If you haven’t seen my recent post over at Welcome to Bridgetown, I’m currently celebrating the platinum anniversary of my starting a novel (The Phoenix Effect) that would end up morphing into my Bridgetown trilogy. All this month I will be posting fun things related to the original as well as the trilogy, and I thought I’d do the same over here.
Twenty years ago I was a few months in on my relatively new job as the lone shipper/receiver at HMV Records. Even though I was one of the oldest hires there (I’m pretty sure I was closer to my manager Tom’s age than the young’uns I worked alongside), I was still feeling my way around.
The biggest change from the years previous was that I had a much closer connection to the music I was listening to. I was listening to a lot of radio at the time but didn’t have that much money to spend on new releases, but this job let me listen to a lot more stuff (and yes, I may have dubbed a number of cds onto blank cassettes while in the back room, heh!).
But the sounds were changing as well. The bright bounciness of Britpop was suffering from hangovers and bloating (see: Oasis’ Be Here Now, a solid but WAY overworked album); the American grunge was kind of losing its way (not to mention some of its lead singers to overdoses), and let’s face it: the college rock I knew of then was essentially the commercial rock of now.
That’s not to say the quality (or quantity) of alternative rock was declining…it was merely evolving with the times. In fact, 1997 featured some fantastic, solid releases from bands both old and new, taking the genre in new and interesting directions.
On a personal level this was a positive and much-needed evolution for me, as I’d been in dire need of a change in my life and outlook. I’d been broke, angry and depressed for about three years straight, gone through some personal issues that were Not Fun At All, and needed a positive change ASAP.
Not only that, this change in mood is reflected in my writing. I’d essentially started a new project resurrected from the ashes of one that I had to close down for personal reasons. And let’s be brutally honest: back then, I’d had a collegiate view of being a writer. I was a special snowflake with the Powers of Story [insert sprinkly *whoosh* sfx here] and I wrote Important Life Allegories™. In reality, however…my writing was crap, I knew it was crap, no one was going to take it seriously, and I was going to need to be a shit ton better than the level I was currently at if was going to get anywhere with it.
So that meant dispensing with the mindset of Writing as Superpower and take it seriously. Making it a daily process instead of a casual one. Relearning the basics of story construction. (This included doing a hell of a lot more reading than before; not just the how-to writing books, but the different genres of fiction and nonfiction I was interested in. This plan kick-started my habit of visiting book stores on the weekends and, thankfully, a love of reading.)
Music has always been a part of my writing process, and this time it was no different. This time out I’d be making mixtapes of tracks that would inspire my writing (the four-volume Songs from the Eden Cycle from 1997-8, the sort-of sequels in the early 2000s, and the recent Eden Cycle Sessions mp3 playlists). Certain albums released during this time would get heavy rotation play on my cd player down in my basement writing nook. And I’d listen to a hell of a lot of stuff on my fifty-mile commute, which was always a perfect time for me to brainstorm.
I’d made a decision to be a writer quite early in my life, but 1997 was when I decided to take that decision seriously.