Tell me a little bit about who you are and where you live.
My name is BJ Knapp, and I live in Coventry, Rhode Island. I live on the western end of the state, surrounded by dense forest, and am inches way from Connecticut. When I trained for my marathon I purposely plotted my route on my 20 mile run to take me into Connecticut. Because if I am going to run that far, I should at least get to visit another state. I have the best husband a girl could have, named Todd. And I have a spry but elderly beagle named Nemo who loves to eat the trash, and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Potter who is overzealously affectionate.
When I’m not writing I am sailing and scuba diving. I am also sucker for 80s metal, and memoirs about people who have left cults. And someday people will write songs about my disastrous attempts at cooking, yes, I am that bad at it.
My book, Beside the Music, is the story of a couple that has an 80s metal band, Hydra, move in with them while the band records their comeback album and what that intrusion does to the marriage of Brenda and Tim. Throw in Tim’s run for public office, his snooty meddling mother, a crowd of screaming fans on the front lawn, and Brenda facing losing her job and things start to get complicated for them. Brenda has to decide between being one man’s wife and another man’s muse.
Are there any favorite local spots you like to visit, ones that inspire your creativity?
I love living in Rhode Island. I’ve been here since 2001, and I resisted moving here for so long. But I love that I get to live in the woods, but I can drive 30-40 minutes and get to a beach or to a city. Beside the Music is based in the fictitious town called Westwood, which is a lot like Coventry, where I live, and the downtown area is a lot like Main Street in East Greenwich, where I like to hang out.
Wow us with shock value. Is there anything about you that would surprise readers?
I am always up for an adventure. For example, last month I went scuba diving in Iceland, in the spot where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. The water was literally 32 degrees, it was quite cold, but an amazing experience once I got over the convulsive shivering. I have also spent 24 hours underwater in a decommissioned underwater research facility. As much as I love to read, you probably won’t catch me reading on a beach on vacation.
What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as neurosurgeon?
Well, neurosurgery was out for me, as in high school I worked very hard to earn that 37 average in chemistry class. I used to write my own songs, and I used to play them at open mic nights all the time. But then when I got into writing novels I liked how unrestricted I felt. A song is short, and sometimes it’s hard to get all you want to say into such a small package. (This is probably why Stairway to Heaven and American Pie are so long.) Never mind the small package, you also have to worry about your phrasing, and getting what you want to say in with the rhythm of the music too. When I started writing novels, it was like stepping out of a phone booth into a vast expanse of flat land. And I can conjure whatever I want onto that flat land—a stand of foreboding trees over there, a volcano over there next to the field of daisies. Anything can happen when you have that much space to work with.
If you could spend a day with any author, living or dead – who would it be and why?
Judy Blume, by far. I devoured all of her books when I was growing up. She explained to me all the things about life that I was too embarrassed to ask anyone else about. She seems like she could still teach me a lot about life.
Does the area in which you live provide influence in your writing? How so?
Yes, absolutely. When my friends read Beside the Music, they all said that they pictured my house as the house in the book. For example, everyone comes into my house by the back door, they also did in the house in Beside the Music. I tried to write another book that features a road trip in another part of the country. I find it difficult to convincingly write about somewhere that I am not looking at every day. There’s only so much I can pull out of Google Earth so I can adequately write a description.
What is the most critical piece of advice you would give to new authors?
Just one? I’ve been traditionally published and now I am self published. But with either method authors have to do a TON of work to promote their books. I didn’t know much about it before my book came out. I learned after my book came out that I needed to be promoting the book before it came out. Which is awkward because you’re promoting a product that’s not available yet. But the book isn’t the only product I have to market. I have to market me as an author too. So, blogging and promoting blog posts are a great way to build that platform. I didn’t do that before my book came out because I didn’t know better.
Coming up with a title can be difficult. Tell me how you came up with yours.
Oh man, I had approximately 8 terrible titles for my book. It took me five years to write this book, and coming up with the cover was excruciating. Then one night my husband was like “How about ‘Beside the Music’?” He came up with the title in minutes. See above, best husband a girl could have.
Are there more books coming from you in the future? Do tell!
I have one that I am currently working on, called The Varsity Girls. It’s a story of a woman who learns that her husband has been messing around. She goes home to Connecticut for the summer to write her next novel and gets caught up in the old party crowd from her high school. It’s kind of like Hope Floats meets Old School. I am still in the first draft phase where I am barfing stuff onto the page so I can sort it all out in revision.
I am also toying with the idea of a prequel to Beside the Music as well, which will be about the band’s rise to fame before Brenda and Tim enter the picture. I originally wanted a multi perspective where I told part of the story from the band’s point of view, and another from Brenda’s. But it would have made the book crazy long, so I had to cut out all of the band’s perspective. So I have a lot of that ready made which will make it easier to piece that into a novel.
Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
You can find me at http://bjknapp.com. I blog there, and I have links for where to buy Beside the Music as well as my schedule for upcoming events.
Beside the Music is also available for sale at Water Street Bookstore, 123 Water Street in Exeter.