Jennifer Pickrell

YA Writer


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Blog Tour Stop – Military Brats: After Burn by Sherry Ficklin

***One lucky commenter will win a goodie bag – see below for details***

Reece Barnet and her father have just relocated to sunny North Carolina, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point to be exact. It’s another new town and another new school. But just as Reece is starting to fit in, a rash of bomb threats rocks her father’s experimental aircraft squadron. When the authorities track the threats to Reece’s school, she decides to do some investigating of her own. Unfortunately, the more she digs, the more it looks like her new boyfriend is the culprit.

When the unthinkable happens and her father is rushed to the hospital, it becomes a race against time as Reece fights to protect her father, clear her boyfriend, and discover the surprising truth of the person behind it all!

To find out more about Sherry and her books, visit: http://www.sherryficklin.com/

Thoughts on the book

I’m always up for a good mystery, especially one set in the real world and solved through good ol’ fashioned sleuthing and not supernatural powers.

Reece’s observations cracked me up, especially this one about her soon-to-be-friends Kayla and Derek

“who reminded me of an Emo Barbie and Ken”

And the one she has while at a barbeque:

“If you’ve never had the opportunity to watch a group of teenage football players devour grilled meat, it’s kind of like watching a school of piranhas take down an antelope.”

I also liked Reece’s relationship with her dad – a father who actually exists in a YA book AND engages with his kid!

Interview

On Reece’s first day of school, she has a Twinkie and some green Gatorade, aka “the breakfast of champions.”  What are your favorite foods/drinks to consume while you’re writing?  Have you discovered any combos of food that sounded better in theory than in reality?

Never mix whole dill pickles with milk under any circumstances! LOL. I like to munch on Wasabi Peas, Gushers, and Twizzlers. I also like Monster energy drinks mixed with blueberry juice. Strange but delish!

Stealing a question from Greg – what’s your least favorite movie and why?  How about your favorite movie?

My least favorite movie of all time is (insert any Kevin Costner movie here). Yeah. Waterworld? I’d like that two hours of my life back, please.

My all time favorite is probably a tie between Clerks and To Serve Man which is this amazing B&W horror flick. Very cool.

Reece gets lost a few times while trying to figure out which hallway leads to her dad’s office – are you one of those people born with an internal compass or could you get lost in a cul-de-sac?  Do you have any memorable road-trip stories?

I have no natural sense of direction but that’s alright because I stop like every 60 miles or so when I’m road tripping. I LOVE stopping at little road side shops, gas stations, and restaurants. You find the coolest stuff and meet the funniest people. One time on a road trip, my roommate and I stopped at every rest area and stole one of those giant industrial size rolls of toilet paper from the bathroom, and then we used them to TP our destination (a friend’s house). Those things are seriously heavy, BTW.

Reece takes a ride on the Ferris wheel and in a rolling laundry basket at the laundry mat – which one is more fun?  Are you a fan of the big rides, like roller coasters, or do you prefer to stick with something closer to the ground, like bumper cars? 

I love roller coasters. In high school my friends and I took a trip to Kings Dominion and I rode the Hurler like twelve times in a row, then barfed up my chili dog. Best. Day. Ever. However, if you’ve never been pushed around in a laundry/grocery cart, I highly recommend it.

After a few games of pool, I got the feeling Reece was a bit of a shark – do you have any hidden talents?

I’m really good at baking, making pottery, and driving my husband to the brink of sanity. I’m especially proud of that last one.

Would you say your style is closer to Reece (casual, vintage), Kayla (emo, off-the-wall), or Georgia (soft and fem)?

Probably Reece. I keep it pretty toned down since I’m an old lady, but I do like off the wall jewelry and accessories.

Greg finds a pic of Reece from her days on the Pom Squad – what extra-curriculars were you a part of in high school? 

Wow. I was in the drama club, but I think that’s about it. I was never very into school or the extras it came with. I had an after school job for most of high school which didn’t help. It’s one thing I’m very strict about with my own high schooler. No working. I want him to focus on school and band and choir and all that fun afterschool stuff I missed out on. The extra cash isn’t worth it. Trust me.

The questions wouldn’t be complete without this one – who is your favorite fictional detective?

Wow, this is going to sound REALLY trite, but I’m writing a new adult mystery series and I’m SO in love with my main character, Sophie. She’s that perfect balance of ‘kick butt and take names’ and ‘oh my god I just lit my kitchen on fire making popcorn’. She’s so fun, I literally laugh out loud when I write her.

Thanks for having me! Don’t forget I have a Military Brats goodie bag going out to one lucky commenter!

Contest

Leave a comment on this post by February 20th, 11:59pm EST.  Winner announced February 21st.

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Interview with James Houlahan of Dogs on Television

Some questions about the band, then a few about James:

My first question was going to be “Where did the band name come from” because I’ve been curious since I first saw it.  But…I see that you’ve already answered that question for Boston Band Crush, so I’ll tweak my question a bit:

     1. The inspiration for the band name came from some funny headings – have any songs or lines from songs also been inspired in a similar manner?

No, I don’t think so…song lyrics tend to occur pretty spontaneously.  They sorta pop like fireworks in my head.  I rarely am consciously thinking of a phrase or group of words I saw elsewhere.  I’m sure that stuff goes on unconsciously, but I am not at liberty to comment on the workings of my unconscious mind!  Seriously though, sometimes I notice things after the fact.  Like, there might be a lyric or a picture that seems somewhat familiar in retrospect.  But I also don’t dwell on stuff like that.  I’d rather focus on the next song I am writing.

     2. (2-parter) Tell me how the band came to be.  And, each of you had different musical backgrounds/tastes, so how did you go about finding a sound that meshed well with all the band members? 

