Back in the days before the internet‚ a big part of grassroots marketing for bands was gathering as many mailing addresses as they could at shows in order to keep in touch with you through mail‚ usually a postcard with their tour dates. You could tell the band was gaining serious traction when the postcard evolved into a multiple-page newsletter. I remember that happening with moe. sometime in mid-'90s. All of the sudden there was a lot more besides tour dates and the hotline number: mail order for merchandise called "moe. crap‚" a column called "Meat" that was vegan recipes from guitarist Al Schnier‚ and a column called "Feedin' at the Trough‚" in which bassist Rob Derhak's brother John would write about all the happenings and misadventures at the moe.Republic Hotel.
When the internet really took hold‚ the newsletter became obsolete and fun nuggets like "Feedin'" seemed lost forever. Luckily‚ Rob suggested Brother John take those old letters‚ do some stretching out‚ and turn them into a book. In 2006‚ John Derhak's first novel‚ Tales From the moe.Republic was finished.
I can't help but draw a correlation between John's writing and moe.'s music. It's great storytelling with a lot depth‚ humor‚ and a similar sense of adventure. And once you get into it‚ you're in for one hell of a ride.
John will be signing copies of the book at this year's moe.down‚ so stop by the merch tent to say hi and pick up a copy.
You did summer tour with moe. How did that go?
Summer tour went well. It gave me a whole new appreciation of what those guys go through on a daily basis to make the music happen. The day would start out around 10 in the morning and we'd go till 2 or 3 a.m.
Tales is filled with so many colorful characters. Did meeting people on the road inspire some new ones?
When I was writing Tales some of the characters were named after people I've known in my life‚ friends and family; but the characters themselves took on their own personalities‚ as it were‚ as the book developed. Being on the road like we were didn't offer much time to get to know people. I would say that I would be more inspired to draw on my experiences this summer than having a new character(s) surface in my work. I'm about 45‚000 words into the next book. There's quite a few new characters‚ but none inspired from my travels this summer.
Cool! What's the new book about? Is it a continuation of the letter-storytelling approach or is it something different? Also‚ what kind of experiences this summer did you find inspirational?
The new book is being written as a traditional narrative. It's another Kinghorn and Bigwood adventure. My working title is The Timeminders. The story picks up a few months after the Red Beard adventure. A mystery‚ wrapped in a ghost story‚ wrapped in notions about time and space.
I decided to go with the traditional narrative approach for two reasons. One‚ the first person letter-storyteller approach was very challenging. But it really taught me a few things about writing fiction that I otherwise would take for granted. Things like having to build your story around a single perspective; how to write believable dialog to reflect that; not to "preach" or "lecture" to the reader‚ i.e.‚ meaning‚ let the characters speak for themselves through dialog‚ which allows the reader to think for themselves and draw their own conclusions about each character and thus the book as a whole. That was the most important thing I discovered about writing when writing Tales‚ and I really believed that prepared me for the next book.
Reason number two: I need a literary agent to take me to the next level and they want a narrative. For all the positive reviews and feedback I've received for Tales‚ all the funny stories‚ adventures and haunting tales -- the word on the street‚ the demand‚ is for a narrative. Overall‚ "The Timeminders" is in the same writing style as the moe. Republic‚ just not in the first person.
On one level‚ I found the camaraderie of moe. inspirational. Everyone is grounded. Onstage and behind stage the band and crew work hard and work together to make the whole experience something special for the fans night after night. On another level‚ we went places far and wide‚ e.g.‚ if the Grand Tetons can't cockle your berries‚ what can?
I remember reading about Tales and you said something along the lines that with some of the stories you just had an initial idea -- I think it was Red Beard -- but once you got into a groove writing‚ it became this long epic tale that wasn't really premeditated. If that's accurate‚ is that how you write a lot of the time? Also‚ it sort of reminds of music -- especially moe. as improvisers. Do you ever talk to Rob about that or draw the correlation between the two?
You heard correctly about the Red Beard story. I'm not a premeditated writer. I try to write every day. I enjoy it immensely. I'll write by hand‚ then transcribe it on to a computer‚ print that out‚ edit the piece‚ and repeat until it works for me. I call it constructing. I don't or can't write with the end in mind. I get in a groove and let it flow‚ and then build around that.