Pumkin Escobar interviewed me yesterday about my upcoming novel, "Moonlight City Drive," (first official interview about the new book) for the official Dog Fashion Disco Facebook fan group:
As a writer;
What was the first song/album that made you think of becoming a rock-fiction writer?
- It was 1991. I was on a Billy Joel kick and was overdosing on "Piano Man." To the point where I was listening to just that song upwards of 10 times a day. Just obsessing over the lyrics and the characters he sings about. I had been writing short stories for 3 years at this point (not a single one having anything to do with music, just random horror, drama, and sci-fi short stories to amuse myself and friends.) I was lying in bed one night in '91 and thinking about the people in "Piano Man" and wondering if any of them had a backstory, or if any of them had a future story past that night in the bar. I decided it was time to try to write my first novel, and I was going to base it off "Piano Man." 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. Coincidentally, my stepfather came home late that very night I had gotten inspired to write this rock-fiction novel (this type of writing didn't even have a name yet) and I heard my mother ask him why he was late. He told her that there had been a bad accident in front of the bar Sneakers (a real bar in my hometown.) As soon as I heard the name of the bar, I immediately knew I had to put some Piano Man-like characters in there and just let them... exist. And see what kind of stories they had. So I started writing (at the time the novel was called "A Bar Called Sneakers") in 1991 what would eventually become my second published novel in 2010: "Welcome to Parkview." Obviously, if you have read the book, you'll know the bar (even though makes an appearance in multiple chapters) takes a backseat and the city of Parkview became the main character (hence why the name change of the novel when I was finished with it.) But I did stay true to my idea of all the residents of the town staying secondary characters. Once I realized I was writing a novel version of "Piano Man," I knew there would have to be more songs to adapt, in order to move my characters around the town and create conflict and an actual story arc. So I was organically being inspired by different songs by different bands throughout the writing of the novel, finding songs that would lead my characters through their journeys and expand upon the building of their town. If you pick any song that is on the list of songs that were adapted for the novel, I could tell you exactly which chapter was spawned from that song. As "Piano Man" was the original catalyst to springboard the book from the speakers to the page overall (and I guess is the ground-zero song for me becoming a rock fiction author), the other songs that are credited for the creation of the novel were used to dictate very specific moments or conflicts for the characters. I started the book in 1991 and finished in 2009, coming in at 246k words. I hired 3 different professional editors and in 2010 we had it whittled down to a neat and concise 88k words. It was published in July, 2010 (19 years after that night when I decided to write my first novel based off a Billy Joel song.)
Did you ever "get it wrong" interpreting an album?
- “Moonlight City Drive” will be 6th published rock-fiction adaptation (that includes short stories), and I really hope I didn’t get ANY of them wrong. That would not only be a great disservice to the band themselves, but to all their fans. However, I was outlining Genesis’ song “Supper’s Ready” to be a short story back in 2015, and I realized I didn’t have a good enough grasp on the song yet to be able to do it justice. So instead, I turned Jethro Tull’s album, “Rock Island” into a story, which became “The Whaler’s Dues” and was published in 2016. Maybe one day I’ll try to tackle “Supper’s Ready” again.
Just as actors need to prepare for a roll and stay in character, did any of your work take you to a good or bad place (mentally)? Did it leave a lasting impression on you?
- Wow… well all 4 of my novels took me, emotionally, into a dark place. In “Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts,” the day I found out David had died was rough to write (and I wound up drinking WAY too much). In “Welcome to Parkview,” there is a revenge/murder scene that I really let my demons come out to write, and it’s probably one of the most brutal things I’ve ever written. In “Yours Truly, 2095,” I had a hard time writing the scene where the main character finds half his daughter on a factory table, and in “Moonlight City Drive…” let’s just say there’s a scene with a lot of fire that, while I was writing, I had to sit back and ask myself if I had finally gone too far. (no spoilers)
How involved are the artists on your novels, if at all? (do you need permission for all novels?)
- I don’t need permission to write/publish the novels / stories, but I DO need permission if I am to have any of the lyrics of the album/song that I am adapting in the novel/story. So far, I have only received permission twice of my seven-published works: God Lives Underwater (for “Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts”) and Dog Fashion Disco (for “Moonlight City Drive). The other 2 novels and my 3 short stories, I just made sure I didn’t use ANY lyrics from the albums/songs.
For the Adultery/Moonlight City Drive Novel;
Is this the quickest novel you've written?
- Absolutely. This book took me just shy of 4 months to write. “Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts” took me 20 months to write, “Welcome to Parkview” took me 19 years (from inception to publication), and “Yours Truly, 2095” took me 36 months to write.
How do you feel about it now that you are done?
- After getting it back from my editor (and all her positive praise of the novel) and the mass amounts rewrites in the 3rd draft, I am totally in love with it.
I know you had started the process around May when we all met in Baltimore. Had you been plotting this book for a long time? If not, how easy/difficult was it to create the story line?
- I always thought the album would make a great movie or graphic novel when it came out. It was never really on my radar for ME to adapt into a rock-fiction novel. In fact, when the album came out in April, 2006, I wasn’t even a published author yet. Then when I got into rock-fiction, I had some other albums that I felt I needed to write first to get out of my system before I could tackle this story. Also, the previous works helped me improve as a writer, so when it came time to novelize “Adultery,” I had sharpened my chops and could due the album better justice. To be honest, the lyrics of “Adultery” are approximately 2,000 words total, and more than half of the time are really ambiguous. So, to turn a 2k word piece of source material into a 77k word novel took a lot of creative liberties on my part, to fill in all the “empty space” of the lyrics and storyline. That was the most daunting task for me; to color in the blank spaces in-between the colors that were the lyrics.
You really seemed to enjoy working with the Facebook group on this novel. Did it help the process? Would you consider this on future novels with other groups?
- Yes. The Moonlight City Drive Facebook group was fantastic to have. When I needed help with a certain model of a vehicle, you guys had a plethora of suggestions. When I needed help flushing out certain lyrics, everyone came together and spitballed their interpretations with me, which really helped steer the ship. I would absolutely so another group like that one for future novels.
Given that this book is about a detective and a private investigator hunting a killer, how did your "day job' as a police officer help develop those characters? Did anything in the writing process open your eyes to any open cases? Assuming you are "beat cop” (if that is the correct slang term:) has this made you want to become a detective or private investigator?
- It really didn’t. I am a patrolman, which means I don’t do in-depth detective work. And to be honest, policing and detective work has changed so much from 1947 (when the book takes place) to 2017. There is very little focus on the “policing” side of the detective character, and more on the “private” investigator angle of the main character. I had a chance to take the detective test at my police department in 2009 and I choose not to. I love being a “beat cop.”
How much coffee do you drink to function???
- 3 cups a day
Favorite curse word?
Boxers or Briefs?
Tits or ass?
Mayo or Miracle Whip?
- A1 sauce