The band came to be because I really needed an outlet for crazy loud electric energy, and also because I had a couple of songs (Start a Fire, The Jailer) left over from my old band.  And I knew I needed to record these with a band.  I needed to have a kind of interpersonal energy going on, to capture the potential of those tunes.  So I Craigslisted for a drummer first, and met Brian Arnold.  We jammed for awhile and even considered just being a duo.  But I found that kind of limiting so Brian brought his friend, Sam Sanders, in on bass.  Sam brought a great, funky energy to the project.  Plus he’s not afraid to play dirty, distorted bass sounds too, so he’s very versatile.  Unfortunately, Brian had to leave the band shortly after the record came out.  But, fortunately, very fortunately, we were able, a few months ago, to recruit Andrew Allen on drums.  He brings an inventive, expansive energy to our sound.  I am very excited of where the sound of the band can now go.

In terms of the overall sound, it’s a pretty loose affair, technically speaking.  I really dig bands where the goal is to play your heart out, to really shoot for the moon with every song.  Sure, there’s a mistake now and again.  But as long as we all focus, and listen to each other, and put every ounce of our heart into each song, we can’t really go wrong.

     3. Is it really true that DoTV played its first live show without ever having practiced together? 

Totally false.  But that makes for a great story.  I hope people continue to believe it!  Ha ha!

       4. I’ve been reading reviews of the CD and of your lives shows – I’m pretty sure every single one mentions a “blues” sound.  Had you thought of the band as being bluesy before or was this a description that surprised you all?  How would you define your sound? 

Before you answer, I’ll throw down my two cents: My first thought was that whole crunchy guitar, wailing vocals, rockin’ out sound from the 1960’s – very pure and about the music.  Even with the slower songs, there’s a definite “fullness” to the sound, sorta Bruce Springsteen + E-Street band-ish, where it’s about playing awesome live shows.  I could listen to “I’ll See You” over and over again.  Well, I am listening to it over and over again…     

Well, blues is everywhere.  Blues is behind almost all American music.  It’s the great river of sound from which flows the ocean of all jazz, R&B, soul, and rock music.  It’s a sound I am comfortable playing, but DoTV is very far from being a blues band.  We definitely incorporate bluesy sounds and styles, like the Black Keys for example, but we are playing rock music.  I understand why a critic would call us out as “bluesy,” because they need to classify our sound.  We’re definitely not “jazzy,” as a counterpoint.  But if I had to describe us, I would say we are a garage rock band.  In that sound, there’s blues, but there’s also some sonic novelty and more experimental kind of stuff going on.

I like your two cents…we are definitely shooting for a full sound.  And we do try to bring a live energy to any recording we make!

      5. While doing research, I came across “Notes on a Record,” which documents an album from the very beginning, all the way up to the release party.  What made you decide to blog about the behind-the-scenes aspect of making the album?

That’s something I started when recording my solo record, “Seven Years Now.”  There were just all these amazing details about the process.  I thought people should know.  It’s incredible how sounds can just be captured in the air, stirred together, and frozen on plastic.  I needed to write about how that happens.

      6. You CD release party was in June – did it feel like just another show or was there an added energy?  I know you all play at a lot of Boston-area venues and I’ve never been to Boston (or even Massachusetts), so I’ve gotta ask – how are the music fans up there?

Boston is a great music town.  It’s small, for a city, but there is a ton of stuff going on relative to its size.  There are a million bands and people do go out to shows.  Everybody’s got their favorite band or club.  There’s always buzz and chatter about who’s hot, etc.  And it’s always great to see a full room!

Our release show was amazing.  We had some great bands on the bill, like Blackbutton, Jaxon Boom, and Mikey P, to help us out.  And we had a great set, I thought.  We were joined by Stephen Konrads of Sleepy Very Sleepy on keys during our set.  We made some crazy sounds!  It was a sweaty, blissful, high-energy evening.  Definitely a very special show.  And we were so grateful that so many people came out!

      7. Your original drummer moved shortly after the release of the record, but you’ve found a replacement.  I was reading the answer you gave to Boston Band Crush (before you’d found Andrew) and you mentioned that you were looking at the situation as an opportunity to change the sound of the band.  I know you didn’t mean overall, but what types of musical changes have you made as you adjust to your new drummer and he adjusts to the band?

Well, drums are pretty much the most important part of any band, I think, in terms of the sound.  They totally set the pace, not only in terms of rhythm but in terms of feel and the sort of wider aesthetic vibe that begins to coalesce around any given band.  How they hit, what they hit, when they hit.  It’s a lot of information for the ear!  We’ve only had one gig together so far, but I think Andrew’s style opens up a number of doors for us, musically.  He’s already voiced his preference for a song where we change the time signature, at least once.  Dogs go Prog.  Ha ha!  I guess I am willing to try anything once.

     8. What’s next for DoTV?

Other than multiple time signatures?  Ha ha, just kidding.  Well, we’d like to try playing in some rooms where we’ve not played yet, with some bands we are into…  For example last weekend, I did a solo set, sharing the bill with The New Highway Hymnal.  Their set totally blew me away!  They are amazing.  So I’d like to do a show with them plus DoTV.

I’m plugging away with the record.  We just got a great review in The Noise for it, and I am hopeful some more will come our way.

Musically, I hope to be able to get more comfortable developing the electronics in our sound.  In other words, using loops and other such sonic weirdness to add texture, layers.  Sorta like sonic alchemy.  There is a lot of room to grow in that direction, as long as the songs are strong and the band is tight.  Which I am confident both will be.  And there is a possibility, if we found the right player, we could add a keyboard player or some kind of multi-instrumentalist.  So I guess the future is wide open.  It’s also bright.  So bright, I have to wear shades.  Ha ha!

