Bill See – 33 Days: Touring in a Van, Sleeping on Floors, Chasing a Dream

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Well it’s called 33 Days: Touring In A Van. Sleeping On Floors. Chasing A Dream., and it’s about the first tour my band, Divine Weeks, took across the U.S. and Canada in 1987 in a beat up old van. It’s a true story taken from the journals I kept while on tour, but it’s written as a very classic coming of age, on the road story. Call it a docu-novel. Basically, it’s about five guys, all about 22, out on their own for the first time in their lives. It takes you back to a time in life when dreams don’t have boundaries, when everything seems possible. The tour is one of those now or never experiences. Take a shot at making it or leave it all behind and go your separate ways. I think every one of us has that moment where we have to decide to either live our dreams or give up and regret it for the rest of our lives. The road is filled with yuppies, brothels, riots, sleeping on floors, spiked drinks, DJs with no pants, and battles with racism. We set out on the road to discovery to drink in all we could and maybe sell a few records. We grew up instead.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am a longtime L.A. musician and lead singer for Divine Weeks. We were very much a part of the D.I.Y. underground music scene in the 80s. We took our cues from indie rock pioneers like Black Flag, Husker Du, The Minutemen, to name a few. The culture of D.I.Y. touring is very much a part of 33 Days. Depending on the kindness of strangers, sleeping on floors, never sure we’d make enough gas money to get us to the next town. I never set out to write a book when I was journaling during my band days, I’m just glad I did get it all down.

What inspired you to write this book?

Well, when we left on that tour, we set out to have our own Kerouac On The Road experience, and that spirit was running through me as I was journaling that whole time. When I finally got around to writing 33 Days, my motive was to write a book you’d go searching for after finishing On The Road and wanted more journeys that go off the map. I never set out to write my memoirs or tell the Divine Weeks story, god forbid. Divine Weeks had some success, but what’s important to know about the book is it’s completely inconsequential whether the band, quote unquote, “makes it.” It’s about seizing your moment, firing your shot and defining your own idea of success. I didn’t write the book to convince anyone we were the great lost band of the last 20 years or make my case that us not making it was some kind of criminal injustice. The motivation was always something that transcended all that. Took me 12 years to unearth it, but I knew there was a story that could resonate for others that touched on the healing power of music, the liberation of breaking free from family and cultural constraints, giving yourself the gift of opportunity, righteously believing in and defending your friends, finding out what REALLY matters.

How did you choose the title?

33 Days is the length of that tour and the subtitle is just that whole punk D.I.Y. ethos: eschewing major labels, planes, hotels, roadies, soundmen and just following the breadcrumbs left on the highway by the pioneering bands that came before us. Just get in the van, depend on the kindness of strangers to give you a floor to sleep on and go out and chase your dream.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
It’s a self published book, and I went through Lulu which is print on demand which saves on manufacturing costs. For me, it’s now a learning experience becoming educated on marketing the book in this new frontier of self publishing. But like I said, D.I.Y. is part of my core. Success doesn’t come to you, you go to it. You can’t just wait for the world to notice how grand you are. Divine Weeks got signed to a bigger music label going D.I.Y., and now I’m using that know-how for marketing my book. See, I have a unique perspective having watched the music industry revolutionized by the internet during my band days, and now I enter the fray while arguably the same thing may be happening in the literary world. The music industry was torn down by people going DIY, and I never shed a tear over it. If the insular exclusive world of the publishing world gets blown open by self publishing, I’m all for it.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I’d probably have to put it at the feet of the classic coming of age novels. On The Road, Catcher in The Rye, Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man, To Kill A Mockingbird were the books that sent me out dreaming with eyes wide open and an insatiable hunger, finally, at last, for…something more. Like some big blow horn going off, at the end of each of those books, I felt the ears of my ears open and heeded a clarion call to action – to save myself.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Not really. I’m a great believer in just trying to be fearless and as un self-conscious as possible. Vomit it all out without regard for any finesse out of the chute. Then it’s this sort of endless process of editing and tweaking, but invariably the structure and spirit of that initial germ endures.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

Well, I made the choice to keep everyone’s names the same, the dates, the places and so forth. I did all I could to do my due diligence and get everyone’s blessing, but some unfortunately have passed away or I just wasn’t able to get a response.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

Knowing what I know now about search engine optimization and these sorts of things, I’d probably have a different title. The title is the number one thing search engines use, and so that would probably be my one concession of commerce over art.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

Like I said, coming of age is my favorite, but I like to read biographies, memoirs a lot. I’m a history buff. Favorite authors of all time; Salinger, Kerouac, Harper Lee, Bukowski, and authors today, probably, Mark Edmondson, Mahbod Seaji, Nick Hornby, Goldberry Long.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I’ve got something in the oven, but I’m pretty entrenched in the marketing and publicity for 33 Days right now. I spent 12 years writing 33 Days and I have to stand up for that and try and put it in a position to succeed.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Start researching marketing and publicity before you finish the book. That’s the real hard work of this whole process. Most beguiling too. Think of a great title with search engines in mind. Utilize facebook, twitter, youtube and have an interactive website. And most importantly, don’t let go of editing the book until you are truly at peace with it. Because if you put yourself in the position of standing there waiting for someone to validate something you’ve poured your heart and soul into it’s like — holding out a beggar’s bowl and letting what’s dropped in there determine the value of your creation. And that — is a bad scene.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

The book is for anyone who ever stood at their own crossroads with a dream screaming inside wondering whether to choose the road that goes off the map or fold up their tent and head back home. It’s supposed to make you sit up in the middle of your life and look back at that moment and ask yourself whether you truly ever fired your shot. And I think it also resonates for someone about to come to that crossroads and serves as a cautionary tale about the perils of sitting on your dreams.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

The book’s website is 33daysthebook.com. Lots of vintage videos from Divine Weeks, book trailers, my own personal video tour of the L.A. music scene as found in the book, excerpts of the book, MP3s of music we were listening to in the van that I talk about in the book. The ebook is available now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and the paperback will be out soon.