Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
I was born and reared in the Salem, Massachusetts area. I currently live in Monterrey, CA with my wife—a US Naval Officer—and our four children. I’m a retired police officer and worked in law enforcement for sixteen years from 2002 – 2018. I’m a self-proclaimed roller coaster junkie, a New England Patriots fanatic, and my favorite color is burnt orange.
What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?
I write primarily in a genre called rock fiction, where a single song, an entire album, or the span of a band/artist’s complete work is novelized, using the literal lyrics to directly create the plotline and story arc, and usually the title of the book/story is taken directly from the song/album that the work is an adaptation of. But what makes it special, is being able to write a story or novel where the reader doesn’t even need to have ever heard the songs/album to understand and enjoy the work.
These novels and stories, although adaptations of albums or songs, are also stand-alone books. Just like you don’t have to have read a book to enjoy or understand the movie adaptation, you don’t need to have heard the album (or even need to have ever heard OF the band before) to understand or love a rock-fiction novel. (Think the film or play adaptations of albums like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”and The Who’s “Tommy,” except it’s the novelization of the album, not the movie adaptation).
Rock-fiction novels are unique in the sense that they already have two built-in audiences right out of the gate: the fan base of whatever band’s album is being adapted, and the fan base of the genre the book is written in. It’s not a prerequisite to know the album to read a rock-fiction novel. In fact, I bet most people read a rock-fiction novel purely based on its blurb and have no idea it is an album adaptation. That’s the beauty of rock fiction.
My 5 published novels:
1. My novel about befriending a drug-addicted rock star, “Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts,” uses the songs of God Lives Underwater and 90’s music as the backdrop. The novel explores the trials and tribulations of befriending a rock star who becomes a drug addict while dealing with fame, depression, social anxiety, and the throes of the music business.
2. While not a true rock-fiction novel, Billy Joel’s song, “Piano Man,” inspired and was the foundation for my cerebral-horror novel, “Welcome to Parkview.” In the novel, the town itself is the main character as the story arc follows the individual residents and how the town starts to eat away at the fabric of their lives. (One reviewer described it as Stephen King meets The Twilight Zone.)
3. My time-travel romance novel, “Yours Truly, 2095,” is an adaptation of Electric Light Orchestra’s concept album, “Time.” The novel follows a man who wakes up 114 years in the future; a future that has many opportunities for a new start from a past shrouded in a failing marriage and a deceased daughter. He must decide whether he wants to stay forever in his shiny new life in 2095 or return to 1981 and try to reconcile and repair the life he left behind.
4 & 5. My supernatural crime-noir thriller, the “Moonlight City Drive” Trilogy, is a novelization of Dog Fashion Disco’s concept album, “Adultery.” Set in a Dick Tracy meets Sin City atmosphere of 1947 Las Vegas, the story follows a detective on the trail of a Jack-the-Ripper-style killer, who he starts to admire and must decide if he should continue the cat-and-mouse chase or join the killer in his cleansing of society, unaware they all might just be puppets being controlled by a vengeful and ancient witch and her growing army of ghouls.
My 4 of my 5 published short stories:
1. My throwback to the old Creature Double Feature monster stories, “Outside of Heaven,” (which appears in the anthology “A Matter of Words”) is an adaptation of Moby’s song, “Spiders.” The story surrounds a group of strangers stuck at a hotel when the Biblical rapture happens. Some of the guests have been taken away and some have been left behind. But the clarity of which ones have been saved and which ones have been damned blurs as night turns to dawn.
2. My modern-day mythology-romance story, “The Whaler’s Dues,” (which appears in the anthology “A Journey of Words”) is an adaptation of Jethro Tull’s album, “Rock Island.” The story focuses on a man in love with a stripper, but when they are forced to flee from the law together, he realizes she is much more than he ever bargained for. During their escape, he also discovers he is not the person he always thought he was either. Trapped on a series of islands, he comes to understand nothing about life had ever been as it had appeared.
