Christian Lander began a little blog on WordPress back in 2008 called “Stuff White People Like" It became an instant over night sensation. In less then a year he has been commissioned by Random House to write a book version and since then his book has sold millions around the world. He took a break from giving book talks and dreaming big to discuss his secrets of success. It was an honor and a privilege to meet such a humble writer like himself who has become one of the most famous writer/bloggers in the world!
When did you first begin these entries on WordPress?I began January 18, 2008…I remember it quite vividly, at the time I thought it would be a stupid blog that would just make my friends laugh but looking back, I see it as an important day.
How long did it take after that for agents to contact you?
I started getting approached by several agents in the first three weeks…
That was fast!
…and it took about three months after that before I chose my first agent.
What made you chose him/her?I asked a lot of people. All the agents were reputable but I really liked this agent that I chose.
What’s your advice to writers who want to become published?My advice is not to try…
That’s right…I did read that somewhere actually.…that’s the snarky way to say it…but realistically my main goal was for my three friends. It’s its own reward because I love what I do...there’s an honesty to it that I think people really see.
Are you open about discussing the advance you got for your book or is it a secret?It’s not something I discuss and I continue to follow that rule… Random House has been very good to me.
Has it been translated into other languages?
It’s doing really well in Australia... it’s also been translated into Dutch and Japanese.
I’m so glad it’s getting world-wide recognition. Oh, I also read somewhere that people initially thought you were black?Yes (laughing) and they were disappointed that I wasn’t. Many people thought I was an Ivy-League black guy…people would have thought it was more controversial and it would have been more instigated. It was fun for a while in the beginning. Some people also thought I was Asian.
How many hits did your site get before an agent approached you?It hit the one million mark.
Oh, I didn’t know that! I’m kind of jealous of you. There. I’m admitting it. Do you think that made a difference in getting so many agents?
It makes it easier for them to market…it has proven itself and it’s not as much of a risk.
Are you still adding new material?
It’s slowing down because I’m definitely feeling a bit burned out on it. The book itself has eighty or so entries something like that and on the web another forty…there was a lot of new material for the book that has been kept exclusive to the book.
Do you recall what your very first entry was about?“Coffee” was the first one I wrote and then so many followed after that…when I get a good idea I just need to get it out and I need to write it as fast and as furiously as possible.
Do you have a favorite?
“Knowing What’s Best for Poor People” is my favorite…
It was the one where I was most viciously attacking how pretentious I am…
In what sense?
When you read it you’ll get what I’m getting at.
I have to reread that one now. What were you working at, at the time you first embarked on this life changing journey?I was a copywriter at an ad agency…
Dreaming of becoming a writer I assume?Yeah, since I realized I wasn’t going to be a rock star or a major league baseball player…I was a failed writer, a journalist and academic…I dropped out of a PH.D program…
That’s so encouraging…you were struggling a bit and then BOOM, this great book gets written…I read this book in an hour by the way, I couldn’t put it down!
There’s a lot of ways to get it as a writer…I got ridiculously lucky…but it’s not like I hadn’t been trying to be a writer my whole life…my job was in writing and I had done some journalism…but this is better though.
Where have you given book talks?Google, Brown University… I’ve done three book tours since it came out so it’s a long list…
I also read somewhere that you don’t own a car, is that some political message?I prefer bicycles…I’ve never had a car in my life.
Is there another book in the works?
No, I’m moving into TV writing next….
Really? What kind of genre?
I’m hoping to write for a comedy TV show next.
That makes sense. Your writing is hysterical.
What was the reaction from your friends? Were they surprised by the instant fame you received?I think people were surprised about how big it was…people who know me weren’t surprised about what it was…they know this is the kind of stuff that I write.
Have you ever gotten any hate mail?
Yeah, people have accused (it) as being racist. It’s misinterpreting…some people really mean well and some people are idiots…there’s no getting around that at all.
I also read that there have been many knock-offs of your original idea…I think that is just wrong!
Yeah, there’s so much… “Stuff Unemployed People Like,” Stuff Midwesterners Like,” “Stuff Gay People Like…”
That must have been upsetting for you after you thought of it and now so many people are using it and making a lot money from it!
No, not at all. Almost all of them have linked back to me. I think they do really good work. I think it’s cool people are doing it….I don’t have any problem whatsoever with it…they’re writing about stereotypes in a non-hateful and funny way….some of them aren’t that funny but they’re trying. The only thing I dislike is when it’s negative, that’s something I wish I could get rid of but you can’t really stop the Internet. But the idea of people taking the idea and going with it is a positive thing…the world is not about bottling up ideas…it’s an art, I think it’s fantastic… they’re just building off my idea, it’s not taking away from my site…
That’s very liberal you. Have you ever been influenced to write a certain entry by a fan?Someone added one earlier on about hardwood floors and I really liked that and wrote about it but most of these ideas I already had…
Is there a certain length you use in your entries?
No. I just wrote as I saw fit….just where the humor flows and how it fits…..
What are your current projects?
I just got back from the Sydney Writers Festival in Australia and the Bumper Shoot Festival in Seattle and they’ll be some college readings coming up in September.
Do you have many “writer friends?”I still have “writer friends” but now I have “successful writer friends” (laughing)....
Now that you’re a celebrity, do you have to wear sunglasses to get ice cream and that sort of thing?
Well, not exactly…but I have been recognized…three times in Australia, twice in the US and once in Toronto…and once in LA but I was mistaken for an actor on “Entourage” before I had the beard.
Now that you can do whatever you want…what are some things you’ve gotten the opportunity to do because of this highly acclaimed book?I got to be on the Conan O’ Brian show and that was a life long dream of mine that I thought would never happen…
What are some qualities you like about him?
He’s been a hero of mine since I was in high school…he’s very funny and sharp and I thought it was just a dream come true that I just wasn’t expecting…
Is there a writer who you are greatly influenced by?
David Sedaris…probably the funniest writer I ever read and everyone who works for the Onion…oh, he just writes these really funny essays.
I will check him out. Oh, I love the Onion! What about music...that a "White" question?Indie rock… Reggaeton,,,um…let’s see, it’s always dated…Apollo Ghosts, Dirty Projectors, Saint Vincent…
I don’t know any of them…they don’t seem dated.Yeah, that’s how I win.
You’ve written about this in your book too, “Music White People Like,” which is…It’s the “white ipod;” the Arcade Fire, the Pixies, The Beatles, A Tribe Called Quest…
And then there’s the other one, “Black Music White People Like?”That would be Blues, Old School Hip Hop, that sort of stuff....
So, if a fan or just a friend said, “Hey Christian, I’m writing (fill in the blank) and I want to be a success!” your advice to them would be?
The happiest you’ll be is if you consider (it) your own reward and you’ll be surprised about what will come of it…
What about life in general…what makes you happy in life?
Um…I don’t know, no idea…
But Christian! I thought you knew everything! (laughing)
I DO know everything! It’s all subjective. Find something you really like to do…it’s all very Eckart Tolle…I’m hoping when I do something it’ll work…BUT if it stops just like that I’m okay with it…I’ll be totally fine….everything I’ve dreamed of is happening for me. I’ve been on Conan O’Brien and I have this best selling book….I dream big but I don’t believe anything is owed to me, that is an important way to look at things.
Is there a country where your book has been more successful then others?Australia was insane…I got recognized a lot…and the book readings were packed and…many people over there just really embraced it.
Well, Christian, I am so grateful for your time and words of wisdom…your book is very funny but also very well written, it has changed many lives, it has influenced others to write their own versions, and it’s got people talking which is always a positive thing. I wish your book continued success and I hope you write another book one day. Thank you.