Filtering by Tag: ABBA

"Welcome to Parkview" turns 9 ... and how Billy Joel helped create my town

My second novel, Welcome to Parkview, was published 9 years ago this month. But what a long road it was to get this book in print and released for mass consumption. 19 years, to be exact.

I started Welcome to Parkview in 1991. The entire outline for the book was spawned in one night, while I was laying in my bed at 14 years old. I was on a Billy Joel kick and had been overdosing on all his cassettes that month, and there was something about the lyrics and musical overtones of his song "Piano Man" that resonated with me. The fact this 4-minute song could have so many believable characters (and within a single line of lyric, he gave the impression that each of these characters in the bar had an extensive backstory) was so intriguing to me as an aspiring author. I had started writing fiction in 1988 (3 years earlier) and had written around 30 short stories at this point. The thought to even attempt a novel had never crossed my mind ... until I started really thinking about "Piano Man."

Back to the night I was laying in bed: I rolled the lyrics around in my head, singing certain lines which contain specific descriptions of these characters, and my stepfather came home late from work. I heard my mother greet him at the front door, and from my bedroom, I was able to overhear him talk about driving past a local bar in my city that had, according to my stepfather, "something big going on outside because it took forever to drive by the bar." The bar he was talking about? A bar called Sneakers.

It was like the floodgates opened in my head. I heard him say the name of the bar, coupled with the lyrics of "Piano Man" so fresh in my ears, and I just knew there was a novel in there somewhere. I was going to congregate all these random people in a bar and just see what happens. Basically wanting the bar itself to be the main character of the book, and the people all secondary. I started working on my first novel that very next day, at 14 years old.

In the beginning, the novel was titled "A Bar Called Sneakers." It didn't change names until around 2004 (13 years after I started writing it.) But from 1991 - 1997, I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. Hours and hours. Weekends in high school and college, spent usually hanging out with friends, were traded in so I could stay home and write, write, write. I started writing in 1991 with a notebook and pen. Then my mother bought me a manual typewriter. I switched to the typewriter in 1992. Then, for Christmas in 1993, my mother bought me a Brother Word Processor, where I could save my writing on floppy discs.  Around 1997, I didn't quite know where I was going with the novel anymore. I hadn't written a single short story since 1991 -- I spent 6 years focusing every ounce of writing on the novel. I became discouraged with a stack of over 1,000 printed pages and no clear end in sight. So I shelved it.

In 2002 (5 years after boxing up the novel) I revisited what I had written up to that point and realized that I forgot how much I loved the characters and fictional town. I missed all those people and places. I forged onward, and between 2002 and 2008, I finished the novel. It was during this stretch where I changed the name of the novel to what it is now. Taking 5 years off really cleared my head, and I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel that I couldn't see when I was so far deep into the writing during those first 6 years.

Throughout the 19 years it took to create and destroy the town of Parkview, I had many more songs than just "Piano Man" helping to shape the characters and the ambiance of the town. Songs from bands like Pink Floyd, Queen, REM, Tool, Neil Diamond, Faith No More, Nine Inch Nails, ABBA, Queen, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Jesus Jones, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Front 242, Pigface, Blue October, The The, Genesis, The Mars Volta, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and a handful of others because a muse for my town.

I finished the novel in 2008 at 246,000 words (give or take a few words.) I hired 3 separate editors, and between 2008 and 2010, I worked with these 3 editors vigorously. Keep in mind, by this point, I was already a published author, with my first book "Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts" being released in 2007 (I wrote that between 2006 - 2007). After "Welcome to Parkview" went through its 3 full edits, we whittled the 246,000 words to a more manageable 88,000 words. My first editor made me go back and not just edit or revise a lot of what I had written between 1991 - 1997, but physically rewrite a lot of scenes. Heck, they were originally written by a teenager, and if I wanted this to sound like it was written by a professional author, a lot of verbiage and dialogue and narrative needed to be rewritten in an adult's voice. So that took a few more months. Just to give you an example of how much was cut from the first 246,000 word draft, the first chapter in the published version of the book is around 10,000 words. In the original draft, the first chapter is around 70,000 words.

