Thursday, October 14, 2010

London Calling by Deborah Grabien

Hello, Deb. It's nice to have you on my new blog, Interviewing Authors. Please tell us about your new book London Calling. 

Well, London Calling is actually the third in the JP Kinkaid Chronicles and, like the other book titles in this series, the title relates to the real-world events or situation that inspired the original song. In this instance, the story is about racism, how it affected the music of the past fifty years, and specifically what happened in the UK and France during the late seventies and early eighties: the skinhead movement, very Nazi-based. There was a right-wing hate group called the National Front in the UK (the Front Nationale in France), really essentially terrorists. London Calling, the original song by the Clash, was about what was happening in the urban UK at the time, and the socioeconomic realities that led to this sort of racism. What's terrifying is that you see some of those same conditions spawning the Tea Party movement today. It's a book about old crimes and old tribal enmities casting long shadows, and also about how music deals with the racism and tribalism that's still too prevalent today.

 Where did you get your inspiration for your novel or the JP Kindaid Chronicles?

It was less inspiration and more deep need. With John Kinkaid, I initially wanted to get a particular piece of my own personal history back, and a lot of buried memories of one particular man. In one sense, I wanted to see how he and I might have evolved, and how that relationship might have evolved, if things had gone differently a long time ago. In another sense, while I quite like the happy ending I actually did get, I wanted to write the one I didn't get.

But if you're a writer worthy of that title, your characters take on their own lives and realities, and that's what JP did. By the time I'd hit the second chapter of the very first Kinkaid (Rock and Roll Never Forgets), he'd become John Peter Kinkaid, period. And while the voice I hear in my head is still the one that triggered the creation of this entire series, the man I see in my head is unique and distinct, and doesn't even look much like his source.

Bree Godwin, though? She's still got a lot of me in her makeup, at least through the first few books. She's evolving into uniqueness a bit more slowly than JP is, just because - as a first person narrative - we see her through his eyes, and that means I do too. And that takes some processing, for me: seeing me the way the man might have seen me. One thing I have in common with Bree is that we're both trained cooks, and caterers. She actually has her own blog, called "The Care and Feeding of Everyone Else", about cooking for people with special needs, snippets of her home life with JP, recipes, and interaction back and forth with readers who post comments in the blog:

Can the chronicles be read out of sequence?

Oh, I think so. It's not the ideal way to read them, honestly, because each book seeds others, and the later ones loop back to refer to earlier events. That means there are spoilers. For instance, in the first few pages of the first Chronicle, we meet a girl named Suzanne. Unimportant, just passing through - except that, no, there are virtually no casual pass-through characters in this series. I don't write throwaway characters. We meet her again in book 5 (Book of Days) and she becomes vitally important to the entire band family dynamic. And no, I didn't know that was going to happen when I first wrote her, back in 2005. But if you don't mind being spoiled for details in earlier Chronicles, go for it. They'll certainly make sense.

Will there be a fourth?

Well, since I just started writing the eighth book, that's a definite Yes. The fourth one is called Graceland, and it comes out April 2011. Nothing to do with Elvis - it's about the Delta blues, the movement of that music through America and the rest of the world. It's also about owning your history (a theme very close to me), about the family you choose, the family you make, the ties that bind, and about loyalty. The entire series deals with loyalty, in one way or another, in every book.

Do you get your ideas from real life experiences?

Not really sure how to answer that one, since these aren't ideas. An idea is something cerebral. These stories are completely visceral. Hell, everything I write that isn't critical nonfiction review is visceral, soul stuff, pit of the belly, groin, nerves, you name it. I'm an annoyingly organic writer - I don't write from the brain.

A lot of what happens in these books does come from my own history (and in a couple of cases, from the history of friends and compadres). Part of that is being willing to access the painful stuff - things like a miscarriage or a sense of guilt. Writing viscerally and pulling away scars and memory scabs is not always easy. But if you're writing emotionally true, it's what you have to do.

Do you research in order to write your books?

Not much, no, because I don't need to do much. I'm a musician, and this is a world I know. But some stuff has changed drastically on the tech end of recording and live performance. My husband does the research on that when I need it - he's brilliant at that, and loves doing it, too.

I love your photo. Most authors send me "head shots." Your photo tells us how much you love music. Tell us about that.

It's in the blood, really. My father was a musician. I started playing (guitar mostly) when I was a kid. I've been a musician and, specifically, a songwriter, for coming up on forty years. I can't play the way I once did (see below, your final question), but I can still write lyrics and sing what I want the music to do, and I've written, literally, an album's worth of songs for JP's two bands, Blacklight and the Fog City Geezers, to play. Being a musician isn't just something you do, it's what you are.

Finally, please tell us something about the "real you" that we'll never forget.

Ah, the root of it all: the man JP was based on was in very poor health - he had Crohns, among other things, and died much too young. When I sat down to write JP, I wanted to reflect that bad health, how it would affect a working musician. But I have multiple sclerosis, relapsing-remitting, which is one reason I can't play music the way I used to. It affects the signals between brain and hands. So I gave JP Kinkaid relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, because I could write about it with authority. And I learned to understand, writing it for him, just how I deal with it in my own life: JP and Bree, both into their forties/fifties, still have a torrid sex life. He still tours with his two bands. He doesn't fight the disease, because there's no point; it's a sort of wary detente. And that's precisely how I approach my own disease. When it holds the whiphand, I back off. Some days, moving hurts. Other days, I can dance the night away. So on that one, we mirror each other, JP and I.

 How many books have you written so far?

Written, or published? If we're talking about being published, London Calling is my fourteenth published novel. If we're talking about written and awaiting publication, I've just started the eighth Kinkaid (Comfortably Numb), so we're talking about eighteen novels. Plus short stories - I've had several of them published.

