Struts and Frets
First, I have to say a quick thank you to Dianne Salerni of In High Spirits for sending me this book. I won it on her blog in her 100 followers contest and chose it precisely because it was written by a guy and from a guy’s perspective.
And boy did I make the right choice! I loved this book! It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be, very well written, and no bumps. You know, those potholes I mentioned a while back that make you stop reading and go back and read the sentence again. And for a book that had absolutely no references to anything paranormal or otherworldly this book held my interest from beginning to end. I even stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it!
I really liked Sammy, the main character, because he wasn’t the most popular kid in school (like me), but he has his little circle of friends, the girl, Jen5 – love how she gets her name – and a mom that’s smart and real and, according to his friends, hot! That was funny. He also has obstacles, things to fret over, like his grandfather who is a huge inspiration to him but who is also slowly losing it, and the leader of the band he’s in who isn’t much of a leader, more like a tyrant. And then there’s Jen5, who has been his friend forever, a smart, funny, creative girl who plays tough but pours all her feelings into her art. These are the characters that made me love the story and those of you who know me know I cannot love a book unless I love the characters.
Jon Skovron gave me characters to love and care about, so that even though the obstacles Sammy faces – the gf, his grandfather’s slow fade into senility, what to do about that overbearing jerk that’s ruining the band, how to get over his fear of singing in public – are not life threatening (like in a lot of the books I favor) I kept turning the pages because I had to find out how Sammy makes it through this messy part of his life. And let’s face it, most of high school can be plenty messy without werewolves, vampires, fairies, magick, or bad guys trying to kill you. I was completely hooked.
So thank you Jon, for writing this book, and thanks for agreeing to this interview. I really appreciate you taking the time.
Ok, so here are the questions:
1. First, I have to ask how you came up with the title. I thought it was simply a reference to music, which made perfect sense. Then I remembered (duh!) one of the definitions of the words. But then I came across the Macbeth reference toward the end. Did you know all this when you decided on the title? Brilliant, by the way:)
I'll be sure you convey your compliments to the person who actually came up with that great title: my editor, Maggie Lehrman. The book was originally called something else, but the Sales peeps didn't really dig it. My editor and I brainstormed a bunch of ideas, and after some real stinkers, she came up with that little multi-facetted gem.
2. What led you to write this particular book?
I was working on something completely different, an adult dark urban fantasy, and it wasn't really going well. My agent at the time suggested I take a break from it and try something different, like YA. I hadn't read much current YA stuff then, so I picked up a big stack of them from the library, read them all, and was like, "Wow, this is really amazing stuff!" Then... nothing happened. For a little while, anyway. A few weeks later, I was feeding my younger son a bottle (he's 5 now, so that tells you how long it takes to get a book published) and it was really late at night and I was kind of delirious, and this voice, Sammy's voice, came into my head and just said, "One thing I knew for sure, we were going to be famous." I don't even think that line made it into the published version, but it was the line that crystalized the character in my mind. I started writing the book the next morning.
3. I loved the characters in the book; they are all so real. Did you base them on people you know/knew? Is Sammy you, or, the person you used to be in high school?
It's hard to answer that question, because when I'm writing, I'm not really paying attention to that kind of stuff. I jump all over the place, putting real people in different contexts or different ages, different settings, or asking myself, "What if was X had done something else with their life?" For example, the grandfather is based a lot on my own grandfather, but with one really big difference. Sammy's grandfather choice to be a professional musician. My grandfather was a musician, and started down the road toward professional, but then changed his mind and became a dentist instead. I always wondered what it would have been life if he'd stuck with it. Struts & Frets is, in part, me imaging that.
Sammy and I have a lot in common, but we also differ in some ways. I was a little less emo, a little more punk.
4. In addition to being a writer, you are also a musician. Did you have to do much research for the book or did all the music references come from personal knowledge you had already acquired?
There was zero research that went into Struts & Frets. I've been playing music since I was in fourth grade. I am a total music junkie. Rock, Jazz, Hip Hop, Electronic, Folk, I listen to it all.
5. I have to ask about what you're working on now. I saw on your blog it's called Misfits and it's about a demon girl who goes to Catholic school. Can you tell us anything more? Like maybe what the back cover will say? And do I really have to wait until 2011 to read it?!
Believe it or not, the authors don't actually get to write the back cover verbiage. That's done by the publisher. Although they usually run it by the author, and if the author totally hates it, they might change it a bit.
Misfit is my next novel, and it is about a demon girl in Catholic school. Obviously, it's pretty different from Struts & Frets, which freaked my publisher out a little. Thankfully, she and my editor are both so awesome that they were more interested in good stories than "author branding". And in the end, it's still me. My humor, my heart. But, you know...with demons.
Of course, that line above is really just the hook. What it's really about is a girl named Jael Thompson. She's like a lot of teenage girls. Smart, a little sarcastic. She wants friends, possibly even a boyfriend. But she has this terrible secret. Her mother was a demoness. And on one hand, she's terrified that being half demon makes her evil somehow. Or at least half evil. So she does everything she can to counteract or repress her semi-demonic nature. On the other hand, she has this incredible desire to learn about her mother, who died when she was only a baby. While her father, a bitter ex-priest, has spent most of her life protecting her, even he can't hold back the creatures of Hell when they come looking for her. But maybe demons aren't exactly what people think, and neither is Hell.
6. Finally, is there anything you’d like to add?
Thanks so much for giving me this opportunity. It was a lot of fun. It's also the first time I've talked about Misfit in anything more then the most elusive terms, because I just turned in my final revisions last week!
And yes, that means you have to wait until 2011. If it make you feel better, it seems like forever to me also. I can't wait for people to read it!
Again, I appreciate you doing this interview with me and I hope I can get you some more fans - because you deserve them! And I can't wait to read Misfits; it sounds like a wicked lot of fun.