Ben Mezrich

Author of Once Upon A Time In Russia

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON August 24, 2015

Discussion

Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
Hi, I'm Ben Mezrich, I'm the author of sixteen books including Bringing Down The House, which was made into the movie '21', and The Accidental Billionaires, which was made into The Social Network. My latest book is Once Upon A Time In Russia, about the rise of the Russian oligarchs- but I'm happy to talk about anything!
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
I've had a small amount of experience writing a book and recognize the HUGE amount of work it takes (or maybe that's just me). Having written 16 books, does it get easier? Any pro tips for aspiring authors, Ben?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@rrhoover the process is always painful but the outlining and research gets easier as you learn what works best
Ben Basche@basche42 · Product Marketing at Layer
@benmezrich Do you think that Khodorkovsky will go into politics?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@basche42 good question! i think it's a dangerous game but I could see it happening
Ben Basche@basche42 · Product Marketing at Layer
@benmezrich Relatedly, are the siloviki still firmly in control of Russia?
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What's the process for when one of your books turns into a movie? What's your advice for other authors who are getting approached for the rights?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@eriktorenberg Basically i sell the book andm ovie simultaneously, then i consult on the screenplay...
Lukas Fittl@lukasfittl · Product Hunt
@benmezrich You've written a lot of great books! :) Ever been having trouble with writer's block? Any specific advice you can give to get through it?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@lukasfittl Well not writers block exactly, as in sitting in front of the computer not writing. It's more not wanting to write at all and watching copious amounts of netflix instead.
Jeff Needles@jsneedles · Data @ Houseparty & Maker of Things
Did Mark Zuckerberg ever say anything to you about 'The Social Network' or the book it’s based on?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@jsneedles Yes through intermediaries. Zuckerberg did not like it, and called me the Jackie Collins of Silicon Valley through his pr people. In the end i think he did come around after the Socail Network. But he felt it was not the story he wanted to tell about that first year of face book.
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
OK! Thanks everyone for taking part! Have to run but best wishes to all!
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@benmezrich What's something you want readers to walk away with after reading the book on Russia?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@bentossell How crazy and intense that era was, how ambitious and frightening berezovsky was, and just to know the story
Hash_tag_jeff@jeffumbro · Book Marketing and PR - get in touch
Hey @BenMezrich - You have a pretty dynamic relationship with select producers in Hollywood after the success of some of your previous works. How has this effected your writing process and how is it different from any other writers you know?
Hash_tag_jeff@jeffumbro · Book Marketing and PR - get in touch
@jeffumbro Also any updates on Seven Wonders?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@jeffumbro I usually write my books knowing they will be movies, but I've always kind of done that
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@jeffumbro Also seven wonders is moving quite fast, we have a finished script and the studio loves it.
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Hi @benmezrich! I'm in the middle of writing a (non-fiction) book myself about what I learned from 100 of the best couples I met around America. Do you have any advice for the process or researching, organizing, and writing non-fiction? I've tried plotting an entire outline of the book, but that method felt a bit too rigid. Intensely curious about your book writing process.
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@melissajoykong Cool! I start with a proposal, which is usually about 20 pages long. Then i write an outline, very specific, chapter by chapter. Then i do the research, which takes 3 months or so. And when i start writing i just try and write as much as i can every day. sometimes 8-12 pages...
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
@benmezrich On average, page one to final draft submission, how long does it take you to finish a book?
Ayrton De Craene@ayrton · Code @ Product Hunt
Sixteen books! 😱 How long does it take you on average do draft up one book and how long until you're actually finished and decide to release?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@ayrtonbe Usually three months research 3 months writing, but sometimes longer. the russia book took a year
Korbin H@k1ix · Engineering @ Product Hunt / AngelList
Do you play poker yourself after writing The Accidental Billionaires?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@k1ix I do play poker. Usually not in casinos, just friendly games. I don't really play that much blackjack anymore. Sometimes i play video poker but it's a money burner
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Hey Ben, Great to have you here! How would you re-write Accidental Billionaires if you wrote it today?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@jacqvon Well i don't think i'd change much. I believe it's a very true representation of the first year or so, from eduardo's pov.
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
How did you even come about choosing to write "Bringing Down the House"? How did you find that story, and what about the arc of it made you think it might be a hit with readers?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@melissajoykong Well i actually met the mit kids in a bar, became friends with the main character, and tried to figure out why he had so much money, all of it in hundred dollar bills
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@melissajoykong I ended up going to vegas with them many many times until i saw it all in action.
Andreas Klinger@andreasklinger · Tech at Product Hunt 💃
From my (european) POV the russians oligarchs are an effect of how poorly the economic change in the eastern european block was managed. Essentially "common" value was sold far under value to international players or to internal power players who managed to aggregated value with various means of effort. 1) is this perception correct? 2) what would you recommendations to avoid the same outcome for the next country where rapid economic change will happen?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@andreasklinger Yes, it was incredibly corrupt and mismanaged- but Yeltsin's goals were somewhat noble. He believed that if they didn't privatize immediately communism would come back. So he basically handed the country's resources to young ambitious men who had an in with the kremlin. it was very corrupt and bloody.
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@andreasklinger Basically if a country shifts to capitalism that quickly, people are going to move in and take advantage. Often it's outsiders coming in and pillaging, but in russia's case it was young nobodies who were in the right place at the right time
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
Any thoughts on what your next book will be about?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@russfrushtick Ive got a big book out next summer called The 37th Parallel. It's sort of like Close Encounters of The Third Kind about a UFO hunter in colorado. It's pretty wild. Will be a movie with Newline/Warners.
Amit Jain@gravicle · iOS Engineer
Hey @benmezrich! I read Bringing Down the House in the summer of my junior year and then 21 came out a bit later. We see this with most of all the books which are adapted into movies: creative licenses are taken in telling the story as the mediums are very different. So, what was it like watching 21 for the first time and how did you take to the changes made to the storyline by the screenwriters?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@gravicle Well i was on set for the whole shoot, and became friends with pretty much everyone involved, so i might be subjective, but i loved it. I knew it would be different from the start, that kevin spacey's character would be this bad guy running around vegas... but i was ok with that.
Leandro Araujo@lar_leandro · Co-founder, bim.bon
@benmezrich Thank you for being with us online. I'm quite curious about the routines and habits of writers, I believe it is an activity that requires a lot of discipline. Can you tell us a little about your day to day at work?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@lar_leandro Sure, it's very intense when i'm writing. After the research stage, which involves lots of travel, i lock myself up trying to write all day. i go by pages and not by time- i try for 8 pages or so and stop when i reach it. I write in the dark, with music going very loud. Sometimes i write at night sometimes in the morning. It depends where i am in the process.
Greig Cranfield@greigcranfield · Cofounder @Pendle.io
Hey @benmezrich, thanks for taking the time to do this. When one of your books (it seems like all of them!) becomes a film, do you try and stay involved in the project beyond the screenplay? Like exec producer or working closely with the director to influence it at all?
Ben Mezrich@benmezrich
@1greigcranfield Well i'm usually involved to some degree but i don't have any power or real influence. I try and hang out with the director because he's the one calling the shots. I've been very close with the producers of my films. But really once you sell the project it's someone else's and you give up the power over it.
Positivity Dan@positivitydan · n/a
@benmezrich how can entrepreneurs make sure they are in the right place at the right time?