I first met Pat Obermeier through our Writer’s Critique Group at the Just Buffalo Literary Center, where she shared the release of her self-published novel, “The President Factor.” Obermeier worked for more than 30 years in the television news industry in New York City, and was the recipient of four Emmys.
I recently sat down with Pat in her chic loft downtown. Over a platter of artisan cheese, we discussed what it’s like to self-publish a book in today’s literary climate, and the reaction she has gotten by coming out with a political satire on the cusp of a national election.
1. What made you give up the fast-paced NYC life, for a quieter Buffalo life?
The quieter life in Buffalo was exactly what I needed to focus on my writing. I was responsible for the graphics and advertising for channels in LA and Austin as well as NYC, upstate NY and NC, so even after I left my office in Chelsea Market, battled the NYC traffic, I was still working. Proofing scripts and designs etc could go until 11 pm esp if there was breaking news…anywhere. For me to get into my writing mode, I needed to toss my TV hat…which was hard when I was, in essence, on-call 24 hours. News never sleeps. By the time I could move away from work projects and into the mood of the piece I was writing, it was time to go to bed!
I am also from Buffalo. High School-Holy Angels Academy, Buffalo State for undergrad and UB for Master’s Studies. Two of my three daughters are here, so it was natural to come home.
Even after 18 years in New York City, it was surprisingly easy to shift focus. I was ready to move on.
3. What can readers take away from The President Factor in terms of today’s politics & upcoming election?
Look at everything with a jaundiced eye! You may think it’s obvious when it appears that a TV commentator is skewing the message, but there are many ways to change the message that are not so obvious. I take the reader into the edit room and the boardroom of a TV network to show how simply it can be done. Ann Garvin, author of “The Dog Year” said about the book, “This is an insider’s view and will leave you feeling entertained, superior and satisfied.”
With the way this election is shaping up right now, just about everyone needs to flush those toxins away. Clear out one’s political sinuses. Or at the very least use a better metaphor and revel in the idea of putting presidential candidates’ feet to the fire.
4. Do you have to be in-the-know about politics to understand your book?
Nope. It’s pretty straightforward. Just about everyone knows how reality shows work. They have seen shows where the contestants get challenges…the difference here is the contestants are running for President and the challenges will expose their weaknesses and strengths. The humor is in the situations and choices the characters make from the minute you meet them. I give the reader a sense of power…for they are smarter than the candidates.
5. Who can you identify as an inspiration or contemporary from the literary world or media?
Years ago, when I was at CNBC (around 1998), there was a freelance writer/producer brought in to do some spots –TV commercials, called promos in the industry. He had a very conversational way of writing, way before you saw that style everywhere. I was blown away. His work, in a sense, gave me permission to break the rules and write any way I wanted. This has carried over to my literary writing- my voice. So here’s how I feel about anyone who breaks away from the pedestrian in media and literature: I might not like your story, but I appreciate that you have a voice. My literary tastes lean towards stories in “The New Yorker.”
Oh gosh. “The President Factor” started as a screenplay in 2008. It took about a year and a half to complete. I shopped it around and couldn’t get any traction. Susana Tubert, who was the director of the Teatro Stagefest in NYC at the time, loved the screenplay and was working on setting up some staged readings, until she left NYC for LA! Around then I was promoted to VP which took up the majority of my time…so I shelved it. When elections came around again, I realized how much I loved the story wanted it to be heard, so I picked it up and started turning it into a novel. After I had a draft I was comfortable with, I sent it over to an editor for development notes. After I got them back, it took another six months to rewrite. In the middle of that I made the decision to leave the word of TV to concentrate on my writing. Then the laborious task of final editing and getting everything ready for publication. Having a top-notch editor is essential.
7. Would you describe your tone as cynical? were you always interested in social commentary?
I wouldn’t say cynical. I’ve seen the ugly side of News, the manipulation of media and have run from places like that. I’m more tongue-in-cheek, let’s-find-a-way-to-make-a-joke-of-that kind of person. I’m drawn to social commentary, satire and political humor. I’m a big fan of The Borowitz Report, John Oliver, Seth Meyers and of course, Jon Stewart.
I am very concise in my writing and people say my stories “fly.” I think that is a result of having to tell a story in thirty seconds…the only time I had for my promos and commercials. I developed my voice over the years, which is, in one word: irreverent. There’s usually some humor, a wink here, a nod to the absurd there, in my TV work. My career is also littered with promos and campaigns that were just “too out there.” I was able to get a few ideas past managers over the years but most of the time I had to reign it in…until I started working for Steve Paulus at NY1. He let me loose, and for seven years, I was able to create some of the most satisfying work of my career. These are the things I won Emmys and Promax/BDA awards for. I was able to walk away from the TV industry accomplishing what I started out to do: Create work in my voice and leave a footprint. That allowed me to move to another creative outlet, my writing.
9. What is next after The President Factor & what are your goals (as a writer)?
I am completing another novel, The LoveBeep. It’s contemporary fiction with a lot of humor…go figure! I’ve also been doing a lot of flash fiction and alternative short fiction, which I love. I’ll just keep writing forever. I’m living my goals, if that makes sense. To have the time to write whatever I want, and share it with readers.
Book website – Thepresidentfactor.com
My website – Patobermeier.com
Amazon Link – The President Factor