Born Rivals No. 4: Catherine Serbousek

Miles Klee is a little-known novelist. Recently, he decided his best career move would be to start a feud with another writer. This is his ongoing attempt to find (and destroy) the perfect rival.

Catherine Serbousek, author of the Amazon-published ebook Jane Austen’s Fat Camp, emerged as a promising foe when she saw fit to pass along a somewhat poorly illustrated death threat. She then proved to have the mental stability required to schedule a less lethal sort of spat around her weekly banjo lesson. 

KLEE
Catherine Serbousek, I suspect this will be about as enjoyable as trying to spell or pronounce your surname. First of all, I have a bone to pick with your illustration of my demise, which depicts me as heavily bearded but also bald. Please inform our readers that I have a full, lustrous head of hair.

SERBOUSEK
You do now, but in time, I see a sad decline.

KLEE
Let the record show you got too real too early. I admire that.

SERBOUSEK
I did, but I wanted you on the hook, and we see here that it worked. My real plan is to pull you in with kindness and fried chicken—then your misery will begin. I make exceptional fried chicken.

KLEE
Delicious. As a writer, you have three strikes against you, and all of them are that you’re self-published. Where do you get your frankly insane sense of self-confidence? Or should I say megalomania.

SERBOUSEK
Oh bless your heart, I forgot you went the standard route and you’re on so many bestseller lists. I looked around and saw that it was 2013. So it was more my ability to read a calendar than ego. I also could see that the publishing world hasn’t really changed much in 75 years … I may have written in the style of Jane Austen, but I don’t wish to be treated like she was.

KLEE
Well I won’t bother bursting your bubble about how women are treated in self-publishing, it’ll spoil the surprise. But this brings me to another question—when you decided to put the name “Jane Austen” in the title of your book, was it in hopes that someone would buy it by accident?

SERBOUSEK
Awww, you’re still mad your dad hasn’t bought your book on purpose. One day you’ll make him proud, slugger. I wanted to write a fat-camp comedy where the comedy wasn’t derived simply from all the characters being fat. All of Miss Austen’s novels are complicated by the status of the lead heroines. So I wrote about lbs. instead of British pounds and voilà … summer camp comedy of manners. Were you hoping junkies would buy your book, or people who hope the world ends?

KLEE
Nobody literate, anyway. But let’s do talk about fans for a moment.

SERBOUSEK 
Sure … you have one, I assume?

KLEE
Because as of right now you have two more Amazon reviews than I do, and all of them are five stars. How much did that cost, altogether? I’ve been meaning to try something shady along those lines.

SERBOUSEK
I do want to ask about your experience with marketing because that is the biggest difference I can see as far as self-publishing goes.

KLEE
Oh?

SERBOUSEK
Well, I have heard from publishers that a new book only has two weeks to become a bestseller before the marketing is yanked … and authors have little to no input in the actual marketing campaign. It’s like the opening weekend of a movie—make or break, but I never have to give up on myself.

KLEE
That’s so cute, it’s almost as if you’re running a little lemonade stand by the side of an interstate highway. What message do you blindly, foolishly hope that people will take from your unprofessionally promoted fiction?

SERBOUSEK
I don’t know if you just insulted lemonade stands or blind people; pull it together, Klee. I don’t think people need to take a message from me. They can take a message from Fifty Shades of Grey or The Wool Omnibus or anything by Colleen Hoover…all bestsellers, all self-published. People can buy my book and send a message to you and your fat cat publishers.

KLEE
Okay, okay, you are the wave of the future. Just let me die in peace, all right?

SERBOUSEK
I will not let you die in peace; it will be years from now, but in grief.

KLEE
I have to say, you are the first interviewee in this series to escalate things to the level of Viking oath. Reading a lot of fantasy?

SERBOUSEK
I will do you a favor and save you the wonder of your fate. I’m a nice person. I will befriend you; it’s gonna happen. I wish you success and no ill will (YET). We are both going to be successful—I myself will be J.K. Rowling in it (you can use that phrase for yourself, as a friend, you have my permission). I don’t envy your success because I want my own…we’ll go on happily for years. THEN you will inevitably get behind some weird legal case to release some psycho (you are a touch Norman Mailer in the future); I will advise you not to, but NO, you won’t listen. Guy gets out, guy kills puppy…you rue your bad choices and look back on all of your life and realize, “Hey, Catherine was right about so much…including self-publishing!” And you die alone and crying…only to have to face the puppy in hell for all eternity, and it’s a damn cute puppy.

KLEE 
Jesus. I think we’re done here. Catherine, I wouldn’t wish you on my second-worst enemy. Anything to add?

SERBOUSEK
All I had to do to vanquish my first-worst enemy was to wait for Google, MySpace and Facebook to be invented…I can wait you out.

z

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