It's Sean!

UK freelance journalist, author
and writer Sean McManus

Printed from www.sean.co.uk. © Sean McManus.
You are here: Home > Blog Home > Sean McManus's Writing blog: Gamekeeper turned poacher

Sean's Tech and Writing Blog

Gamekeeper turned poacher

23 February 2008


Book cover: University of DeathI had my first interview about my novel 'University of Death' yesterday. It was a strange experience being on the other end of the interview: usually, I'm the one trying to pose questions that will make the interviewee stop and really think hard about giving an original answer. This time, I was the one thinking 'gosh - didn't expect to be asked that'.

Although there were surprises, it wasn't too difficult. The journalist was well prepared and extremely professional. She gave me time to answer without interrupting and left a nice long pause after I'd replied to check I really had finished speaking (just like I do when I'm doing interviews).

I gabbled away no problem, but at the end had a suspicion that I hadn't answered the question some of the time. It's easy to do: you get so carried away with all the stuff you could say, that you fail to bring it back to why you started talking about that stuff in the first place. I was caught in the middle of a writing deadline frenzy when the phone rang, which didn't help, but for the next one (he says, presumptiously), I'll try to slow down and speak much more in 'bullet points'. And I'll use a notepad so I can write down the question at the start to make sure I'm actually answering it.

One of the questions I was asked was whether I'd been in a band before and whether that's where the whole 'struggling band' storyline came from. I hadn't expected that.

I was in a band at university for about a term, but none of us took it very seriously. There were four or five of us, and we had nothing in common except that we all wanted to play at least one gig. We used to rehearse in my tiny campus bedroom (without the drummer).

There was a singer called Zoe, a guitarist called Richard, a drummer we borrowed from another band, and me on keyboards. There might have been someone else - I can't remember. We played in the students' union bar on a 'band club' night, and there were probably about 30 people there. We only played covers: 'Thinking about you' by Radiohead, 'Weather with you' by Crowded House, 'More than Words' by Extreme, 'Twist in my sobriety' by Tanita Tikaram and 'Wish you were here' by Pink Floyd. You could have called us lots of things, but 'punk' wasn't one of them. The setlist was a distillation of what four people with nothing in common could agree on, and what we could reasonably attempt with our limited talent. We put as much imagination into our name as we did the setlist: we went out as a covers band called 'Blanket'.

I remember it being too dark to see the keys properly, and remember my fingers being sweaty and sliding on the keyboard. But once we'd got through the first song (can't remember which it was) and got some applause, it all got a lot easier.

At the end, this guy came up to me and told me that 'Wish you were here' was his favourite song ever. That made me nervous. I knew I'd fumbled one of the notes at the start and I knew how I felt about my favourite songs: pretty defensive. "Thanks for playing it," he said. "I love that song and I've never heard it live before. That was brilliant." He'd had a few, but he meant it. We'd made his night. And he'd made mine.

My experience was completely different to the performers in the novel. I wasn't good enough to wing it, so I had to concentrate on what I'd practised and repeat that. The characters in my novel (even those jamming in obscurity) are all talented musicians, who can play intuitively and really relax into a performance and turn it into something creative, feeding off the energy of the crowd. In many ways, Simon's band Goblin is an ambassador for all those fantastic bands on MySpace who have about 50 fans and who deserve a bigger audience that just isn't there for them.

I didn't tell the journalist all this. I just told her I was in a band at uni, but we didn't take it very seriously and we weren't very good. But maybe, for that one night, we were good enough. If that guy heard his favourite song played live, and it made him feel something, then perhaps the odd bum note and complete lack of chemistry on the stage don't matter. If you're in the audience, half the gig's in your head anyway: it's about how you respond to the music, and the thoughts and feelings it evokes in you.

University of Death:
Download the first two chapters | Author interview | Buy now

Labels: , ,


Bookmark and Share
Permanent link for this post.

Dip into the blog archive

June 2005 | July 2005 | August 2005 | September 2005 | October 2005 | November 2005 | December 2005 | January 2006 | February 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 | August 2006 | September 2006 | October 2006 | November 2006 | December 2006 | January 2007 | February 2007 | March 2007 | April 2007 | May 2007 | June 2007 | July 2007 | August 2007 | September 2007 | October 2007 | November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 | February 2008 | March 2008 | April 2008 | May 2008 | June 2008 | July 2008 | August 2008 | September 2008 | October 2008 | November 2008 | December 2008 | January 2009 | February 2009 | March 2009 | April 2009 | May 2009 | June 2009 | July 2009 | August 2009 | September 2009 | October 2009 | November 2009 | December 2009 | January 2010 | February 2010 | March 2010 | April 2010 | May 2010 | June 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November 2010 | December 2010 | March 2011 | April 2011 | May 2011 | June 2011 | July 2011 | August 2011 | September 2011 | October 2011 | November 2011 | December 2011 | January 2012 | February 2012 | March 2012 | June 2012 | July 2012 | August 2012 | September 2012 | October 2012 | December 2012 | January 2013 | February 2013 | March 2013 | April 2013 | June 2013 | July 2013 | August 2013 | September 2013 | October 2013 | November 2013 | December 2013 | January 2014 | February 2014 | March 2014 | April 2014 | May 2014 | June 2014 | July 2014 | August 2014 | September 2014 | October 2014 | November 2014 | December 2014 | January 2015 | February 2015 | March 2015 | April 2015 | May 2015 | June 2015 | September 2015 | October 2015 | December 2015 | January 2016 | February 2016 | March 2016 | May 2016 | July 2016 | August 2016 | September 2016 | October 2016 | November 2016 | December 2016 | January 2017 | April 2017 | July 2017 | August 2017 | October 2017 | November 2017 | Top of this page | RSS

Books by Sean McManus

Scratch Programming in 

Easy Steps

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Learn to program with the Scratch programming language, widely used in schools and colleges.

Set up your Pi, master Linux, learn Scratch and Python, and create your own electronics projects.

Coder Academy

Coder Academy

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps

Learn to make games and other programs in Scratch 2.0, and make a web page in HTML, with this highly interactive book for 7-10 year olds.

Discover how to make 3D games, create mazes, build a drum machine, make a game with cartoon animals and more!

More books

©Sean McManus. www.sean.co.uk.