Today we're excited to spotlight Meet Me In The Strange by Leander Watts!
Read on for more about Leander and his book, plus an excerpt and a giveaway!
Meet Leander Watts!
An avid musician, Leander Watts has played and sung for decades in a wide variety of bands. His interests range from garage rock to skronky jazz, from baroque organ to Appalachian gospel. The first rock concert he attended was David Bowie on the Diamond Dogs tour in 1974. He teaches writing and literature at the State University of New York at Geneseo (his alma mater). Leander Watts is the author of Stonecutter, Wild Ride to Heaven, Ten Thousand Charms, and Beautiful City of the Dead.
Meet Meet Me In The Strange!
Meet Me in the Strange is an intoxicating adventure set in a glittery, retro-futuristic world of glam rock, spectral aliens, and gender-bendy teens. Davi is mesmerized by a girl at a concert, who appears to lose herself in the power of the otherworldy music of Django Conn. Later, through a chance meeting, Davi becomes friends with the girl, Anna Z. She is like no one Davi has ever met: she loves to talk, talk, talk and has grandiose theories of the next evolution of humans and a strange phenomenon she calls the “Alien Drift.”
But danger lurks around every corner, because Anna Z is on the run, and her cruel and controlling older brother is determined to find her, at any cost. Davi faces a daunting decision, go on living a safe existence at the magical Angelus Hotel, which has been in the family for generations, or help Anna Z escape her troubled past. When the two take off to follow the concert tour of their glam-rock idol, Django Conn, Davi and Anna Z will face the biggest threat of their young lives.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I loved the music of David Bowie when I was a teenager (and still do.) I have all the early albums, still on flawless beautiful vinyl. The first concert I ever attended was the first American date of Bowie's Diamond Dogs tour. Glam rock was a huge influence on me, and years later it still inspires me.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Though I love to hear Anna Z. talk-talk-talk, my fave character is Davi. Some readers see Davi as male, some female, and some just don't notice or care. Never do I reveal Davi's genetic nature (XX or XY chromosomes.) Davi, for me, like so much of glam rock, lives in the wonderful interzone where such categories are slippery, or even irrelevant.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel came first. When I was creating songs for Django Conn (and yes I played them on guitar and sang them for myself) "Meet Me In the Strange" was one of the first I came up with. It seemed to capture the feel of not just the music, but the relationship between Davi and Anna Z.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
The scene I like the most, and which seems most real to me, is when Anna Z. and Davi are on the rooftop. Moon tan, vulnerability, young passion, awkwardness, the strangeness of the night sky.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
Write - every single day. When I was 18 I decided that I would write a thousand words a day, and I stuck with that for years. I threw out 99.99% of those words, like a musician practicing. No one wants to hear you play scales, but it built up my chops and now writing a novel doesn't seem the least bit daunting.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I just finished a new YA novel which I'm calling Dynamite Sleeper. It's about punk rock (circa 1979), Buddhism, King Fu, epilepsy, breaking and entering, visions and (gulp) love.
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
The actual early drafting I see as cutting through a wild jungle of possibilities. The main characters could go this way, or that, or just sit down and do nothing. I'm never sure where they'll head. But once the first draft is done, then it feels good to sit back and enjoy the journey they take.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
I've been in a lot of bands. In one, the bass player declared that everybody in the band had a superpower. Mine was "Etymology out my wazoo." By that, he meant I could always tell the ancient roots of a word. For instance: "radix" (which means "root"), radish, eradicate, radical. But for other words, I could always - and truly - work my way back to the mysterious linguistic past. (My favorite: what do "sphinx" and "sphincter" have in common? Both words come from the ancient root term that means "the strangler.")
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
It's neither an organization nor a cause, but the worldwide web of shaped note singers is my true community. From the deep south of America, to Ireland, Berlin, and beyond, people are still singing these loud, crazy, raucous old fa-so-la hymns. The first time I sang a shape note tune, we knocked plaster off the ceiling and I thought, "I found the sound."
