29 Nov Drummer Girl

The Next Big Thing is a game of literary tag. Susan McCallum, a writer I admire much, tagged me to tell you about my latest writing project. As of this post, I’m tagging Michael Downs and Jane Delury, two terrifically talented Baltimore writers who will tell you about theirs. So let me begin:

“What is the working title of your book?

Drummer Girl.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I used to be a drummer on the casino circuit in Nevada and the honky tonk circuit in California. That’s how I spent my twenties. Live music — that is, bands in clubs (not concerts) — has all but disappeared in America. It’s never been an easy way to make a living but it was a way, nonetheless, for a lot of talented people who seemed to have few other options. Now it’s a vanishing way of life. I find that of interest. I want to capture what it’s like living as that kind of artist in this country, which is very hard on its artists.

What genre does your book fall under?


Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Too many to name, really. But the actress playing the lead should not be gorgeous. Jennifer Lawrence would be perfect in this role.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Rainy Conners quits her steady gig as a drummer in an all-girl casino country band and must find another way to make a living in post-crash America.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m still writing it. It should take me a year.

What other books would you compare your story to within this genre?

This book is small in scope and quirky. I’d like it to have the warm, humorous appeal of a Peter Cameron novel and the quirky, American-kitschy charm of Dellio’s White Noise (one of THE great American novels).

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My life as a road musician — and the people I knew as a musician — inspired this story. I want to capture what it’s like living in this wild, vast, hopeful, sometimes heartless country at that level (near the bottom). The road musician aspect allows me to cover a lot of ground, literally.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The story gives readers a close-up view of three places: California’s San Joaquin Valley, where Rainy’s parents work in a packing house, sorting oranges; Berkeley, CA, where Rainy lives with her slacker boyfriend, Kai; and Winnemuccca, Nevada, a small casino town that represents every town Rainy has worked in. On the one hand, the book is a love letter to California, where I was born and where my father grew up. It’s a state of wild dimensions and stark contrasts. My grandmother was an itinerant farm worker in the San Joanquin orange groves for most of her life. I lived there with her after I got out of college, a time of great pain and hope for me: my father had just died and I had no idea what I would do.

On the other hand, it’s a story about chasing after the American dream, which (alas) is a fantasy for 99% of Americans: given the the reality of working from paycheck to paycheck, that dream is unreachable. That doesn’t mean we’re without hope. On the contrary, we’re brimming with hope: that’s the remarkable thing about Americans — they just don’t give up. At bottom, that’s what what the story’s about.