The Writing Life is pleased to welcome fellow Booktrope author, Dave O’Leary.
Dave O’Leary is a writer and musician living in Seattle. His second novel, The Music Book, is a collection of the writings O’Leary has done about Seattle bands for both Northwest Music Scene (http://www.northwestmusicscene.com/author/davemusic/) and the now defunct Seattle Subsonic. It is a fictional narrative wrapped around and within the actual music, a story about live music in Seattle and, more broadly, about the power of music in our lives. A CD of the music experienced in the book has been released by Seattle indie label, Critical Sun Recordings.
Photo credit to Stacy Albright
What is your book’s genre/category?
The Music Book is literary fiction. It’s the kind of stuff I most like to read, and I’ve always wanted to write something that could be considered in the same league as, say, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.
Please describe what the story/book is about.
The Music Book is a collection of the writings I’ve done about Seattle bands for both Northwest Music Scene and the now defunct Seattle Subsonic. It is a fictional narrative wrapped around and within the actual music, a story about live music in Seattle and, more broadly, about the power of music in our lives. Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:
What does music mean? Can it be more than the sum of its notes and melodies? Can it truly change you? Rob, a musician turned reluctant music critic, poses these questions as everything important in his life appears to be fading—memories of lost love, songs from his old bands, even his hearing. He delves into the music of others to find solace and purpose, and discovers that the chords and repeated phrases echo themes that have emerged in his own life. The music sustains him, but can it revive him?
The Music Book is a story of loss, of fear and loneliness, of a mutable past. But most of all it’s about music as a force, as energy, as a creator of possibility. What might come from the sound of an A chord played just so? Rob listens. And among other things, he finds surprising companionship with a cat; another chance at love; and the courage to step on a stage again and finally, fully comprehend the power of sound.
How did you come up with the title?
It was the working title for the book, but when I finished the manuscript I knew that it was the perfect title for a novel about the power of music.
What is the reason you wrote this book?
When I was finishing my first novel, Horse Bite, I was contacted by a music blog in Seattle called Seattle Subsonic. They wanted me to write for them since I’d had some music themes in my personal blog, and they liked the quality of the writing, but I was reluctant at first since I didn’t want to be a critic. In music, I’d always been the one on stage so I had a hard time imagining myself in the role of critic, being at a bar not to play or enjoy the music but to be a kind of judge of its merits. What I wound up doing then was insert myself into the writing. It wasn’t just about the music. It was about my experience of the music, and I found that doing it that way allowed me to really get into chords and melodies and lyrics, into what it was like to watch the band while scribbling notes and drinking a beer at the end of the bar. I also found that the bands quite enjoyed what I was writing. They enjoyed the perspective. The readers did too. Eventually, Stacy Meyer, singer for a band called Furniture Girls, told me one night she’d love to see a collection of those writings in a book. That was the genesis of it, but I knew the book couldn’t just be a collection of reviews about local bands in Seattle. What I did instead was take the themes that had shown themselves in the music articles and build a fictional narrative around those. The book is thus a blend of fiction and non-fiction. The bands and music are real. The story wrapped around it is fiction.
What is your favorite part of writing?
The best part of writing is that moment where the characters take over and say and do things that were not planned. That can apply to the narrator too. I guess it’s the moment when the story takes over and almost starts to tell itself. As a musician, some of my favorite moments on stage where the improvised moments, the moments unexpected things happened and all the musicians followed and created something magical. Those writing moments feel very similar. I’m still the writer, the words still flow from me, but they flow free and natural, effortless.
What is the most challenging aspect of writing?
The most challenging aspect is making yourself write everyday. There’s this thing called life that can’t be ignored. There’s the rent to pay, the day job to maintain until writing can pay the bills. There are times when I’m tired or sick or I just want to have a few drinks on the deck with my fiancée. It’s hard sometimes to make time, but that’s what you have to do, and those who really want to do it, will make the time.
Who are some of your favorite authors? What authors or person(s) have influenced you?
My favorite authors are Haruki Murakami, Virginia Woolf, Charles Bukowski, and Graham Swift, and those are all writers of literary fiction, but I’ve been influenced by a wider variety of stuff. I loved J.R.R. Tolkien when I was young because I was just in awe of the man’s imagination and his ability to create whole new worlds. I actually have a blog post about the books that have most influenced over the years:
Favorite place to write?
I have a writing/music room set up in my basement. It’s where I go to get away by either playing guitar or working on my next book. I love it down there. There aren’t any windows or pictures on the walls. I just have a few bookcases and my guitars and amps. It’s a room set up for the single purpose of creating music and stories. I even have a little refrigerator down there. The only thing its missing is a coffee maker.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I lived in South Korea for eight years. I went over there to teach English and see a bit of the world. The plan was to stay only one year, but that turned into eight as I discovered I enjoyed living overseas. Everyone should. It gives one new perspective. I’m a white male so living over there I was actually in the minority, and I did experience mild forms of discrimination, things like a taxi driver refusing to give me a ride. I know it’s nothing like what minorities go through in this country, but it opened my eyes for sure and gave me at least a tiny window into that kind of experience.
Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?
The learning experience is that once the book is published there’s still so much to do, at least when working with small publishers as I’ve done. You have to become very good at managing your time between promoting the current book and getting started on the next one.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?
I took my time with it. I didn’t rush through the writing of it. I’m not one of those writers who feels the need to get a set amount of writing done each day. I try to get something written every day, but I don’t count words. I go by the content and the feel. Sometimes all I have in me on a particular day is a paragraph, but so long as that paragraph says everything I want it to then I’m OK. The Music Book took a couple years to finish for that reason. I didn’t force it.
Any advice for writers looking to get published?
Be patient. Don’t accept the first thing that comes along just because you’re in a rush to get published.
Where can we find your book?
The Music Book can found online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I know some indie bookstores have it in stock, and it’s also available in Barnes & Noble’s Seattle area stores.
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-music-book-dave-oleary/1120420210
In an odd way, I’ve received much more support from Barnes & Noble for both of my books than I have from the local indie stores. Hard to say why that is, but it makes me a B&N supporter.
Also since the music in The Music Book is real, we put together a CD of the songs experienced in the book, and the sales of the CD will benefit the Wishlist Foundation, which is a Pearl Jam fan-run nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Pearl Jam’s charitable and philanthropic efforts. The charity fit since Pearl Jam is in the book. The music is thus available on line so hopefully readers will take a listen and help support the charity.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on expanding a short story into a novella or novel length work. The short story is called Condoms on Christmas and was published in 2012 by The Monarch Review, but I’ve always wanted to expand it. If it ends up as a novella, then I’ll probably publish it as part of a collection of short stories, one of which, Valentine’s Seahorse (http://www.amazon.com/Valentines-Seahorse-Dave-OLeary-ebook/dp/B00TBLOVFY/ ), was already published as an ebook by Booktrope. And yes, there’d be a holiday theme of sorts with stories that revolve in someway around a holiday.
Thanks for an interesting interview, Dave! Best of luck with your books.
About EleanorParker Sapia
Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s work as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.
A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club, Book of the Month. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and she currently lives in West Virginia.
A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M