I love rock music. I love the crash of the drums, the thump of the bass, and the scream of electric guitars. I love the mythology, the weird stories that follow rock stars around whether they bear any resemblance to truth or not, and I love the imagery—the iconic shape of a Les Paul guitar, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper costumes, Elton John’s enormous boots in Tommy. I could go on.
As a writer, though, what attracted me to writing a story about a rock band is the personalities. Rock musicians have obsessive, driven, intensely creative personalities, and as a result, the average four-person rock band is a seething cauldron of personality conflicts, strange tensions and raging egos. There are a handful of classic conflicts. There’s the band with one member who’s more talented than the rest, who gets most of the attention—and hence a fair amount of resentment from the other members. There’s the classic pairing and tension between lead singer and lead guitarist. Think Mick and Keith, Slash and Axl, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. Unstoppable teams, but in some cases they create insurmountable conflicts as each tries to push his own creative vision.
And lastly, there’s the intra-band romantic pairing, which, as everybody knows, is a band-killing disaster just biding its time.
I’ve played guitar in local bands for over a ten years, watching (and taking part in) the blowups and small victories, the battles for creative vision, and the romantic confusion swirling through it all, and I thought for years that all this conflict was fertile ground for a great story. The only problem I had was finding an idea that would bind the elements together—a framework to hang it on, so to speak,that would help me make a cohesive story out of a messy collection of conflicts and half-formed ideas.
I’d like to say I carefully built that framework over the course of a couple of grueling months of ruminating, writing, and rewriting—give myself some credit, you know—but the truth is much simpler. I was having a hard time sleeping one night while I was traveling, doing the tossing and turning thing, and I finally drifted off at two or three in the morning. An hour later, for no good reason, I woke up with the basic premise of the story leaping out of my head. After that, it was just a question of writing it down over the next six weeks or so. I’ve never had a book go so smoothly.
The premise also turned out to be a piece of rock-and-roll mythology, subtly perverted to my own ends. The crossroads bargain, the classic deal with the devil. From there, all the pieces fell into place. What if there was a band with the one talented member, but it wasn’t the singer? And what if, in his jealousy and insecurity, the singer made a very bad deal with a very bad entity—and maybe the terms weren’t exactly what he thought they were? What if, in fact, he got way more than he bargained for?
The resulting story ended up being not only a tale of the larger-than-life personalities at the heart of a great band, but a story of sacrifices made in order to reach one’s dreams, and of the limits of that sacrifice. The supernatural element helped intensify both elements, and I couldn’t be happier about how it all came together.
The characters, though, probably wouldn’t feel the same way.
Joseph Garraty is an author of dark fantasy, horror, and science fiction. He has worked as a construction worker, rocket test engineer, environmental consultant, technical writer, and deadbeat musician. He lives in Dallas, Texas.
His latest book is the horror novel, Voice.
You can visit his website at www.josephgarraty.com.
Connect with Joseph at Twitter at www.twitter.com/JosephGarraty.