Meirav Oz, a Israeli headhunter and former ad exec, has just published her first novel in English.
One Wrong Move is a behind-the-scenes look at the advertising in Tel Aviv. It was first published in Hebrew and came out in English this month from Contento De Semrik. The story comes out of Oz’s 12 years working for ad agencies. We caught up with Meirav to discuss writing and publishing.
GC: As an advertiser/talent manager, why did you decide to write a novel?
MO: My novel started from an anonymous column in an Israeli magazine about behind the scene of the advertising world. The writing was my gateway from the hectic crazy world of advertising. I wrote about myself and my life and no one knew I was the one behind this character. After about a year the magazine went out of business and I found myself continuing writing this fictional personal diary and understood I’m writing a novel.
In retrospective I can tell you that writing the novel helped me understand a lot of things about working in the advertising business and about myself. I was an addict and my career took over my life, so writing the novel helped my put my job in the right place. The novel deals with the issue of young people who are struggling to find their own identity through a demanding career. When it comes to advertising it can be dangerous for the soul – the crazy deadlines, the completion, the ambitions and working in a field of building ideas can make you a person who runs after successes regardless to your own desires and your true personality.
GC: How did you go about it? How long did it take?
MO: I wrote it at nights and weekends while having a demanding career. It took me three years to write it and another two to publish it. Making the book international in English took another year. The process of making it in English was very interesting, it was important for me to keep the nature of the character and watch out that things wouldn’t lost in translation. For example, Israelis tend to speak in a very direct way and in fast pace. When you take it to the advertising world it becomes worse so I wanted the main character to remain passionate and maybe even high tempered but not too blunt or sassy for the American or any English speaker crowd.
MO: Cannes Lions festival is a huge wonderful celebration of creativity in the world community of advertising. Thousands of people from all kind of places in the world come here to this little town in France for a week once a year. My novel can relate to anyone in any business and has a story of finding your true personality. But since the plot happens in the advertising world, the Lions festival crowd is my natural first marketing audience. I see them all as potential crowd leaders that can notice my novel, buy it, read it and spread the word in their own country.
MO: When the novel was first published in Israel, it stirred the Israeli advertising industry and was an immediate success. I had a unique approach in the way I pre-marketed my book. I created a fictional parallel world to the plot in my novel, using a fictional character in real life in both social and other media. When the publisher read all the media exposure I had in Israel when it was published, they turned to me and offered to make it in English.
GC: What are your tips for other first time writers?
MO: Just start with writing something. Calling it a novel can be a paralyzing thought. Just start with a paragraph each day. Find your own story, everyone has a story! Don’t be afraid of exposure and let yourself go with it all the way. Enjoy it. Don’t think what people might say, or if that will turn into a success of failure. Write it for yourself, even if it will never come out to the world. Take writing courses. I took about 5 including screen writing (I’m working on a TV comedy right now and on my second novel). Find inspiration anywhere. Start by listening to people. We tend to hear but not to listen, especially in the advertising world. I learned to listen to people and most importantly to myself.