Friday, November 11, 2016

Music was my first love.

If you were asked to name the one thing that defines you, what would you say? Most people might say mother/father, or maybe some other kind of familial relationship. Then they might say something about what they do: mine would be writer, healer, teacher and engineer - in that order. But peel away those onion layers (I know, I've been down this path before), and what's left starts to get to the real essence of you. Try it. I'm guessing that somewhere soon, you'll hit on a hobby - maybe a sport or craft into which you regularly pour your most creative energy. As I've hinted at before, I don't function well (which means at all!) without music. Like my mother, "she shall have music wherever she goes." It used to be turning the radio on in every room, now I can carry it with me on my iPod. Problem solved.

So now, this love of music is entering my writing. As well as creating a soundtrack to each book (full of Journey, Queen, Bowie, Thin Lizzy and a hundred other fantastic artists), one of my characters (Carrie, in Wolf in Sheep's Clothing) mentions some of the soundtracks to her life throughout the book. That was great fun, and people who follow me closely will know that a fair proportion of my chapter headings in all my books are indeed song titles. But now it's taken on a new dimension.

Journey have been my favourite band since the early eighties when I danced round the front room to “Escape,” drawn to the superb story-telling in every song. In 2008, I spent a week in hospital, recovering from an operation, and needed to occupy my time, so I wrote a musical (as you do!) based on twenty of Journey’s greatest hits. I’ve always had the idea of turning it into a story.
I wrote it originally with all songs taken from the Steve Perry heydays – from Escape, Frontiers and Raised On Radio. After the Newcastle gig in 2008, I spoke to Jon Cain and he suggested they might be interested if I put some new songs in. So I re-wrote it with songs from Arrival and Revelations. It’s kinda sat on the back burner since then, but I’ve thought about doing something like this many times.

The story of the musical is “Faithfully” tailored to the sentiment of each song, and the main characters are determined by the situations suggested by the lyrics. Finding a credible setting for the diverse story threads to intertwine might have proved challenging, but the diverse nature of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival adds a quirky element so often found in jukebox musicals like “We Will Rock You” and “ Rock of Ages.”

As Journey fans will know, relationships are at the core of their sensitive, emotional ballads, so it’s no surprise that this is a character-driven story exploring three contrasting relationships. The way the three stories intertwine highlights the differences in attitudes between a couple meeting for the first time, another trying to patch up a dying marriage and a third who are tentatively rekindling an old passion. This stretched my experiences to their limit, but I know enough people struggling with long distance relationships to get ideas, and the lyrics were a huge help.

Part of my research included reading Neil Daniels’ excellent biography, “Don’t Stop Believin’: The Untold Story Of Journey,” and I contacted the music journalist for advice. He was incredibly helpful, particularly about the stringent copyrighting issues, and agreed to read a copy. I'm absolutely thrilled by his endorsement in the front of the book.

I was a little concerned that people might not appreciate this ambitious project; it was especially tricky to conjure the essence of each song without breaking copyright regulations, particularly when two of the characters are writing songs, but my biggest hope is that someone will like the idea enough to collaborate in bringing this to stages in the West End and on Broadway. I can dream, can't I?

Released on November 11th, “Don’t Stop Believing” is available at the discounted price of $1.99 (or £1.63 in the UK), but only for the next week – it will be back up to normal on 18th November.

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