Can you tell us more about "Elvis & You"? Why did you write it, what got you started, how did you get the information (out) of the fans?
Well, the book was published in mid-July and has already sold out its first printing, which is something of a miracle. (And for which, I can't thank enough all of you all who have bought the book).) Here's why I wrote Elvis & You: Your Guide to the Pleasures of Being an Elvis Fan: I love being an Elvis fan, love meeting other Elvis people, am honored to be part of a group of people who raise money for charity in his name, am crazy about people who befriend each other so readily, have a great and sometimes wild time as an Elvis fan AND I just couldn't believe that such a fun and positive and pleasurable experience could be so annoyingly misunderstood by the rest of the world. Why is it that only about five of Elvis' songs are really well known when he has a vast repertoire with so much incredible music in it? Why is when John Denver dies, people do serious retrospectives of his body of work but in Elvis' case it is time for the joke factory to go into production? There are about a billion things like this that have always driven me nuts - then, I met this other Elvis fan (John O'Hara) and we talked about this sort of stuff for a couple of years and somehow it slowly dawned on us that between the couple of hundred Elvis books we had between us, there was virtually nothing positive about the fans and you had to scratch deep for anything really loving and charitable toward Elvis. And then we realized that we're both writers and finally it came together as a book project.
Here's what the book is about: we took all these subjects that Elvis was passionate about (music, spirituality and gospel, charity, law enforcement, motor vehicles, style, romance, firearms, martial arts and then a bunch of subjects that are of interest to his fans like collecting, cyberspace, the "pilgrimage," art, shrines, and yes, dammit, impersonators and we wrote an essay on each giving an overview of Elvis' and the fans' involvement, and then we provide a list of trivia and factoids relating to each of those topics and other books and videos and sources where fans can find out more about it if they like, and then we put together a couple of dozen things relating to each subject through which fans can delve further into something Elvis loved. Like for instance in the "At Home With Elvis" chapter, we provide the names of all the places where Elvis bought furnishings and things for his house that are still in business so people can actually buy things from the same source - the company that made the peacock stained glass in the entry of Graceland can copy them for fans. Fans can buy a sapling grown from a tree from Graceland property, we give their contact info. It's meant to be a resource book for pretty much every aspect of Elvis. Also in each chapter, we list a relevant charity, in the martial arts chapter, for instance, we suggest organizing a karate exhibition in order to raise donations for charity. In the Elvis the Army chapter, we give a veteran's charity - all in Elvis' footsteps. We are planning on donating a portion of our royalties to charity and feel really strongly about doing this.
We compiled lists of all his firearms, cars (including dune buggies, Harleys, and custom vehicles like the motorhome), love interests, firearms (including all weapons he used in the army), charities he donated to, all his home addresses.
To top it off we gathered about 560 photos of Elvis ( lots never published before), fans, places, events, art, and lists of songs, movies, his cars, his guns, his jumpsuits, his pets, web sites, publications, fan clubs and on and on. It was a real labor and love and John and I even were capable of completing a 626-page book in 11 months because we were on a mission to do right by Elvis and of course, fellow fans.
The main reason we interview you, is because it was suggested by a previous "victim" of us, Carol. This is what Carol wanted us to ask: "What is your overall impression of Elvis-fans and what do you think of the fan's loyalty towards Elvis?"
Well Carol is one of those miraculous people on the Elvis scene, like Sandi Miller who introduced us, who was so generous with her time and her stories that I am still floored to this day. By the way, there are two pictures of Carol with Elvis in the book (kissing, I might add) and she chose to share these with us and thereby other Elvis fans everywhere without even having met or knowing us from a hole in a wall.
This is how I find my Elvis compadres - forthcoming, trusting, generous, up for laughs, good dancers (except whassup with those line dances the Brits do???), emotional - in a good way, and more fun (and usually funnier) than the rest of the damn population. So, I've met a few chowderheads - so what - the world is filled with them and the Elvis population is no exception but I still prefer the rockers or rebels or musically inclined or ole saps who are into him than people who are interested in aeronautics, or collecting lamp finials or whatever. As far as our loyalty to Elvis, I am not daunted by it one bit because it is much more complex than the folks at large understand. It isn't only loyalty to Elvis that keeps people into him and the fan scene over the long haul - this doesn't happen in a vacuum (or a sort of Elvis dead end) - it happens because his music isn't likely to get LESS interesting as time goes on and you delve deeper into it nor his talents less compelling, plus we all befriend each other and have fun together and that's the key: the community formed around Elvis and Elvis events is in itself fascinating and good fun and is that so wrong??!!
Is there anything else you want to get rid of?
Huh? Do you mean anything else I want to get off my chest? I wish everyone would stop trying to establish who is, and what characteristics make for, the best type of Elvis fan. There room enough for everyone from the people who the people who only like his music but not necessarily the man, to the people who visit Graceland twice a year and everyone in between. And I wish Graceland would really show some genuine interest and respect for the fans. More than they do. And I wish I could bean the next person who asks me if I think Elvis is coming back but I do the next best thing - patiently explain to them how moronic they sound for making such an assumption.
Who do you think we should interview in the future, why, and which question should we certainly ask?
Oh, I am so pleased you asked me this. I have met so many extraordinary people in this community who really have interesting perspectives and things to say. For outspoken, opionated, and feisty, you should interview Megan Murphy (she's prez of Elvis Now and puts out one of the better newsletters around by far), Ian Mackay, Julian Grant, Bill Dufour, Shane Peterson, and Richard Palmer. For knowledge and sincerity, Mary McLaughlin (It's Only Love), Jordan Ritchie, and Gabe and Betty Rodriguez (Pure Gold). For people deeply involved in the Elvis scene, Andy Hearn and Henrik Knudsen. For fascinating people I've met online through Elvis, Alex Watson (Memories, New Zealand) and Christophe Jouanne (Elvis en Bourgogne). Ask them what they have done for Elvis lately. Kidding. Ask them the questions you asked me which I thought were excellent but also, why do they think they can get so worked up over Elvis topics.
Also my partner on the book, John O'Hara, would make for a good interview. He and I had fairly different takes on just about everything in Elvis world, which made for a grumble time but ultimately much richer final product in the book.
We'd like to thank Laura for the time she took (and she did a lot! :-)) to answer our questions and we'll certainly contact several of her suggestions for future interviews.