MC Foley wants you to get off the couch!

MC Foley (Courtesy of MC Foley)
I'm incredibly excited to interview MC Foley today. This wonder woman is not only the Coordinator of the Writers Guild of America's Showrunner Training Program, but she is also a former international slam poetry performer, a self-published author, a fitness fanatic, and a soon-to-be reality star. To say that I am in awe of her energy, accomplishments, and general awesomeness is an understatement.

The first time I met MC was right after I had published Hell's Game. I was unsure of what I wanted to do next in my career, and after a sit down with MC, who was generous with her extensive knowledge of the publishing landscape, I was inspired to do a series, which led me to write The Red Lantern Scandals. At the time, I was fairly new to the self-publishing game, but she had proven success. Her YA fantasy novel, The Ice Hotel, was being adapted by Oscar-nominated screenwriters, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (The Fighter) and her sexy paranormal novel The Cure was a hit on Amazon.

Today, I continue to be inspired by her because of her new project, "From Alky to Alcohol."  Her blog is an honest account of how one can change her life for the better with exercise, and seeing the photos of her being a kickass athlete motivated me to get off the couch. Hopefully after reading her interview, you'll want to do the same. 

TL: Thanks so much for stopping by! First off, what writer or what work inspired you to write? MCF: Honestly, I can’t say a specific writer inspired me to write at the very start – what really inspired me was that, as a kid, I was unhappy with my surroundings and so I wrote myself into better and/or different worlds. It felt like I had more control over my real world that way. However, when I did get sprung on writers, one of my first favorites was Roald Dahl – especially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Recently, Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking YA trilogy and his book A Monster Calls BLEW me away and inspired me to finally write a book in first person POV – that’s my dark paranormal erotica novella,
The Cure.

TL: Early in your career, you were a performance artist who won a slam poetry contest. What are some of your tips for aspiring slam artists? 

MCF: Yes, I did several slams around the bay area and on my first time to the National Poetry Slam in Chicago, our team won and I was flown to Denmark and London to begin touring as a performance poet. I haven’t been around that world lately, but tips I can give from back then would be:  
  1. Don’t mimic people, find your own style. I saw quite a bit of mimicry in that world and it infuriated me. For example, there is a phenomenal poet named Taalam Acey from NYC, who I never thought got the proper credit for his brand and style. I began seeing other poets biting his style and it killed me not just because it felt so artificial, but because these poets would get high scores and claps and credit for something they did NOT invent. To me that’s as shitty as plagiarism and I wanted to slap the shit out of those people.  
  2. Write a lot – you’re going to need several pieces to carry you through.  
  3. Please don’t just be that angry poet. Unless it’s 100% who you really are. I used to judge a lot of competitions and you’d get poets up there who’d be angry in every single one of their pieces. Even if the piece was about peanuts or teddy bears. I’d sit there and think “why the F are you always yelling??”  
  4. To break in, be like Nike. Just do it.
  5. I remember when I was in Denmark, for some reason my brand of poetry wasn’t flying. I scored pretty low all the time and it made me question my writing and performance. Then we get to London and I KILLED IT. Different audiences take to different things. It’s pretty fascinating, actually.
MC Foley's The Cure was one of my favorite
books that I read in 2012. If you want to 
purchase a copy, The Cure
TL:. I really enjoyed your NC-17 paranormal revenge tale, The Cure. How did you come up with the idea? Was it hard to write something so dark?
MCF: The idea struck me because I woke up one day and I was annoyed at everything in LA. Annoyed at the douchebag guys I’d met recently, the insane entertainment industry, the random daily bullshit, the grind that never seemed to pay enough money – all of a sudden the story just exploded out of me. I’d also just read Patrick Ness’s book, so, was powerfully impacted by his excellent use of first person POV. I slammed out the novella in a month. It wasn’t hard to write something so dark because it was my way of achieving wish fulfillment on behalf of me and all of the other struggling creative types in LA. If I can’t saw your fingers off or expose your hypocrisy on a grand level in real life, at least I can satisfy my needs on paper. Verbal masturbation.
PS: you go through phases in life, and I’m now on the polar opposite end of that perspective on LA. I f&*()_ng love LA and I’ve built an amazing circle of friends here and an amazing life. Which makes it a bit difficult to go back into that headspace to write the second book inThe Cure series. But that’s just a typical challenge of writing, eh? Gotta MAKE yourself do it sometimes.
TL: Some people have misconceptions about what all writers are like—that they are introverted, tortured souls—but you totally disprove that by being an accomplished writer and a fierce athlete (see picture below.) Have you always been into fitness or is this recent? Why should others put down the liquor bottle and start caring about their wellness?
MC Foley proves that writers can be fierce.
Photo courtesy of From Alky to Athlete
MCF: I’ve always been into fitness but lately I RAMPED it up in a major way because I wanted to transform my life intensely. I aim for excellence on a daily basis, and I located myself close to a gym with extremely dynamic workout classes. I’ve been shaping a lifestyle that is a fusion of extreme physical exertion and using my writing skills to inspire others to push themselves towards this as well. Hence the “From Alky to Athlete” blog – where I aim to be brutally honest about my experiences with and opinions about exercise, sex and booze. One major goal with the blog is that I will produce enough material to publish a non-fiction book of the same title.  
Just because you write doesn’t mean you have to define yourself as a writer and only a writer, thereby excluding a myriad of amazing experiences which present themselves to all of us humans each and every day. You are a human first – a writer second. Or third. Or whatever the hell number you want to pick.
TL: You are a very prolific writer who also works full time with the Writers Guild of America as the Coordinator of their Showrunner Training Program.** Many people have asked me how to find work-write balance, and I was wondering if you had any tips on the subject. 
**(The Showrunner Training Program is conducted in partnership with The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and it's an industry training program designer to help senior level writer-producers hone the skills necessary to become successful television showunners.)
MC Foley hangs out at the gym.
(Courtesy of "From Alky to Athlete.)
MCF: Well… here’s the thing – I’m an extremist. For example, my recent Nike+ fuel band measurement of physical exertion rated my activity as about four times more than the average Nike+ community member. So… I’m naturally driven to murder shit no matter what I do. I kill it in the gym. I slam out writing when I decide I want to. It’s just in my blood. However, I also have no children, one little dog, a very short commute and can walk to the gym. This is all extremely important. When I first looked for an office job in LA (to get away from the painful PA gig that was sucking my entire life away), I specifically told the temp agency, which I knew placed people at CBS, Paramount and The Writers Guild, that I only wanted to work at one of those three places or within 5 to 7 minutes driving distance from my house. They laughed at me, but I was dead serious. I was not going to lose several hours of each day sitting in a car, even if it meant starving sometimes. I NEED those life hours to either write or workout or just be alive with other humans.
There have been periods, however, where I am working 12 to 14 hour days and 6 day weeks and I still knock out my writing and exercise, because it’s THAT important. For example – I wrote The Ice Hotel during an intense work period where I was doing exactly that. 12 to 14 hour days. 6 day weeks. But I just had to write it because I was driven. In that instance, my drive was fueled by the fact that I was writing it because my friend died. But nevertheless…

