1.) First, tell us about yourself- where you live, your family and those sorts of details.
I'm a writer and a musician living in Seattle with my girlfriend and two cats. We frequent a local English pub called the George and Dragon to watch EPL games, and we obsess a little about Game of Thrones. I was in a band called Sightseer until October of last year. I wound up quitting the band because I found I didn't quite have time to write as much as I wanted and also devote myself to the band as much as I needed. It was a hard choice, but it enabled me to finish The Music Book and to get started on my next one. I'll get back into something musical sometime soon, but for now I spend my non-pub evenings writing in the basement, and when the writing is done, I'll go upstairs and sit on the couch with my girlfriend and the cats.
2.) How long have you been writing?
I did a lot of writing back in high school and college, and though some of it was pretty good, I knew back then that it wasn't quite good enough. I felt that I needed more life experience so after I graduated college in 1995 I moved to Seattle and then I spent eight years in Seoul, South Korea teaching English. I traveled a bit over there. I owned a recording studio for a while and started a web programming business. When I came back from Korea in 2005, I spent some time in Ohio and then moved back to Seattle in 2007 at which time I started a blog. I felt ready finally to get back into writing so I forced myself to post something to my blog every day, and after a while I got some readers and the blog actually grew into my first book, which I guess is a long way of saying that my writing started in earnest with my blog in 2007. Since the first book, I've had a short story published in The Monarch Review and an essay on Slate.com, and of course, finished my second book.
3.) Do you have a favorite place to write?
When I was working on my first book, I was writing in coffee shops and bars. It was just a sign of where I was in my life at that time. I was alone and think I needed to be around people even if I was writing and not really talking to them. I'm in a much better place now having been with my girlfriend for three years. She puts up with me going down to the basement to write every night, so that's my favorite place. I'll spend anywhere from two to four hours writing, and I like knowing that my girlfriend is upstairs eager to read the night's work.
4.) Why did you decide to write The Music Book?
When I was finishing Horse Bite, I was contacted by a music blog called Seattle Subsonic. One of their writers had been reading my personal blog, and since I was often writing about music related things, they asked if I'd be interested in writing for their blog. I was reluctant at first since I didn't want to be a critic. In music, I'd always been the one on stage. I couldn't imagine being critic so what I did was insert myself into the writing. It wasn't just about the music. It was about my experience of the music, and I found that doing it that way allowed me to really get into chords and melodies and lyrics, into what it was like to watch the band while scribbling notes and drinking a beer at the end of the bar. What I found was that the bands quite enjoyed what I was writing. They enjoyed the perspective. The readers did too. Eventually, Stacy Meyer, singer for a band called Furniture Girls, told me one night she'd love to see a collection of those writings in a book. That was the genesis of it, but I knew the book couldn't just be a collection of reviews about local bands in Seattle. What I did instead is take the themes that had shown themselves in the music articles and build a fictional narrative around those. The book is thus a blend of fiction and non-fiction. The bands and music are real. The story wrapped around it is fiction.
Since the music is real, we also put together a CD of the songs experienced in the book, and the sales of the CD will benefit the Wishlist Foundation, which is a Pearl Jam fan nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Pearl Jam’s charitable and philanthropic efforts. The charity fit since Pearl Jam is in the book.
5.) Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you get someone else to do that for you?
I have a writer friend help me. We'll meet at the pub after he's read a draft and discuss it, and then I'll revise the draft as needed. My girlfriend will also read early drafts. She's got a great eye for detail and pushes me hard to make the writing and the story better. By the time I sent The Music Book to Booktrope, it was on the twentieth draft. Not all drafts were major revisions, but that just gives you an idea of how much it had been read before the publisher ever got hold of it. My editor at Booktrope was impressed with the quality of the manuscript and remarked on how complete it was. Revisions made after Booktrope accepted it were quite minimal.
6.) Please tell us what you’re working on at the moment.
I have a few short stories that are based around holidays although they aren't holiday stories in any traditional holiday sense. The main one of these is called Condoms on Christmas. It was first published in the Monarch Review in May of 2012, and I've begun reworking it a bit. As I've done such, the story has grown so much that it might turn into a short novel. It could end up being its own thing or it could be like part two of Jumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth. The first part of that book is five unrelated stories, and part two is one story in three parts and is about one third the length of the book. Condoms on Christmas might be like that, the longest story in a collection of short stories. We'll see. As for what it's about, it isn't really a Christmas story, of course. Such holidays just give heightened awareness to the feelings of being alone and the reasons we do and don't let people into our lives. It'll weave in and out of the differing perspectives of five people on a single Christmas day. There's desperation, joy, sex, booze, loneliness, and redemption. Most of all there's possibility. That's one of the things about holidays. They remind us of all that was and that we've lost, but they also remind us of all that is possible.
The other thing I'm doing now is bringing the bands from the book into the studio of a Seattle-based record label called Critical Sun. Whet we do is then record a session in which I interview the band and they play a few songs. These interviews are being released as podcasts, and the first few are already online here: https://soundcloud.com/criticalsun/sets/the-music-book-interviews
We've also put together a CD of the music in the book. There are physical CDs that will be available online soon, but for now there is a page where all the music can be downloaded. The cool thing about the CD is that it is a benefit for a charity called the Wishlist Foundation, which is a Pearl Jam fan nonprofit, grassroots 501(c)(3) fan organization dedicated to supporting Pearl Jam’s charitable and philanthropic efforts
The CD's download page is here: https://themusicbook.bandcamp.com/album/the-music-book-a-benefit-for-the-wishlist-foundation
Title: The Music Book
Author: Dave O’Leary
Genre: Literary Fiction
What does music mean? Can it be more than the sum of its notes and melodies? Can it truly change you? Rob, a musician turned reluctant music critic, poses these questions as everything important in his life appears to be fading—memories of lost love, songs from his old bands, even his hearing. He delves into the music of others to find solace and purpose, and discovers that the chords and repeated phrases echo themes that have emerged in his own life. The music sustains him, but can it revive him?
The Music Book is a story of loss, of fear and loneliness, of a mutable past. But most of all it’s about music as a force, as energy, as a creator of possibility. What might come from the sound of an A chord played just so? Rob listens. And among other things, he finds surprising companionship with a cat; another chance at love; and the courage to step on a stage again and finally, fully comprehend the power of sound.
Dave O’Leary is a writer and musician living in Seattle. His second novel, The Music Book (Booktrope, November 2014), is a collection of the writings O’Leary has done about Seattle bands for both Northwest Music Scene (http://www.northwestmusicscene.com/author/davemusic/) and the now defunct Seattle Subsonic. It is a fictional narrative wrapped around and within the actual music, a story about live music in Seattle and, more broadly, about the power of music in our lives. A CD of the music experienced in the book will be released by Seattle indie label, Critical Sun Recordings.
His first book, Horse Bite (Infinitum), was published in 2011.
Photo by Stacy Albright. http://www.stacyalbrightimages.com
The Music Book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Music-Book-Dave-OLeary/dp/1620154625
Author’s Website: http://www.daveoleary.net/
Author’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/dolearyauthor