Part-time Parkite Daniel Paisner’s new novel, “Balloon Dog,” is set in Park City, and there’s a very good reason.
“The vanity in the book was about a theft of a high-end sculpture by Jeff Koons, so I needed a place where there were people with money,” he said. “I also needed a place where people had fabulous homes. It could have been a beachfront property. It could have been a city penthouse. But if you go around the houses of the Colony, there are fabulous sculptures.
The story also stems from the idea that works like the Koons sculpture and other valuable works of art would often be moved due to weather, according to Paisner.
“I don’t know if any of them are moved seasonally, but I didn’t think there would be a big leap to create one for history,” he said. . “So I wanted to find a place where there was some storytelling integrity to move these fabulous works of art and have to move them because of the elements.”
The story is populated by a struggling middle-aged writer who can’t get any benefit from writing his own novels.
“He makes his living writing press releases, menus, speeches, and copywriting for plastic surgeons, and he’s kind of figuring out how to create something of value and what all of that entails,” Paisner said. “So I wanted this story of art theft to clash with him in a way that readers start thinking about who decides what has artistic merit and what doesn’t.”
Paisner has been thinking about the story for a while.
“It started with the idea of a theft, and then I thought about what happens when you have a theft of this beautiful piece of art for all to see,” he said.
Although the premise seems likely to be inspired by the true tale of thieves who lifted a $12,000 powder coated steel lion sculpture at the 2012 Park City Kimball Arts Festival, Paisner had not heard of this story.
“Even though I didn’t know it, things like this make me think about the role art plays in our lives, and who decides what is valuable and how they assign value,” he said. he declares. “For me, it comes down to the beauty of being in the eye of the beholder.”
Paisner worked on the story this summer during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic when he and his wife, Leslie Baliff, were in town.
“I got up every morning and we had a deck that overlooked a little lake, and I would sit there and get to work,” he said. “I also worked there when I wasn’t really working. Ideas came to me during idle times while biking, hiking, or falling asleep. That’s when my mind fixes plot points here and finds new plot points there.
“Balloon Dog” is currently available in print and electronic form online and can be ordered from bookstores if there are no copies in stock.
The book is Paisner’s third novel, although he has written over 70 books. When he’s not writing his own stories, he’s helping celebrities, athletes, politicians, and others in the spotlight write their ghostwriter autobiographies.
The road to this career began with Paisner’s desire to be a journalist.
“I became aware of reporting around the time of Watergate,” he said. “Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were rock stars to me, and I thought I would work in a newsroom.”
Paisner, who splits his time between Park City and New York, worked as the editor of his high school newspaper and editor of his college newspaper while attending Tufts University in Massachusetts.
“One of the reasons I chose the college I attended was that I shopped around and attended some newsrooms the same way sports is for coaches,” he said. -he declares. “The reality is, when I considered graduating, I didn’t like the journalist lifestyle and I didn’t like the pay scale.”
So he accepted a job as a publicist at Simon and Schuster, the famous New York publishing house.
“I worked there while I was a freelancer for The Associated Press, The New York Times, and some magazines,” he said. “The result of that was that I was able to meet publishers and literary agents, and I learned how this business works.”
Paisner’s bosses at the publishing house saw that he wasn’t very interested in calling newspapers to beg a reporter to write about his clients and suggested he meet Willard Scott, the Today Show weatherman, at NBC studios across the street.
“So I met Willard, and he poured me some Jack Daniels fingers and said, ‘Look, if Simon and Schuster send you, that’s fine with me,'” Paisner said. “That’s how I landed my first ghostwriting gig, which meant six months of work that paid me what I was earning at Simon and Schuster.”
The job led Paisner to an agent who led him to other gigs.
“Now, 30 years later, I’m still putting these books out,” he said.
From day one, Paisner fully embraced his Negro title.
“There’s something pejorative about the term, and I have a lot of friends who do the same kind of work but don’t care,” he said. “They think it demeans them.”
The term originated in the 1920s, a time in publishing when writers really didn’t get credit for their work, Paisner said.
“We were the silent hand behind actors, athletes and politicians, who needed a little help writing a position paper, an op-ed, whatever,” he said. “So it’s a bit archaic. But I think that accurately reflects what we do.
Paisner started a podcast, “As Told to Daniel Paisner,” where he talks with other ghostwriters about their gigs and discovered that they, like other creatives, approach their stories differently.
“I must have done 60, and every project is different,” he said. “Sometimes I work with someone who rolls up their sleeves and wants to write. Sometimes I work with someone who talks about it and doesn’t even want to watch it when it’s done.
Paisner also enters into each project without an agenda.
“I’ve worked with Republicans and Democrats, and I’ve worked with people I admire and people I don’t admire that much,” he said. “My feeling is that if there is a story worth telling, even if the person turns out to be unpleasant or difficult, it is only a six, eight or ten month ordeal, before the next.”
The idea of becoming a novelist was always on Paisner’s mind, so much so that he made a deal with himself while writing his ghostwriting works.
“I would do one of theirs and then one of mine, but it didn’t really work out that way,” he said. “‘Balloon Dog’ is my fourth novel, and I’ve written non-fiction books as well, but the reality of life is you have to pay the bills.”
Paisner also approaches novels differently from his ghostwriting projects.
“I kind of have to have a clear head,” he said. “I can’t worry about bills. I can’t worry about a deadline for another project, and luckily I’ve been able to find time recently to dig into this work of fiction from time to time.