Thursday, May 16, 2013

Interview with Kerry Reis - Author of Legacy Discovered

 Kerry Reis


Kerry Reis is the author of the recently released novel, Legacy Discovered. Kerry was born in Oregon and grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. As an undergraduate, he attended the University of California at Los Angeles, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s in motion picture and television arts. He worked for ABC Television for twenty eight years and became the associate director of digital broadcast communications for the Disney ABC Television Group. He supported not only ABC network programming, but also original programming across all of the Disney ABC cable properties.

He has travelled extensively throughout the United States and Europe. He currently live in Los Angeles, California.

JT: Kerry, LEGACY DISCOVERED is your first published novel. What led you to write the book?
Kerry: The main inspiration for the story of Legacy Discovered was the classic 1970s movie, Love Story; which I happened to see for the first time a little over a year ago. Even though I wasn't wowed by the movie itself, I was intrigued by the basic premise of love between the classes and wondered what if Oliver had wed Jenny without revealing who he really was. By the next day, I had a basic concept worked out and was planning to outline a TV movie screenplay. However, a month later, I was called into the boss' office where I was informed that I was being laid off due to department restructuring. I had heard of the emerging technology of self-publishing and decided to change my potential screenplay into a novel to be self-published.



JT: Is Legacy Discovered a love story or a mystery?

Kerry: When my friends started to add mystery as a genre in describing the story, I was hesitant to adopt this classification. Now you have added thriller, which is a step up the genre ladder. For potential readers, I feel the need to provide a disclaimer here that the mystery and thriller elements do not entail a police procedural, a private detective investigation, a murdered body with many suspects, an international spy entanglement or a high powered criminal plot. Basically, the elements of mystery and thrills which readers have found in the book were driven by the plot and concept. These are questions that I had to answer in order to keep my story plausible and my characters relatable. Why would a man go to such extremes to run and hide from a life of privilege and why would he hide the truth from the one person he falls in love with? What were the extremes he took to accomplish this deception by successfully faking his death? When the truth suddenly comes out years later, how would his family, past and present handle the consequences? To answer these questions for the reader required a structure of mystery and thrills at times, but the story's core is basically a love story where a woman finds the strength to support the man she loves so he can face what he had been running from at the beginning.
JT: Where did your great love of mysteries come from?

Kerry: I am, at heart, a mystery buff, and my favorite mystery writer is Agatha Christie, starting from the time I bought the sixty cent paperback of The A.B.C. Murders in seventh grade. I have all of her mystery books, most in paperback, plus one of her romance novels that she wrote under the name Mary Westmacott. After reading the one Westmacott romance, I did not feel the need to get the other four romances to add to my Christie collection. Along with her classics, Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None and The Body in the Library, I have a special admiration for a lesser known mystery, Murder in Retrospect, where detective Hercule Poirot seeks to discover which of five suspects was really responsible for the death of an artist over a decade ago whose wife was tried, convicted and executed for the crime, all for the couple's daughter hoping to know the truth before her own marriage. The story, despite being mainly a mystery, proves to be as much a romance when the truth is revealed.
JT: What are the best mystery films of all-time?

Kerry: As far as films are concerned, the master is still Alfred Hitchcock, with Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, Strangers on a Train and The Trouble with Harry leading the way. Composition, editing, color or black-and-white lighting, comic underlays, ironic touches and tight storytelling are all masterful tools in manipulating the audience. I learned a lot in studying his films.
JT: I think it's difficult to write a great love story in today's day and age. What are your thoughts about that?

Kerry: I do not think it is harder to tell a believable love story today than it has been throughout history. Beyond the physical, love is about giving, commitment, support, acceptance and community, concepts that many times conflict with a polarized modern society and an economy that is strongly consumer based. Currently, promotion finds it easier to cater to a consumer's baser desires and entertainment businesses give deference to performers and writers that gravitate to easy promotion. I feel a good love story seeks to find the balance between two individuals in a society, which is very much like finding the delicate balance between the individual and the society as a whole. The reader or audience may have to work harder to feel the full expression of love, but will ultimately be more satisfied in the end.
JT: What are the great love stories from your perspective?

