In June of 1998, Gary Goldstein was arrested after robbing a series of dry cleaners to pay back bookies and feed his addiction. After serving 6 years in the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision, Goldstein was released and penned a memoir entitled Jew in Jail. Today, Goldstein is clean and sober, working as a motivational speaker, and promoting his book.
I have always wanted to write a book, although, obviously, not under these conditions of becoming incarcerated. However, once I knew that my fate was going to be serving time in prison, I decided to write Jew in Jail, and was inspired to do so once my beloved late father, Irving Goldstein, passed away from the effects of lung cancer and emphysema on January 23, 1999, which was only 15 days after I had been sentenced, and still on Rikers Island waiting to be transported north to a correctional facility. My father had always encouraged me to be my best, and offered unending support my entire life, so I wanted to honor my father by dedicating Jew in Jail to how special my father was to me.
In addition, the other reason why I wrote Jew in Jail was to show anyone that whatever obstacles appear in one’s life – and in my case it was the disease of addiction – it is possible to overcome them and go on to lead a positive and fruitful life. These days, aside from being a published author, I am also a motivational and inspirational speaker on the topic of recovery from addiction, and get so much out of helping others.
2. What was your writing process like for this? Did you write most of it as it happened or did you later decide to put pen to paper?
I wrote Jew in Jail as I was serving my time, and it turned about to be extremely therapeutic to do so! It allowed me to not only document my life behind bars on a daily basis, but also helped me keep my sanity under the worst possible conditions, as well as plan my strategy for my eventual release.
3. Did you consider traditional publishing routes before deciding to go for indie publishing?
Yes, I did, and I sent many query letters out. Unfortunately, though, as a first-time author, I received a lot of rejection letters, so eventually simply decided to self-publish Jew in Jail.
4. What have you done for marketing? You seem to have a lot more blog and online interviews than many of the indie authors; you’ve really gotten your name out there. How did you do it?
Thank you for noticing that, Keri!
First of all, it is very, very important for any author – especially an indie one – to come up with a “hook,” which is a way to get readers, and the public in general to notice you.
In my case, the most successful marketing technique I have used thus far – and continue to use – is dressing up in my prison costume to get attention for Jew in Jail, which I first did in May of 2011 at the Jacob K. Javits Center for BookExpo America 2011 (BEA 2011). I paraded around the entire center handing out my business cards and bookmarks, took photos with attendees, and also autographed copies of my book wearing that outfit. Now, wherever I go, I am known as the Jew in jail, or at least, that Jew who was in jail, and wrote about it! It certainly was a smart marketing strategy, and one that has definitely gotten me noticed.
Aside from blog, online and radio interviews, I also remain involved in social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Goodreads as well.
I also speak at drug treatment programs, hospital detoxes, jails, schools, or anywhere else I can help make a difference in someone’s life, whether they are an addict in recovery, a current or former prisoner, or just a person not living up to their full potential.
5. How many copies have you sold so far?
Honestly, I really don’t know, since my royalty payments are deposited directly into my bank account.
I can tell you that, as mentioned earlier, I actually didn’t write Jew in Jail to make money, but only as a way to honor and pay tribute to my late father, as well as help others in a similar situation in life.
Now, though, with the 10 year “anniversary” of my release from prison quickly approaching, coupled with the fact that I have invested a lot of money to get the word out, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I would like to see Jew in Jail sell millions of copies, in addition to myself becoming a highly successful motivational & inspirational speaker!
6. I see that you do some public speaking – how did you get into that?
Becoming a motivational & inspirational speaker has only been possible by remaining clean and sober, and then from going out into the world to meet people and promote myself, Jew in Jail, and, of course, tirelessly doing my best to help others.
In other words, good things happen when one works hard, is selfless, and listens to others and takes suggestions.
I have found that doors have opened up for me by simply being honest about myself and my past, remaining humble, and choosing to give, rather than take.
In one particular instance, I met a man who runs a drug treatment center in Virginia when he appeared as a guest and listened to me speak at a meeting in New York City.
I handed him a copy of my book, he liked what he read, and then invited me down to his program to speak – not only there, but at two local jails in the area as well.
Here is the video of that speech, which, although admittedly new at doing back then, I am still very proud of the message of hope I gave to those in attendance
7. Your bio says that you worked in journalism before your arrest but in construction after (until you turned to public speaking). As a journalist, I’m curious why you didn’t return to journalism? Did it have negative associations for you? Did a felony make getting a job at that level – you had been working for big names like CBS and NBC – not feasible?
That is such a great question, Keri!
I started working at CBS TV as an unpaid intern while a senior at Long Island University way back in 1982 and loved it.
Upon graduation, I was given a full-time paying job and thought I would work there forever!
However, not long after I started, I injured my back on the job and discovered I was living with many physical problems that I didn’t know about until I aggravated it in the accident.
Long story short was that I quickly developed an addiction to pain medication and then gambling, until I became too big for my britches and a liability for the company, which eventually caused them to terminate my employment.
I did return many years later on a per diem basis, although I was forced to start back at the bottom, as opposed to where I had ascended to previously, and was just not comfortable with that situation.
But I have nobody else to blame except for myself – notwithstanding the fact that addiction is a disease – because I also did have “many bites of the apple” elsewhere, having also worked at NBC TV, NBA Entertainment, Major League Baseball Productions, The New York Post, and other prominent organizations in the media field.
8. Somewhat randomly, what was your prison name? I was called Harry Potter the entire time I was in prison – what were you called? Or were you lucky enough to escape without a prison name?
Fat chance! I was called many names, both by my fellow prisoners, the correction officers and staff alike!
Just think for a moment. I am a Jewish man from Brooklyn, who was incarcerated with hundreds of men who were mostly black and Hispanic, not to mention a majority of the officers and other staff members who were white and looked down on me for being locked up in the first place.
I am sure you can get where this is going, but if not, you and your readers are definitely invited to check out Jew in Jail to find out!
9. Do you have any plans for future books?
I have been taking notes for another book for several years now, but decided to hold off and pursue a career in motivational and inspirational speaking instead.
I can always write when I have free time, and definitely enjoy putting pen to paper.
However, for now, this “Jew in Jail” feels the need to tell his story, so that others can be helped and prevented from making the same mistakes in life.