Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interview with Susan Helene Gottfried, author of ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes (Year 1)

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 reviews 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, 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!

What are you waiting for? Click here to buy a copy of The Demo Tapes (Year 1).


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Well, I'll be glad to come back! Just ... let me get the books done first (and change the XM station... Again...)

Ann said...

Great interview, Susan. :)

The Bookworm said...

great interview, its always interesting to find out more about the author and the writing process.

Staci said...

Very cool interview!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful Q&A! I dearly love reading about Susan. And guitarists are way cool creatures.

Some Kinda Wonderful said...

Yeh, guitarists first, drummers second. Depending on the mood. I always wanted to learn to play the drums.
Terrific interview! Kudos to BOTH of you, Anna and Susan. :)

Marie Cloutier said...

Great interview Anna and Susan!

Jenners said...

This was a wonderful and fun interview! I just loved reading it ... so I suspect I might like the book too. And my grandmother used to live right near Mars, PA -- we always had a big family joke about it! Now she lives near Intercourse, PA -- she just can't stop living near these types of places. But I digress ... this was an amazingly fun interview to read! Thanks

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

What, Jenners? Your grandmother didn't move to Moon?

Yes, it's true. Pennsylvania has great town names. Mars. Moon. Intercourse.

I don't know. I see a trend here...

cheesygiraffe said...

I thought I knew a lot about you Susan. Ha! You've got to prove me wrong. I still don't want to go camping. Even if your food sounds good.
Our musical taste are similar at least. Although I lean towards early Aerosmith. But Metallica and Godsmack are near the top. ;)

Anna said...

Susan: I'm willing to wait...Just don't take too long. ;P

Ann: This was a fun one. Thanks for stopping by!

Naida: Thanks! It helps that Susan's really open. She doesn't hold back in her writing at all.

Staci: Thanks!

J. Kaye: Susan totally rocks! As do guitarists. :)

Some Kinda Wonderful: Thanks! The Girl wants to play drums, but I don't think my head could handle that. Then again, I think it would be fun to learn along with her.

Marie: Thanks!

Jenners: My mom's from PA, and I remember the laughter that ensued the first time we drove by the Intercourse sign as kids. Thanks for stopping by!

Susan: Isn't there a Beaver, PA, too? Who comes up with these names??

cheesygiraffe: Thanks for stopping by! My family loves to camp, too, and Susan got me thinking about new campfire recipes.

Ladytink_534 said...

Sounds like a very good book! Seriously good interview too!

My hubby is a guitarist ;)

Anna said...

Ladytink: You're a lucky girl. ;)

Bobkat said...

Great interview :)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Yup, there's Beaver, too. There's a GREAT donut bakery in Beaver, in fact, but it takes too long to get there... :(

Serena said...

Susan and Anna: Fantastic interview. Susan and I have a lot of musical taste in common. O Sully, how do I love thee! LOL I love that she finds new music by flipping XM hubby hates it...but I always find good music this way, like Wolfmother.

I'm a drummer girl, hence the love of sully! Can't wait to borrow your copy of Susan's book, Anna.

scottsgal said...

I enjoyed reading the interview

Anna said...

Bob-kat: Thanks! I appreciate you stopping by!

Susan: That's too bad. Then again, it's probably a good thing that it's too far away for a daily donut.

Serena: I knew you'd enjoy the mention of Sully. Just let me know when you're ready to read it.

scottsgal: Thanks!

Serena said...

I'll read it right now! LOL

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Serena, you have excellent taste in Sully. That's all I'm gonna say about that.

Anna, you've inspired me to set up a new page on the website/blog. Thanks!

Anna said...

Serena: Well, you know where my books are!

Susan: Cool! What new page is this?

Wendi said...

What a great interview! I would never have guessed that Metallica and their S&M cd (which my husband and I LOVE) would be an inspiration for a book! :)

Your interview has been added to About the Author - An Author Interview Index!

~ Wendi

Anna said...

Thanks, Wendi! Isn't Susan cool?