I will forever call Welcome to Parkview a labor of love. 19 years of my life and 246,000 words later, I was able to present a 88,000 word novel that I am very proud of, and 9 years after publication, seems to still be making an impression on readers.

Welcome to Parkview is available in paperback, eBook, and audiobook right here on my site or everywhere books are sold.

How the discotheque helped me find that missing music needle in my rock-fiction haystack

There's a chapter in Welcome to Parkview that was originally conceived in 1993 during the first draft of the novel. It was technically my very very first true rock-fiction piece as an author because, while Welcome to Parkview as a whole was *inspired* by Billy Joel's "Piano Man" but was not a direct adaptation of the song, this particular chapter (titled "Tiger") was, indeed, an actual adaptation of a song. The only problem was, when I was writing it in 1993, I only had a vague memory of the song from my childhood. I had no idea who the band was or what the song was titled. I just remembered the *story line* of the song. And I remembered listening to it A LOT on 8-Track when I was a wee boy. So here I was, in 1993 and putting the first skeletal outline of Welcome to Parkview together, and that song jumped into my creative brain, and I wrote that whole chapter only from the memories of a song that I thought was gone forever in the annals of my long-lost childhood music collection (Every attempt at describing the song to people in an attempt to locate it again just returned looks of confusion and the shaking of heads.) I had come to grips with the fact that I may die and still never track down what the heck that song was that had been so integral in shaping the trigger incident of the book that took me 19 years to write. It would just have to be one of those things—always having something in the peripheral of your memory but knowing you’d never be able to see it clearly in front of you … ever; kind of like when there’s a word on the tip of your tongue and you need everyone to be quiet so you can have a chance to recall that word. That has been me for the past 25 years with this four-minute song. Only it has been more important than just “trying to remember a word”; it has literally been the song that truly was my first rock-fiction adaptation. “Piano Man” was the first inspiration; this song literally sent everything into motion in my novel … and it had been eluding me for more than half my life. Until today. Last week, 27 years after starting Welcome to Parkview, I randomly bought and listened to an album called Arrival by a band named ABBA. When track 9 started (completely unaware of the emotional roller coaster I would go on within the next few nanoseconds), I almost leapt out of my chair, threw my headphones across the room, and wanted to dance and yell and clap and call every single person who I had bothered over the last almost 3 decades about the song that had been so important to being a rock-fiction author. The song “Tiger” by ABBA hit the first verse, and I almost crumpled to my office floor, thanking the gods of coincidence and patience for making me buy this album (albeit 27 years too late lol) today. The name of the chapter in Welcome to Parkview, is actually TITLED “Tiger”!!! I always thought I just came up with the name, but obviously, the song had been closer to the top of my subconscious than I ever thought when I wrote that chapter in 1993. Singing along to the track just now, I could see so clearly within the lyrics of the song all the throes of that chapter and how the town explodes from those actions described in the song. I loved my ABBA 8-track cassettes when I was a kid, but if, back in 93 when I was frantically trying to figure out what song was like continuous knocking in my brain to write it into my then WIP, you told me it was an ABBA song I was thinking of, I would’ve told you to go play in traffic (there’s no way that someone who was taking their writing career as seriously as I was back in the 1991-1993 time frame would have let a band like ABBA mold and shape my HORROR novel, of all genres!). But, there you have it. Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” may have been my first inspiration into trying to turn the ideas of a song or album into a piece of fiction, but I’m flabbergasted right now that it was ABBA who I used to translate liter lyrics to the page. My mind as an author, as a husband, as a father, as a HUMAN BEING is absolutely blown right now. I’m also beside myself that I actually found this song after so many decades of it always being “the one that got away” after a completely random Amazon digital album purchase this morning, only because I really wanted to own the album that had the song “Dancing Queen” on it, and for no other reason than that. And there it was. The song “Tiger,” just sitting there, waiting to be played, waiting to be heard, waiting to put the first exclamation mark at the end of the first sentence of my rock-fiction career 27 years ago. After all these years, I haven’t stopped facepalming that it’s ABBA! And that I somehow turned that song into such a violent chapter that catapults the plot line of an equally violent and macabre novel. Who said disco wasn’t evil?

Books | Music | About | Contact | News | Media

All content © 2014, Brian Paone