Monday, June 14, 2010

Why I created "Last of the Zacharys, A Novel with Songs"

I'm often asked what inspired me to create my literary novel with its own soundtrack, "Last of the Zacharys, A Novel with Songs."

Well, as someone who loves to sing, and loves to write, I've been fascinated for some time with finding new and interesting ways to merge them together, and to somehow expand the art form, creating a whole that's greater than the sum of the parts. I mean, pop songs are usually a melding of words and music. Good songs tell a story. But why can't songs also be part of a larger story? And not just in the traditional "Broadway Musical" and/or "operatic" sense, but as a sort of "meta-narrative," which informs, accompanies and complements a work of narrative fiction?

My first attempt to answer this question resulted in my previous solo CD, "Love's Oblivion -- A Novel in Twelve Pop Songs." in "Love's Oblivion," each song and its lyrics serve as chapters in the larger narrative. Each song stands alone, but taken together they form a literal and emotional story arc, a journey that allows the listener to experience, as Gary Pig Gold wrote in his review of the album, "the ups and downs...and downs" of a tragic love affair.

After Love's Oblivion, I began work on my novel, "Last of the Zacharys," which was originally going to be a traditional, i.e., "non-musical" work of literary fiction. The protagonist, Jaz Zachary, has talent and dreams of becoming a musician – a rock star, in fact. Naturally, as I began telling his story, snippets of original song lyrics started to appear in the narrative.

In the opening scene, for example, a teenage Jaz is trying to seduce Mattie, the daughter of the family's maid, with a guitar and a song. At first I just jotted down some lyrics, to indicate what he was singing to her...

Mattie creates illusions that you'd swear are real
weaving a web of lies so fine the truth's revealed...

Then it hit me – why not actually write, record and release the song that Jaz is singing to Mattie? And why not have that song be another way to experience the story? As a singer-songwriter, it seemed the natural thing to do, and a way to give potential readers more bang for their entertainment buck.

After I got the idea, I began experimenting with different ways to include songs in the narrative. Sometimes, Jaz or other artists are performing the songs, like at a talent show or a gig. Sometimes, Jaz is experiencing the songs, like when Grand Island High School Marching Band does a version of a famous pop song. Of course, it's not really a famous pop song – yet! – but rather a song a wrote and gave a home in the unique universe of my novel. Other times, the songs are used to comment on or enhance the emotional content of a scene, expressing the thoughts in a character's head or the feelings in his/her heart.

I look forward to blogging more on the different tunes, and the various ways I experimented with the use of songs in my "novel with songs." In any case, I hope you enjoy the read ––and the listen!

To experience "Last of the Zacharys, A Novel with Songs," please visit: