Josh Sabarra on his first work of fiction and his Hollywood experience behind it
Meet Josh Sabarra, a man who discovered at a young age that he had a deep interest in the arts, he preferred the company of adult women over the company of his classmates, and that he harbored strong feelings towards the same sex. He is a man who was constantly told as he was growing up that he was “different” and became a stronger person because of it. “As a child, I was fascinated by movies, theater, books and music. I read every entertainment magazine I could get my hands on; they provided an escape from the bullying I experienced because of my sexuality. I dreamed of having a Hollywood career, an executive job that, I believed, would prove my worth to the people who put me down relentlessly,” Sabarra said.
“I went to the local library and searched through the Motion Picture Almanac, sending cover letters and resumes to every name and address I could find in Hollywood. Ultimately, I got an offer from the Walt Disney Company, working in the feature film division. That led to executive jobs at Warner Bros., Miramax Films, New Line Cinema, and A&E/Lifetime. While I had some great times at the studios and networks — and had opportunities to work with many fantastic people — I learned that the underside of the business wasn’t for me in the long run. I’m much happier with a quieter lifestyle that allows me to be creative — as opposed to spending all of my time promoting other people’s creativity. For me, the most satisfying parts of my career involved small film projects that found their audiences specifically because of marketing and publicity. The impact of my work felt more evident on indie-type films such as The Station Agent as opposed to huge juggernauts, like The Lord of the Rings.” Sabarra is the definition of perseverance and determination and allowing nothing and no one to stand in the way of being who one truly is. Anyone can read Sabarra’s inspirational story by picking up his memoir Porn Again. While one is getting his memoir, why not also pick up his first fictional book Enemies Closer?
Enemies Closer is a riveting story about Marcee Brookes, an over forty, overweight, and overworked movie studio publicist who works a grueling and thankless job. She wishes for more in life and gets far more than she bargained for when she meets Claire Madison, the wife of the legendary actor Rox Madison, for lunch to discuss her husband’s next film. In a quick turn of events, Marcee finds herself hanging out with Claire and her tightknit group of famous friends and also on the road to a potential romantic hook-up with the young and hot new actor Brent Wetherley. Relaying her new life with her mother, Rhonda, and her gay best friend, Jordan, everything almost seems too good to be true… that is, until everything begins to unravel just as quickly as it came together. Unable to undo what has already been done, Marcee must stand up for herself and, with the help of close friends and family, overcome the hell Hollywood has thrown her way.
It is a fictional story with all too real facts of how working behind the scenes in Hollywood may not be the glitz and glamor everyone believes it to be. With his extensive background in the PR industry, Sabarra was able to give readers a first-glance and a realistic experience in Enemies Closer as to what the jobs in the industry entail. “Working in marketing and PR — especially in the entertainment business, which runs on them — is beyond stressful. Trying to control the uncontrollable for people who aren’t typically reasonable in their expectations is flat-out maddening. Not to mention, the evolution of public relations has not exactly made things easier for publicity practitioners,” Sabarra said. “It used be to that there was a 24-hour news cycle, and the delivery of information could be more strategic. Now, it all happens in real time; a press release can consist of 240 characters on Twitter — which will lose its shine the moment something more sparkly is posted, perhaps only seconds later.”
It took Sabarra roughly about a year to write Enemies Closer and he admitted that it wasn’t always a smooth process. He had his characters and the details of his story down, yet he struggled at times with how Marcee would react to certain events. There were times when he wanted to put his own personality into Marcee and have her respond to another character in a “playfully sarcastic way,” but then knew that it wouldn’t be true to her character if he did. “I wanted to create a heroine who represents an everyday, American woman — someone who struggles with her weight, body image and self-esteem in a genuine and relatable way. I felt that putting Marcee Brookes into a Hollywood setting, one that I experienced myself, would provide readers with not only a gritty and very honest look behind the storied red carpet, but also magnify the character’s nagging self-doubt,” Sabarra said. “It’s easy to get beaten down in the entertainment industry; almost every area of the business has a way of making even its own feel not quite good enough. That’s dangerous territory when you’re someone who undervalues yourself — like Marcee — but still holds fast to your integrity and value system.”
Readers, both men and women, will most likely find themselves taking a liking to Marcee. She is an incredibly realistic and relatable character trying to get through life, yet at the same time, wishing for something more. Wouldn’t most people in today’s world testify to that statement? “I think one of the main reasons we all get up each morning and soldier through life is that we’re hopeful. It can be as simple as the hope for a great meal that evening or as grand as the hope for a romantic life partner. In many ways, it’s the search for something more that keeps us going, keeps us motivated. For good and bad, Marcee Brookes represents that idea,” Sabarra said. “She has a close, loving family and a reliable best friend, but she hopes for more. She hopes to find a healthier way of living; she hopes to find a husband; she hopes to find a job that’s more fulfilling. And, sometimes, the things and people we hope will change our lives for the better aren’t what we imagined. We learn as we go — as does Marcee. Similar to real life, things don’t just fall together for her because she wishes they would. In my mind, that’s a big part of what makes her so relatable.”
While Sabarra had a special bond with his main protagonist, he said that he loved writing his villains, as well. Readers will meet five women, each either being a celebrity or coming from money, who come into Marcee’s life like a runaway train. Poor Marcee doesn’t even know what hits her until it’s too late to turn back. “[The villains] were so much fun to develop. They’re such juicy characters with distinct personalities; creating their nuanced ‘mean girl’ dialog was a ball. Although very challenging, I really enjoyed writing the scenes in which all of the main characters are at dinner together. I had to make six distinct personalities come alive through a volley of one-liners, flying fast and furiously across the pages. It was really satisfying to see it all come together,” Sabarra said. “Don’t think for a second, by the way, that I didn’t have plenty of real-life experience to draw from; I was surrounded by those types of Hollywood vultures for more than two decades. The things that made your jaw drop in this novel aren’t so far from the truth.”
Readers will be astounded by what these five women do to Marcee, not believing what people can actually do to other human beings. And yet, readers will also most likely find themselves enjoying the scenes with these women in them. It will also be noticeable that Sabarra definitely had fun writing each of their characters. “When I interned on a soap opera back in college, I remember the head of wardrobe telling me that the villains were the most fun to dress. She explained that the canvas was wider when it came to fleshing out characters that audiences loved to hate. Similarly, I had a blast developing Claire, Jill, Claudia, Risa and Jamie — five horribly unscrupulous people. There seemed to be few boundaries when writing them because outrageous behavior and comments are their trademarks,” Sabarra said. “I took great care in making sure that none of these women comes across like a cartoon, though. They are flesh-and-blood with their own backstories, motivations, and feelings. They don’t necessarily channel all of their resources in a positive direction, but they’re undeniably human. It was very important to me that they be understood in that way.”
It is not too late to pick up a copy of Sabarra’s first work of fiction. It is a fresh new story that will reach out to a wide audience of readers and Sabarra couldn’t be happier to share Enemies Closer with readers everywhere. “I worked very hard to create a lovably ordinary heroine and an unfiltered, truthful peek into the dangerous allure of the Hollywood community. I’m looking forward to entertaining people with a twisty and dishy book that will, hopefully, have them laughing the whole way through,” Sabarra said. It is story filled with Hollywood drama that is not far from the truth and who better to share this juicy fictional gossip than Sabarra’s witty and humorous writing style. But Enemies Closer is not just about drama, it also has plenty of heart and will reach out to anyone who believes they are stuck in life and just want more. “I want readers to leave Enemies Closer feeling like they took a life-changing journey with Marcee Brookes — and made a new friend in the process,” Sabarra said. “The goal with this novel was to bring a good time and an escape to people who want to look away from the current headlines and enjoy some pure entertainment.”
Originally published at rolloutreviews.com on April 26, 2018.