Thursday, April 4, 2013

Interview: Tiffanie DeBartolo ~ Author of How to Kill a Rock Star

How to Kill a Rock Star is one of the Three Chicks’ favorite novels. It features Paul, a colorful, free thinking artist who is artistically ahead of his time and refuses to sell out his music. After writing the critically acclaimed novels; God-Shaped Hole (2002) and HTKARS(2005), author Tiffanie DeBartolo, channeled her artistic talents from writing into music and co-founded Bright Antenna records in 2007.  We recently had a chance to discuss with Tiffanie HTKARS, her label and its artists.

Three Chicks:  How to Kill a Rock Star is the iconic rock star novel, it's really the benchmark for all the ones that have come out since-what was the inspiration for it?

Tiffanie:  I was inspired by a great band I saw, a band very few people had heard of, and it made me sad and angry thinking about how many extraordinary artists there were in the world that no one would ever get a chance to hear. My reaction to that was to write this story. It was also a response to my first novel. In that book I was trying to learn how to accept reality, so to speak. Accepting things you can't change, like death. In this one I was trying to play God. But I can't really elaborate on that further without giving away the ending of both of my books.

Three Chicks:  What was the time period from when the book released until you co-founded Bright Antenna?

Tiffanie: A little over two years, I think.

Three Chicks:  Was it a case of the music muse winning over the writing muse? What made you switch careers, especially in light of your success with God-Shaped Hole and HTKARS? Did you just wake up one day and say to yourself music is my thing?

Tiffanie:  It's funny, I have never thought of it as switching careers. I guess "career" is not a word I would ever use to describe how I spend my time. I follow my passions, and this is just a continuation of my passions. I have not given up writing, I just don't like to half-ass things, and trying to write while running a company at this stage would be half-assing both. You get the best of me or you get nothing. My focus is on the music now but at some point I will be able to balance both music and writing in a way that enables me to do both to the best of my abilities. I will finish another novel by the end of this decade. Ha ha.

Three Chicks:  You could easily have used the influence of your father's contacts (her father, Edward DeBartolo Jr., is the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers) to ease your way into the music industry, why did you choose indie over a traditional label? Is there more of Paul than Loring in you?

Tiffanie:  Hmm. I'm not sure I agree with that statement, being that my dad works in sports and real estate. Books and music are very foreign worlds to him. Had I wanted to play quarterback, his contacts would have come in a lot more handy, but in this case I was on my own. Having said that, it's always been important for me to do things on my own. I'm extremely proud of my dad, and very close to him, but I would never feel good about myself if I didn't achieve my success without his help. In other words, had my dad been Clive Davis I would've changed my name and gone the indie route too.

Three Chicks:  We've heard you are working on a book about Jeff Buckley. His death may have cut his life short, but he is still known for his covers of some fantastic songs, most notably Hallelujah and Lilac Wine. Tell us about what your involvement is with the book and why did you choose to write about him?

Tiffanie:  I was actually hired to work on the text to a graphic novel about Jeff, but I'm not sure that book is ever going to see the light of day, unfortunately.

Three Chicks:  How did you ever come up with Paul Hudson's character-with his "goddamn's" and hurting pancreas and hideous green suit and Eliza Caelum with her obsession to touch Paul's chest, her paralyzing fear of flying, and her need to kick any available shin when angered?

Tiffanie:  This is a tough question, because it's hard to answer it and not sound crazy. The truth is I just let the characters reveal themselves to me. There's a bit of fantasy involved on my part, but characterization, for me, is kind of like gardening. You plant a little seed and you nurture that seed, and eventually it grows into a fully-formed flower.  Characters don't always do or say what you want them to do, if you've done your job as a writer. They do what's true for them. Paul was like that for me. I just watched him in my mind's eye and wrote down what he was doing. It helped that he was usually really fun to watch.

Three Chicks:  Why such a dramatic and final move on Paul's part-right after he slept with Eliza? Why not just walk away from it all and why did he tell Eliza's brother Michael, but not Eliza about his plans?

Tiffanie:  Well, up until a certain point he thought Eliza was in love with Loring, and he wanted to stay out of that. Also, she'd hurt him pretty badly, you know? He loved her but he hated her too. Michael was Paul's friend and Paul trusted Michael. In a way, Paul was running away from Eliza as much as he was running away from the world he no longer wanted to be a part of. Until he learned the truth, that is.

