I think this is where I admit that this is never going to be a purely industry blog, and go from there. Because if I can be myself, be more natural, it’ll help me write more. I’m not sure if it’ll help me SELL more, but then… I write because I write. I’m thrilled to sell when I sell, yes, and I WANT to sell books and stories. But this is so you (readers) can meet me (the writer).
So today I’m thinking about music.
Years ago (back in 2007) a friend of mine (let’s call her B) gave me music mixes of her top songs of the year. I loved them, and I loved getting to see new music and discover new bands. But it wasn’t until a year later that some of those bands gelled in my mind into a proper fandom. And you can laugh, but in the October 2008, at the age of forty, I finally saw my first proper rock concert in a club.
Oh, I’d seen shows in arenas. But this was different. This was getting there early enough to claim a space against the barrier between the upper and lower areas, so I could see over the crush in front of me. This was standing there near the lighting booth and trying not to lose my precious space while people pressed in behind me. This was learning to “stand wide” so that when one of us needed to walk away (hit the bathroom, buy merch, get water) we could stand in for two people and not lose space. This was learning to breath in a crazy haze of perspiration, alcohol and perfume that infused the air.
It was energy and it was BRILLIANT. It informed my writing and wormed things into my brain that I never lost. It caught at me, dragging me in to a point where I am now apparently the mom who takes kids to concerts, now that my daughter is fourteen and finally really into the idea of going herself.
That first show was headlined by The Academy Is… with frontman William Beckett. It was also the show where I discovered We The Kings (who are now often fondly referred to as “my boys” and I love to see them as often as I can). I had already falling in love with TAI’s music, and at that show I fell in love with their stage presence. I later heard Bill Beckett referred to as having a Mick Jagger presence, the way he strutted around the stage. He’s tall and lanky, and he comes alive on stage. Off-stage he’s intelligent. A film buff who twists words into poetry and lyrics like no one’s business. He’s quiet, and managed to keep his family out of the limelight for a long time, and when he did let people into his personal life he did it without fanfare and because he didn’t want fans to think he was lying to them.
Yeah, maybe I idolize this young man just a bit. He impresses me with age beyond his years. He’s the sort of guy I’d love to talk to about words and how they feel when you rub them together, seeking just the right combinations. I’d love to hear how his love of film informs his writing. In the ramp up for his most recent EP, he posted a quote from the movie “The Warriors” and when I received the EP today I was delighted to see that there is a song called “Warriors” on the EP.
I was thrilled when they toured with Kiss a couple summers back, because we were able to see the show at SPAC as a family, and my husband and daughter finally got to see why I tried to see TAI every change I got (Kiss wasn’t bad, either *grins*). Then I was crushed not all that long later when the news came out that The Academy Is… had decided to go their separate ways.
I can’t begrudge a band for the need to move on. People grow, and especially in their early twenties, people are still discovering who they are. Particularly in the arts, where every experience changes us. I’m not the writer I once was, and I’m still changing. How can we expect that our musical heroes will never change?
William Beckett has gone on to a solo career, and has put out two EPs recently. He’s playing with musical techniques, trying out different things on songs. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I don’t. For one thing, I love his voice, so I’m just kind of sad when he ramps up the Autotune to the point that his voice sounds electronic. But in the end, I still love his songs and his words, and they get inside my head and I find myself thinking about them when I write, when I run, when I’m just sitting around doing nothing.
What does this have to do with YA writing? Actually, everything.
I introduced my daughter to All Time Low, We the Kings, The Academy Is… and a whole bunch of other bands. As her musical tastes grew and changed, she has in turn introduced me to more music. I enjoy talking music with her and her friends, and yes, I like being the mom who takes the kids to Hot Topic (I shop there, too) and to concerts. I stay in touch with my kid through our shared love of words and music.
In fact, right now I’m putting music on her phone based on things we have both bought. She trusts me by giving me her phone and saying, “Put things on it. You know what I like.” And I do. And I’m glad of that.
Music helps keep me in touch with the age I’m writing. It’s an important part of how I make words, and I thank these musicians for that. They let me see what life is like through their eyes, and help me see the world through my child’s eyes. They give us a common ground for discussion, and that is invaluable to me.