fiction,  Rock Revival,  WIP,  writing

Rock-a-Bye and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Tom Chaplin of Keane. Photo: Markus Unger via Flickr – (CC BY 2.0)

So! I had that baby I was talking about. Three weeks ago today, little Elodie graced us with her presence with the coaxing of medical intervention, past due at 42 weeks. In spite of my last horrid experience with Pitocin, this time went much better. After 12 hours of tolerable contractions followed by fifteen minutes of the worst torture of my ilfe, she entered the world in three pushes. (Missing deadlines early in life, I should add, likely means she’ll be a great writer.)

All in all, she’s a very agreeable little kid. The elder child is far more of a handful at this point; he makes up for his potty-training and ability to dress and clean himself with all sorts of fun challenges in his spirited way. The little peanut, on the other hand, is chill like her mom. It’s a blessing, to say the least.

It took a while for my brain to recalibrate, but for the most part I feel like I’ve returned to my default settings. Pregnancy, as I’ve made mention before, really does a number on your brain. It’s a sort of hormonal cocktail, and it really effects even the most basic thinking. Fiction writing just wasn’t an option, and after a few foiled attempts I finally gave in to what my body was telling me. It’s time for other stuff. My back porch is now a living attestation to that fact, as it’s filled with flowers and tomato plants.

In short, even though fiction didn’t happen much in the last year, I don’t consider it time wasted. Just life lived.

Anyway, the very good news is that I finally settled on what to write next. And it was as big of a surprise to me as anyone. While there are four novels in various states of progress staged on Scrivener (from magical realism to Edwardian drama to island fantasy), it’s another project that’s quite literally taken center stage. Tentatively titled Rock Revival (or… Revival or The Revival), it’s a novel that isn’t speculative in any way whatsoever. Instead, it’s fiction about another passion of mine: music. The whole book came crashing into my skull last week while I was listening to Keane’s new album, Strangeland (which is The Album I’ve Been Waiting For, you might say). All the characters showed up, the scenes were set. It’s breathtaking when that happens, and it had been so long that something happened to me creatively that way that I was dancing around with excitement.

Rock Revival is about two things: rock music and religion. In a very small nutshell, it’s a story about a successful band called The Revival (think a cross between Fleetwood Mac and Keane) and what happens when one of them finds Jesus. The narrator of the story is their keyboard player, Kate Styx, who’s the only remaining female member of the band. Kate is sarcastic and dark humored with a tendency to drink too much and loving too fiercely. She comes from Georgia, her birth name being Katherine-Anne Marshall Mendenhall, and her relationship with religion (and her father and band) comes to a head when Tom Chesley, the lead singer, becomes born again. Other characters include James Vayne, the guitarist and Kate’s co-songwriter; Paul Morningstar, the drummer and “quiet one”; and Kurt Bastian, the flamboyant bass player and Kate’s best friend since college.

Particularly fun is the fact that I’m interspersing the story with clippings of interviews and articles about the fictional band. This sort of writing, my friends, is no end of fun to write.

To be clear. It’s not intended to be a book that rails against faith. Faith is merely the catalyst for the action. I wanted to examine the relationship between music and religion, and the interplay of faith and friendship in a band setting. For those who don’t know, in my first life I wanted to be a singer/songwriter. Until college, that was the dream. In high school I was in a number of bands, Christian and secular, and spent many weekends playing live and writing songs (thanks to my dad, you can even listen to a track of mine I wrote when I was fifteen and recorded when I was seventeen or so...). Not to mention, I grew up Evangelical. Writing what you know? Yeah, pretty much.

But rock and roll is rooted in blues and gospel music, so even from a music theory standpoint there’s a certain interrelatedness there that can’t be avoided. The book isn’t about whether faith is wrong or right, it’s about how people change and how their changes impact the world they’ve built around them.

I don’t anticipate the book being horribly long. Probably in the 70K range. So far it’s moving very fast (at least I’m a few scenes ahead of the writing in my head — but life with a newborn and lots of goings on doesn’t make for a ton of writing time). So there’s no wizards or dragons or spaceships. That’s okay. Writing this reminds me of why music mattered so damned much to me, how hearing Led Zeppelin II changed my life, why August and Everything After feels like it’ll never leave me. It’s a reminder of how important music is, and what it’s like to create something with other people.

Well. That’s that. To make the kickoff official, I’m going to be logging my words. Accountability and all that jazz.


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