Filtering by Tag: Electric Light Orchestra "Time"

"Yours Truly, 2095" turns 4 years old!

My third published novel, Yours Truly, 2095, turned four years old this month. I can't believe it has been four full years now since its been published, especially since it took me three full years to research, outline, write, and edit.

Starting off as an idea to take one of my favorite albums of all time, Electric Light Orchestra's concept album Time, and try to adapt it into a direct novelization was something I had been tossing around in my head since high school, almost twenty-five years ago. The concept album--which follows a man who awakens in the year 2095 with a robot for a wife, not knowing how he got there, and trying to return to his real wife in 1981--had always intrigued me, not only as song lyrics, but as a stand-alone storyline.

It took almost nine months to dissect every single song so I could write an outline and find enough story arcs, plot lines, and character developments within the lyrics to where I felt comfortable writing a 90k-word novel based around a 16-track album that clocks in at approximately 55 minutes long.

Writing the novel during the four years I lived in Japan (2011-2015), I initially approached it as a Michael Crichton-style sci-fi story; I wanted the technology to be so steeped in science fact that the reader would never be required to suspend their disbelief (even when the characters have to travel to the moon). I really wanted an organic-feeling story that didn't have whirling time machines and far-fetched technology. What I never expected was that I would wind up with a time-travel romance novel.

Staying true to every single lyric of the Time album (heck, even the front cover of the book is an adaptation of the front-cover art of the album), I found I had a lot of holes that needed to be filled with my own literary license. Even though it IS a concept album, it's not as concrete as, say, Pink Floyd's The Wall or The Who's Tommy, where there is no mistaking what is happening, what everyone is thinking, and what everyone is saying.

I realized, after my editor had submitted the book's final draft, I had a novel anyone could read. My biggest concern while writing was that people who had never heard of Electric Light Orchestra wouldn't even try to read the book. Why should they? Especially if its a novelization of an album they'd never heard? But I was able to write a straight-forward time-travel romance novel that works twofold: 1) if you are an Electric Light Orchestra fan, you will "see the storyline" of the Time album in every piece of action and dialogue, or 2) if you have no idea who Electric Light Orchestra is, this book is a stand-alone time-travel romance novel full of mystery, action, and suspense. You do not need to know anything about the source material to enjoy the book or for it to make sense. In fact, most of the positive reviews I have received are from people who only found out afterward that the book is based on an album. And the positive reviews from Electric Light Orchestra fans have applauded me for taking a revered album and turning it into a novel that stayed true to the tone and storyline of Time.

Yours Truly, 2095 was suggested for a Hugo Award in 2016, however, it did not make the finalists.

11 Years Today as a Published Author ... And the Wild Ride to Get Here

My career as a novelist would never have happened, or at least to the success that I have had, if one of my best friends hadn’t died in 2005. My friend David, the lead singer of the industrial-rock band God Lives Underwater—who enjoyed some commercial success in the 90s—had been struggling with drug addiction, depression, and the throes of the music business since I met him in 1995. We became fast friends, and I was one of the few people who stuck with him through all his highs and lows.

When he passed away in 2005, I didn’t know where the put my grief. I just couldn’t find a healthy outlet for how I was feeling about losing him. It was suggested to me to write a memoir about our friendship, but in novel format so it would read more like a story than a journal. My wife was the biggest advocate of me using my grief to write my first novel and recall all the good and bad times that come with being close to someone who struggles with addiction and someone who was on major tours, on MTV, and all over the radio. He was a multi-dimensional person, and our friendship was trying and rewarding all at the same time.

Since 1988, I had only written short stories, novelettes, and novellas. I had never attempted a piece of work beyond 30k words long. So, I started writing what would eventually become my first novel, Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts, in January 2006, and it was published in October 2007—on the second anniversary of his death.

And here we are. Eleven years to the day of that first novel being released into the world. What a wild ride it's been. I am a few months from my 5th novel's release, Moonlight City Drive Part 2, and my 5th published short story will be released in the next few months. It's only been over the last three years that I have been dubbed a rock-fiction author (adapting albums or songs into novels or short stories) but my entire eleven-year career has been steeped in music, which is my true love in the world. Between Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts delving into the touring life of bands and the tribulations that world can trap the musicians in and my second novel, Welcome to Parkview, stemming from the idea behind Billy Joel's song, "Piano Man," writing about music has been a part of who I am as an author since Day One.

Over these eleven years, I have met a lot of my heroes and idols in the music world because of my writing, and I have created friendships among band members that I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever make. After I finished Welcome to Parkview in 2010 (which I started in 1991), I honestly thought I only had those two novels in me ... and I was done with writing. Then in 2012, I had a flash of inspiration to try to novelize Electric Light Orchestra's album, Time. The process was so enjoyable and liberating for me as a music fanatic that when Yours Truly, 2095 was released in 2015, I knew I had found my niche in writing, and I knew I didn't want to stop. Since then I have had four short stories published, all adapted from bands' albums or songs (Moby, Jethro Tull, Porcupine Tree, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers respectively) and my most recent novel, Moonlight City Drive, is another rock-fiction adaptation; this time of Dog Fashion Disco's album, Adultery.

