The book is a novel. Night Radio: A Love Story is about Jake Mulholland, a college student who dreams of becoming the next great rock ‘n’ roll radio personality. But like his father, his appetite for love conflicts with his thirst for success, leading to an unforgivable mistake. Jake finds fame but also the excess of celebrity, and just as he begins to rediscover his authentic self, he’s shaken by the news of a life-altering secret. In an effort for redemption, he plans a special New Year’s Eve broadcast that will be the biggest challenge of his life. I see Night Radio as a love letter to music and rock ‘n’ roll radio of the 1970s, the story of an American boy and an American family, and of dreams just out of our reach.
Tell us something about yourself.
I have been a storyteller since my days as a kid delivering newspapers on the streets of Pittsburgh in the early 1970s. But I really wanted to be on the radio, sort of like Jake Mulholland, the protagonist in Night Radio. I grew up listening to Roberto Clemente and the Pirates on the radio, and all the great rock ‘n’ roll of the era. Music was my soundtrack and I wanted to be that person on the air playing the records and talking about them. I did a little of that, but eventually became a journalist. This led to my writing life. I’ve written three memoirs and one novel. I also play guitar and recently played in a Bob Dylan tribute event in Chicago. That was a lot of fun.
What inspired you to write this book?
It was my love of radio and rock ‘n’ roll. Night Radio is labeled “a love story” and it truly is, romantic love and the love of music and how it influences us all. I always knew there was a story in my life on the radio. Night Radio is that story. And although it’s fiction, I think it tells a bigger truth than a memoir might.
How did you choose the title?
Being on the radio at night is where the character feels most comfortable, can really be himself, and where ultimately he finds peace. It is the center of his being and the center of the book. Night Radio seemed a natural title.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
I had some early bites from publishers, but nothing hooked on the line. Night Radio can be lyrical and philosophical at times, points of view change, and there’s a big jump in time halfway through the story. For some publishers that was too much for a reader to handle. I never believed that. I think the reader is far more sophisticated than many publishers believe. Eventually I found Cawing Crow Press, a small indie publisher who truly got what I was trying to say and do, and was willing to put Night Radio out there. I really love this story and I didn’t want it compromised.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I’ve always been a storyteller. It was just natural for my skills to eventually morph into the written word. My very first book was written in 2nd grade. It was called The Cyclops, a story inspired by TV shows about ocean voyages. We wrote and illustrated the books in our class with the teacher’s help, and produced them out of paper mache. I still have it.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Not really. I just try to stay disciplined. Writing is work. Just got to get up and do it. I don’t believe in writer’s block and I don’t believe in being inspired. To me, it’s about sitting down and pounding it out. I love the process, but it’s still a discipline. I do like writing in coffee shops, though. Not only for the coffee, but I like the noise, the voices and conversations. I don’t write well in silence.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
Night Radio is my first work of fiction. So this is the first time I’ve made up names. I like names that have a rhythm when you say them out loud, and when I say the name I want to see a face, a person in my head. If that person I see matches the character I imagined in the book, then the name is perfect.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
Just to keep at it. Keep writing. Keep drafting. Keep tweaking. But also know when you are ready to launch it into the world. You can edit forever. You have to know when to stop. I think it was Michelangelo who is believed to have said, “Art is never done, it’s only abandoned.” I like that.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
Start my serious writing lift earlier in my career. I was in radio for decades, but serious writing only came in my 40s.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
Love Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway. My favorite nonfiction work is The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien’s Pulitzer Prize winner. Tobias Wolfe is a favorite. And I am currently reading the series of books from Karl Ove Knausgaard, the Norwegian writer who penned five books based on his life. It’s fascinating, Proust-like, and addictive.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I have a memoir coming out next year, 2017 from Roundfire Books. October Song takes the reader on a road trip with me to a rock ‘n’ roll dream. In the vinyl era, I played music in a garage band. Decades later at the age of 57, I was unexpectedly named a finalist in a songwriting contest and asked to perform the song at a storied venue for Americana music. I grab my old guitar and the love of his life, and hit the road to live out a musical fantasy. October Song is an examination of the passage of time, love, the power of music, and the power of dreams.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Don’t stop writing and don’t stop submitting. Find time to write, make time.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
Anyone who believes in the power of dreams, who believes we can all redeem ourselves and find peace and love and fulfillment. It’s fiction, so fiction readers particularly. This book is not for suspense or mystery readers. There are no vampires. It’s just a good story that I hope resonates.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
Windy City Reviews did a nice take on it recently. Here’s the link: http://windycityreviews.org/book-reviews/2016/7/6/book-review-night-radio-a-love-story.html