A few questions about James:

     9. You work in publishing and you’re a songwriter so I’m gonna take a guess and say that you love the written word.  I know that you became serious about song-writing in college – how do those earlier songs differ from the songs that you’re writing now?

I guess the main difference is nowadays I am much more convinced of who the narrator is in the song.  I should say right away it’s never been me, really.  The narrator, that is.  Back when I started I was just never very sure where the song was coming from.  I could never really describe the figurative “voice” behind the words.  Now when I write I get much clearer pictures in my head.  It’s like characters are beginning to develop, and more of their lives are becoming clearer to me.  I still write an occasional song in a more unconscious manner, where I am pulling a lot of linguistic hi-jinx.  But messing with language for its own sake is no longer as important to me as beginning to hint at stories, faces, experiences that I see in my imagination.  I want to stress again that I don’t write confessional songs.  So this is all fiction for me.  But I think fiction can be just as true as reality, true in the sense of having undeniable meaning and expression.  For me anyway.  I guess that might sound a bit crazy…  Perhaps I live in my head too much.

     10. You’ve performed solo and with a band – how do solo performances compare to full-band “face-melting?”  I’ve had acoustic musicians tell me that there’s a certain vulnerability when it’s just you and your guitar up on stage.  Does having the band up there with you make you more likely to stray off a set-list or to try out a new song? 

No, actually I am more likely to try something on my own, playing solo…  With the band the idea is for all of us to come together, and to use what we make together to connect with the people listening.  When I am solo, there’s nobody else to listen to.  And that can be a little unnerving.  You could call it vulnerability.  You’re just out there, alone, dangling over a sea of chaos.  It’s important to focus, dig deep, and try to connect directly to the people in the room. So you no longer have the buffer that you have with the band.  You can’t hide behind the drum set.  You can’t yell (approvingly, of course) at the bass player.  It’s just you and a microphone.  So it’s an entirely different kind of focus, and strangely enough, it ultimately can be just as intense as rocking out with a band!

Check out more about James and the band:

Dogs on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/dogsontelevision

Dogs on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dogs-On-Television/116094025227

Buy the Dogs on Television CD here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/DogsonTelevision

James Houlahan: http://www.jameshoulahan.com/


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Interview with Suolon Hu

 Q&A with Suolon Hu, a photographer who lives in Toronto.  His website, Silver Horizon, shows off his talent behind the lens – here’s a direct link to one of my favorite photos (the subject is captured so well) and to a photo I kept on my desk when I worked at an outside office (used to pretend like I was there instead of where I actually was).

Let’s start at the beginning.  When was the first time you knew you wanted to be a professional photographer?  And how did you get your start as a professional?

I first started in Photography when I was in high school and was on the Year Book committee.  At the time I spent some time in the Dark Room and was quickly drawn into that world.  I didn’t have my own camera so I had to use the school’ camera.  It wasn’t until after I graduated from University (in 1996) that I finally had the money to buy my own camera and took it on my first vacation (1997) in my life.  Ever since, I never looked back.

Three years later, I enrolled myself in getting a Certificate in Photography, and in 2004 I got my first paying assignment as a Travel Photographer, and a year later I got into Wedding photography.

You used to be a wedding photographer, but now you seem to focus mainly on travel photography.  What prompted the change?

I’ve always loved traveling and landscape photography, since it was natural for me.  It was actually wedding photography that was more steady in terms of getting paid and which funded my photography equipment.

You started Silver Horizon Group in 2004 – can you tell me a little bit about the company?

I initially started the Silver Horizon Group Ltd with the intention to start my own business.  At the time I knew that I wanted the option of either going into IT Consulting and/or Photography business.  During the company’s first year, I did IT Consulting and Photography in tangent.  In the second year and years after, the company is focused more on Photography.

I see you’re currently using Canon cameras – how much research goes into picking out a piece of equipment and what sites/sources do you use when doing your research?  How easy/difficult did you find the switchover from film to digital?

My first film SLR camera was in fact a Nikon. In 2004, I wanted to get a digital SLR camera and at the time Canon was the company that was the leader in this technology.  Ever since then I stuck with Canon.  I’ve used a lot of websites when researching on Canon’s equipment.  Some of the links are:

http://www.dpreview.com/

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/

http://www.photo.net/

http://photography-on-the.net/

http://www.photoprice.ca/

The switch from film to digital was really easy for me, since I get instant result when I take a photo, versus having to wait for the film to develop in order to see the result.  This way, I can quickly experiment and learn from an artistic stand point.

Do you prefer to shoot in color or b&w?  Does it depend on the situation?

For the most part I shoot in colour with the option to later make it into B&W if I want.  It really depends on the subject and the mood I want to portray.

I know that artists and writers find inspiration in everyday things and I imagine it’s the same for photographers – do you ever look at something and see “photo-op?”  Do you always have your camera with you, “just in case?” 

Unfortunately I have a desk job at the moment and do not have my camera by my side “just in case”.  I do find myself more aware of my surrounding and try to see if something would catch my eye to photograph.

This is something that pertains more to photojournalists, but I’d like to get your take on photo ethics.  Is it always a strict no-no, or are there times when it’s okay to manipulate a photo in a graphics program?

When I first started off in Photography, I was a strong believer in composing and trying to get my shot done the right way without having to manipulate in post production (Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, etc).  In that aspect, I’m sort of “old school” that way.

