You might know that the guy what plays drums for me is Pete McDade. What you might not know is that Pete is also an author and his debut novel, The Weight of Sound, is out August 25 from Wampus Multimedia.
The Weight of Sound covers twenty years in the life of singer-songwriter Spider Webb. It also features its own soundtrack that Pete co-wrote with a bunch of his musician friends. I was one of those musician friends, and I play the part of Spider! Lots of me singing! Hey, this is my site and I plug what I want!
So, let’s ask Pete some questions and learn more!
How long had the idea for the novel been percolating before you started writing?
Actually, the writing came first, if that makes sense. I wrote a short story about a dead-end relationship, and during the course of a long fight between the stoner and his girlfriend, a friend showed up with a tape of his band: Monkeyhole. The rest of the story never really worked out, but Danny, and his band, were interesting to me. So I wrote a story from Danny’s POV, and the result felt more vivid than anything I’d written before.
So, the decision to have a different narrator for each chapter… did it serve a larger purpose in the end or was that more of a remnant of those earlier stories?
It definitely served a larger purpose. I liked writing about music, and bands, but I wanted to expand the scope, and wanted to avoid the book becoming nothing more a barely fictionalized version of my life story. (There’s this band, yeah, called Aunt Blue…) So I started writing stories from other POVS, and that was when it all began to feel like a book. I began to enjoy trying to figure out what other characters to show–the industry peeps, the fans, the spouse.
And I think/hope the ways the music affects different people comes across, with these different narrators.
They also seem like a collection of people whose lives have not gone as planned, and how, or if, they come to terms with it.
Yes! Not intentional. But something I saw as the book as a whole began to come into shape.
I don’t start out writing with a Big Theme in mind, but hope/trust one will emerge over time. That theme–what do we do when things don’t go as planned?–makes sense to me, because that’s one of the things in my own life writing this book helped me work out.
I used to be in a band. Did you know that? (I’m still in a band now. It’s different)
I did know that. I do my research. Were you able to work out all your lingering resentments and exact revenge with this book, Dante’s Inferno-style?
Ha! If only. I don’t know that I have any lingering resentments, maybe I should have tried to work some up, add a horror-style chapter in there. It may have been a more resentment-driven book, if I’d written it twenty years ago. I find myself fairly happy about where I landed, which goes a long way to helping me forgive those who trespassed against me.
So, when you were writing the lyrics for the book, could you hear the songs? Or was it just a general sense of what kind of songs they would be?
In some cases I could hear them. But in some cases, I just had a general sense of what kind of song it should be, or what kind of purpose the song should serve in the book. “How Much Fun” I heard as it is: upbeat, lovable musical donut. And “Pay Me Now” came out very much as I heard. “This Next Station” I wanted Americana-y, but “That Old House” was anything goes, and how it came out helped fill in a missing piece in that chapter. “Behind Door Number Two” needed to be one of those epic-like title tracks.
All the songs wound up shaping the book, to some degree, once they were finished.
How satisfied are you with the culmination of the entire project?
I don’t know how to say it without sounding cheesy, but: like, beyond satisfied. Thrilled. I started with no real expectations, but as I spent more time on it I began to hope it might be something good enough to publish. And I know that this book is one of a half million or so that will be published this year, but it will now exist. In the world. Something I dreamed of doing since I was in fifth grade.
The musical piece grew from more and more complicated, as well, and I can’t say enough about all those musicians who worked on this. Talking about this with someone else, I realized that the project turned into the best of both worlds: I got the solitary writer experience, and the collaborative experience I valued so much making records.
Did you notice any similarities between drumming and writing? Would you say any of your other life roles influenced your style?
Yes, lots of similarities. Pacing, timing, finding the groove, and lots of trial and error. I also think I have a similar style, as writer and drummer? I try not to get in the way of the song when I drum and try not to get in the way of the characters/story when I write. I’m not especially flashy in either world, but neither are my favorite writers/drummers, so that makes sense, too.
I think drumming also influenced teaching and parenting, and that the teaching and parenting probably also shaped the writing. The first chapter of the book, for example, would never have been written, if I wasn’t a father, and there’s a chapter later in the book clearly shaped by my time in the teaching trenches.
Do you think there’s anything I, personally, can learn from Spider’s life?
In the end, what saves Spider is the work. The process of making stuff, of creating, proves to be more important, in terms of keeping Spider alive, than any success he may or may not have along the way. At the same time, the reader can also see that Spider’s music affects more people than he was ever aware of.
So, what are some things that the readers of your life can see, but you can not?
How the hell should I know?! You said yourself I can’t see them!
Pre-order The Weight of Sound from Amazon! >>
(Purchase includes download code for The Weight of Sound Original Soundtrack. The soundtrack will also be available separately. Eventually.)
Preview the soundtrack!