Deb your latest book out sounds like a hot, new, original thriller. I'm sure the audience will want to buy it if they don't win it!
This interview lets us know how incredibly disciplined you are to be so prolific. I really admire how well you cope with having a chronic illness it is an inspiration for us all.
 Deborah Grabien's novel London Calling is widely distributed in all bookstores and is published by Plus One Press.
Deb Grabien’s website address is 
Her blog is up at Red Room:

 Please post a comment and leave your name and email address to be randomly drawn to win a copy of this thriller. 
Dates to post comment to win autographed book are: 10/14-10/21.


  1. This interview not only lets us know what LONDON CALLING is about. It also lets us know a little about what the author is about. Her first hand knowledge as a musician gives her credibility. If you bring up the lyrics to the band Clash's song "London Calling" you will get a glipse of the real world of skinheads and neo-Nazis in the UK and France. It is something most middle class Americans are not familiar with. Not that American does not have its own skinheads and Nazi wannabes. Our prisons are full of inmates with shaved heads and swastiks tatoos.
    Tom J. Mariani

  2. Interesting interview and one of the reasons I love reading others' blogs. I would have never known about this author, or the storyline. Fascinating, no matter on what side of the political spectrum we reside. I love reading history from different perspectives, as that is all we have. And most of what we read or hear is fantasy anyway.

  3. Author's note:

    In re the history, while I was beginning London Calling, I had an uncanny instance of synchronicity. Two Muslim boys in Paris were running from the local gendarmes, and they his in the worst place possible - a power plant, I think it was - and got electrocuted. The incident acted like a blowtorch to all this festering racist tinder smouldering away under the surface in France. The country just went nonlinear - a week, more, of riots, burning cars, the whole damned thing.

    I've had several synchro-moments like that working on the Kinkaids and they shake me, every time. It feels, sometimes, as if I'm dipping my hand or maybe just my pen into some vast communal pool of karmic memory.

  4. I must admit I have never heard of this author or her books, but now I am very intrigued. Having someone in my life with a neurological disorder, I am looking forward to reading about main characters living out their full lives dynamically. I want to begin with the first novel!! I'm not a computer hound, so I will sign in anonymously until I figure out this profile thing.. Thanks Sivani

  5. I throughly enjoyed this interview. The interviewer asked thoughtful and probing questions, and the author gave interesting, and sometimes revealing answers, about her books and her life. Sounds like a good read.

  6. Thanks for sharing this author interview, Jeane. I have been reading a series of British, and now, one American ("John Brown, Abolitionist") biographies about abolitionists.

    This author moves this conversation on race, and racism, into a cultural perspective through fiction. Your interview made me want to read her books.

  7. This was a great interview to introduce your blog, Jeane, and really brought home the incredible range of interests, settings, characters and themes today's writers are exploring. Here I am, steeped in Dark Ages lore for King Arthur, intrigued by a series based on modern day music culture! Thanks for broadening my horizons.

  8. Kathleen Turner ( 17, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    Great interview. Looking forward to reading more!

  9. Thanks for making the committment to offer this new blog, Jeane.
    And thank you to Deborah Grabien for the scope of her story. Sounds like an eye-opener.

  10. Elspeth Benton elspeth@sonic.netOctober 18, 2010 at 3:49 PM

    Hi Jean. Terrific idea & terrific execution of your idea! The interview with Deborah Grabien definitely makes me want to read the book. I think all of us who lived through the 60's & 70's experienced heartrending, eye-opening events, both public and personal. Deborah's book, skillfully highlighted by your interview, makes me want to find out more about the musical aspects of that roller-coaster time Thanks to both of you! Elspeth

  11. Thank you Jeane for starting off your author interviews with a mystery writer- my favorite genre! I was lucky enough to meet and talk to Deborah at the Book Festival in September. She has so much energy and enthusiasm for her writing, you just really want to read her stuff.
    In this interview, she failed to mention her work with the stray cats of Golden Gate Park which led to her writing a children's book called Dark's Tale. The woman must write in her sleep, and with health problems to boot.
    Deborah, you are truly an inspiration.
    Write on!

  12. Hi Jeane,
    Loved the new blog, the new website, and especially this interview with Deborah Grabien. I am intrigued with the combination of social issues and music history in a mystery. I'm anxious to get started with the first of the JP Kinkaid ChronIcles. Both of you inspire me.

  13. Great interview, Jeane....I love music, so it sounds like a wonderful read for me -- in fact,the whole series! Great idea for a blog -- wonder when I will finally get around to starting mine!

  14. Alla Crone cronhadn@sonic.netOctober 28, 2010 at 3:37 PM

    I enjoyed your interview with Deborah Grabien enormously. Not only I am fascinated with the author and the subject of her book, but I also was pleasantly surprised that you, Jeane, have another talent as an insightful interviewer. Good for you, keep up the good work. I shall certainly look up Deborah's book.
    Alla Crone

  15. Good, very good! ! ! Thank you to let me see these articles and pictures, it's cool, I'm very excited, which to me is incredibly, I finally found the soul mate and your works not only real, and vivid! I love to see you as soon as possible, hope you update of work!!!Tom Ford Eyeglasses

  16. Linda Loveland Reid lindalovelandreid@sbcglobal.netDecember 17, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    I just finished Rock & Roll Never Forgets and ejoyed the theme, JP and Bree. I found myself staying up to finish. That's a good sign.

  17. Sounds like an fascinating series and one I've added to my wishlist. I so enjoy an interview that gives the author a chance to tell us something about them. It makes them seem both more human and touchable. For some reason authors have always seemed more of a "celebrity" to me, than an actor or actress. Their imagination and the ability to put their thoughts on paper in a form that I and millions can enjoy never fails to leave me in a state of wonder and awe.