I started writing my first novel on a desktop computer next to my CD collection in my bedroom in an apartment that I shared with two other roommates, to now having my own writing office in my house that I share with my wife and four children. The list of bands and albums I have stored in the back of brain to adapt into rock fiction (either novels or short stories) is so extensive, I will probably die before I reach the bottom of that list. The immediate future of my rock-fiction career includes Pink Floyd, Digital Underground, TheThe, EMF, Thursday, and Jane Jensen.

It's been an amazing eleven years. Here's to continue the inertia of heading upward to the next eleven years...

I'm not crying, you're crying: seeing Electric Light Orchestra live for the first time

I became an Electric Light Orchestra fan through their album Out of the Blue when my mother brought it home on vinyl when I was a kid. The ELO spaceship on the front cover drew me in, but it was the sounds, harmonies, hooks, singalong choruses, and wide array of instrumentation that made me take notice. I had already gone "all in" with my Pink Floyd obsession by this point, but I had yet to find a band that I felt matched them in regards to being worthy of my fandom. That moment came when I heard ELO's Time album for the first time when it came out.

That was when ELO matched Pink Floyd as my favorite band of all time (I now have 5 bands that hold that title). Time was ELO's 10th album and I realized then that they could do no wrong. All 10 albums were perfect, in my eyes (the only other band to have made a run of 'perfect' album being Pink Floyd.)

In 2001, I had gotten up early one morning (before the sun had risen) and went to wait in line at a Ticketmaster. I scored 3rd row center tickets to see ELO for the first time. The show was still a few months away, but I had started counting the days immediately. I was so excited I was finally going to see them live for the first time after so many years of obsessed fandom. Then … I got an automated call from Ticketmaster about a month later stating they had cancelled the tour and they were not going to reschedule. I would be refunded. Then, even worse, ELO seemed to have dropped off the face of the planet. That album they were touring on, Zoom, would be the last album for 16 years. There would be no more shows for another 15 years. POOF! Just …. silence.

I started writing fiction in 1988 and ELO's Time album has always been rolling around in my head to turn into a story. Fast forward to 2012; I had two published novels at this point, and we were living in Japan, and I had listened to Time one day while I went for a run, and it was like the entire story unfolded in front of me. My third published novel, in 2015, was my novelization of ELO's Time album, titled Yours Truly, 2095 (taken from Track 3 off the album). I had also given up hope that Electric Light Orchestra would ever get back together and record another album or even ever play another show. My novel was my own personal homage to myself and for ELO fans as way to say goodbye to one of the 5 best bands to ever grace the earth.

Then … there was a blip in the ELO camp. A cricket chirp. A spark in the form of 1 single show. A show that even blew their expectations out of the water; a show that made them think, "do people still care and is there still room for ELO in the world after a 15-year silence?" They tested the waters with some more shows (all overseas) and then announcement that there would be a new album. It was like Lazarus rising from the grave for me.

When the tour for the new album, Alone in the Universe, was announced, I got 2 tickets. I'll be honest, as a Pavlovian reaction, I kept waiting for that email from Ticketmaster to say this tour had been cancelled also. I was *this* close to seeing them 17 years ago, 3rd row, and it got stripped from me. I felt like this upcoming show was a dream and I'd wake up to find they never had reformed, there wasn't a new album, and my tickets would be a figment of my imagination.

When I got in the car Thursday night with my 9-year-old son, Everett, to head to the venue, I still was waiting for the show to be cancelled and for them to say, "Sorry for the joke, but we're going to go away again." But … this time, I got to see my favorite band live, for the first time after 35 years of die-hard fandom.

It's hard to explain to people who aren't as obsessed with music or specific bands as I am what it's like, even as a grown 41-year-old man, to stand in a venue and actually see these people in front of you performing these songs. I cried pretty much 80% of the time, out of pure elation. I didn't expect to start bawling when they played "Sweet Talkin' Woman." Something about my childhood and nostalgia and all those years of listening to these songs through elementary school, through high school, through college, through my first real job, through getting married, through having kids, through buying a house, through the highs and lows … ELO were there through ALL of that. And now here they were, in the flesh for the first time. It was so powerful that I didn't even want to talk about the show for the first few days afterward.

But to watch my son out of the corner of my eye, standing on his seat throughout the show, dancing, clapping, and singing along to most of the songs, brought me to different tears. To share that with him--share something that is such a large part of who I am and where I came from musically--was amazing.

Words can't describe how it felt to stand in front of them for those 100 minutes after all these years. Words can't describe how amazing it is that Electric Light Orchestra look to be back for good after their 16 year hiatus (one that I felt was irreversible). Words can't describe the sound that came from that stage, like a warm familiar blanket tossed around my shoulders. Words can't describe the experience … but tears did. And I'm not crying! You're crying!

 

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