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Deborah Grabien presents murder and music

By Christie Franke

Like rock music?

If the answer is yes–and let’s face it, most people have wanted to be a rock star at some point or another–then there is a new series that is an absolute must-read.

Rock and Roll Never Forgets by Deborah Grabien, which hits shelves July 8, is the first in the Kinkaid Chronicles, a series about murder, music and a classic rock band.

Blacklight is a band as long-lived and famous as the Rolling Stones. The band is on a sold-out North American tour when Perry Dillon, a sleazy biographer, appears to write a biography on lead guitarist JP Kinkaid. Dillon digs too deep for secrets buried in the past-secrets that could destroy both the band and JP’s long-time relationship with Bree, his fiercely loyal partner of 25 years. When Dillon ends up dead in JP’s dressing room, Bree-who has a history of her own-becomes the NYPD’s prime suspect.

Grabien is not only an amazing writer (her Haunted Ballads series is freaking awesome), but she definitely knows what she’s talking about. Murder and mystery are not the only things going on in this series. Grabien lives in San Francisco and has been involved with the rock ‘n’ roll world for decades.

Rock and Roll Never Forgets is also about living with a crippling illness-multiple sclerosis-that could prevent Kinkaid from playing the music he loves.

Deborah Grabien, a rocker in her own right, also has the disease. She is wonderfully open about discussing her books and characters. It’s a world that is close to her own.

Red Pulse: How long have you been associated with the rock ‘n’ roll world? Would you tell me a little about it? How did it provide you with the behind-the-scenes perspective you use for the books?

Grabien: My older sister (not quite nine years my senior) was a rock journalist, fresh out of college, in the 1960s. She wrote for everyone from Rolling Stone to Crawdaddy. And she took me everywhere, backstage for the Dead, MC5, Jimi Hendrix…it was brilliant. I was maybe 14, and she was taking me to publicist parties for The Beatles in New York. One night at a club uptown, I ended up brushing George Harrison’s hair for about half an hour, not knowing who he was until he turned around. (Yes, I turned into a zombie. HARRISON!) As for the perspective, it became the fabric of my life. So when I ran off to San Francisco and got involved with music out there, it simply added to that tapestry of life experience, the way I saw things, the way I heard things.

Red Pulse: Where and when did you come up with the idea of the Kinkaid Chronicles?

Grabien: I’d never actually planned to write about my years in rock. In fact, I was actively reluctant. Some very bittersweet memories there, a lot of them having to do with the man who gave me JP Kinkaid’s voice. But an old rocker friend who was there for a lot of those years sort of nagged me into doing it. The funny thing was, I sat there snarling at her and saying, “No! Don’t wanna!” and when I sat down to write the first one, I wrote the first 6,000 or so words in about three hours. It just poured out: the characters, their world (we call it the Kinkaidverse around here), their history, the story, JP and Bree, everything. So I suspect it had been sitting there for 30 years, waiting to happen.

Red Pulse: Are the characters based on anyone? If so, can you tell me who they are and how they relate to the characters?

Grabien: Not so much based on as inspired by. The Kinkaid Chronicles are essentially rooted in a “what if”-what if things had happened differently between one man and myself, what would that particular happy ending have been? JP shares a high percentage of his history with the man I was trying to see more clearly, and Bree is clearly me, had things gone a different way. The members of Blacklight, though, are unique and fictional. Mac Sharpe, for instance, may sound like Mick Jagger. But they have little in common beyond the surface of the necessities to make a world-class rock frontman and their longevity.

Red Pulse: Tell me a bit about Rrock and Roll Never Forgets. How do you think/hope college students will react to it?

Grabien: I suspect nearly everyone, age irrelevant, has at least a small corner of their soul that wants to be a rock star. But the main thing is that the series is about the frailty and potential of being alive, and I can’t imagine that won’t resonate.

Red Pulse: JP has MS, right? Do you think that a main character struggling with an illness can aid real life people who are ill by giving them hope, etc.?

Grabien: Yes, he’s got MS, as do I. It’s miserable disease to live with, and for the caregiver it can be just as miserable, because it makes both parties feel helpless. But yes, too, on the hope. JP is a musician to his core, with a disease that can destroy his ability to play. But he and Bree have a kind of armed truce with the disease, and they also (into middle age, together 25 years when the first book starts) have a torrid sex life. He has a disease. He copes with it. He’s sensible about dealing with it. He understands that it can take him down at any time-but so can a motorist running a stoplight. It’s about coping and enjoying everything in your own world that the disease doesn’t touch. Detente, with the understanding that the illness can never be entirely ignored.

Red Pulse: How long have you been writing?

Grabien: Professionally, as in, getting paid for it? About 20 years, a bit longer. For the joy of it, or the internal psychospiritual need to write? Since I wrote my first novel at 15, which is 39 years ago. (It was a very bad novel, but hey, I was 15.)

Red Pulse: Do you have any advice for young writers?

Grabien: Three things. One: Ask yourself if you have a story to tell. Two: Don’t just talk about writing: write. Butt in chair and get it down. A writer writes. Words to live by. And three: Tell. Me. The. Story. Your reader is not interested in navel-gazing, or tricks, or gimmicks, or artsy stuff, or watching you play with cute techniques. Your reader doesn’t want to see the authorial hand or the author’s process. Your reader wants to suspend belief and get swept away. Your reader wants to be pulled up to the fire with their eyes wide, while you, the storyteller, draw them in.

To learn more about Deborah Grabien, visit her website at Watch the video trailer for the book there or on YouTube. Better yet, go to Amazon and order your copy of Rock and Roll Never Forgets now. Seriously people. This one is going to be amazing.

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