What a wild and crazy ride it is writing a book, from creating the characters and storyline to publishing and spreading the news to everyone about my latest creation, Adelaide and the Battle of the Bands. If you haven’t read it yet, you can pick it up cheap at Amazon Kindle and then come back to read this bonus commentary, where I talk about my thoughts behind the story!
Chapter 1: The Call
Writing about people in a band is one of the first ideas I had for becoming a novelist, so it isn’t surprising that it only took until my second book to do it. Musicians have a lot in common with authors, except that they live on the road and are generally much, much cooler.
Adelaide is not named after the city in Australia, but rather based on the song by alternative rock band Anberlin on their Cities album, one of my own personal favorite records of all time. The name was under consideration for my own daughter, but we chose Ellie instead so the name gets a book instead.
I based Adelaide’s father’s line of work loosely on my own experience in the timber industry, having worked a couple summers in various types of wood mills. I woke up sore every single morning. I don’t miss it.
It is really difficult coming up with a band name. It is even more difficult to come up with the dozen or so band names I created for this book, because it seems like everything is taken. Try coming up with a band name, type it into Facebook and see if there is already a band with that name. There’s a good chance there’s at least something close.
Chapter 2: The New Singer
Adelaide has a beater of a hand-me-down car, just like I think every teenager should have. My brother got an old Ford Escort that he nearly ran into the ground and I had an old Nissan pickup that I drove until I was 27. It builds character or something.
I’ve never in my entire life been in a talent show. They don’t have talent shows for people who are pretty good at math. I do remember a talent show from junior high where a girl sang Lisa Loeb’s song, “You Stay.” This is back when that was a very popular song, not just an oldie they play at grocery stores. She nailed it and I remember it nearly two decades later. That’s what I thought about when I wrote about Adelaide’s own talent show performance.
Spencer was named after the best man in my wedding, who also happens to be a guitarist and was very much into the garage/alternative scene way back in the day…and that is about all he has in common with the character.
Chapter 3: The Set List
For the record, I don’t think I would last in the band for more than a day or two. Not just because I am a terrible musician, but because I don’t think I could handle all the arguing. It’s normal conversation for some people, but I wouldn’t cut it.
Band dynamics have always intrigued me, especially what goes behind the making and breaking of a band. People often have different goals. Some want to make art. Some want to make friends. Some want to make money. Some can make it through the tough times and some find out quickly that they can’t make it out on the road. It’s a different kind of lifestyle than most people could live and I think a lot of us would be surprised at just how difficult it can be for them.
Chapter 4: The Jam Session
One of the major premises of the book is obviously that this band has to come together so quickly to make three songs together and perform them. This would be insanely difficult, I think, but what good is a story without someone overcoming exceptionally difficult circumstances? I know quite a few musicians who can play music on the fly, but making up 3 from (almost) scratch in a single day? Including lyrics? I think it would be possible, but extremely difficult to master. Every hero needs a challenge.
The Demo Extractor 3000 does not exist, but if you want I can buy a recorder, label it as such, then sell it to you for double the price. Capitalism at its finest! Yes, I do have a business degree, why do you ask?
I feel Adelaide’s pain in wanting her song to be juuuuust right. Any kind of creative person is never sure when their creation is perfect because it is never going to be perfect. Sometimes you just have to put it out there and hope somebody likes it. I can’t be in the same room when my wife reads a chapter for the first time. I’m too nervous. But it has to be read sometime.
Chapter 5: The Wardrobe
I named the competition that the band entered “The Bridgetown Battle of the Bands” because Bridgetown is one of Portland, Oregon’s many nicknames, as Bridges cross the Willamette River, which flows through the middle of the city.
Up to this point in my writing career I have no intention of ever flipping a book into a screenplay, but I often consider how my words would look if it were adapted into a movie. I want the scenes to be plausible and imagine how they would be acted out because I think scenes need to be realistic, if not in nature, at least in emotion. What I mean by that is that even science fiction should feel real. Even though it is unlikely that a Wookie planet exists, I still want to believe it could.
Chapter 6: The Visitor and The Boy With The Acoustic Guitar
This is the second book I have published. It is also the second book in which I have mentioned pizza and Mexican food. I think I like those things.
I think one of the most interesting dynamics to write about is family. As the father of a baby girl I think about things like how she will describe me to her friends one day and how that might compare to what I thought of my parents (and then the other way around, how I might describe her and how my parents might describe me). So Adelaide’s interaction with her own family has a lot to do with how family relationships are interesting in that there is sometimes even major conflict yet a bond that is not easily broken (hopefully).
Chapter 7: The Battle Begins
Having Adelaide attempt to memorize three songs within hours of the band’s performance reminds me of my freshman year in college. My first quarter I had to take a communications class and we were required to make three speeches in front of the class during the term. Of course, this meant coming up with a speech in the final hours before class and going over it again and again before class started. Some people handled it better than others. Some acted like it was no big deal. Others were visibly shaken by the experience. I was just glad when it was over.
Rip Blazington is a name based on something that only basketball fans from Oregon will probably understand. My dad got the joke right away. Portland is home of the NBA team the Trail Blazers. Portland got another nickname, “Rip City,” based on what one of their old radio announcers used to say when the team made an exciting score.
The Bridgetown Battle of the Bands has a pretty strange collection of bands in it because I wanted to keep with the motto of “Keep Portland Weird” that the city likes to go by.
Chapter 8: The Stage Fright
The opening paragraphs to this chapter made my wife feel sick. That’s how I knew for sure that, at least this one time, I was doing my job as a writer. The last three chapters of the book are probably the most fun I’ve had writing since I decided to become a novelist.
Some might wonder if this is a “Christian book.” Well, that can be tough to answer, as it all depends on an individual’s definition. I know that having covered Christian music for years as a blogger that not everyone agrees on how to define that kind of thing. Adelaide and the Battle of the Bands is not the same kind of book as my first novel, The Dream. I spread elements of my faith throughout this book, but it isn’t as explicit or obvious. Neither are some works by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien. I purposefully want to explore the different ways in which I can share my faith. Sometimes it will be more “in your face” and other times it may be more subtle. I’m a Christian and my books will reflect that one way or another because I write from that perspective, but how I share it will vary from book to book. How someone else defines that is up to them. I’m a Christian and I wrote a book. Call it what you will. I hope it glorifies God no matter what it is called.
Chapter 9: The Big Stage
Writing a story about a battle of the bands basically follows the same format as most sports books/movies. An underdog must overcome the odds to prove themselves and ultimately become winners (either as champions or becoming better people). I wasn’t 100 percent sure how the book would end when I was writing it, but the ending was pretty much the way I had originally imagined it to be and I think sticking to my guns was the right decision. My wife says she guessed the ending. Did you?
I hope you enjoyed the book. I am now working on the sequel to my first novel, The Dream. I will write the next book in the Adelaide series after that, God willing. Thank you for reading!