Vik Rubenfeld created the hit CBS TV series, "Early Edition," starring Kyle Chandler, about a man who receives tomorrow's newspaper today, and uses it to save people.
He is married and lives in Los Angeles.
And his novel:
Want to know what it feels like to be a rock star?
Reid Taylor started out with nothing and became part of one of the biggest bands in the world. Now he wants to tell you about the hard struggle every step of the way, fame, the craziness of being on the road, the groupies, and how he found real love that meant more to him than all the groupies in the world. And he wants to tell you about the conflict he had with one of the members of his own band, that threatened everything the band ever hoped to achieve.
Hi Vik, thanks for coming to the blog!
It's a pleasure to be here.
1) Tell me about yourself.
I created the hit CBS TV series, "Early Edition," starring Kyle Chandler, about a man who receives tomorrow's newspaper today, and uses it to save people. I'm married and live in Los Angeles.
2) When you're not being an author, what do you usually do?
I'm a Director of Market Research for a variety of clients. I design studies, write the questionnaires, analyze the data, and present the results. It's very democratic. It's all about getting feedback and guidance from the public.
3) How and why did you start writing?
This a big subject for me. I was always drawn to entertainment and storytelling. Then in college, I met a teacher, Mrs. Bettina Olivier. She taught me what a work of art is, and she believed I could write one myself. As soon as she said that, I felt that that was going to be one of my top goals.
4) Can you briefly explain what CONQUEST is about?
Want to know what it feels like to be a rock star? Reid Taylor started out with nothing and became part of one of the biggest bands in the world. Now he wants to tell you about the hard struggle every step of the way, fame, the craziness of being on the road, the groupies, and how he found real love that meant more to him than all the groupies in the world. And he wants to tell you about the conflict he had with one of the members of his own band, that threatened everything the band ever hoped to achieve.
5) What's the story behind it? Inspiration?
When a group of guys form a band and set out to try to make it a success, they are on an epic journey, and it happens in real life all the time. The epic journey part of it, and the "men on a mission" thing, appealed to me quite a bit.
Also, I've wanted to write something in the world of entertainment for a long time. I was particularly drawn to what happens when you are on stage. I acted in and directed plays in high school so I had some limited experience with that, and it meant a lot to me. I wanted to express what that felt like. It's as though the members of the audience combine into one single conscious being that you can communicate with. It's pretty amazing, and I wanted to write about it.
And then there were the groupies. For some reason I wanted to write a lot of pages about groupies. :)
And one more thing - having lived that entertainment biz thing of trying to do something that seems impossible, and then getting it to happen - getting EARLY EDITION on the air - I wanted to write about what that felt like. I just put it into the life of a rock star.
6) Is CONQUEST your very first novel?
Yes, it is.
7) What is your favourite part/scene/quote/phrase in CONQUEST?
Here's one from when Reid Taylor, the bass player who tells the story, is on the road, and he's just hung up after talking to his girlfriend, Kristy, who he really loves.
"So I was lying there in that bed, surrounded by those hotel room walls that are strange because they show no trace of anyone’s life. When Kristy and I had been in the hotel in Los Angeles, it had felt like it had all the warmth of a dearly loved home, because I had her to hold. But this room just felt strange and empty. I felt like it barely had me in it. "
Here's another one, from one of the after-parties following a show :
"I felt this chill run up my back as some chick with a talent for getting that to happen ran her fingers up the curve that goes right beside your spine. Before I even turned around I knew some groupie was hitting on me. I looked to see who it was, and sure enough, it was this very hot girl giving me a steamy look she must have practiced a lot in her mirror. I could see right away in her shiny eyes that she hadn’t a thought in her head except to get a good story she could tell her friends about how she banged the bass player. And that was okay. I had no objection to any girl for doing that. I didn’t even need to like her that much to have a good time with her. That made me realize again that being faithful to Kristy was pretty much going to be really really hard to do under the circumstances. And a fear hit me that felt like an iron ring being tightened around my chest, that I could lose Kristy over this, just by not being near her when she needed me. Just like she wasn’t near me, and I needed her. Man, did I need her. I’m only human. It was like I was constantly parched from thirst in a desert and everybody around me was drinking up all kinds of ice-water, and I wasn’t letting myself have any. How was I supposed to do that for month after month?8) Did you base any of your characters on real life people/experiences? Which ones?
