Michael A. Sisti – Executive Crumple Zone

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Executive Crumple Zone is a story of an entrepreneur who takes an executive position in a corporate bureaucracy. What emerges is a clash between an action-oriented, risk-taking entrepreneurial mindset and a burgeoning, glacially-paced environment where the status quo rules. It is a gut-wrenching, yet hilarious trip inside the halls of corporate America that reveals gross incompetence, ethical lapses, cronyism, greed, and way too much hubris.

Tell us something about yourself.

I spent most of my youth in Brooklyn where I was born, and most of my adult life in the New Jersey suburbs. I am a lifelong entrepreneur, launching businesses, starting as a teenager. My area of expertise is marketing, and through that career have written thousands of advertisements, press stories, magazine articles, brochures, etc. For three years I wrote a column called Local Color for an online magazine. I am also a lecturer at business conferences and universities.

What inspired you to write this book?

During my only break from entrepreneurship, I accepted a position with a large health insurance company, where I set up an in-house ad agency. Although we were employees in this bureaucracy, we functioned as a maverick, creative-driven operation that often conflicted with corporate policy. The opportunity to work with this talented group of individuals that were so successful despite being hampered by the company culture inspired me to write about the experience. Searching my email archive for background gave me the idea to write the book as a series of emails, which while challenging, proved to be a fascinating way to tell a story. When a major political scandal that peripherally implicated me hit the news, it gave my novel a whole different direction.

How did you choose the title?

My publisher rejected my working title, pushing me to make the title more about the experience. I hit upon Executive Crumple Zone as a fitting description of what corporate bureaucracies do to people that don’t conform.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

The email format turned off many literary agents and publishers, but Chris Angermann, the editor at New Chapter Publisher saw potential in this unique style. He pushed me to find ways to inject character development, intensity and emotion into the story, despite the glib email format.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

Going back to elementary school, I found that I despised English class, but loved to write. I was terrible at studying the rules, but passed with my prose. As an adult, I looked for every opportunity to write, which led me into the marketing communications field.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I always write better in the morning. If I write in the evening, I find I have to do major editing the following morning.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

Since this story is a fictionalization of some actual events, I stylized the names of a few of the characters. The rest were derivatives of friends’ names.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

The key learning experience was that writing the book was the easiest part. The substantial editing/rewriting process, signing with an agent/publisher, and the ongoing marketing effort have all been far more difficult.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I’d be better prepared for the difficult process. Working with my editor also taught me a lot about character development and plot building.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

I read a variety of fiction and some non-fiction, however I don’t read fantasy or self-help books. I also don’t have a favorite author, although Pat Conroy is high on my list. I read for entertainment, but also to study how other authors feed information to the reader, develop character, handle dialog, etc.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I am just completing a business book on the positive learning opportunities that come from failure. I am also writing another novel that is set in the executive suite of a major bank. Called The Gatekeeper, it’s about an assistant to the CEO who manipulates the staff and takes control of a vast empire.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

As I have stated above, publishing a book is a long, arduous process that goes way beyond the actual writing. Before you make that commitment, be absolutely and honestly certain of two things. First is that the story you have to tell is something that people beyond your friends and family will find interesting. And second, you have the ability to write it in a style that will hold the reader’s interest.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Educators and business leaders who have read Executive Crumple Zone all agree that this is an important document for college students and young professionals. The lessons this book teaches cannot be learned in any college classroom.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?