Three Chicks:  Why didn't Eliza tell Paul that same night what she had done for him to go on tour?

Tiffanie:  He wouldn't let her, remember? He told her not to talk and she thought he'd be there in the morning when she woke up. She figured she'd tell him then. Little did she know.

Three Chicks:  Why didn't Paul tell Eliza he loved her when he came to her before he disappeared?

Tiffanie:  Why do any of us keep things inside, things we should tell the people we care about? We're all scared and stupid sometimes.

Three Chicks:  Why did Paul get a tattoo that resembled such a dark time in Eliza's life, especially when they were no longer together?

Tiffanie:  So that her scar wouldn't make her feel so alone. He understood her pain and wanted to share that with her.

Three Chicks:  If you had to catch us up on the years between 2003 and the present, where are Paul and Eliza now, did they marry, or return to the States, did he ever record again, did they have children, what did they do when his advance ran out? Does Paul still keep a recorded diary? (can you tell that the Three Chicks have a ton of unanswered questions??)

Tiffanie:  Oh, well, I don't want to give away too much, but I think they're happily married, living in a small, romantic town in the South of France, running a bed and breakfast. That's what I think they're doing, but who knows... =)

Three Chicks:  Who are the heathens and the pagans and the Mr. Winkle's, and how did they influence your life?

Tiffanie:  I can answer that question much better since I started working in the music industry, but now I can't name names. =)

Three Chicks:  What's your favorite line from HTKARS? Ours is "I've got my girl and my guitar, and for me that's enough."

Tiffanie:  Oh, wow. That's a really hard question to answer. I have a lot of favorites, but one that sticks out is from the scene on the rooftop after Eliza and Paul play BINGO and Paul tells Eliza that he almost killed himself once. She asks him if he really wanted to die and he says, "No one commits suicide because they want to die. They do it because they want to stop the pain." I happen to have a few people in my life who have struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide, and that scene means a lot to me. It moves me and rings very true.

Three Chicks:  What is a typical day like for you?

Tiffanie:  Monday through Friday, I get up at 6, feed my dogs and my jellyfish, watch the sun rise with Scott, warm cups of coffee in our hands. Then I go for a run or a hike or a bike ride - I always start my day with some form of exercise - then I come home and shower and head to work. In the evenings it alternates between staying in and making dinner, going to yoga, or going out and spending time with friends. Nothing too crazy. Besides hanging out with friends, only a good band in town will keep me out past 10. =)

Three Chicks:  What artists does Bright Antenna represent? What is your company's philosophy?

Tiffanie:  We work with some incredible artists. The Wombats, who had a hit single in America last year called "Jump Into The Fog." Middle Class Rut and Beware of Darkness, who are each releasing exceptional albums in May. A band called Flagship, who is also finishing up an extraordinary record. And incidentally we put out the solo record for an artist named Jimmy Gnecco, whose voice was the inspiration for Paul.

Our company's philosophy is pretty simple: We have to be passionate about a band or an artist in order to work with them. And the bands have to be nice. If the music is amazing and the artists are good people, we will work our asses off for them.

Three Chicks:  Besides the Buckley project, do you have any other books in the works? Think you will ever write a sequel for HTKARS?

Tiffanie:  I don't foresee a HTKARS sequel, but I do hope to begin work on a new novel this year! It's one of my new year's resolution!

Our 5 star review

If I could give this book more than 5 stars I would! This book will make you both laugh and cry (sometimes at the same time!). Paul is the lead singer of the Bananafish, a struggling band. Though a talented singer/song writer he makes his living folding shirts at the Gap. Eliza is his best friend's sister and becomes his roommate. Having lost her parents in a plane crash she is terrified to fly. She makes her living as a writer at a music magazine. Their road to becoming a couple is filled with angst and great humor. Bananafish is offered a great opportunity and this sets in motion a chain of spiraling events. Eliza makes a huge mistake in judgement and the remainder of the book is a bumpy, gut wretching tale of corruption and regret and heartache. Towards the end of the book there is so great a twist that I found myself having to close my Kindle and catch my breath. I was screaming inside my head and wanted this to just end now! But I kept reading and denying my fears in my head. Eventually I let out my breath and could laugh again. I wish this author would take up writing again. This book is a must read and I am so thankful she wrote it before her life took a different path.

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