But now I see using a graphics program is like a digital dark room, and that photography is an art.  Thus, I now do not see manipulating photos as “unethical”.  However, having said that, I still try to get my shots done correctly on the camera and try to do very little post production.  If I think a photo has the potential to be interesting and capturing with post-production manipulation, then I would do it – and at times I would experiment with this route.

Multi-questions: You have traveled all over the world, taking photos – what is it about travelling that appeals to you?  Do you have a favorite vacation spot?  What was your favorite place to photograph and why?  How many languages do you speak? 

  1. What appeals to me about travelling is the fact that God has created so much beauty in just on Earth alone, that I just have to try and see as much as I can in my own lifetime.  Being able to see and experience other cultures is another reason why I find travelling so appealing.  I find that from my travels, I have enriched my life and have changed the way I view some things differently – including my tolerance towards people and culture, and how I view my own life and my personal goals as well.
  2. I don’t have just one particular favorite vacation spot, since each vacation destination has a special place in my heart.  I do find myself more drawn towards tropical climates and do often this about: Tahiti/Moorea/Bora Bora, Hawaii, Cambodia and Thailand.
  3. Again, I really don’t have a favorite place to photography since they all have great opportunities.  Each place is very unique, be it landscape or culture.  It all depends on what I am photographing.  If it were ruins, then I would say Cambodia (Angkor Wat, and the surrounding temples and ruins).  If it were underwater and snorkeling, then it would be the crystal water of Bora Bora.  If it is architecture, then I say the Hong Kong for its old and modern architecture.  If it is wildlife, then definitely Masai Mara in Kenya and Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.  If it is landscape, then it would the beautiful island of Hawaii and her islands (Kauai, Maui, and Oahu).  The one place I would love to go back to spend more time photographing is Santorini, Greece…. I was there for my Mediterranean cruise and didn’t have much time there.
  4. I only speak two languages: English primarily, and Mandarin (but not as fluent as I would like).

 You’re a big fan of the show The Amazing Race – do you ever secretly pretend to be on the show while you’re traveling?

I definitely pretend and wish that I were on the show!  In fact, some of the locations featured on show I have been to!

Anything else you’d like to add?

Hmmm…  I just know that I can passionately talk for long hours when it comes to sharing my travel experiences and where I have gone thus far in my life.  I find myself constantly giving friends advice as to where to go and what to do when they get there.  To be able to travel with my camera to capture people, places and things is what I enjoy the most about life.   It would be a dream come true if I can do this for ever as a career.


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Interview with Ian Margolycz

Q&A with musician Ian Margolycz – check out the bottom of the interview for some musical links!

You established Zeptune Records in 2004 for your “musical endeavors” – can you tell me a little bit about what your musical “intentions” were back then?

Sure, Zeptune started sometime back in high school as a result of boredom. If you’re anything like me sitting there in class daydreaming, you find any way possible to pull yourself out of that headspace. I’d just start scribbling and drawing in my notebook like my life depended on it. I’d get home and look through some of this stuff and startle myself sometimes!

This was also around the time my schoolmates and I started wondering what it’d be like to start a band and have songs, and alter egos and stuff like that. We were really into Nirvana and The Pixies. Of course at that point, in the late 90’s early 2000’s it was not so cool to like these sort of groups and be into that sort of music so we were definitely tagged as outsiders in town. The thing about that though was everyone thought you were dangerous and there was sort of a buffer around you. People were afraid to get near, which most of the time was okay with me. The downside was when people would conjure up this image of you, and think you were all these really messed up things that you weren‘t.

The daydreaming and ideas of starting a label or a band were an escape from all of that. It was that place you could dive into whenever, be creative and block out everything monotonous. Back then it was real simple, we were all just seeing if we could even strum an instrument, let alone write songs.

What about your musical interests now – are you currently working on any new projects?

The label itself has really been the only constant, and maybe I knew that would be the case somehow way back when. The bands I’ve formed and been a part of only seem to make it a few years before collapsing.

Dream LAX started as handful of demos intended for the continuation of M.O.T.H. and even The Velvet Ants became an offshoot of that group. Luckily those side projects didn’t have a set formula or goal in mind so there was less of a worry about them fracturing and ending abruptly. I guess you could say that Dream LAX and Velvet Ants are always there too, it just depends on whether I’m in a band at the time or they are the band. I know, very confusing. Trevor Hart (drummer for MOTH & The Velvet Ants) and I still talk and there’s always a possibility of us joining forces again to knock out some more tunes together.

As for my current interests I still have song ideas that I’d been working on towards the end of Lost in Stereo’s run but who knows what will happened to them. I’m still concerned about finishing the “Black Tie Galaxie” mixes that are at risk of being shelved for good. Other than that, I really don’t know where I’ll be in a year or two for that matter.

Things can get to be a bit discouraging after a while, and I don’t care who you are, it wears on you. It would be nice to hang it up for a spell. Then you think about all the random people you’ve met through it all and how they were affected by songs you made, and how you were affected by them, and other songs yourself, and the predicament continues…

I really dig your acoustic stuff, especially Two Sox (awesome!).  Tell me a little bit about how you got started in music.

Thanks for checking it out, That happened to be a favorite among people early on. It’s a really simple song, almost transparent in form. I wrote that at 16 or 17. It’s strange how you write a song that’s about something so personal, that really hurt, and it feels completely your own and that you’re the only one that could experience something so terrible yet other people connect with it. It really widens your perspective after the fact. It pulls you back, away from the brush and allows things a chance to settle into their own weird way. Two Sox was one of many sort of ‘break up’ songs that would surface from time to time.

Most of the time I don’t write lyrics with an experience or picture in mind. It’s usually just segments of thought or words that I liked the sound of together in random order. A lot of the time the songs won’t make sense to me until long after they’re written. That’s one of the first songs that, to me, was a more obvious reaction to an unsalvageable relationship. That sort of love that hurts to be around, and hurts to be away from but you know you’d both be better off in the long run.

