To be totally honest, I wrote this book because I wanted to practice writing sex scenes. After I finished my first and second books (Three Alarm Tenant and Spark of Desire) I decided I needed practice writing sex scenes. When I finished it, this manuscript was a mess of head hopping, bad grammar and continuity errors, but there were lots of sex scenes and I never planned to publish it anyway. Well, as it happened, I was working in South Korea and decided to look for a writing group online. I happened across the group I am still with many years and three continents later. At the time, new applicants were required to submit some writing and a bio, and do a sample critique. Why I decided to submit Jason and Cassandra’s story, I don’t know. I had two completed novels and a novella gathering cyberdust on my hard drive at the time. Regardless, it worked and I was accepted by the group.
Within the first few days of being accepted there was a kerfuffle over another writer who had applied at the same time I had. Apparently she had read through some of the posts about her when the group was discussing letting us join and was offended, quitting the group immediately. Well, it had not occurred to me that the group might have discussed me and I wanted to know what they had said. Not much as it turned out. One member who shall remain nameless because I have no recollection of who it was said she thought I would be a decent critiquer, but thought my manuscript would be a “plotless wonder” (this I remember.) I already had a pretty thick skin by that point so I shrugged, laughed and filed the phrasing away as it was the first time I’d heard it.
This book was milled through the group and then published with another house under the unfortunate title The Rockstar’s Retreat. Believe me, that was the best one we could come up with at the time. I hated that title and knew I could do better by the story, so when the initial contract expired I took back the rights and proceeded to mess with it some more in addition to writing four more novels and five more novellas (and counting) in the same world.
And so the story goes.
O Brother was one of those quirky perfect matches for me when it came out. I don’t consistently love the Coen Borthers and I don’t consider myself a fan of George Clooney, but I loved reading the Odyssey in college and still own the book. (I have a more historically accurate version of the work starring Armand Assante too.) I also happen to be very fond of that musical era. It was either going to be a perfect match or something I was going to walk away from wishing I had that 2 hours back. If you haven’t seen it I suggest that you do.
Jason Callisto is a dark, wounded musical genius. I am a sucker for dark, wounded genius. Jason was the first member of Touchstone that I “met.” About <mumble mumble> years ago when I was in college, I spent many long lectures dreaming about Jason Callisto and his girlfriend Cassandra Geoffrey. Don’t worry, most of the information sunk in. Most of the daydreaming was done during history and psychology lectures that I could have given myself thanks to a curious nature and a mother with liberal views on appropriate reading material.
I’ve always thought Jason was an Aries. Focused, determined, and passionate. He wants what he wants when he wants it. Aries are the babies of the zodiac and I don’t know about you, but in my experience, they can be pretty single minded about their desires. Jason is the real musical talent in the band. He’s an extremely gifted musician. Plus he’s got this super hot prime Steve Perry (Journey)/Eric Martin (Mr. Big) thing happening. Sigh.
Heaven Beside You is the name of an Alice In Chains song that I always liked, but the reason it was so very appropriate for this book was because West Virginians’ refer to the state as heaven. John Denver’s song “Country Roads” was written about driving through West Virginia and refers to the state as heaven. During the Depression many, many West Virginians migrated to Akron, Ohio to work in the rubber factories. They referred to Route 77, which is the direct route from Akron to West Virginia as the Highway to Heaven.
Funny aside, Koreans are obsessed with John Denver (and Kenny Rogers, but that’s not my point.) If you happen to have a guitar in your hands, Koreans will ask if you can sing “Country Roads.” Sometimes they will break in to song themselves. Now consider the Asian difficulty with the letter R. “Contilee loads / taka me hoome / to the prace I be wrong / West Virginia / Mountain mama / Taka me hoome / Contilee loads.” It’s difficult to keep a straight face.
Not terribly surprising though. Korean landscape looks remarkably like West Virginia. I remember being out in the countryside at a resort looking around felling like I was in West Virginia and then coming across a spirit pole. Weird.