TL: You meet a lot of successful television writers because of your position as the Coordinator of the Showrunners Program with the Writers Guild of America. Do you have any advice for aspiring television writers? 

  1. Do NOT ask people for favors or to give you things when you’ve just met them. That is about one of the worst things you could ever do, and yet I see it happen all the time. Why in the hell should this person tell you how to get an agent or read your script when you’ve just met them?? Do you realize how disrespectful that is? Disrespectful of this person’s time as well as this person’s life work. For them to be at the level they’re at they have definitely invested YEARS of SWEAT and hard, hard work. For you to just ask for things makes you look either ignorant, selfish, desperate, childish or just plain stupid. I’m ranting here because I’ve seen it happen SO OFTEN. It boggles my mind. You need to build relationships with people on a human level – and not in an insincere way. People are smart out here, they can sniff that bullshit out pretty quickly. 
  2. Talk less and listen more. 
  3. Write a lot of material. You need an arsenal. 
  4. Take critiques. You’re new. And even if you’re not new, there is always something to learn. If anyone gives you notes on your writing, just listen to the note and consider it later. Do NOT get defensive. Especially if the person read your shit for free. That’s arrogant and you just burned the fuck out of a bridge. 
  5. Be prepared to work your motherf^&*(ng ass off. 
  6. Be prepared to hammer away at this for years without a break through. 
  7. Considering that last point… pay attention to every tiny, positive thing and write it down. “Had a great conversation with so-and-so.” “Read a great script.” “Went to a cool screening Q&A.” “Learned more about post production today.” Be proud of your gradual, daily accomplishments because if you really stay focused and driven and humble and open, you will find that you are making progress each and every day.
TL: What are you working on now? 
MCF: Main project is my From Alky to Athlete blog/book. However, I’m also writing more erotica – I have pages for The Cure book 2, as well as pages for a new erotica without any paranormal elements. Also attending pitch meetings for The Ice Hotel with the screenwriters and producers. Developing a web comedy pilot. And am in the cast of a reality show currently being pitched to the networks. You can also add – murdering shit at the gym every single day, because I consider that part of all this.
TL: Thanks so much for the interview. Is there anything you’d like to add?
MCF: Thanks for the interview, it’s been fun! I’ll just do one more pitch for people to consider exercise as important as their writing – TRUST ME you get a zillion more ideas if you workout on a daily basis, and your thought process is ten times clearer. You also don’t become that stereotypical fat, sloppy, depressive, socially awkward writer. I hate that f&*()Ng stereotype. It’s bullshit and it’s an excuse to stay in your comfort zone, and ps: writers who exercise are SEXY.
Proof that writers who exercise are sexy. (Photo courtesy
of From Alky to Athlete.)