When you’re growing up and looking for somewhere to fit in, something interesting about yourself, or something you enjoy, you start looking for things that are uniquely yours. Mine happened to be art at an early age, I mean good or bad, whatever it is that you do you, if you enjoy it, it’s like gold.

As a kid my parents worked as photographers in Boston, MA so there was almost always something creative going on in the background. One of my first instruments was a drum kit my father gave me one birthday. I must have been 5 or so, but I think it’s exposure like that, that can spark interest in most things, regardless of what talent it might be.

I really got into listening to records and tapes a few years later, and remember a little hand held Casio keyboard around that age too. There was always something to press and make noise out of. Eventually I’d get the chance to own a really cheap electric guitar (to see if it was really for me.) That’s what really opened the flood gates.

In addition to being a singer and guitarist, you’re also a songwriter.  I know for some songwriters, it’s a very quick process where the lyrics just flow right out in a burst, while others spend months tweaking every little detail.  What kind of process do you go through when you write? 

Yikes, I don’t even know if I’d consider myself a singer… I’ve got the Hendrix complex when it comes to that. Some people just find it strange and out of place to hear their own vocals I guess. I’m still trying to figure out that side of things. I love to play guitar and come up with songs and play them but learning how to sing has been a slow process. You either have it or you don’t, and if you don’t you peg away at it until it starts to fall in place. I like to think there’s always room for improvement.

As for putting words to music or music to words, you never really know until you sit down and experiment a little. Some riffs are really simple to write to and those melodies fly out like there’s no tomorrow. Others you sit there and think …there’s no way I’ll be able to sing something to this, and it takes time. I mean, for me at least, it’s easier to write a chord progression or guitar part and then sing over it, but it can happen either way.

There have been some songs that have emerged from poems. ‘Mars Cut Her’ started off with just lines I had written out one night and I eventually found the right riff for it. Sometimes when you write poems or short stories or verse it becomes very apparent that it’d be possible to make a song out of it.

To be honest, I can’t tell myself ahead of time that I’m going to sit down and write a song. You end up sitting there flinging paper and getting frustrated that your ‘muse’ is late. Of course at that point he or she wouldn’t want to stop by anyway.

You’ve been a part of several bands, including Malfunction of the Head (2003-2005), which have had a wide range of musical influences.  M.O.T.H, for example, lists AFI and Stevie Ray Vaughan, two acts with completely different sounds.  For yourself, what singers/groups have had a lot of influence on the type of music you want to play?

Roscoe Tanner (guitarist from MOTH) and I share an interest in the blues so that’s where Stevie comes into play. We’re both fans of Hendrix, and blues-influenced rock stemming anywhere from 50’s era blues to artists like Bob Log III and on into country with Steve Earle. AFI on the other hand is Trevor Hart’s favorite group, and he’s got the tattoos to prove it! Trevor’s influences are much more punk-rock influenced. You’d have to ask him to get a better interpretation of it, but we’ve listened to a few Descendents and Social Distortion records together.

My influences change all the time but during M.O.T.H. I was really into heavier melodic music like Deftones and Failure, who are still some of my favorite artists, but you go through phases where you’re into it really deep and then it leads you somewhere else for a while.

I’m also a huge fan of Iggy Pop, and David Bowie, and bands like The Lemonheads, and The Smashing Pumpkins. Not sure what really decides what your music ends up sounding like but there is some sort of familiarity there. My own influences look strange alongside each other. I’m really into a wide range of stuff. The Police have always been huge for me, as well as Pink Floyd. So you’ll hear about that and then the next week I’ll try to get you to listen to some obscure record that one of the guitarists from The Posies put out that sounds completely different from everything else.

In M.O.T.H. our influences were similar but we also came to the table with a lot of individual tastes. That made for an interesting template. Singers for me are the same way, and a part from loving Doors music I think Jim Morrison had a really big impact on me. I think most good records have pretty solid singers attached to them, listen to STP or Weezer and you’ve got to admit that those vocals are exactly what the songs needed.

I was checking out your YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/zeptunerecords) and you recently posted an old “Mothumentary” clip where the band was having fun on the way to a show – how important do you think it is for bands to have fun with music?  Do you think tension among band members affects the creativity and/or it affects the performance on stage? 

I think it’s extremely important. I’ve been in a few bands by now so I know what it can be like when you’re in that rehearsal space or up on stage and things just aren’t working. Some bands can even get through performances and practice without flaw but still not be able to have any sort of healthy relationship. It’s really no fun to avoid each other like that in close quarters, especially when something tangible and initially unbreakable used to exist.

You’ve got to have some sort of humility when it comes to this line of work, it can only get more depressing and harder to deal with in any other sort of mindset.  I mean you can’t be making a joke out of the whole thing all the time, but when you’re in the same company for that long you have to be able to look at each other and just laugh about what you’re about to do or what situation you’re in at the moment.

The people I’ve worked with have all put a lot of their selves into everything they contribute whether it be a song idea, drum fill, bass line… regardless. It’s meaningless if you can’t share some of the creative process, and it’s even worse if you can’t share it with an audience somehow. I’ve also had shows where we’re all about ready to implode and go postal on each other, and we get out there and perform great. Doesn’t matter what occurred earlier and it almost improves your focus and integrity. Although, this doesn’t mean you should go around causing spats before a show, that would be a bit much on the system.

I imagine being in a band is like this: collaborative moments where you go “A-ha! Great sound!” mixed with moments you just want to scream because your band mates want to play something you aren’t feeling.  Am I anywhere close to how it really is?

