Keep On Truckin' - An Interview with S. K. Waller

Tell us about Beyond The Bridge. What is it about?
The Beyond The Bridge series is chiefly about Gordon Hammond, a English guitar god who, with his band Tuppence, rises up from the British Invasion of the 1960s to attain fame and fortune. That’s the surface of the story anyway. Beyond that, it’s the story of a group of people and how they get through the tumult of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s while dealing with the rewards and demands of their lifestyle. Even deeper, it’s about how fame is no respecter of persons and how life deals out blows regardless of how important people seem to be.

What inspired you to write the Beyond The Bridge series?
My eternal quest for rock and roll fame! A successful life as a rock star passed me by, so I gave it to my characters. The series idea came when I set up the initial outline. The story covers four decades and I thought that by putting it into one book, a lot of the story world be lost.

How did you come up with the title?
I know that a lot of people probably picture an physical bridge when they first read the title, but it’s actually a musical term. In music, a bridge is a transition, a section that carries the song over to its conclusion. Seemed fitting.

Is there a message in that you want readers to grasp?
Maybe that no matter what we do in life, whether we’re rich or poor, famous or unknown, life is no respecter of persons and we all go through our joys and sorrows. Stars are no different than we are, except that maybe life is more complicated for them.

How much of the story is actual fact?
The events in the musical world are faithful to actual timelines of those decades, but other than that it’s an historical fiction. I like the idea of clouding the lines that separate fact from fiction and sometimes it's hard to tell if something in the books really happened, or if I created it. My characters' lives mingle with those of actual celebrities. They go to the same clubs and parties, and are part of it all.

What is the easiest part of writing your books?
The characters. I love them. They’re my friends.

What's the most difficult?
The reading and research. I'm an historian and I detest shoddy, lazy research, so it seems that every day there's something new for me to track down and confirm.

Of your characters, which one do you like the best and which one do you like least?
Well, I like Gordon best, of course. He’s a good guy, but he’s not perfect. He means well and he lives his life following his own code of integrity regardless of what it costs him. I like that. Having said that, I also adore Noel. He's the one who can make me laugh when things start getting a bit heavy.

Are any of your characters based on actual people?
The eternal question! Of course they are, but they’ve developed to where they’re not easily recognizable. Gordon is very much his own man, although he's based on a number of guitarists I know. Noel is based on an old friend of mine who played bass in a blues band we had for a while, but I wouldn't count on me revealing his identity if I were you.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I wish I could tell you that when I sit down to write, that’s it, it’s all I do. I also wish I could tell you that I’m gloriously disciplined and don’t consider it a good writing day unless I’ve written ten pages or so many thousand words, but it’s just not true. I have so many other things going on, I’m forced to write catch-as-catch-can. My best writing time is late at night—the wee hours, really—when everyone both in the home and online is asleep. Plus, I have to have something I want to write, a particular scene or something like that. I don’t work on inspiration so much as on mood and available time, but once I get into the writing thing—once the day’s work is over—I can spend 12 to 15 hours at a time, writing.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I like to harvest photos of people from the internet who resemble my characters in some way, then Photoshop them until they’re basically unrecognizable from the originals. I have a slideshow screensaver on my computer with these pictures and it makes my characters very real to me. I also make detailed character analyses, but the information on those often changes as the story progresses. Nothing is set in stone when I write; I don’t like restrictions like that. I like my characters to tell me about themselves. I allow them to evolve through the passage of their own time.

Do your characters ever surprise you?
All the bloody time!

When and why did you begin writing?
My very first piece was a poem I wrote in 1st grade about Halloween. It wasn't half bad, especially for a six year-old! In 5th grade I wrote a play—a spoof of Bonanza set in the 20th century. It was actually performed, but I didn't get to see it. It was later, in high school, that I decided I wanted to write. Music took precedence over that, however, until only very recently. Now I’ve found a way to combine the two. I may be too old to break into the music business, but I'm just the right age to share what I learned through all those years of trying.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I never didn’t consider myself a writer.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I don’t think I have one. I have favorite authors, but I wouldn’t consider any of them a mentor where this book is concerned. Perhaps in a broader sense, Robert Spryszak, for his ability to look unflinchingly into his characters and their lives, as well as his own. He’s a no-nonsense writer. People need to know about him.

Where can we purchase Beyond The Bridge?
You can always visit the Beyond The Bridge website.

