Today we're excited to chat with K.M. Walton, David Arnold, & James Howe, authors of Behind the Song. Read on for more about the authors and their anthology, plus a giveaway.
Meet the Authors!
David Arnold: David Arnold lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with his (lovely) wife and (boisterous) son. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Kids of Appetite, Mosquitoland, and The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik; his books have been translated into over a dozen languages. Learn more at davidarnoldbooks.com and follow him on Twitter @roofbeam and Instagram @iamdavidarnold.
James Howe: James Howe is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than ninety books for young raders, including the popular Bunnicula and Pinky and Rex series. He writes for a wide range of ages, from picture books to young adult fiction. His novel The Misfits inspired national No-Name-Calling Week (nonamecallingweek.org). James lives in New York State with his husband, Mark Davis, with whom he collaborates on writing and performing music as Old Dogs New Tricks.
A soaring melody, a pulse-pounding beat, a touching lyric: Music takes a moment and makes it a memory. It's a universal language that can capture love, heartbreak, loss, soul searching, and wing spreading-all in the span of a few notes. In Behind the Song, fourteen acclaimed young adult authors and musicians share short stories and personal essays inspired by the songs, the albums, the musicians who move them.
So cue up the playlist and crank the volume. This is an anthology you'll want to experience on repeat.
1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
K.M. Walton: I was in my car listening to Radiohead, singing along and creating a backstory scenario in my head—weaving a tale that matched the song. I do it all the time. This time, however, I thought, what if I had authors and musicians choose a favorite song and use it as inspiration for a short story or personal essay? That would make one heck of an anthology. I scribbled down the idea on a post-it and pitched it to my agent when I got home. He loved it, gave me his blessing, and walked me through how to start the process. I’m still blown away at my list of contributors. I mean, wow, right? And wait till you read their pieces. Again, wow.
David Arnold: In addition to being a lifelong musician, I’ve actually used songs as prompts for short stories in the past. So this was a natural fit. (Not to mention, my story is about a kid who, after having his Halloween candy stolen, plots some mad revenge against the neighborhood bully. In 8th grade, I had my candy stolen. I never plotted revenge. Until now.)
James Howe: When I was asked to write about a song that inspired me, the first one that came to mind was Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem.” Then another song popped into my head and then another and then another ... and, well, it became a problem. How to choose among so many great songs that were significant to me! And then I thought, Wait a minute, I write songs (with my husband and performing partner Mark). Why not write the story behind one of my own songs? And I knew just the song I would want to write about. It’s called “Planting Trees.”
2. What scene in your story are you most proud of, and why?
K.M. Walton: My ending. But, I can’t reveal why. Sorry about that. You’ll just have to read it and experience it for yourself ; ) The ending didn’t come to me until I was almost done drafting, and then it hit me like a boulder to the gut. So far, the reaction from those who’ve read it is the precise reaction I was aiming for.
David Arnold: The two main characters’ families used to be best friends until one set of parents tried to sell the other parents on a pyramid scheme, which then caused this epic fallout between the families. So now my main characters have to be best friends in secret. Something about this dynamic really punctuates their friendship, I think.
James Howe: I’d have to say it’s the chorus of the song itself: “You don’t have to be a Mother Teresa, you don’t have to die for anyone’s sins. Just embrace what you love, do each day the thing that you love. That’s how miracles begin.” One of the most powerful moments in writing is when you find just the right words to say what you want to say. They sometimes help you even know what it is you want to say. These words say it all for me. By doing what you love and feel passionate about and making it a part of your everyday life, you really can make a difference.
3. What do you like most about the cover of the book?
K.M. Walton: The designer hit it out of the park, no doubt. I adore the layout and the images—so eye catching. The bright colors will definitely make it pop on the shelf!
David Arnold: I love the colors, and the color blocking, and the overall retro feel of things.
James Howe: I love the retro images of how we listen to music: the cassette tape, transistor radio, the LP. I have an old (and I mean old) typewriter in my office, and when kids come to visit it’s what draws their eye and fascinates them most. I love being reminded of all the ways we create things (books, music) and all the ways we receive them.
4. What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2017?
K.M. Walton: I’m looking forward to reading the anthology BECAUSE YOU LOVE TO HATE ME edited by Ameriie. I’m lucky to call Ameriie the forward writer for BEHIND THE SONG!
David Arnold: There are SO MANY. But I’ll single out one I’ve already read: Dear Martin by Nic Stone. I can’t think of a more timely book, and I honestly can’t wait to hand this to my son when he’s old enough (to read at all, ha).
James Howe: Adult: What I Found in a Thousand Towns: A Traveling Musician’s Guide to Rebuilding America’s Communities—One Coffee Shop, Dog Run, and Open-Mike Night at a Time, by Dar Williams. Young Adult: Behind the Song, edited by K.M. Walton, of course!
5. What was your favorite book in 2016?
K.M. Walton: Even though it wasn’t published in 2016, my favorite read so far has been Natalie Standiford’s HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT. I devoured it in less than 48 hours.
David Arnold: On the YA side, I’ll say The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter. On the adult side, I was torn apart by Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.
James Howe: Adult: Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen. Young Adult: Local Girl Swept Away, by Ellen Wittlinger
6. What’s up next for you?
K.M. Walton: Enjoying the release of BEHIND THE SONG. There is so much time and dedication put into this project, and it will be a thrill to see it out in the world!
David Arnold: My third novel, The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik, is out May 2018! In addition to being my first foray into speculative fiction, Noah is my love letter to Bowie, influenced by Murakami, and probably the closest thing to my own life experience I’ll ever write.
James Howe: I have two chapter books in the Houndsley and Catina series coming out from Candlewick Press in 2018 and 2019. Right now I’m working on a childhood memoir that will be published by Simon and Schuster.
7. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
K.M. Walton: Both! I love the challenge of drafting, the unknown adventure, but I also love the refining and streamlining of revising.
David Arnold: It all sort of bleeds together for me. I do love the process. But the more I do this, the more “drafting” and “revising” start to look the same.
James Howe: Revising. I think of drafting as “beginning, muddle, and end.” Plotting is so hard for me. Once I have something to work with, that’s when the fun starts.
8. What would you say is your superpower?
K.M. Walton: I’m quite gifted at knowing when someone is lying to me, an art form I perfected during my twelve years in the classroom and being the mom of two sons. It’s all in the eyes, and, of course, the illogical nature of most lies.
David Arnold: Detecting the perfect potato chip. James Howe: Seeing the new in the everyday.
Behind the Song
By: K.M. Walton
Release Date: September 5, 2017