Last week, one of Sprocket Ink’s own, Lance, released his first book—a novella by the name of The Ballad of Helene Troy. I had the opportunity to chat (via social media) with Lance about the book, and his experiences writing it. While he proclaims that he sucks at giving advice, I think Lance has some very sound advice to give!
You, of course, can find the book on Amazon in Kindle edition, as well as Smashwords. I would strongly recommend the story. You can also follow Lance on the Twitter and, if you’re feeling particularly stalkery, you can subscribe to his page on the Book O Face.
1. Tell us a bit about your novella.
Helene Troy is a 24-year-old guitarist-singer-songwriter from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She’s been in New York for over two years with her all-girl band, Slipper Socks Medium. Her talent is pretty clear but the stress of leading a band in a big city with members who are struggling with drugs and immaturity has led her to become desperate. She gets a big break when one of her musical idols sees her perform and gives her a chance to do studio work. That leads to romantic entanglements and her band starts to fall apart. How she reacts to it all shows if she has what it takes to become a success.
2. You’ve described the main character as a ‘badass’. What’s the main thing that makes Leney relatable to the reader?
Leney is a dreamer, but a realistic one. She knows how to work hard, listen to her heart, and not let anyone push her around. But, she’s also self-destructive. She likes to drink, cuss, fight, and lash out at mediocrity. I think readers will relate to her fighting spirit. She’s Rocky Balboa in jeans, tight t-shirts, with a waft of Jack Daniels. She represents the inner rock star in a lot of people.
3. You’ve also mentioned that Leney’s an amalgamation of several individuals you knew back in the day. How did you get involved in the music scene?
I’m obsessed with music and always have been. I’m a terrible guitar player with more passion than talent. As a teenager I was drawn to artistic friends and later in college I was a DJ, manager, and music writer. After college, I managed a couple of bands and stayed very close to the music scenes of Birmingham and Atlanta. In 2005, 2006, 2007, I had a music blog on MySpace where I reviewed concerts, CDs, and interviewed musicians. The combined experiences ran me across my favorite kind of musician – female band leaders. Leney is drawn from several ones I knew. I stay very close to music, now, writing for blogs here and there, and I even interviewed a couple of bands last year. It will always be part of my life.
4. What was the most difficult part of the writing process for you? Is there anything that you would do differently?
Well, there were many obstacles. The Ballad of Helene Troy was a short story idea that I started serializing on my blog. Reader reaction was so positive that I began expanding the story. The next thing I knew I was writing in the car line to pick up my daughters from school, at red lights, and even fast food drive-thrus. Being a husband in a happy marriage and a proud father of 3 girls, aged 17, 9, and 8, while also attending cheerleading and judo events was difficult. It took me about 15 months to write the novella. Helene’s approximately 48,000 words. I wrote about 70,000, but after edits, cuts and arranging, it became a novella. I also have a real job, write my own blog, write for Sprocket Ink two to three times a week, and guest post for several places around the Internet. The most difficult part was finding time to sleep, eat, and make sure my wife didn’t change the locks on me.
5. What advice would you give other aspiring writers?
Never stop. You write because you have to. It’s the blood in your veins. It’s the wind in your chest. Be careful to write with your voice and your heart. It’s easy to “just write”. I mean the Twitter’s 140 characters. But, to cut open your gut and bleed all over the page then show people who may or may not know you on the web, well, that’s what makes you special. I suck at advice. But, I’ve written every day for over 3 years, and on-and-off since I was the age of my youngest daughter, 8. I’ve done it my way, my style, and my voice. I just want everyone who has what one of my writer friends calls, “the midnight disease”– where you wake up in a cold sweat with a story burning a hole in your head and you find that ratty notebook and chewed pencil next to the bed and start chicken-scratching it down– to never give that up. It’s the greatest feeling in the world when it makes its way into a book.