Filtering by Tag: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

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...

My interview where I answer the tough questions ...

I was interviewed as part of a collective virtual tour for the authors who appear in the anthology A Contract of Words. Here is my interview about my short story "Two Gunslingers" that is featured in that anthology:

 

1. Besides writing, what is one thing you couldn't live without?

Music. Music drives almost every minute of the day for me. And 80% of what I write is considered rock fiction, which means it’s a novelization or adaptation of a song or album. Music is on probably 20 hours a day in my house and 100% of the time in the car.

 

2. What was your inspiration for your story?

“Two Gunslingers” is a rock-fiction adaptation of Tom Petty & The Heartbreaker’s song of the same name.

 

3. If a genie could grant you 3 wishes, what would you wish for?

A 1983 DeLorean, that #14 allows for more than 1 answer, and for Pink Floyd to reunite.

 

4. Has reading influenced your decision to be a writer? What book(s) made you want to write?

I wanted to become an author because of reading. Stephen King has been my favorite author since 1989, when I read The Dark Half. But before that, I was really into HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe and other “classics.” I wrote my first story in 1988 and always wanted to be a writer, but it was discovering King a year later when I just knew unabashedly that’s what I was going to do.

 

5. Would you describe your writing process? For example, do you write in a specific place, have music playing or is that a no-no, lean toward outlining specifics, or are you a pantser?

I got my own office in 2015 when we moved from Japan to North Carolina, so everything I have written from 2015 onward was written in there. Prior to that, I wrote in our tatami room in Japan, our living room in Georgia, or my bedroom in Massachusetts. Music has been playing for every moment of my writing career. Sometimes I stop typing in-between songs because even that one second of silence disrupts me. I also outline in an every-other way: I outline A, C, E, F and then pants B, D, G.

 

6. When faced with the dreaded “writer's block”, how do you push through and find inspiration? Is there a ritual or process you have to get yourself back on track?

I have the opposite problem. I have too many ideas. I suffer from writer’s diarrhea.

 

7. Did you know how your story would end when you started writing it? If not, did plans change while writing or did you improvise when you arrived?

Yes, because the song has a definitive ending to its story. The last verse alludes to what happened to the two gunslingers at the high-noon duel.

 

8. If a movie were to be made of your story and you were in charge of casting, who would play your characters? Who would direct?

Sam Elliott would play the shady barkeep, Jason Bateman would play the lead gunslinger, and Emilio Estevez would play the secondary one. Rose Byrne would be the female in the audience, just so I could meet her. I would direct it, duh!

 

9. How close did your story end up being to the original concept you had in your mind? What were the biggest changes? Why did you make them?

I had never tried to write a western before. Ever. In fact, I’m not really a big fan of the genre as a whole. But that song just wouldn’t go away when I was brainstorming for my source material. I was originally going to adapt Live’s “Rattlesnake,” but it seemed every time I put my music collection on Shuffle, there was Tom Petty again, singing about these two gunslingers who make a crucial decision at a crucial moment during a duel. Then I would find myself singing the song in the shower. It was like the song picked me this time. So I didn’t really have an “original concept,” it all just poured out of me when I made the decision to adapt “Two Gunslingers.”

 

10. What book were you reading when you thought, This stuff sells??? Oh, hell, I can do that…

Stephen King’s Night Shift. My second published novel—my “horror” novel, if you will—Welcome to Parkview is a collection of vignettes disguised as a novel, and even though the official statement from me will always be that Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” was the main influence, I can’t help but feel King’s Night Shift and Skeleton Crew collections weren’t the driving force in the manner in which I assembled the novel the way I did.

 

11. Did you have to do any odd research for your story? How did you conduct that research, and then how was it used in your story?

Yes. I knew nothing about cowboys or horses. Thankfully, there still seems to be people who believe cowboys and horses are real, so there is a lot of info on the internet about these magical and mythical creatures.

 

12. If you could pick one place to sit and write, where would it be?

In a bar where everyone knows each other, like Cheers, with my laptop at the counter and I get to pick the entire playlist for the night.

 

13. How closely do you relate to/identify with your characters? What inspired them? Did they take over your story or did you direct them?

I have never been a cowboy, a horse, or a barkeep. Maybe that’s what I’ll be this year for Halloween. And even though my story is an adaptation of song lyrics that are marginally specific, they did seem to take over at one point and dictate a lot of their actions and dialogue, partner.

 

14. What do you consider your all-time favorite novel? One that you would read again and again.

Just one? I’m gonna go change my answer to that genie question and ask that #14 allows more than one answer … hold on …

Okay, back. Now that I fixed that, here is a shortened list: The Bell Jar, Great Gatsby, Les Miserables, Virgin Suicides, Pillars of the Earth, Clan of the Cave Bear, Imajica, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, The Witching Hour, and all 73 Stephen King books.

 

15. How much of your writing is outlined from the beginning and how much of it is ‘pantsed’ or written on the fly?

Like I said before, I outline major spots I need my characters to reach and then pants everything in between.

 

16. What are your favorite snack-as-you-write or eat-as-you write foods? How do they help your creative flow or process?

Raw broccoli and cauliflower with ranch dressing. Then a celebratory taco.

 

17. How is your ACOW story typical or atypical of your writing in general?

“Two Gunslingers” is a western. I have never even come close to writing a western before. Plus nothing “unearthly” happens; as a speculative fiction author, even my rock fiction stuff always has something that just sits a tad over the line of reality, even when it’s steeped in pure drama, whether it’s paranormal, supernatural, or just “David Lynchian”, I always tend to put a glimpse of Oz somewhere in my stories and novels. “Two Gunslingers” is a western and doesn’t deviate.

 

You can order on Amazon (worldwide), Barnes & Nobles, Books-A-Million, or get a FREE companion soundtrack CD if you order through Scout Media’s online store here: A Contract of Words

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