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Posts Tagged ‘shapeshifter: the demo tapes (year 1)’

I am beyond excited to welcome my friend Susan Helene Gottfried to Diary of an Eccentric today.  Susan blogs at West of Mars — The Meet and Greet and West of Mars — Rocks ‘n Reads, and many of you know her from Win A Book.  But I hope some day in the not-so-distant future, everyone everywhere will know her as the author of Trevor’s Song, her debut novel about rock star Trevor Wolff and his band ShapeShifter.  Some of you already know ShapeShifter from the outtakes Susan has posted on her blog, and you can get your hands on these short pieces in ShapeShifter — The Demo Tapes: Year 1 (read my review and my interview with Susan) and ShapeShifter — The Demo Tapes: Year 2.  Susan is a class act, and I wish her much success!

Now, let me stop blabbing so you can give a warm welcome to Susan Helene Gottfried:

Even though I’m only here in a virtual sense, I do need to thank Anna for hosting me today. She’s shown me great support since hearing of my first book, The Demo Tapes: Year 1, and as our friendship has grown over the past couple of years (has it been that long already? Wow!), she’s never stopped being one of my many sources of inspiration.

Take the other day, for instance. I know Anna lives about four hours from my house, give or take traffic, construction, and the actual placement of the various roads we’d have to drive to get from here or there. And she lives in a great tourist area, one of those places I’m overdue to visit and bring my kids.

So I suggested I hand-deliver her a copy of my latest book, Trevor’s Song.

We laughed at the idea, but then Anna said I could make it my trademark: other authors visit book clubs. I’d visit the people who buy my book! A reverse book signing! And not much different from what my beloved Pittsburgh Penguins pro hockey team does every year, delivering a select few set of tickets to lucky season ticket holders. (I have yet to be one of the lucky families, unfortunately. But I have high hopes!)

Our idea wouldn’t be much different from what the Pens do except … people from all over the world want autographed copies of my books. And while it’s easy enough to carefully wrap up a freshly-autographed book and slip it into a Priority Mail envelope, it can’t possibly be so easy (or inexpensive!) to slip on my easy-off shoes and head to the airport to make a hand delivery to Australia.

Oh, how I wish I could! And not just because Australia is high on my list of places to see in my lifetime.

Rather, the attraction is in getting to travel and meet people who love to read. Sure, it’s a bonus that they like to read my books, but any day in which I can sit and talk about anyone’s books with people is a good day in my world.

Plus, my readers are precious, every last one of them. They’re the people who’ve taken the plunge and spent money on me and my fictional characters. They’re the readers who like my fictional world as much as I do.

Yep, those are precious people.

That’s why I do wish I could hand-deliver every last book I autograph and stick into an envelope. And yes, this happens more often than you might think. In this Internet age, authors are more accessible. If you guys want autographed copies, I’m all too happy to oblige. If you want me to hand-deliver your book, well… believe me. I wish I could. The adventure this idea promises is enough to make me drool. I bet it would inspire great fiction.

In the meantime, I’ll stay home, behind my computer screen, playing music and writing, writing, writing. If you need an autographed book, holler. I’m more than glad to help you get one — and if you buy Trevor’s Song directly from me, I’ll drop the price a bit, too, and save you a few dollars.

If that isn’t incentive enough, how’s this? During November and December, I’ll be giving away at least 50% of my royalties to charity. You can read the full details on my contests page at West of Mars — http://westofmars.com/west-of-mars/contests because this is big. It’s huge. It’s an awesome charity, one that helps our kids.

You can help a kid and get a book in exchange. With the holidays coming, I don’t know how you can do any better in your gift-giving.

Come join me in this. Because, after all, my continued success doesn’t just mean happy kids and a well-coffered charity. It means that one day, the book I hand deliver might just be yours.

Thanks, Susan!   We’re definitely going to have to meet up, regardless of whether or not you come bearing books!  (And do tell the story of the octopus…I’m curious!)

Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I’m thrilled to welcome my friend Susan Helene Gottfried to Diary of an Eccentric today! Susan is the author of ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes (Year 1) (read my review here), and you can find her at West of Mars, West of Mars–the Meet and Greet, and West of Mars–Win a Book. Since this probably is my favorite of all the interviews I’ve done (Susan is a lot of fun to talk to, even if it’s through email), I’m just going to jump right in.

How long have you been working on Trevor’s Song?

ForEVER. Seriously. I came up with the idea for Trevor, Kerri, and Mitchell back in March of 2000. Yes, you read that right. Two Thousand.

I have pictures of me holding my infant son and writing Trevor’s Song on the laptop.

How did the idea of ShapeShifter and the West of Mars site come about?

Now you’re talking about two different things. Let me start with West of Mars first — it’s where I live. West of Mars. The people who live in my community always laugh when I give them my e-mail address. They get the joke — Mars, PA isn’t far from us. To the East, in fact.

