Popular music was a central fact of my life from the first day I saw the MTV rocket blast across my TV screen. If I were to go on a quiz show with questions about the music of the 60s, 70s, or 80s– especially 80s– I think I might be able to walk home with the millions. Throw in a few questions from 1998 to the present and I would get the buzzer and the big red X.
I loved music so much when I was younger that I wanted to make it my career. (I wanted to be Adam Ant, but unfortunately his identity was already taken.) There was only one thing that stood between me and rock stardom– I have never been able to write music. The fact that songs can be written strikes me as some kind of magic. So I did the next best thing and embarked on a career in radio.
My radio career ended rather spectacularly with a nervous breakdown after the radio station where I was the program director and morning announcer was literally struck by lightning. Someday that may be the basis of a novel itself, although it is not something I’m actively working on. For a while, after I burned out on radio, I couldn’t stand to listen to the radio at all, hence my lack knowledge of the music of the last decade and a half, the buzzer and the big red X.
So it has been a pleasure to dive back into the music-fan part of my psyche to write Identity Theft. The initial concept of Identity Theft dates back to my last days working in radio. It was a time when the internet was fairly new and people were just starting to discover they could have personal interaction with celebrities through online forums and so on. A real rock star might answer a question you posted, but an imposter could just as easily claim a rock star’s identity. I thought this was a great concept for fiction, but obviously it took me quite a while to work out all of the kinks with the idea and make it a finished novel. I had to gain a fair amount of life experience first.
Between then and now, I have worked in a musician’s offices and in the offices of a touring ballet company. That provided a lot of the little observations and anecdotes that hopefully make Identity Theft grounded and real. For the past eight years I have been on tour five months a year with a ballet project that I produce and prior to that I was on a national tour with a whole 40 member dance company in a big tour bus. So the day to day life of someone on the road is familiar to me.
I think, because I am a female author, people will tend to assume that the female character in Identity Theft, Candi, is autobiographical. But there may be as many, or even more, autobiographical aspects to the character of Ollie/Blast, the rock star. Ollie is someone who is much more comfortable in front of an audience than dealing with people one on one. This is also true of his author, who is happy to reveal deep inner thoughts through writing but who often becomes tongue tied at dinner parties when asked about her real life.
When you are on the road for much of the year, it is hard to live what is generally considered to be an “adult life,” which is based on stability and consistency. Touring is inconvenient for the people who share your life so it can be tough on marriages and traditional family structure. Arts, in general, tend not to have the kind of security people associate with maturity. Life looks so much easier for all of the responsible grown-ups working for IBM. One of Ollie’s conflicts with his wife is that she wants him to “grow up.” Artists of all kinds, not only those who tour, have to face the question of whether giving up is “growing up” at some time in their lives.
It was my radio career that cured me of any desire for rock star fame. The first time I was ever called a “celebrity” was during my first radio job. I was the afternoon drive announcer for a station called WKJF in Cadillac, Michigan. I went into radio with some anticipation of having “fans.” But being called a celebrity did not make me feel quite as good as I had expected it would. That’s because I was wearing a paper dress at the time. Yes, the first time I was recognized as a “famous person” I was at the gynecologist’s office.
“Laura Lee? Are you the one from the radio? We listen all the time. Wow, I didn’t know we had a celebrity here. Could you put your feet in the stirrups and slide down the table please?”
That’s when I knew for sure that being a celebrity was not all it is cracked up to be. This episode from my life evolved into one of my favorite of Ollie’s scenes. He is recognized by a group of fans in the drug store while he is shopping for Preparation-H.
So writing Identity Theft is as close as I will come to being a rock star. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. You can place an advance order here: https://lauraleeauthor.wordpress.com/identity-theft/