Late last week, the good folks at Typepad asked if I would be willing to participate in their first ever Virtual Book Tour featuring Brendan Halpin's Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Although I had not--and still have not--read the book, I think I've made it clear enough on this blog that I support the underrated and the lesser known when it comes to books and writers. Thus, I'm happy to be the first stop on the tour, which will wend its way through three other Typepad sites this week.
Also, Typepad books and featured blog editor Harold Check has conducted a podcast interview with Brendan which you can find here. To follow that up, I've sent Brendan a few questions, one of which seeks to clarify a question that's been bugging me for years now...I'll let you guess which one:
I've always been a fan of Belle & Sebastian and the album and song from which you pulled the title for your book. Did the actual album or song inspire the book or did the title just fit what you were going for thematically or was it a combination?
I was writing the book during the time when I was falling in love with Suzanne, who is now my wife. At the same time, I was still mourning the death of my wife Kirsten from breast cancer. So I was having this really odd mix of feelings--the elation and high of being in love coupled with the sadness and depression of grieving. I listened to Belle & Sebastian nonstop during this time (and during the writing of the novel) because their music was the only thing that felt like it captured the kind of joyful melancholy, or melancholic joy or whatever the hell it was I was feeling. I just love the way you can be listening to a B&S song that sounds all pretty, and then you go--"wait. Did he really just say 'a case of thrush you got from licking railings'? "
So their music kind of captured how my life was going at the time and also the tone of the novel. My novel is the story of how two people have a number of horrible things happen to them and then fall in love. So the fact that they both have this underlying sadness is part of the attraction. I'm terrible at titles, and my female protagonist is a waitress for much of the book, so everything just seemed to fit, and I decided to just take a great title that somebody else thought of.
Has there been any attempt to get your novel in the hands of the band?
Yes! I know the folks at Matador records have copies, and I heard some positive things from them, and I know that copies were sent to the band and their management. I haven't heard anything back. I hope they didn't hate it. Or if they did hate it, I hope they'll give lots of interviews in lots of publications talking at length about how much they hate it.
What are some of your favorite "rock and roll" or music-inspired novels? And do you think the great "rock and roll novel" has been written yet?
I loved Never Mind the Pollacks by Neal Pollack--I laughed out loud on every page, and I thought he did a great job of both wallowing in and parodying the entire history of rock and roll. Frank Portman's King Dork is brilliant, and really captures the reality of being a music geek in high school. Definitely my favorite book I read in 2006. Also, my previous novel, Long Way Back, is about a guy who joins a punk band as a 35-year-old after a terrible tragedy, and how music gives him meaning and comfort when nothing else will. I think the ending of that book is the best thing I've ever written. And it's the book of mine that has sold the fewest copies. So go figure.
Finally, as I mentioned I'm a big fan of Belle & Sebastian and feel that they haven't received near the attention they deserve in the U.S., especially considering they were just named Scotlands best band of all time. However, I'm a bigger fan of another Scottish band, the Jesus & Mary Chain. If those two bands were to meet in a Braveheart-style battle until death, which would come out alive?
Hmmm--well, I think Belle & Sebastian has more members, so that would definitely give them an advantage in the death match. I'm not as familiar with the Jesus & Mary Chain's music--I have their first album, and I like that song of theirs that sounds unlike any of their other songs ("I always knew you'd take me baaaaaaack..."), but overall, I feel like B&S have a bigger musical and lyrical range, which would also give them the advantage. Though they don't rock as hard, and it's possible that the Jesus and Mary Chain could set up some kind of disorienting wall of guitar feedback or something. I'd actually put Teenage Fanclub in the number 2 spot for Scottish bands. I wonder if you could count AC/DC, since Malcolm and Angus were actually born in Scotland. And they have bagpipes on "It's a Long Way to the Top". Anyway, I love B&S and would definitely put them in the number one spot. I think it's okay that they haven't gotten more US attention, though, because it allows those of us who like them to affect a "cooler than thou" pose, which is half the fun of being a music fan anyway.
My thanks to Brendan for answering my questions (though I still think Jesus & Mary Chain would win) and to Typepad for inviting me to be a part of their inaugural Book Tour, the first stop of the first ever I'm told. And if you're itching to set up your own blog while at the same time getting yourself a copy of the book, remember that Typepad is offering up Dear Catastrophe Waitress for free if you sign up for their 30-day free trial. Click on the banner at the top of this post for more details. Tell 'em Syntax of Things sent you and they'll say "who?"
And remember, the tour continues tomorrow over at one of my favorite blogs, Rarely Likable, where I'm sure Erin will have much better questions, probably an all-around better post. But will she be able to top this: the video for "Wrapped Up in Books" from the Belle & Sebastian album that inspired the book that inspired the tour? Stay tuned.