Now, some of you might wonder what an interview with an author has to do with movies. Given the surprising success of the film The Social Network, very loosely based on Facebook’s creator Mark Zuckerberg, this is the other side of the story that many might not have a clue about. And unlike the movie, which the screenwriter allegedly admits to being largely based on fictional work about a real-life person, here we get true stories about real people.
I, Joseph Huber (also known as Joecooler2u here at Movie-Vault.com) recently sat down with Emily Liebert, the author of a surprisingly good book about 25 different stories that inspire. Some will make you happy, others will make you sad, but pretty much all of them will have a unique influence on you after reading this book. It is amazing how Facebook has changed these individuals’ lives.
Now on to the interview:
JH - I know this is one of those standard questions but I have to ask, what inspired you to write a book about Facebook? For those who haven't read Facebook Fairytales, can you tell the fans how you went about gathering some of the 25 different real-life tales of people and how Facebook changed their lives?
EL - I joined Facebook in the summer of 2008 because a friend of mine kept pestering me about it. Every time I asked for photos of her kids she told me if I wanted to see them, they were posted on Facebook. At first, my intentions were purely voyeuristic. I read other people’s posts but never updated my own status. Then, like everyone else, I got sucked in and really started thinking about the cultural impact of social networking. And, in doing so, it occurred to me that there had to be some amazing stories evolving from these hundreds of millions of connections. So, one night, I went on Amazon.com to see if there had been any books already written along these lines. I found books on Facebook etiquette, how to use the site, and the history of its incarnation, but there was nothing on the effect that Facebook was having on our society.
As far as finding the stories, I started by posting a query to my Facebook wall saying that I was looking to write this book and asking my friends to repost the query to their walls. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fitting if I could find all the stories through my own web of Facebook connections?’ I did end up getting a few via this method, but not all of them. My next steps were to reach out to Facebook’s press department and to see if Facebook would be willing to support the book. As you can imagine, they get thousands of book proposals and, of all of these requests, they’d only ever supported two books. I submitted my proposal and, to my surprise, got a call a few weeks later giving me the green light! They said they would support the book by feeding me user stories and granting an interview with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The other stories I found through my own online research. As a longtime journalist who’s had to track down many sources through the years, the beauty of this process was that all of these sources were on Facebook and were, therefore, relatively easy to find.
JH - The Social Network screenwriter reportedly said that he preferred not to be accurate "for accuracy's sake" and that it is based on "storytelling" rather than the truth, according to Wikipedia. What is your take on writers being able to take real-life people and basically make them look bad, as the movie reportedly does to Mark Zuckerberg? As any writer, I believe in freedom of the press, but doesn't it go too far when it attacks a person's character?
EL - I believe in freedom of the press as well, but The Social Network is fiction. And many people don’t realize this. I think it’s wrong to make a movie that’s relatively inaccurate and let people think it’s true-to-life. I know the producers have offered disclaimers, but most of the world doesn’t pay attention to that. It’s unfortunate that in our society people build things up and then tear them down. It’s not something I’d involve myself in as a writer or producer, no matter the paycheck.
JH - Have you seen The Social Network and if so, what do you think of it?
EL - Yes, I have. I thought it was a good movie, like any other good movie that’s untrue. Sensationalism at its best.
JH - Why do you think The Social Network hit number 1 at the box office? Is it because negative is so popular? Is it because Zuckerberg is socially awkward?
EL - It’s because Facebook is so popular and, as I mentioned earlier, whenever something or someone is at the top, there’s this inclination in our society to knock them down from their pedestal.
JH - Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Founder of Facebook, did the foreword for your book. What are your impressions of him and how did you go about getting him to do the foreword?
EL - My impression of Mark is that he’s a brilliant, articulate, hard-working young man who’s taking the world by storm and revolutionizing the way people communicate—both professionally and personally—around the world. He was absolutely gracious and forthcoming when I spoke with him. I got him to do the foreword by simply asking the folks at Facebook. Mark is press shy—it isn’t important to him to have his name and face splashed all over the media—but he loved the concept for Facebook Fairytales, so agreed to contribute.
JH - How did you come across Facebook and what was the attraction of the site for you, both personally and professionally?
EL - See question one. I’m a total voyeur. I love knowing everything about what everyone’s doing and I could spend all day looking through my friends’ photos!
JH - Back to your book, did you have any personal contact with those who had their story published in Facebook Fairytales and were there compelling stories that didn't make the cut?