And then there’s the whole Men are from Mars thing. Anyone who spends time at my blog will see almost immediately that I’m a bit left of center. Left of center, West of Mars…

West of Mars is meant to be the portal to my world. I always envisioned something bigger than JUST an author’s site. At some point, I’ll be folding my Win a Book blog into the site, but I’d love to expand even further. We’ll see what opportunities present themselves.

As for ShapeShifter… wow. Go back to March 2000 again, please. I was three months pregnant with my first kid. I’d recently broken up with my literary agent, and I’d not as recently given up my freelance copy editing career to concentrate on my fiction. So there I am. It’s a Thursday night and the Tour Manager is out at his bowling league. It’s me and VH1 — and Metallica doing their S&M thing with the San Francisco Symphony.

I caught sight of the wedding band of one of the guys and my mind started spinning… who could love someone who lives the way they do? What would she be like, to be able to hang with them?

Then my brain took it a few steps farther: what if they are each other’s muses?

And Mitchell and Kerri were born.

Trevor, however, sprang to life on his own, fully formed, cantankerous, and ready for mischief.

Can you describe ShapeShifter’s sound and/or their musical influences?

They cite this band called Rat Catcher as one of Mitchell’s main influences, but Rat Catcher’s made up. That doesn’t help, so let me use real-life bands. Mix together Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden… all the classics that a kid growing up in the late seventies and early eighties would be into.

As for their sound, it’s a cross between Justice-era Metallica (I love that guitar sound) and Godsmack. Mitchell definitely has that deeper voice that Godsmack’s Sully has. No offense to Hetfield, who is one of the great frontmen of all time, but ShapeShifter is their own beast, despite their wedding ring origins. Mitchell is moody — or pretends to be — and the baritone fits him better. Those deeper tones fit his perma-scowl and contrast nicely with his nudist tendencies.

I’ve always had a thing for guitarists. What’s your preference?

Definitely guitarists, but I have a soft spot for drummers. That might get back to my own failure to be one; my musical talents are definitely NOT in the arena of producing music, just listening to it and writing about it.

So how and why I’ve managed to create this bass player — Trevor — who steals every scene he’s in — and some he’s not in — I don’t know, unless it’s that whole thing of working on a character and having almost no preconceived notions of who he should be.

What do you do when you’re not writing about Trevor and the band?

Try to tame my Google reader! Man, that thing is out of control. I blame it on Blabbermouth.net, my source for musical news and inspiration. Otherwise, I’m a Mom. That ties up a good chunk of my day. Quizzing my kids on their math facts. And I’ve got these really weird orthopedic issues, so my mornings are generally spent working out, trying to minimize that. Good thing I get off on the endorphin rush of a good workout.

As the weather turns to spring… one day, maybe … I’ll be back outside. I’ve got two bicycles that feel neglected about this time of year. We love to camp and go hiking. For two people as plugged in as my husband and I are, we love to unplug and get out there. You should see the masterpieces we can create over a campfire! (for real. It’s not uncommon for us to go camping and make chicken fajitas or beef kabobs while everyone else is heating up hot dogs. Then we toss the vegetables on the griddle, stick the apple cobbler in the dutch oven… I swear, I eat better around a campfire than I do at home with a stove and two ovens!)

Of course, I love to read. I’m off my high of 144 books per year and I miss that, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off. Whenever I hear of someone reading The Demo Tapes, I get a chill — the good kind. The kind that says I was right to follow my gut and release something that, convention says, has no commercial value.

Thanks to everyone who’s helping me prove that convention doesn’t know it all!

Do you have a playlist you listen to when you write? What are some of the songs? If you don’t have one, what songs would be on it if you were to create one?

You know, I don’t get playlists. Repetition drives me bananas — ask my kids. I can’t be in my office and not have the XM radio playing. I flip through probably four or five of my preset stations, hiding from bands I don’t like. I’ve found a lot of new stuff that I dig this way, so that’s even better than having a playlist. I love to have my horizons constantly expanded.

So what would I put on a playlist? Probably the stuff on my MP3 player — Metallica, Disturbed, Godsmack. I need to get my hands on some Korn and Slipknot. I love Apocalyptica’s latest. There’s some Pantera, some Alice in Chains, some Judas Priest. Evanesence and Flyleaf and a local band called Brownie Mary bring the women.

Any other projects in the works?

Of course! There’s Demo Tapes: Year 2, which will encompass all the fiction I posted on the Meet and Greet between April 2007 and March 2008. And I’m working on two different novels, one of which is the follow-up to Trevor’s Song, and one of which features a woman who you may not have noticed much over at The Meet and Greet, but that’s all I’m saying right now…It needs a LOT of editing.

