Behind The Book: How An Uncompromising Rock Band From Toronto Revived A Comatose Muse

Over time, I’ll be sharing the soundtrack for Waiting For A Star To Fall, and how each song inspired or enhanced the creation of the novel.  Impatient? Full Spotify playlist is here.

2013 was the year of emptiness.

Every writer will tell you that Writer’s Block is a very real phenomenon, one that often strikes with the absolute worst timing possible.  Every artist will tell you that they’ve hit the proverbial wall now and again, that the well runs dry.  I’ve endured a few periods of creative stagnancy.  When they strike, my solution is one that applies to most forms of creation: go out and be inspired.  Fill up the well, so to speak.

2013 was different.  For the first time, my passion for all art had died out.

Music didn’t resonate with me, which is striking, since I began attending concerts in utero and credit music with literally saving my life.  Everything I picked up to read just fell a little flat somehow.  I lost interest in films.  The list goes on.  It wasn’t depression (been there, done that).  It was a complete disconnect, and neither my longstanding musical loves nor the latest crop of releases could cure it.

And then, July Talk happened, just as 2014 arrived.

I’m often slow to the party on new music, which may seem weird, given my music blogger background.  It’s this quirk of mine that extends to books and movies:  if a lot of people are talking about something, I avoid it out of fear of disliking it coupled with reflexive annoyance via overkill.  For example, I didn’t read the Harry Potter books until the 7th movie came out.  So I hesitated on July Talk, despite being fascinated with their black and white aesthetic and the vocal contrasts described in the media.  I didn’t want to dislike them.  And given my “everything is blah” funk, I was afraid of just that.

One day, I had a random “Fuck it!” sort of moment.  I happened upon their video for “The Garden” and hit play.  When it stopped, I hit play again.  And then, I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole for a good hour.  When I surfaced, I bought their album.

Their passion was contagious.  I blasted their music frequently at work.  I blasted it in the car, and was grateful my metal-loving spouse enjoyed them as much as I did.  We went to a show of theirs and realized that seeing July Talk live was even better.  Another show happened soon after.  And yeah, I fangirled.  But how could I not?

Suddenly, art came alive again.  I came alive again.

Nine months after this awakening, I looked at the upcoming NaNoWriMo and remembered how participating previously had conquered a bad case of Writer’s Block (the product was my novel Collide).  I found notes made some time ago for a “possible Change of Season sequel”.  I looked at a writer friend, felt her passion for her project and thought, “Damn, I miss creation!”

I went for it, and finished that first draft in November.

Make no mistake:  Waiting For A Star To Fall would not exist without the music of July Talk.  Their clear appreciation of how critical the audience-artist energy exchange is only fuels their growing success.  It also informs me as an artist.  I looked to those asking for more of Autumn, Andrew, Veronica and Evan and decided that as long as the audience brings their energy, I cannot help but bring mine as the creator.

In Star, Veronica is featured in a show that puts a feminist spin on the Bible.  When looking for a name for this fictional Broadway production, the answer was obvious:  it was waiting in a song of dangerous, unhealthy attraction.  The song that began the journey that brought the book to life.

(Peter, Leah, Ian, Josh, Danny:  thank you.)

I went walking in the garden
I was tripping on snakes
And I ain’t asking for your lovin’
I’m just asking what your love is gonna take…

Waiting For A Star To Fall is now available on Amazon.

Got Junk In Your Writing Trunk? You’re Not Alone.

You’ll often see, as you meander through writing Twitter, people discouraged from unsuccessful queries being told by other writers (or even by those they’ve queried) that a project may need to be sat aside.

“Put it in the trunk,” they’ll tell you.  “Write another book.”

As a writer, it’s disheartening to think that a project you feel strongly about, one you have poured your time, energy and tears into, is “junk”.  No matter how kindly the suggestion is made, that’s how the ego hears it:  “My work is junk.”

Your ego is often wrong, so let’s clear up that heartbreaking assumption.  Maybe your book doesn’t fit into traditional publishing’s neat boxes of “Things We Can Sell Because They Remind Us Of Things That Sell Well.”  Maybe your project isn’t right in the current market, but could be in five years.  Maybe you had the misfortune of querying people who simply didn’t know what to do with it.  Or maybe it isn’t a strong book and yes, it needs to be tucked away somewhere.

Either way, for a variety of reasons, authors have books in the mythical trunk, like misfit toys in an old wooden chest.

Recently, the awesome Ava Jae got curious about the trunks of other writers.  With all of the advice out there, it seemed no one had ever dug into how many books lay in the trunk prior to successful debut novels.  Ava sticks with traditionally published authors, but in taking a survey online, she revealed a comforting truth:  plenty of successful writers have shelved projects that may never see the light of day.

Writing is a skill, like any other.  Practice makes perfect.  And while some of us have an innate gift and can polish up a debut until it’s snatched up by the Book Powers That Be, most of us have to work at our craft for a while.

(For the record, self-publishing is no different.  I have countless poems, years of fanfiction, and three novels that will NEVER see the light of day in my trunk.  I firmly believe that just because the world has changed and I can publish anything and everything, that certainly doesn’t mean I ought to.  I recently dug into my own digital trunk and cringed mostly, although I did remember a cool experiment worth revisiting someday…)

Have a look at Ava’s data – it’s definitely reassuring.  As for your trunk?  It’s definitely not junk.  If nothing else, it’s practice that will bring you closer to perfect.

Feeling discouraged about having to trunk a novel? @Ava_Jae shares statistics you might find encouraging.

Behind The Book: Every Couple Has A Song. This Is Autumn & Andrew’s.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing the soundtrack for Waiting For A Star To Fall, and how each song inspired or enhanced the creation of the novel.  Impatient? Full Spotify playlist is here.

Every couple has a song.

Maybe it’s the song they first danced to.  Maybe it’s a song they bonded over while talking at a party.  Maybe it’s not romantic, but a fun in-joke shared between lovers.  Maybe they had to find something to dance to at their wedding and finally connected with this particular tune.  But don’t let them lie to you.  Every couple has a song.

(For randomness, my song with my husband is Muse’s “Resistance”.  We had a bit of a hidden love affair when we met, due to working together.  And yes, we danced to it at our wedding, albeit an instrumental piano rendition.)

For two characters brought together by music, there were so many choices.  In Change Of Season, Andrew shoves aside his anxiety and sings a song meant as a love note to Autumn at a talent show.  They share a moment of quiet contentment and significance to another song.  These two, if I let them, would make each other mix tapes.  Among my writing playlists, I have a mix that contains every single song that reminds me of their relationship, or songs that frame their ups and downs.

How do you choose one song?  If you breathe melody like I do, and you listen to your characters, it chooses itself.

Autumn’s favourite artist is Andrew McMahon and his many monikers, including Jack’s Mannequin.  It leads to a few soft giggles between the couple, given that she’s found an Andrew of her very own.  Many of his songs featured in the Change Of Season playlist, including a song called “Casting Lines”.  I really liked it — I’m a sucker for a piano ballad with oomph and heart — but I didn’t fall head over heels for it until I wrote this scene in the first book of the series as it shuffled up on iTunes:

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