EL - Yes! Every single person I interviewed for the 25 stories in the book has become a dear friend. I’ve met some of them in person now and hope to meet all of them one day. Claus Drachmann from the “Hello, Mr. Prime Minister” story came all the way from Denmark to visit me! There were many wonderful stories that didn’t make it into the first book…that’s why I’m working on sequels!
JH - Speaking of stories left unpublished, is there any plans for a sequel to Facebook Fairytales or is this more of a one-time thing for you?
EL - Oh yes! I like to think of Facebook Fairytales as an ongoing series, kind of like a modern-day Chicken Soup for the Soul. I’m working on one sequel now, but have plans for other niche sequels down the line, perhaps one for young adults or one filled with love stories.
JH - Have you reached out to any of the people in your book to follow up on their lives/stories?
EL - I keep up with each and every one of them. Roni and Allen from “Summer Love” are getting married on 10/10/10—this Sunday! And Eric Barker from “Ad Placement” got a fabulous job and has a very successful blog thanks to networking on Facebook.
JH - I'm not going to ask which story was the most inspirational for you since that's too tough to choose, but which story made you emotional the most? I'd have to go with Heaven Sent. That story was like a bunch of Lifetime movies rolled into one. I really felt for that mother. Hard to believe but a story about losing a daughter was able to be inspirational, did that surprise you?
EL - “Heaven Sent” was definitely the most emotionally charged story for me. The Elkins family is amazing. I actually traveled to Athens, Alabama, where they live—after the book published—to attend the Jessica Elkins Memorial beauty pageant. They set up media appearances and book signings for me and were the most gracious hosts. The loss of their daughter was profound and they hold her in their hearts every minute of every day, as do I. It’s hard to believe that this story could inspire, but The Elkins Family made the most of a tragic situation by helping others.
JH - The love story in Summer Love did you think the couple would make it, given all the obstacles in their way?
EL - Well, I knew the ending before I even heard the story, so yes! And I guess they have “made it” because they’re getting married on Sunday!
JH - What is it about Facebook that you think attracts so many people, when other social networking sites, like MySpace have basically the same concept?
EL - I’ll tell you exactly what Mark Zuckerberg, told me: "Because everything is so real." Mark pointed out that there are various social networking sites where people share information, but none of them is as authentic as Facebook. Your profile represents you and when you receive a message from someone or view their wall post, their picture is right there next to it. As Mark said, "That makes it human." Another reason Facebook has been so contagious and so powerful in connecting people is because they have been very focused on constantly making the site easier and easier for people to use. Lastly, I think Facebook is so contagious because it’s generally a "happy place" where people support each other, offer thumbs up, and share good news. I know when I log onto Facebook that it’s a time when I can escape from my work or other stressors in my life and just enjoy the benefits of learning about what my friends and family are up to.
JH - For the most part the stories are positive and uplifting, even the sad ones, but was it a conscious decision to mirror Facebook 's positive vibe or did the stories just become their own animal?
EL - It was a conscious decision. I think it’s important for people to understand that Facebook is effecting lives in extremely positive ways. It’s actually helping save lives. Social media gets a bad rap and I wanted to document the other side of the story.
JH - Since we are a movie site, what are some of your favorite movies and who are some of your favorite actors?
EL - Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I’m not a huge movie person. I’m too impatient to sit still for that long. But, I do have a favorite: Brighton Beach Memoirs, based on Neil Simon’s play. Favorite actors: Gwyneth Paltrow, Blythe Danner, Natalie Portman, Michael C. Hall, Edie Falco, Laura Linney.
JH - What's next for you as a writer?
EL - Sequels to Facebook Fairytales. A TV show based on Facebook Fairytales, which is currently in development. And a novel called Conversations with Friends.
JH - How involved are you in the TV show development and will it be reality TV or story-driven and will it be based on these true stories or fictional ones?
EL - I’m very involved in the TV show and will continue to be. The plan is that I’ll act as a producer and facilitate finding the stories that will be featured. The format is still loose, but the show will definitely feature true stories that evolved from Facebook
JH - In closing, Is there anything else you want readers to know about Facebook Fairytales or other work you've done?
EL - That they can buy it on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Borders.com and at bookstores nationwide. (Everything else you can find in my bio on my website)
You can find Emily Liebert at http://www.emilyliebert.com as well as fan the book’s page at http://www.facebook.com/facebookfairytales.
I want to thank Emily Liebert for this interview that hopefully sheds some light about the real Mark Zuckerberg and his creation known as Facebook. Her book has been featured on The Today Show, Oprah.com, Oprah Radio, Wall Street Journal and this coming Wednesday she will be on Rachael Ray!