Kerry: O'Henry's The Gift of the Magi is one of the sweetest and inspiring love stories in the most ironic way. In movies, I enjoy the lighter touch of romance. It Happened One Night and Roman Holiday are essentially the same story until the final resolution, when the former expresses the American ideal that social structures should embrace and encourage the true love between individuals while the latter expresses the Eurocentric concept that sometimes love between individuals must be sacrificed for social responsibility. Together, I see the constant struggle to find the proper balance between individual desires and social responsibilities. When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Hitch and The Holiday are some of my recent favorites.
JT: Did you imagine these characters or where they inspired by people you know?

Kerry: Quite honestly, I cannot think of any characteristics from my friends that may be within my characters. Ali and Ryan were named after Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal, the actors who portrayed the lead characters in Love Story, which inspired Legacy Discovered, but that is the closest I came to basing the characters on real individuals.
JT: Where are you from originally and how did you end up where you are? 

Kerry: Even though I was born in Oregon, my parents moved on to Rhode Island before my first birthday, so I have no youthful memories of my time there. However, I went back to Oregon on my own while in college to meet my godparents that I never knew growing up and again a few years later with my parents after I graduated. I was born in Burns, a small town in the eastern Oregon desert region. The town was so small that my mother was able to point to the window of the hospital room where I was born as we drove by two decades later.
Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida was a different story. It is hard to define one or two distinct experiences that define this time. We lived in a subdivision thirty or forty minutes west of downtown. My dad was constantly traveling for his job. My mother worked for an accountant in the downtown area. I went to the elementary school two blocks from my house. I was basically a shy geek at school. I was the school's champion speller in fifth grade and given my own math book by my sixth grade teacher to work on my own. It was determined I needed to be challenged to meet my capabilities, so starting in seventh grade, I was enrolled in a small private school that was just across the county border south of Jacksonville, forty to fifty minutes away from my home by school bus. It made me used to the idea of commuting before I came out to Los Angeles.
JT: Did you always want to be involved in media?

Kerry: What challenged me the most in school was the creative aspects of English. I wanted to create and write stories, and I dreamed of those stories on TV or movies. I felt like I needed to just explore this world to understand it and not tie myself down with a strict regimen of college. However, when my father caught wind of my idea about not going to college, he announced his edict that "the question wasn't whether, it was where." Shortly thereafter this pronouncement, I was watching college football on ABC Sports one Saturday. The game was UCLA at Tennessee. At the time, ABC provided each college a chance during halftime to promote themselves with a five minute taped piece. UCLA featured its film and television college. Despite recommendations to the contrary, I only applied and was accepted to one college, UCLA, even though I did not see the campus until two weeks before classes started. Perhaps it was ironic that it was ABC that pointed me to UCLA.
JT: You have a great love of travel? What are the roots of that passion?

Kerry: The best way to answer these questions is to provide you with the philosophy of my travels. My passion for travel derives from my desire to experience and learn about new things and to expand my perspective of the cultures, geography and history of the world around me. I look for the best in the cities, countries and sites that I visit and blend them into the mosaic of the world as I see it. For this reason, I have not really created a ranking or order with the places I have visited. I think I have been very lucky to have visited some iconic places at the best times and in the best weather - the Matterhorn without the usual mountain clouds that condense around its tip; Pompeii just off season to enjoy it with near empty streets and no crowds; Redwoods National Park and Crescent City on a rare fogless day for excellent viewing. I try to be prepped to be an open and good guest wherever I go which I find encourages hosts to be better to me. Hotels are rarely memorable to me unless they fail to provide a good bed and food service or their location turns out to be tied to the well-known site I am visiting like the cabin next to Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. Most of my European trips have been with a reputable tour agency whose tours schedule time for individual exploration within the group schedule. For many new travelers, this would be the way to get started. In the US, a well-planned, yet open-to-improvisational road trip is still the best method. The best out of the ordinary place any traveler should discover is something relatable to them, which brings me to my favorite location. My mother and I took a tour of Switzerland in 2000. My grandfather's family had come from Switzerland, so we arranged on our open day of the tour in Lucerne to take the train to Bern and meet up with distant cousins. After they met us enthusiastically at the train station, they drove us east to just south of Interlaken into the Diemtig valley on a beautiful day. They drove and parked next to an old chalet with three storage sheds backed by an Alpine peak. It was the home where my great-grandfather was born and raised. At that moment, I truly felt connected to the world.
JT: You were close to your mother and enjoyed travelling with her after your dad passed away. Tell me about your final trip with your mom? 
Kerry: On our last trip together we returned and there was jaundice in her face. This led to the discovery of her pancreatic cancer. A year later, I drove her through a quick weekend trip through the Smoky Mountains National Park, which proved to be the final journey. Since her death, I have done three solo road trips, visiting more national parks. I have visited 32 of the designated 59 national parks and have a bucket list to visit them all. I would like to step foot on every continent and visit many other world wonders, recording them through my camera along the way.
JT: You have a particular love of the national parks.  I know you have the desire to visit every one of them. You've been to over 30 of them. If you could revisit three of them where would Kerry go?