(Laughs) Definitely something like that, actually a lot like that. Especially when you’re the one who doesn’t wanna play that song! Of course, more reason to not have written it to begin with, what can you do.

A lot of the time it’s about sharing that “A-ha” that can be difficult because people get off on different things you know? Sometimes just being able to put your own spin on it is reward in itself, other times you trudge through the writing or rehearsing process not knowing whether you’ll get that feeling again. Eventually it bears itself and you keep on keepin’ on. It gives you the energy to search for it again and again and again.

I’ve heard that some musicians absolutely hate the writing process and playing live is the pay off. I’ve also played with people that enjoy the writing process and would rather stay in than play a show at all. I think the whole thing can get overwhelming at times but when it comes down to it, it’s an art. It can be frustrating at times, but it can also be the most beautiful thing ever.

Since you’ve been a part of several bands, I’m sure you’ve played your fair share of bizarre shows (I went to a show once where the bassist leapt off the stage and on his way down kicked me in the mouth and gave my friend a concussion) – any interesting stories you want to share?

None that would be appropriate for daytime reading.

Going to the other side of the stage – greatest concert/show you’ve been to – and why?

Man, to be honest I haven’t been going to many shows lately. I remember a while back seeing one of Rage Against the Machine’s last concerts before they disbanded and that was pretty amazing. They were last in a long line of acts that day and by the time they took the stage the crowd was literally sending clouds of steam into the air above them. The band opened their set, the crowd just went apeshit and started to jump in unison. That was pretty awe inspiring. You’ll see a show like that and it can change your life.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to hope not, I feel like my answers could have been a bit shorter in length but I guess I had something to say. My apologies for the long read, unless it gave you that ‘escape’ I talked about earlier. Sometimes it’s nice to detach yourself and lose some of that daily baggage. I wonder if people know that’s even possible in this ‘plugged in’ day and age. Hopefully we won’t all turn into lost, fragmented souls in a false digital reality. Do we even have a choice in the matter? Thanks for the interview! If anyone would like to check out some of the bands I spoke about during this interview here are some links:

www.myspace.com/malfunctionofthehead

www.myspace.com/dreamlax

www.myspace.com/velvetants

www.myspace.com/lostinstereomusic

Edit (7/9/10):

New links for new projects!

http://www.myspace.com/postexchange

http://www.noisehead.com/mypage/postexchange

http://www.ilike.com/artist/Post%20Exchange


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Interview with Sherry Ficklin

Q&A with the author of the upcoming YA novel, Foresight.  Check the bottom of this post for details on how to enter to win a $15 Barnes & Noble gift card and a prize pack filled with Foresight goodies!

You have a great description of the theme of your novel, Foresight, on your website, http://sdficklin.books.officelive.com/default.aspx, that I’m going to paste here, and I had a follow-up question that I’m including after your website answer.

Q&A from your website: What do you think is the strongest theme, the most prevalent theme of Foresight?

The basic idea is that sometimes you may think you have everything figured out. That’s usually when it all goes to pot. Life isn’t about following plans; it’s about going where the road takes you, making the best choices you can, and enjoying the journey. Because you never know when something really magical is going to happen.

Follow-up: Can you give a brief description of the characters and/or plot of Foresight and a little bit about the meaning of the title? 

Foresight was inspired by a version of the Pandora myth that suggests that it was not hope captured in that box, but actually something much more sinister.

If you knew when you woke up that your day would go badly, would you want to live it at all?

Foresight means not giving up, even when you think you can’t win. Grace has the ability to see glimpses of possible futures. She goes into the story knowing exactly what she stands to lose, but with the courage to do what’s right anyway. That’s who Grace is. 

The other main characters are Phoenix, Chris, and Lilith.

Phoenix is sort of the leader of the group. She’s practical to a fault, but also very mothering. She stepped into the role of raising Grace and has a really strong bond with her. Phoenix would kill, die, to keep Grace safe. Without hesitation. She’s every bit a fighter, which is where Grace gets it.

Chris comes across sort of arrogant, but a lot of that is just a show. He has a connection with Grace that neither of them really understands and it keeps them very off balance with each other. Chris pulls her to him with one hand and pushes her away with the other, not to deliberately mislead her, but because he just can’t reconcile his own feelings. But he really is one of the good guys.

Lilith is the villain of the piece, though not of her own making. She was betrayed by the gods who created her and sent to a prison that would drive the sanest person to their limits. She’s strong, fierce, and is willing to do anything, use anyone, to get what she wants. To get back what was stolen from her. To her Grace is simply collateral damage. She’s the worst kind of evil, the kind who really feels justified in their actions.

I also had a lot of fun with the Greek Gods, particularly Hermes and Eros. I was able to express their personalities in ways that are both funny and honest. They get a lot of play, especially in the second and third books.

Foresight is the first in a series – I’m sure the idea of even writing a single book is overwhelming to most people, so what made you decide to write an entire series?

I knew very early on that the story was much too intricate to be just one book. As I began writing, there became characters I wanted to develop more, and things that I felt had to happen to forge Grace into the person I saw her becoming. She’s one of those great people who has to learn everything the hard way, which I think is true of most of us. The experiences she has, especially in the second book, really define her. The more I wrote, the more I had to know how it was all going to turn out in the end.

You had the misfortune of your publisher folding just months before your book was due to come out.  Any news from other publishers?

Ah, maybe… There’s a few promising prospects at the moment, but I can’t say more than that.  I’m feeling very good about things right now.

Do you remember the feeling you had when you realized you were done with your manuscript and you were ready to send out queries?  Excitement, relief, anxiety, or something else?

