Five Questions: Jordan Okun, Author of 'L.A. Fadeaway'
Meet Jordan Okun, a former film exec who ditched the day job to write his first novel, L.A. Fadeway. It's a fictionalized account of an entitled son of a studio head working his way up from an agency mailroom gig to agent—any way he can. We asked Okun five questions about L.A. Fadeaway and his life in LA, touching on subjects from Entourage and Bret Easton Ellis to his five go-to places around town.
LAist: How much of L.A. Fadeaway is memoir and how much is fiction? (For example, I read that you got your start in the ICM mailroom, but is your dad in the biz and does your family have a table at Mastro's?)
I don’t have any family members in the business and unfortunately, we don’t have a table or house account at Mastro’s, though that’s probably a very good thing because I’d be even more overweight than I am now. Some of the anecdotes in the novel are inspired by my own experience as well as stories I’ve heard from colleagues and friends. There are real people and places depicted in the narrative, but I assure you, it’s very much a work of fiction, it’s very much an exaggeration of the agency world.
LAist: Your book has been described as a mix of Less than Zero and Entourage...do you think that comparison has any merit? Did you look to either as a source of inspiration?
I think the Ellis comparisons have merit, but only because both Less than Zero and American Psycho are such obvious influences on my work. But my book doesn’t even come close to hanging in the same stratosphere. I mean, I tried; I tried really hard, but it just doesn’t.
I loved Entourage. So many people talk about liking the first few seasons and complain that it stopped working, but I was with it the whole time. It was just fun. I feel like people wanted more from the series than what it was trying to be. It was just a story about a group of friends given an incredible opportunity and enjoying it to the fullest. And it being set in Los Angeles and dealing with the business, for me, was like candy. Any kind of Hollywood fiction—whether it’s The Big Picture, Full Frontal, or Hurly Burly—I can’t get enough. And don’t even get me started on Hollywood non-fiction like Overnight; which may be the greatest documentary ever made.
LAist: Why did you not name your main character?
In this alternate universe, I see him as an everyman. Almost everyone is privileged; almost everyone has a kind of nihilistic worldview. So he isn't singular, he's unnamed because in a way, he's unidentifiable from everyone else.
LAist: Your bio says left a job as an exec in a production company to become a full-time writer. Why make the change? Was there a breaking point?
I started writing the first few passages of the book while sitting in an ICM cubicle in 2006. I was working for an agent who was never really around, so I had a lot of downtime. That was the genesis of the book—me sitting alone, coming to terms with the fact that I wasn’t interested in becoming an agent anymore, so I started these journal passages from the point of view of a kid who was determined to become an agent. And it was fun, I thought they were slick and so much more entertaining than the everyday banalities that seemed soul crushing at the time. Then, I got a job as a development executive and put the passages away to concentrate on film. But a year or so into the new gig, I started thinking about that character and his world and how cool it was and how much fun I had writing it, so I started again, writing during lunch breaks and after work, until I had put together enough to sell it as a partial manuscript. But once I was being paid to write the second half and the clock was ticking on deadlines, I realized it had to be one or the other, so I chose to write full-time.
LAist: There are a number of LA places and power restaurants in your book...now that you're a full-time writer, are the spots that you frequent now different? If so, name your top five go-to spots.
The most autobiographical element of the book may be the locations the characters eat; I’m hanging out at all those places as well. Nothing has changed and I don’t suspect it ever will, unless some top-notch culinary spots pop up—I’m hearing Eataly and ABC Kitchen rumors, so we’ll see. My top five go-to spots are currently: Nate ‘n Al, Dan Tana’s, Craig’s, The Fountain Coffee Shop at The Beverly Hills Hotel, and Sugarfish. I’m pretty sure I could only eat at these places for the rest of my life and be very happy.
Okun discusses L.A. Fadeaway next at the West Hollywood Book Fair on Sept. 30 at 12:45 pm.