Best-selling author Josh Sabarra’s life could easily be a movie. Seriously, I can hear the trailer voiceover now: “In a world of glamour, one Hollywood Marketing executive has it all: fame, a place secured on the A-list, his name in lights. But there’s one thing he has yet to find: himself.” In fact, that’s what his first book, Porn Again – a memoir that achieved best-seller status – was all about: finding his inner self that not even the Hollywood lights could uncover (while also dishing some serious behind-the-camera gossip).
From working on marketing campaigns for the Harry Potter movies and The Notebook (just to name a few), to handling special film launches for movies like Kill Bill, to appearing as a frequent on-air contributor to CNN Headline News, Sabarra’s larger than life resume is inspiring on its own. But the honest and unabashed story of finding himself through it all is the most inspiring of all. And this month, he’s back with a brand new book (and his first stab at fiction): Enemies Closer!
We talked to this marketing executive slash TV producer slash media personality slash writer about his upcoming novel, sharing his journey, about his Artist Shop (slightly NSFW!), and about what witchcraft he uses to balance all of these amazing things at once! Check it out!
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You’ve worked at some of the biggest companies in the entertainment world – how did you get your start? What was the journey like from majoring in motion pictures/communications & psychology to where you are now?
As old as it makes me feel to say this, I started out long before one could send resumes via email or create a LinkedIn profile. I went to the local library and searched through the Motion Picture Almanac, sending cover letters and CVs – by US mail – to every name and address I could find in Hollywood. Ultimately, I got an offer from the Walt Disney Company to work in the feature film division. That led to executive jobs at Warner Bros., Miramax Films, New Line Cinema, and A&E/Lifetime.
My studio and network days were very good to me, and I worked with some incredibly talented people. That said, I’m much happier with a quieter lifestyle that allows me to be creative, as opposed to spending all of my time trumpeting other people’s creativity.
What was it like going from marketing writing to non-fiction to fiction? Those are all very different styles!
Marketing and publicity typically involve a specific, messaged kind of writing that is very nuanced; it’s created with the express purpose of selling goods and/or services to a consumer. Writing a memoir was completely different in that I was able to be raw, honest, and unapologetically myself. Completing Porn Again: A Memoir was a really cathartic, liberating experience, and I’m thrilled to still get letters and messages each week from people who have connected with the material and were moved by it in some way. It’s rewarding and extremely satisfying when readers can find themselves in your work.
Enemies Closer is my first foray into fiction, and I’ve loved every minute of the project. I’ve had the best time being able to create my own characters and their world without the confines of having to stay true to a real-life story. It’s fun to be able to jump into other people’s lives for a year and a half!
A big theme in Porn Again is coming out and being comfortable with your own self. How has your life – as well as the the marketing industry – changed since the pre-Porn Again years?
Porn Again was most definitely a life-changing project. While I tell my story with humor, there is a lot of pain in those pages. Finishing the book made me feel like I had boxed away some of the more traumatic memories and started my life over, where Chapter 18 ends. The fact that the book continues to be embraced by so many people is a beautiful bonus.
Naturally, marketing and entertainment have evolved over the years, in small part because of viewing devices, social media, and streaming capabilities. I’ve definitely stayed current and embraced the modern landscape, but my worldview is lighter. I roll with the punches more than I used to.
Tell us about your new book, Enemies Closer! After writing an autobiography, did you bring any of your own experiences to the characters?
As an avid reader, I wanted to write the kind of fun, dishy, insider-Hollywood novel that I would want to buy, which is how Enemies Closer was born. I love the book’s fabulously ordinary heroine – Marcee Brookes – and the integrity with which she functions in Hollywood.
Did I bring any of my own experiences to Enemies Closer? Well, it’s all fiction. Ahem; *cough, cough.*
Tell us about your Artist Shop! I love how you offer quotes from your work!
I’m so excited about my Threadless shop! There are four collections: One is all about my new novel, Enemies Closer, and includes apparel and lifestyle products that feature quotes from the book and “inside” references to situations in the novel. The second is the Porn Again collection, which offers merchandise that is branded with the memoir’s iconic logo, as well as irreverent sayings from the memoir. The Porn Again “Skin FliXXX” collection gets a little wilder and centers around provocative images from the book’s various marketing campaigns that feature the adult industry’s hottest entertainers. Last, but certainly not least, is the Side Eye collection. For years, I’ve been making my own shirts and bags with many of the witty and edgy sayings that pop into my brain. The designs are simple, but the ideas are not. I hope people will check it all out.
Finally, what would you say to young artists, writers, and people struggling with identity who feel different or ostracized?
I sound like a bumper sticker, but being “different” is what makes people amazing! The things in our lives that seem like challenges can very well turn out to be our greatest assets. With the Internet and social media, the world has become a smaller place. I encourage people to find their tribes – be it online, at conventions, at local events – and surround themselves with folks who celebrate art, diversity, and inclusion.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Just a funny side note: During a visit to Chicago in 2011, I passed the Threadless warehouse, just by chance. I’d been a big fan and had ordered many shirts – so I stopped in and got a tour of the facility. It all comes full circle six years later!
Featured image is from Josh’s Facebook.