I wasn’t going to send it out at all. You hear all these horror stories about trying to get published, which kind of turned me off at first. But my husband was like, you wrote it, you might as well see how far you can go with it. It was really scary, kind of putting myself out there like that. But then I started getting all this positive feedback and it was like, wow. I always said I’d be happy just to take it down to the office store and have it bound just for me, so when the first couple publishers said they liked it, I was in heaven! When I got my first contract, it was one of the best feelings ever. I’ll never forget that phone call.  I almost fainted.

Here is another Q&A from your website that I really liked, so I wanted to include it here, with a follow-up question.

From your website: What process do you use to write? Do you use an outline or do you sit down and write and see where it takes you?

I try to outline, but I keep it pretty vague. My characters let me know if I’ve gone off course or tried to force them into something that doesn’t work for them. It’s seriously weird, but kind of wonderful too.

My follow-up is: Once you’ve been working on a piece for a long time, how do you step back from it and make sure it “makes sense” to other people that don’t know the characters inside and out like you do?  You mention on your site about beta readers – can you explain a little bit about their input?     

Most of the time I have to step away from a piece for a few days and kind of let myself forget what I was doing so I can go back and look at it with fresh eyes. If I can read or write something else during that time it helps me get out of my own head, so to speak. But my Beta readers are the best! When I think I’ve got everything right I send it over to them and they read it and put sticky notes on things that don’t make sense to them or confuse them, or if they get lost in a plot angle.  They catch all my little (and big) plot holes. It’s also good to see how they are affected emotionally by the book. I rewrote the ending to Foresight four times, until it made one of my beta readers cry. That was what I wanted, that level of emotion.

You are a self-proclaimed “former military brat.”  How much of an influence does that have on your writing?

Tons. The places I’ve been and the people I’ve known crop up in my writing constantly. I was just talking with a friend from high school about this earlier. She said that one of my characters reminded her of someone we used to know, and she was right. I hadn’t even realized it till she made the connection, but then it was pretty obvious. I’d tell you who it was, but then I’d have to shoot you.

Where do you do your writing (home office, from the couch, etc?) and do you use pen/paper or computer?  Do you have to have a certain atmosphere to write or do you just write when you can?

It depends on when and what I’m writing. If it’s an easy day I can just sit at my home computer and bang out a couple chapters. On a hard day there’s loud music, scented candles, and I’m on the floor of my bedroom with my laptop. My husband says he can tell what sort of scene I’m writing by what music is playing, too. Most of the scenes in Faerie were written to Enya or Celtic Woman, the Lilith scenes were to Dead Can Dance or Porcupine Tree, etc. I also keep a paper journal by my bed. I can’t tell you how often plot problems resolve themselves at 2 am and I have to jot it down before I lose it. And I keep scrap books for each story. I stick stuff in them, pictures or drawings or even scraps of fabric. Things that inspire me. Then when the creative juices are running low, I can go back to that book and see and feel it again.

Last question from your website with a follow-up, I swear! 

From your website: What genres do you prefer to write, to read, if they’re different, why?

I write and read primarily YA, although I do read a bit of fantasy and paranormal romance. I prefer YA because the emotions of youth are so much more raw and powerful. Plus, it feels better to write and read sweet, romantic love scenes rather than the hard core gritty stuff you get in adult novels sometimes.

My follow-up is: I know you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series – any other books that you can read again and again?  Any favorite authors?

I have a pretty serious book habit, easily over 100 dollars a month. You might wonder why I don’t just give my library card more of a work out, but the truth is, I re-read ALL my books. Often. The ones I re-read most are the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, The Harry Potters, The Aeneid, The Oddessy, and anything by Laurell Hamilton. My recent faves are Bran Hambric, the Percy Jackson books, and anything by Rachael Caine. As a matter of fact, I’ve only ever read one book I hated. And I’ve read a LOT of books. I hated it so much I threw it away, which is practically a cardinal sin in my house.

You and I share something in common – we were both influenced by our creative writing teacher, Ms. Fristoe.  Can you explain a little about the influence she had on you as a writer?  Any other people who have influenced your writing career?  I hear it was your husband who suggested you write a book…

I remember going to this poetry slam when I was like 16. Now, keep in mind my poetry was just awful. She encouraged me to go up and read it, then gave me a standing ovation. It was the same in class. No matter how bad it was, she always told me I could do it. I could do anything. And when she said that, I believed her. She always made me feel like what I had to say was important.

As far as my husband, he was just tired of me writing fan fiction for other people’s books! He said if I was going to write, I should write something of my own. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could, but as soon as I started, the story just flowed out. It was like magic. Of course, he takes all the credit now. Typical.

I know we all did it in high school, so I have to ask – do you still like to write poetry? 

Cringe! No, my days of flowery prose are long behind me, thank goodness. I can whip up the occasional limerick, though.

Ahem.

There once was a girl from Nantucket…

Finally, the big broad question – when you were a kid, did you ever think you’d grow up to be a writer?

Actually, I always thought I’d grow up to be a detective, like Nancy Drew. I was always spying on people and trying to solve little ‘mysteries’ around the house. One day it led to me finding a stack of inappropriate reading materials under my uncle’s bed, lol. But I was always a reader, since I was 3 years old. I think readers make the best writers because we write what we want to read!

HOW TO ENTER TO WIN THE GIVEAWAY: $15 Barnes & Noble gift card + Foresight prize pack

Contest is open from Thursday, January 21, 2010-Wednesday, January 27, 2010. 

Two ways to enter:

Comment on this post.  Send a “hello” to Sherry or just a “books are cool,” whatever you’d like, but you are only entered ONCE, regardless of how many times you comment.  P.S. Please try to keep it clean, because if it’s too random or offensive, it’ll get marked as spam and when I go to pick a winner, I’m only going with the comments I can see.