~ Excerpt ~
Excerpt from MEET ME IN THE STRANGE
It was like she’d lost everything. Her name, her voice, any idea who she was or what she looked like, who the people were around her. The only thing that mattered was right there in front of her on the stage.
We were up close—masses of glam-girls and glister-boys all reaching out at the air like we could feel the music in our hands and pull it into ourselves. Wild kids pushing and pulsing with the music. Not really dancing. But it was music and bodies, so what else could you call it?
And it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen because the girl was gone—not just freaked or blissed-out. She’d let go, totally, of everything.
I got that first glimpse of her about halfway through the show, and it was like I was split right down the middle of my skull. One half was still there with the rest of the crowd, the band like the Horses of Apollo carrying me upward with the fiery sound. And one half of me was zapped by seeing this girl, like a knife juiced with electricity cutting into my brain. She was gone, vanished, disappeared inside herself.
I was cranked up like all the other five thousand fan-kids who’d come to hear Django Conn, and see him and feel him. Some of them had dyed orange, cockatoo haircuts just like Django. Some—boys and girls—had eye makeup, silvery mascara, and big, shiny slashes of lipstick, dangly earrings and platform shoes, feathers and fishnets, and the whole glam look. But this girl was different.
She had glasses, ordinary eyeglasses. They were steamed over and caught the spotlights from the stage, oozy reds and liquid purples. Her hair was black, long and damp in snaky-sexy locks that clung to her face and her neck. And just for a second, I thought she looked like somebody who was shipwrecked, drowning in a sea, dying almost but okay with that, or more than okay, letting the waves sweep her up and away.
I don’t remember what she had on. Doesn’t matter. Was she pretty? Maybe. Beautiful? Doubtful. Amazing? Absolutely.
She wasn’t one of them, not exactly, trying to look like, trying to be Django. And neither was I, even though I’d been waiting months for this show, and I loved Man in the Moon in the Man more than just about anything in the world. I’d been listening to the new album nonstop for weeks, my new diamond needle wearing out the grooves.
For the song “She’s the Hype,” the lights went into a wild black and white strobe. Off and on and off and on, pulsing, slamming, stuttering. And the girl kept appearing and disappearing. Not like a ghost all wispy and see-through. In flashes, for a second or two, she was solid, real, realer than anything. It was like the light itself was a drum, pounding light hitting the crowd in sudden bursts. I got a glimpse, and then she was gone. Then back again, broken up into frames like an old film, flickering in and out of reality.
Nobody was paying attention to other people. Nobody but me. All eyes were on Django, and all ears were blasted by the band. So when the girl lost it, when she totally lost it, I was the only one who saw and got it. Private, secret, just me and her alone, even though we were surrounded by five thousand others at the Maxima. Just me and her in that secret place.
The band got hotter, and the crowd got wilder. Django got fiercer, jumping into “I Asked for Water but She Gave me Gasoline.” And I lost sight of the girl, like the tidal waves pushed us apart, a couple of pieces of broken driftwood in a blackwater storm.
Django did all my faves: “I Fear No Venom,” “Girls Will Be Boys,” “Empire of Light,” “Pavlov’s Daughters.” They finished up with “Flash Bang Baby.” And then Django vanished in a sudden cloud, like a puff ball when it bursts and shoots that cloud of dust-spores into the air. It was like he blew up right there in front of five thousand fans. One second he was singing the last line from the last song on Man in the Moon in the Man, over and over again: “You’re all I’ve ever had!” Then the band crashed to the end of the song, and it looked as if he’d exploded. It was just a stage trick of course, lights and smoke like a magician uses to cover up his best illusion. But Django blew up and the dust spores whooshed out over us, a cloud of powder pink and velvety violet, and that was the end of the show.
Meet Me In The Strange
Author: Leander Watts
Publisher: Meerkat Press
Publishing Date: March 27th, 2018
Five winners will receive a signed copy of Meet Me In The Strange (Leander Watts) ~ US Only
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