Rock Revival: Draft Zero

Composition. Image by Natania Barron. CC BY SA 3.0

I’m very happy at the moment. This weekend I finished the first (zero) draft of Rock Revival. Now, I know, I’ve written books before. I’ve figured out “the method” or whatever of “being a writer” and all that jazz, sure. Except, since having my surgery in 2010 I hadn’t actually finished a novel. Yeah, there was that pregnancy thing that accounted for nine months. But about three weeks after the baby girl was born, I started Rock Revival to my own surprise. I mean, I had other books to write. Speculative books. Good books, surely! Yet, for whatever reason, it’s the story that wanted to be told first (in spite of my attempts to write other things).

I’ve had to change the entire way I write. Much in the same way I can’t play guitar, I can’t just sit at a computer or a laptop. All those great writing tips for busy folk and moms and whatnot? Yeah, not much help. I can’t take my writing somewhere else; I can’t write by hand. I can dictate some, but I’m still learning how to do that. And since my surgery, I hadn’t been able to adapt that into any personal longterm projects.

So for this book, I had to retrain myself how to write. Now it’s not about numbers, it’s about endurance. And, at last, I’ve figured it out. In some ways it’s really the NaNoWriMo approach. I try to clock 200 words a day, on the short end (the “no-matter-what-is-happening-do-or-die” number) and 1,000 on regular days. And now, four months later, I have a book. No to say I was perfect every step of the way, because I wasn’t; but all in all it was pretty damned successful.

The book ended up a little more than 70K, but it’s already up to 72K after deleting and rewriting a bunch over the weekend. I tend to do a Draft Zero Re-read immediately after finishing, and it helps me tie the end to the beginning more solidly. I had a lot of epiphanies toward the end of the book and it’s bee really satisfying to go in and tidy things. There’s one scene I’m dreading writing because it’s really rough but essential to the story. Then, once I’m finished with the DZR I’ll be putting everything into Pages and doing a major edit. Then comes more writing, filling in the blanks–interviews, Wikipedia articles, Tweet exchanges. Seriously fun.

But that’s not all. I mean, I see now how important this book has been to me, personally. Not only did it help me prove something to myself that I’d been living in fear about (not being able to do this again) but it helped me remember something that I’d been neglecting a while: my love of music. For a long time my dream was to be a singer/songwriter. It was an encompassing dream that I gave up only when life got too busy and I said things like, “It’s too competitive” and “Who has time?” Not that I’ve ever stopped playing music, but it became a monthly thing rather than a daily thing.

These days, I’ve been steeped in music. I even wrote a song for the book, the first I’ve written in almost five years. And it’s even good. I’m not saying I’m changing courses to become a rock star, but I am recognizing that it’s a much bigger part of me than I’d let on for a while. I played my dad’s Gibson 339 this weekend, through an honest to goodness amplifier, and hot-damn if it didn’t feel amazing.

This has never, to my knowledge, happened before. A book has never given me something so lasting and profound in return. And I’m grateful for that.

Anyway. The baby is asleep and there’s a thousand things I need to do before picking up my son, but I wanted to take a minute and smile and pat myself on the back. That elation will only last as long as that big red edit marker lays dormant. I’ll be singing a different tune in a few weeks, perhaps.

Interview with Jesse McLaren, rock journalist:

Tell us about your relationship with Tom. How did it shape your music?
Kate Styx: There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said. I mean, I’m pretty transparent in what I write, and you don’t have to listen to much of our catalogue to hear what I have to say on the matter. I don’t usually talk too much about it, y’know? To me, it’s a short story. We were together a while, it didn’t work out, but we’ve both moved on. He’s a dear friend, one of the best things in my life.

You’ve said that “Lost and Loving” best reflects your relationship. Why is that?
KS: (laughs) I was really mad when I wrote that. We’d just broken up for good, and he was so calm about the whole damned thing. Me? I was a mess. But that song just sort of fell in my lap one night when I was feeling really stupidly sorry for myself. I had a working demo in two hours and woke James up at 4am to get his take on it. He loved it, tweaked it a bit, and we laid down the track two weeks later. Tom really is like a river, as hackneyed as that reference might be. I could tell he was sorry we’d broken up, but he just kept moving on. I wasn’t so good at it. I don’t like to talk too many details, but I still feel that same way in the song. I probably always will.

That was your second number one hit. Do you feel strange having to revisit that raw emotion every time you play live?
KS: After a while, it just becomes a song. Sure, I bet if we broke up and didn’t play for twenty years and got together again, it’d have some meaning again. You know, like the way Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham did with “The Chain” during their reunion special. The air is charged, man. The way they look at each other. I think that’s part of going through something like this with someone and then having to continue working with them. Time is weird. Distance is important. Perspective changes. But I don’t think you ever stop loving someone entirely. You share something special with them. The first few times we played the song live we had to rewrite the background vocals for Kurt so he could sing them. I couldn’t manage it. But now I don’t really think about it.

You famously ousted Sara Plummer and brought aboard your childhood friend Kurt Bastian to replace her. There’s been a lot of speculation about that. Care to set the record straight?
KS: There’s nothing to be set straight. Listen, all my music life I’ve been collaborating with bassists. Before Sara, there was Kurt. When Sara left—and she did leave—I needed someone I could trust, musically and personally. Kurt’s been playing music all his life, and he’s solid. After all the drama of the last few years we really wanted someone strong to root us through the last album and tour. It wasn’t a hard decision to make. But he’s with us for the long haul, and we’re excited to see where we go.

He’s said some unflattering things about James Vayne in the press. How do you respond to that as his friend?
KS: [pauses to think] Listen, I’m not here to gossip about my bandmates or apologize for what they say or pick apart their motivations. They are who they are. No, we don’t always get along. Yes, sometimes we say stuff we don’t mean. But in the end, it’s the music that matters. And right now, we’re as good as we’ve been in years. Ever, really. I think our earlier dysfunction was keeping us from our potential, and now we’ve moved on and we’re making progress. We’re growing.

Tell us something about the new album.
KS: Well, we’re taking a much slower pace, for one. The first three were sort of done at the speed of light. We had crazy schedules and all these big early successes. Not to say we’re not thankful for the fans or the support, but it’s been taxing on all of us. So we wanted to really take the time with this album this time around to do something that takes us back to our roots. I’m really happy with where we’re at right now.

Have the Revivals settled down? You and your bandmate Tom have made some intriguing headlines in the past, especially Tom’s battle with drugs. 
KS: Tom’s doing better. He really is. I’ve had my wild moments, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. It is rock and roll, after all.