The views and opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of Alla Breve Books. If you would like to re-post this interview, or any part of it, please contact Alla Breve Books at allabrevebooks@allabreve.org


Removing Modern Filters - An Interview with K. Lynette Erwin

K. Lynette Erwin is the author of So Faithful A Heart: The Love Story of Nancy Storace and Wolfgang Mozart, published in December 2009.

When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing when I was in my early teens. I think the first short story I ever wrote was for my 8th grade English class. We were studying Greek Mythology and were asked to write our own tale based on the characters found within that tradition, incorporating their personalities, attributes and relationships. My teacher was so impressed with my story that she recommended me for the Honors English track when I entered high school.

When I was sixteen I began writing a love story about a couple in 18th century England. I don’t remember all of the details, except that the characters and situations were amazingly similar to those found in So Faithful a Heart. It’s astounding considering that I didn’t begin my research on Nancy Storace for another twenty-four years.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I would say that I personally considered myself a writer when I was in college. I wrote several short works and articles for various college publications and newspapers. I enjoyed writing on historical, political, and musical subjects.

What inspired you to write So Faithful A Heart?
In the fall of 1999 I began work on my master of music in vocal performance and pedagogy. I had already put in several years worth of research on Mozart, my favorite composer, when I stumbled upon some information about one of his favorite sopranos and his original Susanna in his comic opera Le Nozze di Figaro, Nancy Storace. I was fascinated by her story and astounded by the fact that despite the wealth of information about her, so little had been written, recently, of her. When I learned that many notable and respected Mozart historians believed that Mozart had been in love with her, and that there was evidence that he had written a series of letters to her that many believed to have been love letters, my interest was piqued. The chair of my graduate committee encouraged me to write my master’s thesis on Storace and her relationship with Mozart and I took him up on that advice. Years later, after traveling to Vienna with my partner, S. K. Waller to be featured in a documentary for Mozart’s 250th birthday, and putting in more background research into both Mozart and Storace, I felt compelled to write their story. It was as if Mozart and Nancy came to me and told me that I they had chosen me to write it. It was an epiphany, for lack of a better term.

How did you come up with the title?
The title is taken from a line in the concert aria that Mozart composed for Nancy as a gift in 1787, C’hio mi scordi di te…Non temer amato bene, K. 505. He composed it using obbligato piano—actually a duet for voice and piano—and played the piano part himself in her farewell concert in late February of 1787. The text is a lover’s lament over his forced separation from his love, and how, despite their cruel separation, his heart will always remain faithful to her.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are several messages in this novel that I believe are important, but I suppose that if I had to pin it down to the most important message, it’s that love transcends all manmade limitations. Human beings try to place all sorts of religious, moral, and ethical boundaries upon love, but two people can, and will, love one another, whether it’s within the scope of all the rules and regulations or not.

How much of the book is actual fact?
Well, personally, I believe it to be completely factual. It’s extremely difficult to pin it down to a percentage of what is fact and what is “fiction”. Of course, all of the love scenes and dialogue that take place between the characters are fictional. However, I based the structure of the story—timelines, dates, events, places, etc.—on documented facts taken from both Mozart’s and Storace’s biographies. There is nothing in this novel that couldn’t have happened, and any of what I have written as “fiction” could easily have taken place.

What was the easiest part of writing your book?
People will laugh, but the easiest parts of this book were the love scenes. Why? Because the emotions that poured forth from these two people for one another was so powerful and profound, those scenes literally wrote themselves.

What was the most difficult?
The most difficult technically was Nancy’s nervous breakdown on stage and staying within the 18th century’s limited understanding of human psychology and mental illness. The most difficult, emotionally, was the scene where John Fisher nearly beat Nancy to death with his fists. Domestic violence is horrible no matter the century in which it’s depicted.

What do you think your readers learn from your book?
I hope they learn that we cannot judge people from two-hundred years past by our 21st century standards, and that people are people no matter what time in history or culture they come from. Human beings have been plagued with the same difficulties and life lessons from the dawn of time. We return to this planet over and over again to learn those life lessons and to learn better how to love.

