eBay someday!
How long did it take to complete your first book?
I’ll use The Can’t-idates as the example here because I really do see it as my debut. The idea to explore the world of real people running for president had been with me for a few years, ever since I worked as a producer on a talk show and met a vampire pro wrestler who was a candidate. Then, in the winter of 2015, pretty much everyone I knew was unhappy with their mainstream choices for president. I discovered that 193 others had filled out their paperwork to run (the number has grown to 1800 at this point), and it occurred to me that we have far more choices than we realize. So, in early May, I drove 10,000 miles across the country in three weeks to meet my “Can’t-idates.” I began writing my first draft in early June and was finished with it by mid-October. I immediately started revising and finding a publisher, and by Thanksgiving, I had a finished product.
Did you have an author who inspired you to become a writer?
The writer who has always moved me was Spaulding Gray. I knew little about him till I’d seen the movie Swimming To Cambodia, a documentary that perfectly captured one of his readings. After that, I devoured all of his books and never missed his live shows. I’ve never read a writer with such an incredible ability to look deep inside himself, find things we can all understand and relate to and then share them in an amusing but enlightening way. I like to think the best writing is the writing that acts like a mirror. And Gray was the best at that.
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Well, I’m tempted to say “the END of the writing process.” There is a sense of relief that happens as you type the last period on your first draft. It’s hard to describe until you feel it yourself but trust me, it is great. However, as a non-fiction writer, my favorite part of the book-creating process is the interviews. I’ve been a journalist my entire life, and I love sitting down with people and discovering who they are. While working on The Can’t-idates, I spent about five hours talking to all my interview subjects. It was in those hours that I could literally see my book taking shape before my very eyes. Which is a very exciting process to be a part of.
Describe your latest book in 4 words.
Fun. Relatable. Personal. Different.
Can you share a little bit about your current work or what is in the future for your writing?
I am still developing my next project. All I can say at the moment is I want to explore my lifelong battle with depression by getting out into the world and finding people and places who might help me put it all in perspective. I know, I know…..doesn’t sound like anything right now but 18 months ago, my desire to drive cross-country to meet real people running for president didn’t seem like anything either.
Craig Tomashoff is a freelance writer/producer based in Los Angeles. His blogs appear regularly at Huffington Post.com. Most recently, he was a producer for The Queen Latifah Show. Prior to that, he served as Executive Editor of TV Guide, and has also worked as Associate Bureau Chief for People. In addition, he has written for the Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and Emmy Magazine. Prior to The Can’t-idates, he was the author of You Live, You Learn: The Alanis Morissette Story and co-wrote I’m Screaming As Fast As I Can: My Life In B-Movies with Linnea Quigley. He has also worked as a television writer/producer for such series as VH1’s Behind the Music, The Martin Short Show and The Late Show With Craig Kilborn.