Waffle Street: The Confession and Rehabilitation of a Financier is the true story of a laid-off financial market professional (yours truly) receiving his first “real education” in economics as he spends six months waiting tables on the weekend graveyard shift at Waffle House. Although it began solely as a self-deprecating humorous memoir, Waffle Street also became a vehicle for imparting a lucid and entertaining explanation of money and economics to the general reader. Given the turbulence in our contemporary financial and political climate, the narrative couldn’t be timelier.
Tell us something about yourself.
I’m originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I spent the first five years of my career investing premiums for life insurance companies. Subsequently, I worked for three years as a product manager for a $30 billion money management firm. In that capacity, most of my time was spent writing to clients about markets and portfolio strategies.
What inspired you to write this book?
My former employer purchased billions of subprime mortgage bonds on behalf of banks, insurance companies, and pension funds. The bonds’ collapse led to the financial crisis of 2008, my layoff, and the economic malaise that we continue to experience. Given the considerable public indignation about the debacle, I suspected that readers would enjoy watching one of the parties responsible for the bust get served a large slice of humble pie.
How did you choose the title?
The working title was From Wall Street….to Waffle House. A friend later suggested Waffle Street, and I thought the word play worked very well.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
The biggest impediment a new author encounters is finding and selecting a literary agent and publisher. Fortunately, my good friend Greg Osmond introduced me to his sister Amy Cook at Sourced Media Books. She was very excited about the project from the outset, and has been an absolute pleasure to work with.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I have always enjoyed expository writing, particularly about finance and related subjects. Fortunately, my last professional job afforded me the opportunity to write about market events on a daily basis. As an avocation, I started writing more frequently several years ago when my wife started a family blog and charged me with preparing an annual Christmas letter for our friends and family. The exercise quickly became my favorite part of the holidays.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I coped with writer’s block by playing a lot of Tetris. I considered myself pretty skilled until a friend recently informed me that his average score was nearly double my high score. The revelation considerably dampened my enthusiasm for the game; fortunately it came after I’d completed the book.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
As Waffle Street is a non-fiction title, I had to protect my characters’ anonymity. I tried to select monikers that evoked images comparable to their real names.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
I greatly underestimated the required amount of editing time. Whenever I receive I compliment on my writing, I reply that the key to quality prose is tenacious editing.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would give myself more realistic deadlines. Although I tried to complete at least a page every day, I would occasionally devote several hours to a single paragraph and fall short of my goal.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
As a youth, I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy– in particular, Isaac Asimov and Terry Brooks. As an adult, I’ve become more interested in non-fiction titles. While I read a few personal narratives, I currently allocate most of my time to books about finance, economics, and theology.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
Given my deep love for financial markets, I knew that the only way I could ever return to them was to re-evaluate my “first principles” and experience the catharsis of admitting my culpability in the meltdown. For me to write another title, I might have to be involved in another geopolitical catastrophe. Writing Waffle Street nearly killed me, and I’m afraid that another such effort might finish the job.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Edit, edit some more, and keep editing until your oeuvre is perfect. My book is 288 pages, but I’ve got at least 100 more that didn’t make the cut. The upside to all the editing is that my readers have advised me that the book moves along at a quick pace.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
Anyone who enjoys humorous narratives and/or a good business book will enjoy a walk down Waffle Street. I originally intended the book to appeal to readers of humorous non-fiction (think David Sedaris or Bill Bryson). As I added several business elements, the book came to resemble Michael Lewis’ Liar’s Poker. I’m very pleased to report that Waffle Street has been well received by ladies’ book clubs and finance PhDs alike.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?