3. My disenchanted-youth ghost story, “Anesthetize (or A Dream Played in Reverse on Piano Keys),” (which appears in the anthology “A Haunting of Words”) is an adaptation of Porcupine Tree’s concept album, “Fear of a Blank Planet.” The story involves a cat named Bonnie, a scorned lover with a restraining order, a chatty best friend swinging from the trees near the train tracks by the lake … and an insidious secret hiding inside one of the train cabins.
4. My western, “Two Gunslingers,” (which appears in the anthology “A Contract of Words”) is an adaptation of Tom Petty & The Heartbreaker’s song of the same name. The short story revolves around two men who owe a shady barkeep a handsome debt and agree to settle it with a duel at high noon, but one gunslinger has a different trick up his sleeve.
5. My coming-of-age story, “Come Moonshine or Fog,” (which will appear in the anthology, “A Bond of Words”) is an adaptation of the The The’s song “Jealous of Youth.” The short story revolves around that awkward time as a young teen where you meet an unlikely best friend, who may or may not become more than just platonic.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
Music. As you can see from my winded description above about rock fiction. Music pretty much drives everything I do.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Because I write in rock fiction, my titles are all either song titles or lyrics from the source material (ie the band or album I am adapting)
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
It took me years to realize this, since I’ve been a published author for 12 years now, but reviews are for potential readers, not for the author. So I stopped reading reviews altogether. I haven’t read or checked on any reviews of my novels for a few years now. I did get a 1-star review of my novel Yours Truly, 2095 where the reviewer was so angry at me that my wife and I read it about 3 times, just laughing at how angered he was with the ending of the book because it wasn’t what he ‘saw happening.’
How has your creation process improved over time?
I have a topnotch editor, and I think she makes me a better writer with every novel and short story that gets published. I also have learned to focus when I’m writing and set a regiment.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The worst was having my editor remove an entire subplot from one of my novels because it didn’t add anything to the overall plotline. It took me 2 weeks to get over it and finally agree with her. The most surprising is how many people still read my first novel (from 2007) and contact me with their own stories of struggling with drug addiction or their plights with helping a drug addict and that my book helped them in some way come to terms with it.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
Because I write so much within the confines of music, I try to balance writing the way the other diehard fans of the band or album would see the storyline of the songs, with my own interpretations and what I think the album is trying to convey. With Moonlight City Drive, I did set up a FB group of about 500 Dog Fashion Disco fans and bounced ideas off them. So they felt they had a hand in being a part of the creative force sculpting the novelization of their favorite album.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
I’ll give you hint. I’ll leave out the vowels, and you can fill in the rest: V_DK_
What are your plans for future books?
1. A quasi-sci-fi novella adaptation of Digital Underground’s album, “Sex Packets,” focusing around the bumbling antics of the Packet Man as he distributes the pornographic drug on the streets.
2. A historical-fiction novelization of Pink Floyd’s concept album, “The Final Cut,” focusing on a soldier’s return to England after fighting in the Falklands War. While trying to assume normalcy, he’ll have to deal with hero’s remorse and PTSD as his life falls apart around him, including a downward spiral into alcoholism, infidelity, and the emotional and mental breakdown that ensues as a veteran of a political war. What he doesn’t realize is he will survive his post-war trauma and emerge as a better person after eventually finding happiness.
3. A novelization of all five Jane Jensen albums, as if all her albums were one, long, single story arc about a struggling coffee-house singer/songwriter who packs up all her belongings and takes a cross-country trip with a group of friends to try to find success on the other side of the country. I will be working personally with Jane during the process. While the novel will obviously pull from certain songs more than others, her entire body of work will be represented in the plot line.
On the horizon are intentions to turn albums by EMF, Thursday, Guns N Roses, and the doo-wop music of the 50s & 60s into novels.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I grew up living in a funeral home, I have webbed feet (and my daughter, Edelweiss, was born with same exact 4 toes webbed as me), and I own a 1981 DeLorean with only 17,500 miles (yes, the Back to the Future car, for those of you who don’t recognize the car name).