It's been some time since I did a Weberview, and I felt it was time to pick up a few threads again. Summer's nearly over and work will be mounting up soon, so in this very brief lull before it all begins again, I nabbed friend and author, Anne Marie Klein, to come to my Book cabin on the barge and talk about her series of Rock and Roll novels. I am very honoured to have her here because she's come all the way from Canada!
I've 'known' Anne-Marie since 2006 when I started blogging. We've been following each other's writing progress since then. We've even met in the real world twice when she and her husband came to Europe on holiday, so she knows my barge very well having stayed on it herself.
Anne Marie's works are set in Toronto and London, and have an umbrella name of Behind Blue Eyes, but each book has its own title. Read the answers to the questions I posed her and find out more about these very special rock fiction novels.
Me We've known each other a while, Anne-Marie, but could you tell the readers here something about your background and how you came to start writing your rock and roll novels?
AMK: I was raised in Toronto, where I still live and work as a teacher. I started my rock and roll novels in the late 70s, when I was a teenager in the city: the “rock novel” did not exist as a genre, and in my youthful arrogance, decided that I had best start writing one if I wanted to read one. I was a huge Who fan, and was quite captivated by the song Behind Blue Eyes. In my wild imagination, I created a character based on the lyrics, and invented a story to accompany the sad, bad man I had invented. He was a musician because I wanted to write about a rock band, and he had come to Toronto because I wanted to incorporate the local iconic musical landmarks that meant so much to me as a teenager in that period. I ended up putting the original manuscript away for more than 25 years because although I knew my story’s plot was well crafted, I also sensed I lacked the life experience to give the characters the nuance and depth they deserved. It came out of the closet a few years ago, and I dusted it off and starting developing the first book. I divided my long manuscript into the first two books, then grew it into a series which I called Behind Blue Eyes and whose individual titles are all taken from Pete Townshend songs.
Me You've now published three of your books, but I believe there's a fourth one due out this year. Can you tell us a bit about where that will take us in the series?
AMK: The first two books, Love Reign o’er Me, and Love Ain’t for Keeping, are back to back in the historical timeline, taking the band that Ian Harrington formed from 1978 to 1981. The third book, Let My Love Open the Door, picks up the story in 1986, with the band settled and finding some success. The final book in the series, Empty Glass, will find Ian and his bandmates at the top of the charts. One of the constants in all four books is the ongoing battle between Ian and the demons in his head, and the effects of a family secret and scandal that occurred in childhood. I don’t want to say more because it would spoil it for anyone who has not read the first books, but it’s safe to say that the last book in the series will continue to involve conflict with his family, especially his father, with whom relations are never far from the brink of disaster.
Me Yes, I remember the frequent tense moments with father well. These were part of what made the books so compelling. But Anne-Marie, you've had some great reviews and you've done at least one radio show I know of as well as podcasts, guest posts and a variety of other media events connected to your writing. How did you manage to make such great contacts?
AMK: I was fortunate to make a few solid connections with other rock fiction writers as well as music magazines early on when I took to Twitter (once I had understood the proper and effective use of hashtags, I might add), and these contacts were very generous in giving me the opportunity to appear on podcasts as well as in print interviews with them. Another bit of what I can only call serendipity was that as I spent a sabbatical year working on the first two novels, I immersed myself in classic rock so that I could ‘feel’ the period I was writing about and editing, and developed a friendly relationship with a local dj named Dominik Diamond, whose help was invaluable in terms of keeping me amused and entertained while I wrote. He was also generous in writing a blog on his station’s website and doing a radio spot after I sent him a copy of the first book as my way of saying ‘thank you for keeping me sane’. He wrote me a review and introduced me to some local classic rock fans through that exposure, and I found new fans and friends. He’s recently left our classic rock station, Q107 Toronto, and started on the air at Halifax’s Radio 96.5 on August 26th. Do yourselves a huge favour and listen to the Dominik Diamond Morning Show and the new station by streaming it at
http://radio965.com/mediaplayer/player.asp. He is brilliantly funny and the playlist is full of modern singer-songwriters.
In terms of reviews, I can only say that I have been quite touched by how well the books have been received. I think the positive reactions are partly due to the fact that they were written in their time period originally, making the nostalgic elements feel authentic to the readers. I’ve also found that readers have identified with the issues addressed in the books (depression, loneliness, family strife, heartbreak) and how the characters have dealt with them. I am still humbled by the idea that I can have discussions online about my novels and get feedback about what makes readers connect with them. This is by far the most rewarding aspect of belonging to online communities and having social media as a way to reach readers.