Kerry: I am so impressed with the wonders and knowledge I have accumulated by visiting the national parks that I would have no problem returning to any of them. However, I do have unfinished business with three of the ones I have visited. When I was on my Arizona road trip a few years ago, I reached Saguaro National Park late in the day after the visitor center had closed. I got some good photos within the twilight hours, but I did not get a souvenir deck of playing cards. For an upcoming New Mexico/Texas national park road trip I have on hold, I plan on stopping at Saguaro, check out the western portion of the park and see if they have a deck of cards. I collect decks of cards.

Some years earlier, when my mother and her friend came out to join me on a road trip of California, I had scheduled the tour to include driving through Lassen Volcanoes National Park in northern California. However, that year the west coast enjoyed a wetter season than usual and the snowpack kept many Sierra roads closed well into June. We were only able to enter the park from the south entrance and go a few miles in. I want to take the full road tour through the park to see its full glory.
Finally, Acadia National Park was the second national park I saw and the first one I got to explore over a day. A friend and I visited the park on a summer road trip when I came back home after my first year at UCLA. It was also a few years before I was able to buy my first decent camera, so my only pictures of the visit are the prints from a disposable Kodak camera. I want to re-explore Acadia with my digital Nikon.
JT: Tell us a bit about your long and successful career at the ABC Television Network?

Kerry: I consider myself to be very lucky to have had the career I've had at ABC, including the opportunity to meet and interact with so many well-known creative individuals. For the most part, I kept my professionalism with these interactions, but sometimes I have been off, usually to my embarrassment. When Twin Peaks became the cult hit of the network, a themed party with the cast was planned at the semi-annual Press Tour event with the Television Critics Association which was being held at the historic Century Plaza Hotel. The press party was being held at the Plaza level, but the cast was being assembled prior to the party in the Presidential Suite on the top floor of the hotel. Since there were two banks of elevators on either side of the hotel, the northern elevators were taken out of service for our reserved use to take the cast down directly to the party. However, as I was heading down the top floor hall to guide the cast to the northern elevators, I was shocked to discover that the cast was already being directed to the southern elevators. Quickly, I rushed down to where the cast was waiting at the elevators and blurted out, "Wait! We are holding the other elevators for you. These will have regular people in them!" In response, Kimmy Robertson, one of the cast members, raised her hands in mock shock and screamed out, "Oh, no! Regular people!" The cast rode down in the southern elevators, leaving me flushed with embarrassment.
JT: Of all the actors you worked with who was your favorite?

Kerry: One of the finest actors I had the privilege of working with was John Ritter. Leading into the May episodes of the first season of 8 Simple Rules, I produced a satellite interview tour with John and co-star Katey Sagal promoting a special episode tied to a national organization which used bake sales as a fund raising tool. In a bit of creativity, we had the caterer bring in bake sale goodies, cupcakes and cookies, which we placed on a table in front of John and Katey for the interviews. It just so happened that the satellite tour was on the same day as my sister's birthday, so I asked the publicist if there would be any problem with me taking a photo with John and Katey that I could e-mail to my sister with my birthday wishes and told the satellite studio about my plans. The studio had the caterer add one more item to the bake sale table - a birthday cake - just for this photo. After the interviews, Katey quietly sat in her chair as I stood behind them, but John picked up that birthday cake, held it for the camera to see while pointing to it with his other hand and gave a wide open smile that screamed "Happy Birthday!" My e-mail to my sister simply said, "I and a few of my friends wanted to wish you a happy birthday today." A printed copy of that e-mail was framed and hung in my mother's dining room. Four months later, John was stricken on set and passed away, a week after I had given him upcoming birthday wishes at another press event.
JT: Television has changed dramatically over the years. Walk us through a major change that occurred while you were at ABC?

