In honor of Sunday’s Academy Awards®, this week, Write On! Online speaks with Scott Huver, a Hollywood-based entertainment journalist, author, and on-camera host, whose writing and reporting has appeared in People Magazine, Los Angeles Confidential, Variety, In Touch Weekly and Hollywood.com. His book projects include Inside Rodeo Drive: The Stores – The Stars – The Story; Beverly Hills with Love; Las Vegas with Love; and A Hedonist’s Guide to Los Angeles, which came out in January. Scott’s not entirely comfortable in conversation unless “there’s a red carpet, velvet rope, camera crew or a publicist signaling him to wrap it up nearby … which is weird on dates.”
How did you get started as a writer?
I’ve written as long as I can remember, beginning with creating with stories for my own homemade comic books as a kid. I knew it was what I wanted to do by the time I became the editor of my high school newspaper, and wrote in every possible format all through college—and finding ways to get paid for it (even in beer or NBA tickets) whenever possible. My true professional career got started when I was paying the requisite dues as a journalist in a small-town newspaper—but that “small town” just happened to be Beverly Hills, which opened a lot of doors for me for interesting and in-demand subjects. My first book projects came out of that: I was working closely with the stores on Rodeo Drive and, after finding a surprising lack of authoritative information on the street’s history, my editorial partner and I realized maybe we were the ones who needed the write the book that seemed to be lacking. Through a lucky confluence of great connections and coincidences, Inside Rodeo Drive: The Stores – The Stars – The Story came out a year later, in 2001. Around the same time I handled the editorial copy for two coffee table books—Beverly Hills with Love and Las Vegas With Love—by painter Dorothy Rice, who’d seen my writing in her local paper and assumed I was an old warhorse reporter who’d seen it all — she was shocked to find I was in my 20s at the time! That segued into specializing in writing about celebrities, style, Hollywood, and Los Angeles in general. I’ve had a busy freelance career for the last several years for publications like People Magazine, InStyle, Variety, Los Angeles Magazine, In Touch, Los Angeles Confidential, Hollywood.com, and many more.
How did your contribution to A Hedonist’s Guide to Los Angeles come about?
One of my magazine editors had been tapped to oversee the L.A. edition of the popular A Hedonist’s Guide to… series, which was very popular for international destinations and has just started branching out into profiling U.S. cities. For A Hedonist’s Guide to Los Angeles I took on three sections: “Sleep” (hotels), “Drink” (bars) and “Party” (nightlife)—fortunately, when I got the direction to profile locales that weren’t just tourist-y but place locals love, my personal and professional lifestyle made it pretty easy to zero in about 25 of the best places to visit in each category.
What are the greatest challenges writing entertainment?
For journalists these days, it’s largely about the 24/7 news cycle, especially when your outlet has an online component that needs to be fed ASAP, and all the time—very little time can be spent staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration. Also, over the past few years, gossipy agendas are more in vogue with editors, so it can be a challenge to figure out how to ask sensitive questions in an incredibly brief time frame—two or three minutes on the red carpet is not always an ideal set-up to plumb personal depths. And establishing, preserving, and protecting your access to celebrities, filmmakers, and other pop cultures figures is key — it’s all about relationships. Oh yeah, and then there’s that thing about keeping your writing fresh and creative in the midst of all that…
What are the greatest challenges in freelancing? How do you balance all of your different projects?
Editors come and editors go, and often, when they go, you find your regular assignments with their outlet went with them. So you have to learn to be nimble and cultivate your professional relationships whenever and wherever possible to keep assignments coming in. You also need a good sense of when it’s okay to piggyback your efforts for multiple outlets, and when to respect the exclusive needs of the client who specifically hired you. And personally, I find keeping a diverse roster of clients and projects helps me keep from getting burnt-out, rather than focusing on one particular aspect every day. In a given week I might be asking a starlet about her new romance, having a serious career discussion with an iconic filmmaker, ferreting out plot “spoilers” from a top TV producer, talking about earring trends with a jewelry designer, learning about the latest luxuries from a five-star hotel, covering a new nightclub opening, and digging up info on a historic Hollywood landmark. I’m interested in ALL those things, so I never have a chance to get bored or jaded.
What is your favorite part of the process?
Endorsing the checks. KIDDING! Nearly everything I write, whether it be a 2000-word magazine article, a 500-word online item, or a 40-word profile paragraph, involves some kind of storytelling. When I can look at a finished piece and feel like I took the reader on an effective and enjoyable journey from the first to the final word, however long or short, that’s when I feel the most satisfied.
What is the one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
I believed the clich√© that writing was a solitary experience, and, while there’s certainly some truth in that as far as the actual process is concerned, as a profession, writing has allowed me to meet people, go places, and have experiences that I never imagined that I would, which in turn continues to inform my writing in unquantifiable ways.
Any advice for writers ?
Here’s a new one: write what you DON’T know. Just make sure to inform yourself as much as you can beforehand—talk to people, ask questions, do your due diligence, and then bring what you DO know to that. You’ll be so surprised at what stepping out of that comfort zone can do, not just for the maturation of your writing, but for your whole personal worldview. Making an effort to understand what you don’t already understand can be crucial to elevating good writing to great writing.