Turning my love of music into fiction...
I get asked a lot, "What are you inspirations? How do you get your ideas for your books?" I remember Stephen King being asked this almost incessantly back in the 80s and 90s in interviews, and he would answer in two ways: His ideas either came from a dream or nightmare he had, or he would look at an everyday item and picture what would happen if it became sinister. It seems that my ideas come solely from one place: my love of music. It seems to have directly shaped all three of m published novels, my published short story, and pretty much everything I have on the writing horizon.
1. My first novel, "Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts" (2007), couldn't have been MORE about music. The novel chronicles my eleven year friendship with "rock-star" David Reilly, singer of the industrial-rock band, God Lives Underwater. Because I met him on their first tour ever, promoting their first album, the book navigates through all four God Lives Underwater albums (the trials and tribulations of recording, and touring, drug abuse and depression) and through David's two solo albums (and the cut throat side of the music business.) The book focuses on life on the road, and how the temptations of stardom can affect someone. The book gets into the nitty-gritty of music as a whole; from the musicians and record label and managers stand points. The name of the novel comes from something David said to me one night, while we were hanging out in my room, while he detoxing from Heroin.
2. My second novel, "Welcome to Parkview" (2010), was outlined with the ending and the beginning written first. The first chapter of the novel was inspired by Billy Joel's song, "Piano Man," and the entire ending was inspired by Taco's song, "Puttin' On The Ritz." As I started writing the novel, almost backward, I realized that individual songs played a major part with the tone and atmosphere of each chapter. (Even some chapters were named after the song they were inspired by.) So this book is hard to pin down one specific band, album, or song... its more like make a mixtape of your favorite songs, and then trying to find some cohesive plotline or story arc throughout these random songs. Some of the bands that had the most influence on the shape of the novel are: Neil Diamond, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Jesus Jones, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, REM, Pigface, Tool, Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails, Faith No More, The The, Front 242, The Mars Volta, Genesis, Thirty Seconds To Mars... and the one song that really shaped how everything finally played out, was Blue October's "The End." So reading this book is more like listening to a compilation of all those artists.
3. My third novel, "Yours Truly, 2095" (2015), really is the most directly adapted from a piece of specific music. One of my favorite albums of all time is Electric Light Orchestra's "Time" album. Somewhere in my late teens / early twenties (the late 1990's), I thought that the "Time" album should be flushed out as a novel. I knew, at the time, that I was nowhere near talented enough yet to take on such a task. In 2012, after many discussions with other Electric Light Orchestra fans online, I decided it was time to take a stab at writing a novelization of the "Time" album. After dissecting every single word on that album, I began deciphering what Jeff Lynne is singing about in the lyrics and turning his words into an actual plotline and story arc. I worked through the album, line by line, trying to figure out what action the protagonist would be doing based on the lyrics. I buried more than 200 "Easter Eggs" throughout the book that only true Electric Light Orchestra fans will catch. When I set out to write a book adaptation of the "Time" album, the two things that were most important to me were: Electric Light Orchestra fans wouldn't be waiting outside my house to set me on fire after they read it, and non-Electric Light Orchestra fans would have no idea it was based on one of their albums. I wanted it to be able to co-exist as a direct adaptation, and yet completely stand on its own two feet as a time-travel/romance novel. The name of the novel is the name of the third track on the album.
4. My first published stand-alone story, "Outside of Heaven" (2015)," which appears in the short story anthology, "A Matter of Words," was directly based on Moby's song, "Spiders." The song comes from his album, "Hotel," and the lyrics and brooding tones of the song have always stuck with me. I have been contemplating writing something based from that song for a few years now. I didn't know if I was going to try to turn the whole "Hotel" album into a book, like I did with Electric Light Orchestra's "Time," but I knew the song called me to write its fiction counterpart. When it came time to submit a story to the compilation, "A Matter of Words," I couldn't get the lyrics and atmosphere of "Spiders" out of my head. I took the lyrics and worked out an outline directly from Moby's words, and then listened to the song about 50 times in a row, just focusing on the music, to get a feel of the setting for my story. I obviously set the story in a hotel, as a reference to the album the song comes from, but I was looking more for the tone and atmosphere. I needed it to match the tone of the notes of the song. "Outside of Heaven" got its name from the line of lyric in the song "Spiders" where Moby sings: "We just didn't know / Some one there outside of heaven / Heard us down here."
1. I have another short story that will be published this year in another short story compilation, called "A Journey of Words," which is really Volume 2 of last year's anthology. I have not yet titled my short story that will appear in this anthology, but again, its going to be directly based on a piece of music. Whereas "Outside of Heaven" was based on just one song, this story will be a shortenedadapation of the Jethro Tull album, "Rock Island." Another one of my favorite albums that I always felt had a hidden novel/story hiding behind the lyrics and characters Ian Anderson created for the album's songs. The story will be around 10k words, but I am hoping to be able to bring all 10 songs of the album into a cohesive short story. That should be released in October, 2016.
2. My new novel, again being released in 2016, is a comedic look at the eight months that my wife was deployed to Djibouti, Africa and I was left home with a toddler and an infant. The story is going to be told through the emails we exchanged through the eight months, documenting all the crazy stuff that was happening on my end, trying to figure out how to be a new dad while she was in Africa. What does this have to do with music, you might be asking. I ended many many of my emails to her with lyrics to different songs that mean something to us as a married couple. I will be using those lyrics to help add to the story as side notes in the book. So again, music will play a role in the writing process of this book. The book is has not yet been titled.
3. After the "deployment" novel is finished, I already have plans for my next album -novelization planned for a 2018 release. I will trying to take Jane Jensen's album, "Comic Book Whore," which again, is one of my all time favorite albums, and like I did with Electric Light Orchestra's album "Time" album for my book, "Yours Truly, 2095," dissect every line of lyric and find a cohesive plotline and story arc within all the "action" of the characters within the lyrics. This is a few years off, but I have already started to listen to the album with a different ear, trying to outline in my head what each line of lyric will bring to the book's table. I plan on being as thorough and studious with the lyrics of Jane Jensen's songs for this book as I was with the "Time" album. Of course I don't have a title for this book yet (its still 3 years out) but I can almost guarantee that I will do like I did with "Yours Truly, 2095"... I will name the book after a title of one of the songs on the album.
And there it is... it looks like instead of being a "genre author," I am a "music adaptation author." And that is fine by me! I could be happy spending the entirety of my writing career turning my favorite albums and songs into novels and short stories.