Question: Did you learn about power and seduction through research or practice?
Robert Greene: A combination of both. I’ve been working… My girlfriend and I once counted that I’ve had in my life 80 different jobs, never very long. I think the longest job I ever had was about 10 months, but in all sorts of different things from working for a detective agency to working in Hollywood and I’ve seen a lot of manipulative power moves enacted on other people and enacted on myself, so I had a storehouse of all this experience and all of this kind of bitterness and then I got the opportunity to write the first book and I just knew. I’d done a lot of research in Hollywood and in academia. I love research and so I wanted to kind of ground the book in history, in things that I read that were universal and timeless and then kind of let my own experiences sort of filter through all of this history.
Question: Do you still practice your own techniques, or are you detached from them?
Robert Greene: Well it’s a combination. I mean as a writer you know you don’t have to deal with a lot of the crap that most people deal with, the political things. Every couple of years when your book comes out then you have to go into these fights with the publisher and the publicist and then maybe I bring sort of my knowledge of power into play. I’m kind of a combination. I mean some of the things like crush your enemy totally I don’t practice that in my real life. Get other people to do the work, but take the credit, that was done to me. I don’t do that to other people, but some of the things like from The Art of Seduction and other particular laws of power that I usually rely upon, so it’s a mix of things.
Question: What’s a specific situation in which you’ve overcome powerlessness?
Robert Greene: Well you’re always feeling powerless in life, so early on when I was working in Hollywood as a writer I would work with a director or a film company and what… I would end up coming in, in the end and kind of writing whole scenes and then they would take it away from me and do whatever the hell they wanted with it or they would take my name out of the whole thing and the only thing you could do when you work for a giant leviathan like Hollywood in which they just swallow your individuality up is to leave it and I left it and I went and wrote books because… And oddly enough now I’m going back into it because we’re trying to make a film version of The 48 Laws of Power, but now I’ve got the power on my side because I wrote the book. They can’t mess with me. They don’t do what I want then they’re gone, but before there was nothing I could do, so I left. And I tell people a lot like if you’re in an abusive relationship or working for what we call a psychotic boss sometimes the only option is to leave because you’re emotions get so entangled with these manipulative people that staying there you’re just helpless because they’re good at these passive aggressive games and you’re not, so you have to leave. You know working on this… and I’m still in this situation, working on the new book. The 50th Law, I love 50 Cent. He is a wonderful person, but he is a celebrity and he is very busy and sometimes it’s difficult to get… I wanted to get more action from him on promoting the book. You know who am I to move someone like that? So I had to confront my own powerlessness in the situation and in the end he came through, but I had to kind of take a step back and just let things happen, which is often what you have to do in life.
Recorded on December 14, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen