Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How to Talk to Rockstars by Alli Marshall: Interview with Excerpt


Welcome!  Thanks so much for stopping in to answer a few questions!  How did you start your writing career?

In a way, I have two writing careers that run parallel to each other. My day job is as a arts and entertainment reporter and editor for the Mountain Xpress, an alternative newsweekly in Asheville, N.C. I started that job as a freelancer in 2001, shortly after completing a MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. With the publication of my novel How to Talk to Rockstars, which is inspired by the many interviews I’ve done with musicians over the years, my day job and creative work have intersected.

What do you think makes a good story?

For me, it has to be engaging. I like stories that are light and entertaining and also stories that are emotional. I’d rather be inspired than sad or scared — that’s important to me — and I like for the main character to be lovable but also quirky or off-kilter.

Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go?

I’ve just completed the initial draft of a novel that takes place, in part, in Paris in the 1890s. It would be fantastic to get to spend some time in Montmartre where artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec lived and worked.

What group did you hang out with in high school?

I didn’t really have a group in high school, just a few key friends who were artists, writers and musicians. My best friend in 11th grade, Ann Marie, introduced me to journaling. We were both obsessive about it, filling pages with insights, stories, poems and drawings. In many ways, Ann Marie is the person who started me on the path to becoming a writer.

Is there one passage in your book that you feel gets to the heart of your book and would encourage people to read it? If so, can you share it?

Yes! Bryn, the main character in How to Talk to Rockstars, interviews musicians. She’s come up with lists of rules for how to do her job. They’re kind of obsessive — equal parts realistic and absurd. Here’s one:

  Rule number 1: Listen more than you speak. Remember that this isn’t about you, that your job is to exact answers, not dazzle with your knowledge and sparking wit.
  Rule number 2: Do your research and ask good questions. And distill those questions to their essence for maximum impact and minimum wordiness (see Rule 1).
  Rule number 3: Build rapport but don’t try to win the rockstar as a friend. This is not about you, this is about your readers and their relationship with the rockstar. You are not on a date. You are not going to hang out. You are not going to become pen pals. No one is going to dedicate an album to you. Or remember your name five minutes after you hang up the phone.
  Rule number 4: There are no exceptions to Rule 3.

There’s another sample of How to Talk to Rockstars at Small Press Distribution, here:

Is there a piece of advice that you have received that has really stuck with you? If so, what was it?

I’ve interviewed a number of authors over the years — Elizabeth Gilbert, Ron Rash, David Sedaris and Sara Gruen among them. I love learning about their writing processes. One piece of advice that has really helped me is to write the first draft quickly and let it be terrible. The real magic happens in the editing.

What songs are most played on your iPod?

I go through phases with music, but these are some of the songs I keep coming back to: “Calling All Cars” by Sean Hayes, “It’s the Nighttime” by Josh Rouse, “You Keep Me Around” by The Wood Brothers, “Drifting” by Zap Mama, and “Even Tho” by Joseph Arthur.

Do you have a Website or Blog?


How to Talk to Rockstars
by Alli Marshall


"How to Talk to Rockstars" — think "Almost Famous" meets "The History of Love" — follows wallflower-turned-journalist Bryn Thompson. She has a dream job: she interviews rock stars.  Bryn’s professionalism keeps her on track, but also emotionally removed from the gritty world of back stage, bars and drugs that she writes about. That is, until she meets musician Jude Archer, whose songs haunt her. As an unlikely friendship grows out of Bryn’s obsession with Jude’s album, Bryn begins to rethink all of the carefully-contrived rules that until now have helped her maintain a professional distance.


The day that Bryn bought Jude Archer’s album, Fly By Night, online and downloaded it to the playlist on her work computer — that was an ordinary day. It was three days before her birthday. She was working late. She’d just learned that she would have to work on her birthday, and the project was a dull grind. Her coffee had gone lukewarm in its tall ceramic mug.
The tracks appeared in order, summoned from some distant world. Bryn dropped the headset over her ears and clicked play. The world outside the headphones stood still. Blood beating in her ears, rivulets of rain streaking the picture window, outside a blurred watercolor. Everything and the absence of everything. A ballet of shapes and shapelessness.

Wanting seems so harmless at first, the way it feels like an old familiar ache, comfortable as pajamas. The way it feels good to return to a previous sadness, to sink into the soft gloom.
The way he spoke of love, always losing, always chasing, always wanting.

The songs held her captive from the first. She simply sat and watched the rain and listened. That was all. They were not acquaintances then, Bryn and Jude. They were two people in two separate bubbles. Bryn in her dusk-darkened office, Jude just a voice coming through the headphones. It didn’t occur to her to wonder what he looked like, or his age or where he was from. Usually the back story was at the front of her mind. A journalist’s habit. But Jude was a song first and a man later.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Alli Marshall grew up in Western New York and has called the mountains of North Carolina home for more than 20 years. She's a Warren Wilson College graduate and completed her MFA in creative writing at Goddard College. She's been named the best arts reporter in Western North Carolina in the annual Best of WNC reader's poll, 2011-2014. She received awards in editorial reporting from the North Carolina Press Association in 2005 and 2014, and from the International Festivals & Events Association in 2004. She also took home top honors in the Cupcakes for the Cure bake-off (local ingredient category) — but that’s another story. And though Alli doesn't like to brag or anything, over the course of her career she's interviewed Yoko Ono, Cyndi Lauper, Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes), Aimee Mann, Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), Britt Daniel (Spoon), Michael Franti, Neko Case, Daniel Lanois, Ziggy Marley, Peter Murphy, Grace Potter, Jamie Lidell, Kishi Bashi and many, many others.

For more information:

Follow Alli on Twitter and Instagram @alli_marshall


Alli will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn host.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Sheryl P said...

Thank you so much for the giveaway xo

allimarshall said...

Hi Laurie, The post looks fantastic. Thank you! My favorite question was about the most-played songs on my iPod. Do other readers (and writers) have go-to songs for inspiration?

Betty Woodrum said...

I don't really have any go-to songs for inspiration but I like to listen to rock & roll when I'm working. I guess Bob Seger said it best with his song:
Old Time Rock And Roll
Just take those old records off the shelf
I'll sit and listen to 'em by myself
Today's music ain't got the same soul
I like that old time rock 'n' roll
Don't try to take me to a disco
You'll never even get me out on the floor
In ten minutes I'll be late for the door
I like that old time rock 'n' roll

This sounds like a fascinating book! Thank you for the great post and contest!

Eva Millien said...

I don't have any "go to" songs, I just like listening to music of different kinds. Enjoyed the excerpt, thanks for sharing!