Kerry: Television programming is a risky game. Sometimes shows with great promise fail and sometimes shows are passed up that later prove to be big hits. Shortly after ABC was bought by Disney, our broadcast publicity department was called upon to add support for Touchstone Studios productions outside of the network. This included creating clip reels for Touchstone pilots picked up by other networks for their schedules. I was given a pilot for a series that had been passed up by ABC, but had been picked up by CBS. I loved it and selected some great clips for promotion. It had interesting characters, great atmosphere and sharp storytelling elements. I felt ABC should not have passed up on this series. The series was a co-production between Touchstone and another production company. Shortly thereafter, Touchstone felt the production was so expensive that the only way to make money on the series would be if it was a top ten show, so they sold their half of the production and rights to the partner production company. The series? CSI.
JT: CSI is my favorite procedural from the last 15 years. The first five or six seasons were outstanding television.  I was there during this time and I felt the same way. Superb development process on that show. Steve McPherson, the former President at ABC Entertainment developed that show. It's still good and it just got picked up for another season. 
Kerry: The television networks rose quickly on the strength of technology, so quickly their feared powers of control were legally constrained by the FCC's Fin-Syn (Financial Interest and Syndication) rules, but while they were fighting the strictures of these rules, the rise of new technologies from cable to digital distribution was steadily undercutting their once-captive audience. What is ironic is that the Fin-Syn rules were designed to protect the struggling movie studios from being overrun by the three networks. Yet when they were eventually abolished, it was the studios that bought up the networks. So, Fin-Syn and digital technology would be my number one and two influences on the rise and fall of the networks' empire.
JT: What were the best shows at ABC while you were there?

Kerry: There were so many, I do not know if I can remember them all. When I first started in the in-house print shop, the final season of The Greatest American Hero was on. ABC was the network for the Olympics, so I was able to enjoy free passes to some of the events at the Los Angeles Olympics. Monday Night Football was a primetime sports legend for ABC. Moonlighting matched fresh face Bruce Willis with Cybill Shepherd. Roseanne created a stir to the schedule. Not many people will remember that Home Improvement beat Seinfeld in their first season head-to-head match-up, forcing NBC to move Seinfeld to Thursdays. The Wonder Years was a sweet delight in looking at growing up in the pre-teen years. NYPD Blue challenged the FCC rules on language and butts. Mini-series ruled from North and South, The Day After, The Bourne Identity (starring Richard Chamberlain, not the more recent Matt Damon features), Creature and Stephen King's The Stand to name a few. Twin Peaks brought on the rise of cult television, which led to Alias and Lost. Who Wants to be a Millionaire? led the reality age. The Practice and Boston Legal were stalwarts. Desperate Housewives dramedy style became the rage. Grey's Anatomy is still going strong. Community service reality programming was well represented by Extreme Makeover Home Edition.
JT: You are a gifted photographer. Share with us how you got where you are with your art?

Kerry:  From an early age, I had an inner passion for photography, but somehow it was hard to impress that on my parents. When I was enrolled into private school for my high school years, I was excited, because the school had a photography club so I could learn the techniques of photography. All I needed was a camera, so I asked my parents to buy me one. They did - a Polaroid Square Shooter. I wasn't able to join the photo club and I wasn't able to buy my own Nikon until after I had graduated from college. I am self taught in my photo skills and so far it is still just a hobby to record my travels.
JT: With the success of Legacy Discovered will you be writing another book?

Kerry: Now that I have one under my belt, I would certainly hope so. I have been kicking around another love story. It would be more of a lighter romance. I am also thinking about a pilot script I wrote over twenty years ago with a female private eye as the main character which I did get an ABC executive to read at the time, even though it never went farther. Perhaps the story and character could be updated. However, at the moment, I have been busy self-promoting Legacy Discovered, doing some volunteer work and helping a few friends.
Legacy Discovered can be purchased at amazon.com. 

Copyright Read On Read Now 2013

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