Riley Banks talks to Gary Goldstein about his addictions that landed him in prison, and how his experiences have helped so many people since then.
Tell us a little bit about you and how you came to be a writer.
I was born on October 18, 1961 in Brooklyn, New York. I obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism from Long Island University in 1983, and am a selected member of Sigma Delta Chi, and Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges.
I was the editor-in-chief of my college newspaper, but wrote “Jew in Jail” as I was serving my time for robbery, which was a direct result of my past addictions to alcohol, drugs and gambling. I found writing my book while incarcerated to be extremely therapeutic, and the stepping stone to the person I have become today, as far as getting the most out of life and helping others too.
I am single and have no children. I enjoy reading, writing, music, working out, spending time with family and friends, dating, and going to the beach. I still reside in my hometown of Brooklyn, New York, and am currently working on my next book project, while also focusing on my motivational and inspirational speaking career of helping other addicts get clean & sober and realize their full potential.
Tell us about your book.
“Jew in Jail” is about the nearly six years I spent in various New York State prisons for robbery, based on my past addictions to alcohol, drugs and gambling. It details all of the trials and tribulations I experienced as a minority behind bars, and how I was forced to fend for myself while incarcerated.
“Jew in Jail” is truthful, insightful, educational, and at times even funny, all the while focusing on my attempts at rehabilitation from my past addictions, so that I could lead a productive, law-abiding life upon my eventual release.
Why should people buy it? What makes it different from other books on the market?
My book is brutally honest about why I ended up in prison, and what it was like for me to serve my time dealing with the “powers that be” in the New York State Department of Correctional Services.
In addition, “Jew in Jail” teaches anyone who reads it that change is possible through sheer determination and perseverance, and is recommended for anyone suffering from an addiction, a family member, friend, loved one, or co-worker of such a person, or anyone living with low self-esteem and self-confidence who is interested in a better way of life.
What genre is it and who is the target audience?
“Jew in Jail” is a true crime/memoir/biography, and again, is targeted to anyone who is addicted to any life altering substance or behavior, or for someone living or working with such a person.
Describe your favorite scene in the book.
Hmmm, I don’t recall ever having been asked that question, so kudos to you! I would have to say that my favorite scene occurred way back during my first week behind bars when I was still in the Manhattan Detention Complex (“The Tombs”). I saw a woman visiting from a drug program on Rikers Island, signed my name to the list to be transferred there, and decided, right then and there, that I was going to turn my life around, once and for all, regardless of the fact that I realized I likely was not going to be a free man for several years. It actually was the first time I had hope that I could ultimately survive my time in prison, knowing that better days were definitely waiting for me on the outside after I was eventually released.
If your book were made into a movie, whom would you want to play the main characters?
If my book, “Jew in Jail” were ever made into a movie, I would like Keanu Reeves to play me. I just think he is edgy enough to pull it off! As far as the other characters, I really have not given that much thought, but would obviously want only the best of the best from Hollywood!
Where do you draw your inspiration? Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences, or is it all fiction?
“Jew in Jail” is entirely true and based on real life experiences, and the fact that I am my own worst enemy, as far as putting myself in that situation in the first place, makes my book all the more unique. However, at the same time, the fact that I was saddled with the disease of addiction, while not an excuse for my actions, does serve as inspiration for others to learn that anyone – even a college graduate who had a very successful career in the business world – is susceptible to this in their lives, but that they, too, can come out of a similar situation as a better person. So, to answer your question, I draw my inspiration from within and from the values my parents always tried to instill into me, and getting brutally serious with my life and what I want to ultimately accomplish.
Is there a message in your novel that you hope readers will grasp?
Yes, definitely. It is all about never being ashamed to ask for help in life, and knowing that it is never too late to ask for such help, since We, as human beings, are not perfect.
How do you market your book?
I market my book on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest and others. But, more importantly, I go out into the world to promote “Jew in Jail,” and also deliver motivational & inspirational speeches on recovery from addiction, sometimes wearing a black & white striped jail costume to help brand myself and stand out in this highly competitive field!
What has been your most successful marketing tactic to date?
Going to BookExpo America 2011 (BEA 2011) dressed in my jail costume, because I stood out among the thousands of other authors, publishers, librarians, book buyers and agents who were there promoting their own books and businesses, while I was either autographing copies of “Jew in Jail” at my booth, handing out my bookmarks and business cards on the floor of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center where BEA 2011 took place, or just walking around mingling with the huge crowd, including being involved in many photo ops. It was a great way to get noticed, and well worth the financial and time investments I made.
If you had fifteen seconds of an agents and/or publishers time, what would you tell them about your book?
Only that I strongly feel “Jew in Jail” is unique, and can help so many people who are either addicted to a specific substance or behavior, or are living with low self-esteem and/or self-confidence.
What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a day job, and if so, what is it?
I don’t have a day job, but when not writing, I am a motivational and inspirational speaker on the topic of recovery from addiction, and speak to, and counsel people in drug treatment programs, hospital detoxes, jails, schools, etc., in order to share all of my past experiences and what it takes to finally get clean and sober. Other than writing and speaking, I enjoy working out, listening to music, reading, dating, hanging with friends and family, and laying in the sun.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
As far as writing goes, it would be to find your “hook,” or unique way to market your book (if you’ve written one yet), and never give up trying to get noticed in the literary world. In addition, anytime a thought comes to mind, even in the middle of the night, jot it down so you have a record of it, because you never know when a great idea is going to come into your head. When it comes to life in general, never being ashamed or too proud to ask for help if and when the need arises, since we, as human beings, are all here to assist each other.
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Other than thank you for supporting my book, I would like to remind them that life is precious, so always do your best in everything you try, appreciate each and every single day, and be nice to one another.
Favorite place in the world to be?
On any beach laying in the sun to get a tan and relax with my thoughts.
If a genie granted you three wishes, what would you ask for?
To have my father back, a billion dollars, and an end to all future wars and acts of terrorism in the world.
If you were a superhero, what would your super power be?
Flying like a bird, because up in the sky is a great vantage point to look down on the world and see everything that is going on.
LIFE Strategies: Doing What Works Doing What Matters by Phillip C. McGraw, aka Dr. Phil.
Favourite TV show or movie?
My favorite TV show is Law & Order: SVU, and my favorite movie is The Ten Commandments.
Describe your writing process? Do you write in an office, at the table, outside? Do you type on a computer or write in longhand first?
I wrote “Jew in Jail” out by hand on white typing paper, simply because I wrote it as I was doing my time in prison, and then typed it into my computer once I came home, before sending the manuscript to my publisher. Nowadays, I write directly into the computer, and prefer to be alone when doing so.
If you could bring a fictional character to life, who would it be and what would you do with them?
It would have to be Jeannie, from “I Dream of Jeannie,” because she could grant my every wish, and plus, she wouldn’t be a bad person to spend time with! I always had a crush on her while growing up as a kid!
You are having a dinner party and can invite four guests. They can be from any time (current or past), be fictional characters or real. Who do you invite and why?
This is a tough question, but I would choose George Washington, Albert Einstein , Babe Ruth and Al Pacino because they are or were the leaders in their respective fields, and I would just love to sit in and listen to them debate world issues!
Give your author platform links (website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads etc).