Me It is amazing isn't it? Authors in the past must have lead much lonelier lives. In fact, one of your fans has written a song about your books. There's quite a story to how that came about. Could you tell us the background to the song?
AMK: In 2005, Pete Townshend wrote a novella online called The Boy Who Heard Music and invited readers to participate in its development. He built a blogging community, many of whom were artists, musicians, and writers, and Ron was one of the many friends I made during that time period (Val was another) and kept to this day. When my first novel was published, Ron, who is an accomplished musician, became a fan and kept reading the series. I asked him if he would consider writing the music to lyrics I am developing for a scene in my fourth book, and he decided that it would be an interesting idea to give Ian’s band their own ‘voice’ by writing a song as them. You can read the full story in Ron’s own words at the link below. I was quite touched by his gesture, and love that the Who’s longtime keyboard player, John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, provided the piano work on the track, which is called “Something Else” by the BBs and is available on iTunes. Links to purchasing the song can be found at the end of Ron’s guest blog.
Me [Listen to it - it's great! VP] There aren't all that many novels describing themselves as Rock and Roll novels. I've started reading Dream On by Terry Tyler, which is also about the rock and roll world, but it's in a completely different style from yours. What do you think makes the difference?
AMK: I’ve not read Terry Tyler’s novels, although I have it in my Kindle in my ‘to-read’ list. It is one of the great ironies of my situation as a writer that there is little time to read. I can’t speak to the differences between our books, but I have read a couple of other novels in the rock fiction genres and would say that, much like other genres of fiction, there are a variety of voices and approaches that make each of us distinct. For example, I loved Mark Rice’s ‘Metallic Dreams’, which is magical realism meets heavy metal, but it is so completely different from the world I have created. There’s room for all of us, and it’s the originality and love of music from each author that unites us and makes the books worth exploring because we bring something unique to the table.
Me About your writing process, now, Anne Marie, I happen to know that you always write your first drafts by hand. Why is it that you do that in these days where word processing makes making changes and editing so much easier?
AMK: I write all my work by hand likely because we didn't have word processing when I started and it’s what worked for me all those years ago. It’s an old habit that works, in other words. There is for me a sensual element to writing, and I love curling up in a chair scribbling away for the initial draft. I write my concert reviews much the same way, and find that the flow is so much better when it comes directly from my hands. It’s not a matter of being old-fashioned, but about being more productive. I feel removed from the creative process at the keyboard, and save that step for editing and fine-tuning.
Me What about your support system? You've managed to publish three books in the space of a year, which is incredible. As a self-published author, you have to do everything yourself, but do you have people who help you and deal with certain aspects of producing the books?
AMK: I think it’s less incredible than one might think because while I published three books in what seems like a short amount of time, they were largely written as stories before I took my sabbatical year, and the time off was largely spent editing and re-editing until I was satisfied that they were worthy of publication. I had an editor and proofreaders for all three books, and was fortunate that my husband, Austin Ziegler, formatted all the paperbacks and ebooks. He is a software developer, and he was also responsible for creating our website, securing behindblueyes.ca as a domain name. He then showed me how to use Twitter and create a Facebook author page for the books. I also had great luck in that a former student of mine, Will Parks, was interested in creating the cover art for the series and talented enough to do a phenomenal job. He is entering art college this fall and has a remarkable talent. The last book of the series, which isn’t completed yet in its first draft form (although I can see the finish line that precedes the editing starting line!) has taken much longer to complete, and I suspect part of the reason is that I will truly miss these characters when I’m done with them and so am delaying the inevitable.
Me Finally, what do you do when you aren't writing, and what do you do in your free time?
AMK: Free time? I wish I could stretch the days so that I could fit in all the things I want to do. I love listening to music, and have had quite a year of discovering new bands and going to see a variety of concerts. I am an avid reader, though I wish I could spend more time with my nose in a book. We also have a dog who keeps me walking and two cats who love to be spoiled, and I am quite fond of spending time at the local pool or puttering around in my garden. Anyone who knows me well would also tell you I fritter away a lot of time keeping in touch with friends and family online and playing word games. I also like to travel a few times a year with my husband, as Val could attest to since we were lucky enough to visit with her last year.
Me Thanks so much for coming on board, Anne Marie. It's been a real pleasure and I've learned things from this that even I didn't know before, so that's great!
AMK:Thank you, Val, for the opportunity to answer these thoughtful questions. I enjoyed doing this very much.
You can find Anne-Marie's books on Amazon .com listed here:
She's also on Facebook here and on Twitter @BadManSadMan