If you'd like to read MC Foley's work, check out:

  1. “From Alky to Athlete”
  2. The Cure
  3. The Ice Hotel 

You can also connect with her through social media:

    2. Instagram - @alkytoathlete

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    "Ahh... father. Powerful Jedi was he. Powerful Jedi."
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    Super cute baby, she is. Chris' daughter is being groomed to be a Star Wars fan like her parents.
    Chris and his family inside of the Star Wars nursery.
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    Chris with Edward James Olmos at Kansas City Planet Comic-Con 2012.

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    The mind of a critic: an interview with Shaun Henisey

    A Movie a Week (photo courtesy of Shaun Henisey)
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    "I think the trick to being a writer is to make yourself write as much as possible and dedicate a particular time of day to focus on nothing but writing with no distractions. That being said, I find that when you are passionate about what you are writing about the words simply sort of flow out of you. It is a great escape. To me, writing is not work-- not writing is."
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    "I try to choose movies that have a certain level of artistic merit-- a certain depth. I pick movies that can actually spawn interesting conversations."
    TL: In your opinion, what makes a screenplay great vs. good?
    SH: Asking what makes a screenplay great vs. good is such a dangerous question that I almost want to refrain from answering. I love original screenplays as much as the next person, but adaptation is also extraordinarily difficult. Some screenplay's are great because of their complexities-- i.e- Charlie Kaufman's work in Adaptation or Christopher Nolan's inventiveness in  his script for "Inception." Other screenplays are great in their ability to spit out hundreds of years of history in dramatic context- i.e- Steve Zallian and Tony Kushner. Then there are the racounteurs-- the true storytellers that write characters that are simply alive-- like Quentin Tarantino or The Coen Brothers. Some great screenplay's are so different and sparse that they push the medium into more poetic territory- the work of Terrence Malick and Stanley Kubrick comes to mind here. I guess the real benchmark for me is- "Was the picture memorable?" "Was the story effectively told?" Were the characters adequately developed and did they behave in ways that make sense to their motivation?" "Could I listen to a recording of this movie in my headphones at the gym?" If the answer to these questions are yes-- the screenplay is probably a great one. 

    TL: What are your three favorite films and why?SH: My three favorite films are "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Raging Bull" and "2001: A Space Odyssey." They are not the "three greatest movies ever made." They are just my favorites. "Raiders" makes me feel like a kid again and is the greatest example of pure cinematic escapism I have ever seen. "Raging Bull" is a movie that resonates with me a great deal in its psychological implications and contains, in my opinion, probably the greatest performance of all time. "2001" is a picture that simply makes me think, contemplate and wonder. It is one of very few pictures that push the limits of what the medium is capable of. That being said, I love so many movies that only stating three is a bit unfair.

    The late and great, Roger Ebert
    "[Roger Ebert] was as passionate as any person that has lived about the movies and always expressed his opinions in thoughtful and easy to understand ways."
    TL: Thanks again for this insightful interview. Now one final question: who are your favorite film reviewers and why?SH: Roger Ebert is my favorite film reviewer, and his "Great Movies" column was also a significant inspiration for A Movie a Week. He was the most trusted pundit in America for years. If you go back and read some of his reviews you can always hear his voice within his written words. He was as passionate as any person that has lived about the movies and always expressed his opinions in thoughtful and easy to understand ways. He is by far my biggest inspiration, although I am also an extreme fan of the late Pauline Kael as well as AO Scott and Magnolia Darghis at the New York Times.Don't forget to check out Shaun's website A Movie a Week.


    I'm a huge advocate of Do-It-Yourself, and I'm looking for other DIY-ers to share their stories. If you're a self-published writer, blogger, independent filmmaker, Youtube star, whatever, tweet me and I may feature you on my blog!