People often ask if a particularly personal sounding song lyric is taken directly from my life. Sometimes it is.
In my early days of songwriting, it almost always was. As I tried to grow and improve as a songwriter, I made a special effort to write songs that told a story that wasn't mine. Stories about purely fictional characters that might speak a universal truth. It felt odd the first time I sang a song I had written in the first person that wasn't about me. Now, I know that the translation of what I've been through into a universal experience makes a better song.
Last week, I heard Alison Stewart interview Mike Errico on WNYC Public Radio's ALL OF IT. Mike is the author of a new book called "Music, Lyrics, and Life, A Field Guide for the Advancing Songwriter." I haven't read the book yet, but in response to a viewer's question about putting your life into a song, Mike said, "Your bruises are not necessarily destined for stardom." I don't know if he dropped the mic, but I'm pretty sure I heard it hit the floor.
So, now I've written my first cozy mystery novel. The mystery is not autobiographical in any way, but the story is written in the first-person voice of a female singer-songwriter, and I expect the question will be asked - is Sam Cook the fictional version of me?
Well, she is a singer-songwriter, so we have that in common, but she isn't me. Sam has one thing I've always wanted, naturally curly hair, and she is a person I would like to know, but she isn't me.
Sam is about thirty years younger than me. She is writing and singing her songs, performing with her trio, and enjoying a fair degree of success. She has, after all, been chosen to appear on the "Up and Coming Stage" at the "Oak Hill Folk Festival". When I was her age, I was married and raising two kids while working part-time as a pharmacist. I didn't play songs I'd written in public until I was fifty-four.
She is also more fit and more agile than I have ever been. There is no point in my life so far where I could have climbed out a second story window, dropped onto a potting shed and made it to the ground alive, as Sam does in Chapter Five.
Sam is braver than I am too. She confronts a killer, after all, something I have never done and hope never to do. She is the character I created to fit into the musical setting of my story. I gave her all the traits I thought she would need to solve the mystery - and I tried to make her interesting and likable and a little flawed, like all of us. Sam Cook is my creation, but she isn't me.
The beautiful artwork at the top of this post is a multi-media piece done by my daughter. If you'd like to purchase a signed print, let me know and give me some contact info, in the comments, or using the contact form on this website. I will get back to you with details.
Meanwhile, if you'd like to throw me some support, please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and consider signing up for the mailing list on this site. I'll let you know when I find a publisher for my book and you can tell me how much Sam Cook and I have in common.
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