On a Roll with
Booktunes: An easy one to start off with: What’s your favorite song?
Andrew Smith: Some people will say this is a cop-out, but I really do not have a “favorite” of anything. There is just so much out there to enjoy that picking one song, book, or even cuisine feels like too much of a cage to me. So, actually, this is a very difficult question for me.
BT: Your bio states that, prior to easing into a writer’s life, you traveled and worked in metal mills, as a longshoreman, in bars and liquor stores, in security and as a musician. A musician? Do tell us more!
AS: Yes, when I was very young and in college (I was about 17 years old at the time), I played guitar in a couple local bands that performed around Los Angeles and Hollywood. It was a lot of fun, and we actually did get to perform at shows with bands who went on to become quite famous. I don’t think we were extremely serious about it, although the guys I played with were extremely talented. It was rough getting by when you got paid so little.
BT: The music you refer to in In the Path of Falling Objects unquestionably adds to the seventies feeling of the novel. How did you choose the songs?
AS: Well, although I am much younger than Jonah and Simon would be today, I did have an older brother who fought in Vietnam. When he was in high school, he used to drive a 1963 Cadillac that had been given to him by our aunt. When my brother drove us around, he would listen to the AM radio in his Cadillac, and I can clearly remember those songs coming through the speakers.
BT: Is there one song that stands out for you in that novel? That represents the heart of the novel best?
AS: Um… I like Run Through The Jungle, by Creedence Clearwater Revival, as far as the uncertainty of the brothers’ paths on this journey, and definitely Jumpin’ Jack Flash as far as a kind of theme song for the psychopathic Mitch.
BT: You told us that you fairly regularly use music in your novels. Do they just slip in while writing? What is your MO for choosing and using songs?
AS: When I am writing, I need to have absolute silence in my house. However, I do create my own playlists that capture the moods and emotions of the characters and the plotlines of novels while I am writing them, and I will listen to those particular songs quite frequently while I’m involved in the creation of a new book. So, the songs kind of slip in, but they’re also what I generally listen to in my simmering, non-writing hours.
BT: Stick, your newest novel that is scheduled to appear in October 2011 – a BT review of Stick will be published in October – has only three songs, yet they really have a lot to do with the story. Could you tell us more about that connection?
AS: Well, for one thing, although I do not state this anywhere in the book, it takes place in 1975. So I wanted to pick songs from that year (or, in the case of Buffalo Springfield's Mr. Soul, one that people would still be listening to in 1975). So I thought It Came Out of the Sky was a funny choice considering the prank the boys play, which makes people think there was a UFO over Seattle. I also like the sound and the feel of David Essex's Rock On, because I could see this song as being a kind of liberating message for Stark and Bosten, the two brothers at the heart of the story.
BT: The music you use for the book trailers of your novels is pretty intense, too, just like your stories. Could you tell us more about the music that was composed for Stick trailer?
AS: The music for the Stick trailer was composed by a young man named James Marino (he goes by James Marcus for his on stage name). I know him as Jimmy, though. When we were putting together the trailer, I decided to have the entire cast and technical crew composed of kids. They were all 16 or 17 years old. When the director, Dave Espinoza, began casting the shoot, he had Jimmy and two other boys, Derek Deakins (who plays Bosten), and Demetri Belardinelli (who plays Ricky) come in to talk to me about the story and what we were looking for.
When I told the boys that I was also going to be scouting for young musicians to do a soundtrack, Jimmy whipped out his iPod and told me that he was a composer and was planning on studying music at Berkeley School of Music (where he is now). I listened to the compositions on Jimmy’s iPod and was totally blown away. So the music on the trailer was composed, performed, and recorded by Jimmy (James) Marino. Jimmy also plays the part of Stick in the trailer, too. Jimmy was only 16 years old at the time.
BT: You just signed contracts for three more books. First of all: congratulations. We are so looking forward to more of your books. But the real question here is, of course, Ii there music in these books, too?
AS: Oh, there is definitely music in the next books. Winger, which will be coming out in early 2013 from Simon & Schuster, has quite a few song references in it. The book I just wrote (which is a secret project) has an awful lot of songs in it, and a couple really great bits of poetry, too.
BT: Apparently a lot of writers are runners. You too. Do you run in silence or does the iPod join you on your morning runs through the Californian mountains?
AS: I do a lot of deep thinking when I run. I can’t get into that deep kind of concentration if I am listening to music. Furthermore, I am quite the outspoken opponent of what I call “iPodsolation,” where people walk around with plugs in their heads and shut out the rest of the world. Music is meant to be shared and enjoyed socially. It has always been that way throughout the artistic history of mankind. Earbuds are a cancer on the beauty of the experience. They are selfish and they shun the rest of the world. I only listen to music that is played through the atmosphere.
BT: Anything we should listen while waiting for Stick to come out?
AS: To tell you the truth, my Stick playlist had an awful lot of early Neil Young on it. There is something about Neil Young’s innocent wonder that resonates through the voice of Stick’s narration. It is definitely why I put Mr. Soul in the novel, and especially because of the recurring line:
'Is it strange I should change, I don’t know…'
Because Stick is, after all, about changing.
Interview by Mina Witteman