Thanks, Susan! I’d love to have you back here to talk about The Demo Tapes (Year 2) and one day Trevor’s Song!

Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate.

© 2009 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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You all know Susan Helene Gottfried as the brains and beauty behind West of Mars. We began “talking” through email several months ago after I contacted her about some book giveaways, and it’s been a pleasure to get to know her. (Well, as much as you can “know” someone online. But she’s one of those online buddies I’d love to know in real life, too!) I was a newbie to the Meet and Greet, where she posts short pieces about her fictional band ShapeShifter. I honestly didn’t know where to begin, but the few pieces I’d read of these characters made me want more. So when she asked me to read ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes (Year 1) I was ecstatic!

The Demo Tapes features the short pieces posted on the Meet and Greet during its first year. These stories were written by Susan as a way to introduce readers to the characters in Trevor’s Song, a novel she’s been working on for awhile, and to drum up interest in the book. For newbies and old followers alike, The Demo Tapes is a great way to get a feel for the many characters, the band, and the setting Susan has created. She presents the stories in chronological order (which was a big help for me), including a little blurb about her inspiration for each piece and the original publication date.

I hadn’t read many of the stories on the Meet and Greet prior to reading The Demo Tapes, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I enjoy Susan’s humor and sarcasm, and I was happy to see them on the pages of The Demo Tapes. I also love heavy metal, particularly the stuff from the late 1970s through early 1990s. (Seriously, about 85 percent of my iPod is full of the hair bands I grew up with like Poison and Bon Jovi mixed in with Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Metallica, etc.) I’ve probably seen every heavy metal documentary on VH1-Classic, laughing at the behind-the-scenes band fighting, ego wars, and antics I didn’t understand when I bought my first metal album in 1987 when I was just 10. In this respect, The Demo Tapes doesn’t disappoint.

You’ve got bad boy Trevor Wolff, who formed the band with Mitchell Voss. Mitchell first encounters Trevor when he accompanies his sister, Amy, on her date with Trevor. Trevor’s had a hard life by the time he reaches his teens, and Mitchell’s family gains legal custody of him. The Demo Tapes follows them from their first meeting to ShapeShifter’s stardom to Mitchell’s marriage. Though there’s no clear timeline, you can tell a lot of time has passed and the characters have matured. There’s some boys-will-be-boys stories, some antics that only those boys with rock star status can enjoy, and some great interactions between Trevor and Mitchell and Mitchell and Amy, among others.

My favorite pieces are from “Green Hair Week,” when the band spends too much time partying in the pool and the chemicals turn Mitchell’s white-blonde hair green. The list of things they use to get rid of the green is laugh-out-loud funny. Here’s my favorite passage, with Mitchell, the “long-haired rock god” in a shower cap.

‘You should see yourself right now,’ Amy told him. His hair was piled on top of his head like a turban, drips of mayonnaise-colored conditioner had spattered his bare arms and chest, and for some reason known only to him, he’d tucked a towel into the waistband of his jeans, as if to keep them clean. ‘You know, Mom wanted me to take pictures.’

‘You told her?’

Amy wanted to laugh at his scared look. Mitchell, ever the little boy who was terrified of being caught–even when he’d been bad on purpose. ‘Of course I told Mom about it,’ she said. ‘I needed a ride to the airport, remember?’

He covered his face with his hands and stomped in a circle, moaning ‘no’ over and over again. Amy actually felt a little sorry for him.

C’mere and let’s get this one you,’ she said, taking the clear plastic cap from him. ‘At least it’s not pink.’ (pages 89-90)

And here’s a passage from my other favorite piece, “Hearts,” which is about Kerri watching Mitchell on the beach during their honeymoon.

Mitchell got up, left his Vans by the patio’s edge, and wandered down the beach. Kerri cocked her head as she watched him, itching for a sketch pad. There seemed to be a light wind near the shore; it blew his silvery-white hair across the back of his black tank in a tantalizing way. Add in his camoflage cargo shorts and he was a hell of a vision as he bent to play in the sand near the surf. Nothing at all like a powerful rock star. Just a regular guy. (page 111)

I’ve never been in a band or hung out with a band, but Susan’s portrayal seems real. Her characters are real, at times vulnerable, rebellious, funny, annoying, misguided, etc. She easily shifts from humorous scenes to romantic scenes without losing this authenticity. I finished The Demo Tapes in one sitting, and I can’t wait until a publisher recognizes Susan’s talent so I can get my hands on Trevor’s Song. If you’re a fan of Susan’s blog, a fan of rock ‘n roll, or someone looking for engaging characters and a quick read, check out The Demo Tapes. (Be warned–The Demo Tapes contains some sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, and foul language. It’s about a band after all.)

Disclosure:  I received a copy of ShapeShifter:  The Demo Tapes (Year 1) from the author for review purposes. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2009 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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