ROLL THE DICE
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (7/19)
Roll the Dice is the first novel from Wayne Avrashow. The novel earned a pre-publication award from Kirkus Reviews and has received unanimous favorable reviews from; publications, radio shows, podcasts, authors, elected political officials, motion picture executives, and the general public.
Many of the characters, plots and sub-plots in Roll the Dice are built around events Wayne personally witnessed, read about, or viewed; all with a dash of creative imagination. Whether you are a liberal, conservative or apolitical, the themes of Roll the Dice reverberate in all lives: the strained father-son relationship, the unexpected discovery of romance, the divided loyalties and one’s yearning to make a meaningful impact with life.
Wayne’s background in politics, government, business, and law provides unique insight into the machinations and characters that populate political campaigns.
His political background includes; being the campaign manager for two successful Los Angeles City Council campaigns and a Deputy/Chief of Staff to those two elected City Council members. He served as a senior advisor for a successful City of Los Angeles ballot referendum, was co-author of ballot arguments, Chairman for a Los Angeles County ballot measure, and was a Los Angeles government Commissioner for nearly twenty years. He currently serves as a Board Member of the Yaroslavsky Institute, a public policy institute founded by long time Southern California elected official and now UCLA professor, Zev Yaroslavsky.
Wayne is a practicing attorney who specializes in government advocacy, real estate, and business law. He was formerly a corporate officer in two business firms. As a lawyer-lobbyist, he represented clients before numerous California municipalities and in Nevada and Idaho. He has lectured at his law school and taught at Woodbury University in Los Angeles.
He authored numerous op-ed articles that appeared in daily newspapers, legal, business, and real estate publications. He is the author of a self-published book for the legal community, Success at Mediation—10 Strategic Tools for Attorneys, a book used for law students in 2018 at the USC Gould School of Law.
Personally, he is the proud father of two wonderful sons Bret and Grant, each pursuing a master’s degree in business administration in Los Angeles and San Diego. Wayne is a lifelong resident in Los Angeles.
Hi Wayne, thank you for joining us today at Reader Views! Tell us, what is “Roll the Dice” about?
Tyler Sloan, a member of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, exits his Las Vegas residency to campaign for the United States Senate in Nevada. He wages an unconventional campaign, no special interest money, no lobbyists and relies on his charisma and fame.
What inspired this story?
The classic movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington influenced me. I watched it on television as a child; one man can make a difference. I was campaign manager for two successful Los Angeles City Council campaigns, been involved in politics all my life, love rock music, I blended the characters I’ve met with the movie’s vision.
What makes Tyler Sloan tick? Why does he want to run for political office?
Multiple reasons; he is singing the same songs every night, no new hits; his father was California’s Governor so there’s something to prove that he is not just a singer, he has substance.
Running as an Independent comes with its own set of challenges. Tell us about Tyler Sloan’s platform. Who are his ideal constituents?
Sloan is like a lot of people, maybe liberal on some issues, more conservative on others. Nevada and many states have a growing number of independent thinkers, and he is one. He defies being placed in a political box with a label.
Are there any parallels in “Roll the Dice” to the current political environment?
Celebrity candidates are here to stay. California had Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor, Al Franken from Minnesota, and many athletes. How would Tom Hanks do in the Democratic primary—I think very well.
Can you tell us about the father-son dynamics and how they play out in the story?
Tyler and Mike Sloan operated in different universes; his father an establishment politician who almost became President; and Tyler, a more rebellious youth, rock and roll singer. Mike was old school, a more distant father. They both share the pain of the death of Tyler’s older brother Mike Jr., or J.R. The circumstances surrounding his death emerge in the novel and bind father and son.
Which one of your characters did you have the most fun with creating? Is there one you relate to most?
I enjoyed drafting Bree Baker, the younger female media advisor. She’s smart, tough and does not take any B.S. You can deal with her, but not dictate to her. She’s a strong, stand-up person who Sloan relies upon. The two engage in a mutually flirtatious relationship and that professional and personal dance infiltrates the story and their lives.
How does your experience in the business and political world translate into your fictional story through the characters and/or events?
Political campaigns are a high-pressure business unlike no other since it is time-compressed, a finite date it will end. And that conclusion is either totally victory or defeat. There is a rush or urgency as the clock ticks to election day. It is, fun, nerve-wracking and filled with bursts of small victories and setbacks.
What was the most challenging part of your story to write in terms of research?
Ensuring that the places referred to were accurate and describing the restaurant or hotel, not just for accuracy, but for its “vibe.”
Are there certain parts of the story where you took more creative liberties with than others?
I created a fictional hotel for a gambling scene. The lawyer in me did not want to be sued, but it is based on a mix of real Las Vegas casinos.
How long did it take you to write, “Roll the Dice?”
I practiced law full time, so it was a weekend and after-hours passion. As I concluded the draft, I would sometimes edit at lunch, it was consumptive…..but enjoyable.
Tell us about your writing process. What is something you do to get the creative juices flowing?
I never have writers’ block. I can always write. I outlined the story, did a couple of drafts and submitted it to Kirkus Reviews where it won an award for best unpublished novel, that was the catalyst.
How did you develop your plot? Do you outline? If so, to what extent?
I outlined the story, but had many, many changes. It was a lot of cut and paste. My agent advised to reduce the political details, emphasize Bree Baker’s role.
How do you keep the plot unpredictable without sacrificing believability?
In today’s political world there is almost nothing unbelievable. Think about all that has happened, not just with Trump, but all celebrity candidates. The almost unfathomable revelations that emerge on a regular basis are what is fascinating. Politics are public stages for smart, driven, ambitious men and women; from that universe crazy things can happen.
What do you like to read and which authors have inspired your own work as a writer?
I read both fiction and non-fiction. I loved Gone Girl, John Grisham, Patterson, Balducci, and other contemporary writers. I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird and All the King’s Men, both classics, they hold up well, but the language and racial concepts are very tough to read.
Being an author these days can be a full-time commitment. How do you balance writing, marketing and promoting your work with everyday demands, like your other full-time job, family commitments and personal time?
Priorities. I watch less tv than most people, do not play golf, this is my hobby, my passion. I love music, but cannot sing, this is my creative outlet. It is very satisfying to write a chapter, scene or even great line or two. Step back, edit it and take satisfaction that it can provoke inspiration, humor or simply be a great escape. I like taking the reader to where they have not been.
What was the best advice you received?
I was casually introduced to a man at a social event, Peter Saphier. He was formerly head of “buying and selling” at Universal Studios and an executive at Paramount. I asked Peter Saphier what he worked on, he modestly told me he would acquire the option rights for novels, magazine articles, plays, etc. His most memorable acquisition shocked me: he was the first at Universal to read the unpublished manuscript Jaws, by Peter Benchley. Saphier persuaded Universal to acquire the rights and the rest is history. He read my novel after it won the Kirkus award, but before I found an agent and offered the guidance to increase the father-son conflict. I listened, agreed and re-drafted.
What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author/writer and how do you handle negative comments?
I look back at it with a smile. After I won the Kirkus award, I was optimistic I would find an agent. I researched agents and sent out dozens of query letters on my law firm stationary to demonstrate a degree of seriousness. I was prepared for rejections, but one agent returned the letter with an angry response; “I do not and never will represent a f***ing attorney!!!” I was dumbfounded, I guess Grisham would irritate the heck out of him.
Do you have any plans for a sequel?
Writing it now. It should be published in 2020. In writing, it is a careful balance between providing the characters’ background to readers who read the first book, and those who are new to my work.
Wayne, thank you for being with us today at Reader Views and sharing the news about Roll the Dice!