What books have most influenced your life most?
The first historical fiction novel I ever read was Gone With the Wind. I read it when I was thirteen years old, and in the course of about two years, I read it six times. I think that the strength and tenacity of the characters in the face of overwhelming tragedy were what stood out to me, and I often drew from their courage and strength, years later, when faced with the seemingly insurmountable difficulties in my own life. We should never underestimate the influential power of fictional literature upon our lives.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I consider my partner, Steph, my mentor. From the first time I read her historical fiction novel, Night Music: The Memoirs of Wolfgang Amadè Mozart, I was struck by her ability to make her characters so real, so human, and so accessible emotionally that I could literally see them and even sense them around me. I got lost in their lives, in their story. Writing is about communication, and some writers allow themselves to get in the way of communicating by following too many rules of writing (things that publishers and editors demand these days), and they don’t allow the characters to come to life. Steph is one of the few whose stories are easy to believe because her characters are so real.

Are you working on a new book?
I am. Don’t ask me what it’s about yet, because I haven’t completely decided. I’m not sure that I’ll write another historical fiction anytime soon. I spent ten years researching this one and I’m not entirely sure that I want to spend that much time researching another one!

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?
I learned that writer’s block is only a lazy excuse. If you have a story to tell and you have the ability to write, then there is no excuse not to write it.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Just write. Don’t get bogged down by the rules. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s “publishable”. You have a story to tell—tell it. Your editor will help you fix it later on.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
No, I was not uncomfortable writing the sex scenes in this book. So Faithful a Heart is a love story—a sometimes very torrid, passionate, and heated love story about two very passionate people. Although this book is an historical fiction and not a romance novel, the sex scenes are vivid because of the nature of the story. Without them it would be rather bloodless and flat.

Visit the So Faithful A Heart website
Visit the So Faithful a Heart weblog

The views and opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of Alla Breve Books. If you would like to re-post this interview, or any part of it, please contact Alla Breve Books at allabrevebooks@allabreve.org

Welcome to Alla Breve Books

Alla Breve for the Arts is proud to introduce its new division, Alla Breve Books, founded by SK Waller and Lynette Erwin.

Alla Breve Books desires to support and publish authors who dare to step to the forefront of the self-publishing revolution. No longer content to send manuscripts to large publishing houses whose only concern is "the bottom line" and to turn out formula books, we envision books that are well written, thought-provoking, and individualistic. Following the lead of such notables as the Bloomsbury Group and other self-published literaries who dared to think outside the box, we want to bring great books to the world.

Opponents will try to tell you that what we propose brings bad writing to print, but bookstore shelves are home to plenty of that from major publishers. They also will try to convince you that self-publishing can never lead to any kind of notoriety or financial advantage for the authors, but there are many famous titles that contradict this:

Remembrance of things Past
Marcel Proust

James Joyce

The Adventures of Peter Rabbit
Beatrix Potter

A Time to Kill
John Grisham

The Wealthy Barber
David Chilton

The Bridges of Madison County
Robert Waller

What Color is Your Parachute
Richard N. Bolles

In Search of Excellence
Tom Peters

The Celestine Prophecy
James Redfield

The Elements of Style
William Strunk, Jr.

The Joy of Cooking
Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker

When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple
Sandra Martz

Life’s Little Instruction Book
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Robert’s Rules of Order
Henry M. Robert III, William J. Evans, Daniel H. Honemann, and Thomas J. Balch

There are many more famous authors who were self-published:

Deepak Chopra
Stephen Crane
e.e. Cummings
Alexandre Dumas
William E.B. DuBois
Benjamin Franklin
Zane Grey
Rudyard Kipling
Anais Nin
Thomas Paine
Edgar Allen Poe
Beatrix Potter
Ezra Pound
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Carl Sandburg
Bernard Shaw
Upton Sinclair
Gertrude Stein
Henry David Thoreau
Mark Twain
Walt Whitman
Virginia Wolff

Self-publishing is allowing otherwise unpublished writers to create books that not only sell, but also to write according to their own dictates, not turn out only that which the business graduates who populate the publishing houses deem to be marketable. If authors write books that only a select group of publishers want, then the voice of people the world over becomes standardized and scripted, a current dangerous trend.
"It is unreasonable what some assert, 'That printers aught not to print anything but what they approve,' since if all of that business should make such a resolution, and abide by it, an end would thereby be put to free writing, and the world would afterwards have nothing to read but what happened to be the opinions of printers." Benjamin Franklin

We at Alla Breve Books believe the arts come first and, with financial support for the arts dwindling from both the government and the private sectors, it's our intent to publish books from many genres that the established publishers will not touch.

Please check out not only our titles, but those that we proudly endorse.

Thanks to Dan Poynter at ParaPublishing for these lists.