If you subscribe to this blog, you will be entered ONCE.  You have to subscribe during the contest period for it to count.

If you comment AND subscribe to this blog, you will be entered TWICE.  You have to subscribe during the contest period for it to count.

I will notify the winner BY EMAIL (I (and only I) see your email when you post or subscribe, so please don’t post it in your comment). 

Contest is over on Wednesday, so if you win, you’ll see an email from me (Jennifer) on Thursday or Friday with the subject line: You have won the Foresight giveaway! 

The goodies will be snail mailed to you.  Don’t worry, no one, other than me and the author, will ever see your address.    

This is how I’m going to pick a winner.  It’s a bit old-fashioned, but it seems the most fair:

I will take all the names and enter them in a Word doc (your name is there once if you’ve been entered once, twice if you’ve been entered twice).  I will print out the list, cut up the names, stick them in a hat and pull one out.  If I pull your name out, you are the winner.

Any questions, just ask!

Good luck!!!


1 Comment

Bob Villain Interview

10 (+1) questions answered by the man who lives up to his name

(Conducted January 12, 2010 – in person)

1. I’m suspicious that Bob Villain isn’t your real name.

What makes you say that?  What makes a name real? 

2. Describe your style.

Alcohol-fueled strangling of a guitar that’s really simple but I try to pass it off like I’m really doing something.

3. How long have you been playing?  And are you self-taught or did you take lessons? 

I wouldn’t say I really “played” the first 4 or 5 years, just made noise to annoy my parents.  Actual playing, maybe 10 years or so.

I guess I’m self-taught, I had people along the way that I played with that I picked things up from…or I picked things up from watching videos…”Oh, that’s how they did that.”  I’ve never paid for lessons.

4. You do originals and covers – how do you pick the songs you want to cover? (thought processes, strikes of fancy, etc.)

Process on writing the originals – need a minute to think about that.  Some songs I’ve written that maybe there’s this piece that’s been lying around…and I finally get the gumption to put it to music.  Most [songs] came out in a 15 minute spurt.  Kinda a moment thing.  “There, that’s the fucking song.”

With covers, I guess it strikes my fancy.  Or I think it would be funny like “Humpty Dance” [Digital Underground].  Really just having a good time with it.

I’d say most covers I do are songs I really like.  Lyrical content, music, it’s a good song.

I think the original artist might get mad at me upon hearing the song.  I’m not sure if I’ve enjoyed [covering] one song more than another.  I will say I do prefer a cover that’s popped into my head over a request because requests are pressure, I’m never going to sound like the original and it will probably disappoint. 

I was really happy when I learned Sublime “Crazy Fool.”  I was happy knowing how to play that song.

5. Musical influences?  And why?

I’ve always been big on words.  I’ve got this thing [he plays briefly], but without words it’ll just seem empty. 

Words have always been the big thing to me, big lyrical content.  I was always a big Lemonheads fan.  Especially the way Mr. Dando [Evan Dando] can take lyrics that aren’t really very happy and conflict them with poppy, sappy, sugar-coated music where people don’t even get what the song is about.  He’s a big influence and a very nice fellow. 

N.W.A.  Probably one of the first albums I bought.  My fat, white ass walking into the record store, about 11 years old, buying “Straight Outta Compton” before soccer moms slapped warning stickers on covers.  It was different, real and raw.  At the time, everyone thought it was real. 

I really couldn’t pick a favorite genre.

I hate modern day country music – exact same formula.  4 line verse, 3 line chorus, repeat.

6. Quintessential music question: The five (or so) albums that you’d want if you were stranded on a desert island (and had water, food and all that kind of stuff already)

There’s beer on this island, right? [I nod]

That’s a hard question.

I’ve never been a big album listener.  I like a song.  I buy a CD and may listen to a song or two. 

  • “Pinkerton” by Weezer.  Front to back, can listen to the whole album through.
  • “Come on Feel the Lemonheads” by The Lemonheads.  I’m not sure I even own the album anymore, but since you’re sticking me on a fucking desert island, you’re buying me another copy.
  • “Orange” by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.  Cause if I’m gonna be on a desert island, I’m probably going to get very stinky.  “Take a whiff of my pant leg, baby” will fit right in.
  • Make me a mixed CD of some James Brown, throw Plow United’s “Timmy is An Arsonist” on there somewhere and I’ll be okay.

I do want the new Toadies’ album, from what I’ve heard so far, but I can’t say yet if I would want it on the island.  I really like “Song I Hate.”

7. Best and worst thing(s) about playing out in public?

The worst is when you know nobody likes you and nobody claps and you know it’s probably something you said to them before you got on stage…that’s also kinda the best thing, though.

[Me: Well you are Bob Villain]

8. Acoustic or electric?

Depends on what I’m doing.  Getting up and playing by myself, I prefer acoustic.  If you’re gonna get up and play electric by yourself, you better be a badass.  I’ll stick with acoustic until I have a band or a can of corn or something [haha, I laugh].  I probably have a can of corn somewhere.

9. Other interests?

I like to read. 

10. Where can we hear some of your stuff?  This is your opportunity to plug yourself, exciting, huh?

http://www.youtube.com/user/bobvillain

http://www.esnips.com/profile/f385068c-56ed-41e5-a132-b8eea54c0b43

I have plans to make my album available for sale thru http://www.cdbaby.com/ sometime, but I’m still laying out some options.  I may completely redo it.

11. Anything else?

I like your t-shirt.

Edit: April 1, 2010: http://www.bobvillain.com/