iUniverse author Philippa LeVine has had some great news from Hollywood about her book, Tweeker Parade. The book, a memoir which describes the first DEA task force formed to combat the rise of methamphetamine use in San Diego County in the early 1980s, has been signed to a shopping agreement with longtime studio executive and producer John Sacchi and his colleague Matt Groesch.
Sacchi and Groesch will produce LeVine’s memoir for television under Sacchi’s 5 More Minutes Productions company banner.
Below, iUniverse talks with Philippa about Tweeker Parade and her experience as an author.
Please tell us about your book . . .
I was a federal agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration for 30 years and wrote Tweeker Parade as an irreverent and humorous ode to that incredibly exciting time in my life. The book illustrates how my career and the rise of methamphetamine seemed to perfectly parallel each other and begins in San Diego in the early 1980s, when I was assigned to a clandestine lab group investigating methamphetamine cooks and tweekers.
The book centers on the Quantum Labs investigation, involving buried treasure, and murder for hire, where a mammoth chemical supplier provided millions of dollars worth of precursor chemicals to cooks for making meth. The book then follows me as I head to DEA Headquarters, a place equally as scary as any meth lab, to deal with the thousand-foot view of the drug problem, where we battled politics, international controls of chemicals, and the pharmaceutical companies.
Do you have any particular literary influences?
I read mostly non-fiction books. I figure that if I’m spending my precious time reading, I would like to learn a little something from that time I spent with a book. But I don’t enjoy dry non-fiction, there has to be a good story or an entertaining voice to keep me engaged. That’s what I tried to do with Tweeker Parade. I have a pretty sarcastic bent, and a very opinionated salty vocabulary, so I just used the voice in my head and wrote it all down.
What inspired you to write your book, and how long did it take you to finish it?
I retired from DEA in 2013 and quickly became very bored. I began thinking about my career and how much fun we had and all the characters we met. One night I woke up at 2am and in the dark wrote a basic outline for the book. I’m neurotic enough that when I start something, I have to finish it, so I started to write. I would write a paragraph or a page, then leave it for weeks or sometimes even months. Then it started to grate on me, and I just wanted it done. It took me almost two years to finish the book, followed by the self-publication process.
What is the one message you would like to convey to your readers?
Just write something down. Anything. You can always fix it later. I originally thought I would change the opening of the book and just wrote it down because I needed a starting point. The funny thing is, that I kept what I initially wrote. It was slightly edited, but I kept the basic stuff.
One more thing: listen to the editor who reviewed your book. They want you to succeed and they are a voice of reason. You might be too close to the project to see its flaws. No one likes criticism, but constructive criticism from a professional is invaluable. Plus, you can always ignore their suggestions if you don’t like them.
Are you working on a sequel to your book?
I’m not working on anything yet, and if I did, I doubt it would be a sequel. There were many wild investigations that we worked on in DEA that would be fun to write about, but remembering it all is the hardest part. On the other hand, even though I don’t read many novels, writing one could be interesting. Who knows?
Can you tell our readers how you got connected with 5 More Minutes Productions?
Tweeker Parade was published in March 2015 and since I didn’t do much marketing I think only my friends, family and some DEA agents bought it. Because I really wrote it for myself and for something to do, I figured that was it…done. But in December 2015 I got an email from Caroline Weiss, the Director of Media Services with Author Solutions. She explained how iUniverse flags books that have the potential for film or TV adaptation and that she read my book, “loved it”, and with my approval would see if she could get a production company in Hollywood interested. I’m keeping that email forever.
A short time later she connected me with producers John Sacchi and Matt Groesch with 5 More Minutes Productions. They have been great to work with and were very patient with me and all my questions; we entered into a producer agreement and they are in the process of securing writers etc. to begin the pitch to networks. Its all way out of my element and who knows if anything will happen. But it’s certainly exciting and fun to think about.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
My main advice is to write about what you know. I think today’s readers are pretty sophisticated and can smell BS a mile away. If you want to write about something you aren’t personally familiar with, my advice is to research the hell out of it so you don’t sound stupid. And most importantly, as I previously wrote, try to give the editors who critique your book their due. They just might help make you a better writer. I know mine did.