Adam Bernard is a music industry veteran, lifelong martial artist, and general lifter of heavy things, who has been working in media since 2000. He’s old school enough to have written a newspaper column, be one of the original music bloggers, and pen 14 national magazine cover stories along the way. If you live in the NYC area, you’ve probably seen him at a show.
His memoir, ChemBro: Embracing Beastmode to Beat Cancer, chronicles his journey of battling cancer while training in both martial arts, and CrossFit. Adam currently resides in Fairfield, CT.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
I’d say I really started developing my writing skills in high school. That’s when I figured out writing was a way to stay close to things I love, like sports, and music. I went to college – Hofstra University – for journalism and had some amazing professors who helped me hone my craft. Once I started working as a freelance journalist everything just felt right.
Well, there’s the obvious thing I love the most – making my own hours, and not having a dress code (I’m currently wearing sweatpants, and an old tour t-shirt) – but I think the coolest aspect of being a writer has been being able to help people with my work.
There are days when inspiration just isn’t there, and you think, “Oh my God, I’m never going to have another creative idea again!” Of course, that’s nonsense, because another great idea is right around the corner, but in the moment, it can be pretty rough.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
My book is titled ChemBro: Embracing Beastmode to Beat Cancer, and I refer to it as a motivational memoir.
ChemBro is about my 2017 and early 2018, when I was training to test for my 5th degree black belt in Kempo, and I was hit not by a punch, or a kick, but by a cancer diagnosis. Through surgery, chemo, and a second surgery, I never stopped training – both at the dojo, and at the gym, where I’d become a pretty big fan of CrossFit. I also never missed a deadline at work.
I wrote ChemBro to show people hurdles are meant to be jumped over, and that with a positive mindset, a warrior spirit, and a good sense of humor, we can get through just about anything in life.
If you want to check it out, it’s currently available everywhere books are sold, and there are some really nice reviews of it on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/1947381369
3) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
Sort of. I have a home office that I usually get into by 7:15am. I delete a bunch of email, respond to what needs to be responded to, wish happy birthday to friends on social media, and then I hit the gym. After I get back from working out, I’ll clean myself up and get to writing whatever needs to be written for the day.
As a music journalist I also attend a lot of concerts, and I frequently break out a big legal pad and outline ideas while on the train into NYC.
Yes! I’m a BIG fan of outlining. Being old school, I still use a paper date book, so when it came time to outline ChemBro, that date book basically created my outline. Seeing everything again in order of how it happened really helped jog my memory.
My biggest project is my long-running music blog, Adam’s World (www.adamsworldblog.com), which has been going strong for nearly 20 years! I also write artist bios and do occasional freelance work for various publications.
4) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally? Who is your favorite author to read? What book are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading a biography on Arnold Rothstein by David Pietrusza titled Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series.
I read a lot of biographies, autobiographies, and history books, mostly about either music, or baseball, which are two of my great loves in life.
5) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in the world of journalism – 14 national magazine cover stories, a long running newspaper column, being the first person to interview a number of artists who’ve gone on to do big things.
I think writing a book, pitching it, and finding a publisher, qualifies as a heck of an accomplishment, as well.
That said, what I’m most proud of BY FAR is that with ChemBro I’m using my story to help others.
Whether it’s been fellow cancer patients, or people going through other types of difficult times, I’ve had folks tell me the book has had a positive impact on them. I’ve even had doctors, and nurses tell me they know ChemBro will help people. To me, that’s what’s real.
I’m also really proud that through a connection from my old college roommate (hey Brad!), ChemBro has led me to become a volunteer on call with Imerman Angels, which is a charitable organization that connects cancer patients with cancer survivors, so we can provide emotional support, and guidance through treatments.
Even outside of the organization I recently helped someone through treatments.
We all go through tough times in life, and I believe part of our purpose while we’re here is to use what we’ve gone through to help others.
In five years, I see myself Celebrating a recent success over a nice romantic dinner with Vanessa Hudgens. (You didn’t say I had to be realistic lol)
6) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What is your advice for other writers to better be able to cope or navigate their way through the publishing process, be it traditional or self-publishing?
Having been a freelancer for over two decades, I’m used to hearing the word “no.” When I’ve had the opportunity to speak with college, and high school students about journalism – and this applies to pitching books, as well – I always say if you can handle dating you can handle writing, because it’s really just about hearing “no” a whole lot until you finally get a “yes.”
My three biggest pieces of advice for writers navigating the world of publishing are
- Do your research. Don’t pitch places that will have no interest in your work. I wrote a memoir, so if a publisher wasn’t working with non-fiction writers, I didn’t pitch them.
- Never take rejection personally. Hearing “no” sucks, and the non replies are even worse (tell us SOMETHING!), but remember, a lot of times it simply has to do with what a publisher is currently looking for, rather than being a reflection of the quality of your work.
- Don’t give up. No one has ever stopped trying, and then had a publisher magically appear before them. The only way to get published is to continue to put in the effort.
7) Do you find it hard to juggle the creative side of being a writer against the business side of being a writer, in terms of marketing and promotion and things of that nature? How hard has it been (or easy) for you to build up your author platform?
Not really. I had a great Public Relations professor back at Hofstra (hi Ellen!) who would occasionally try to nudge me into the PR world. Combine that with over 20 years in music journalism, where I work with a bevy of fantastic publicists, and I’ve developed a pretty solid foundation in marketing, and promotion.
8) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself after it’s out there for the rest of the world?
Yes, and no. When I was finally able to have a copy of ChemBro in my hands the feeling was so amazing it was almost indescribable. For weeks, every night before bed I would flip through another chapter, and be like, “I can’t believe I did this, and it’s out there for the world to see!”
There are times, however, when I’ve written an article, and somehow an egregious typo makes it past me, and an editor, and it ends up in print. When that happens, I feel mortified. The worst was when it was the name of a member of a band. I felt like I needed to hide my head in the sand.
9) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
It is never too late! The older you are, the more life experience you have to inject into your work. That isn’t a hindrance, that’s an advantage!
10) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
With ChemBro being a memoir, my life is literally an open book. I’m naked – both figuratively, and in at least a few chapters, literally. For some reason I feel far more comfortable being that level of authentic through the written word.
I know I wouldn’t be in the position I am to help people were it not for writing.