The characters are fictional, but most of the things that happen in the novel are inspired by things that actually happened to real bands. Fans of rock history will enjoy spotting all the references. To give just one, there's a very famous story about Nellcôte, where the Rolling Stones recorded "Exile on Main Street." The Stones even produced a documentary DVD about it because of all the interest in it. Almost everybody who's heard about it wants to know what it felt like to be there. That inspired a sequence in my novel.
9) What was the hardest part in your path to becoming an author?
That is a great question. An important part of it for me was learning about what an "emotional insight" is. I post about this on my author blog at vikrubenfeld.com. Here's a famous example:
Romeo: But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?That is pretty easy to get with. Feel every word of that with your whole heart. Does it fill you with emotion and meaning? That meaning is the meaning of Shakespeare’s emotion.
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
It's interesting to me that you can't restate it in information-only terms, and still keep the beauty of it. For example, if you try to restate the information of it, you get something like, "Juliet radiates light, turns night into day, etc." All the beauty is lost. The beauty of Shakespeare's words is a beauty of emotion, and, it seems to me, can't be restated in information-only terms.
Here's another one. It's from Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Huck Finn is escaping from his father, who has held him prisoner for several months. (http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=Twa2Huc.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=7&division=div1)
"I took a good gap and a stretch, and was just going to unhitch and start when I heard a sound away over the water. I listened. Pretty soon I made it out. It was that dull kind of a regular sound that comes from oars working in rowlocks when it’s a still night. I peeped out through the willow branches, and there it was — a skiff, away across the water. I couldn’t tell how many was in it. It kept a-coming, and when it was abreast of me I see there warn’t but one man in it. Think’s I, maybe it’s pap, though I warn’t expecting him. He dropped below me with the current, and by and by he came a-swinging up shore in the easy water, and he went by so close I could a reached out the gun and touched him. Well, it was pap, sure enough — and sober, too, by the way he laid his oars.Do you feel that? The stillness, the mystery that Huck is experiencing as he makes his escape? If you feel it, then you are witnessing emotional insight. That's all there is too it. :)
I didn’t lose no time. The next minute I was a-spinning down stream soft but quick in the shade of the bank. I made two mile and a half, and then struck out a quarter of a mile or more towards the middle of the river, because pretty soon I would be passing the ferry landing, and people might see me and hail me. I got out amongst the driftwood, and then laid down in the bottom of the canoe and let her float. I laid there, and had a good rest and a smoke out of my pipe, looking away into the sky; not a cloud in it. The sky looks ever so deep when you lay down on your back in the moonshine; I never knowed it before. And how far a body can hear on the water such nights! I heard people talking at the ferry landing. I heard what they said, too — every word of it."
10) What is the one question that you've always wanted to be asked about in interviews? What would your answer to it be?
I'd like to be asked, "Vik, I think I noticed a run-on sentence or two, especially in the beginning. Was that intentional?"
Yes, absolutely. Reid has spent his life in the world of music, not in the world of writing. It would have felt totally inauthentic to me if he had somehow written this book in perfectly crafted sentences. He's just writing in the language that comes easily to him. Of course, for me, it was a lot of work, capturing his voice this way. I was inspired by "Catcher in the Rye," "Huckleberry Finn," and others.
11) Where can readers buy your book?
Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Conquest-ebook/dp/B006GF6QOM/ref%3dsr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323031611&sr=8-1
Smashwords - http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/109735
Barnes and Noble - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/conquest-vik-rubenfeld/1107830772?ean=2940013462816
CreateSpace - coming soon.
12) Any parting words?
I think that's all for now.
Thanks for having this interview with me!
You're very welcome! I really appreciate the opporunity to be here.
A CONQUEST Excerpt
The thing is, I never really liked our drummer. I never liked the guy. Our singer I could tolerate, even though he thought he was beyond human. I’d seen him on the way up, when nothing like that was ever in his head. Mostly what he thought then was how afraid he was that he was blowing it and he’d run out of money and become a street person, sleeping in doorways. He had an unnatural fear of that, as though some fortune teller had put it into him. It was like it haunted him, a vision of his own future. Then when we really hit it, something else ridiculous happened – he felt like he had won against some supernatural power, like he’d overcome his own destiny and become more than normal. It was just irritating, but I still liked the guy.
Our lead guitarist – what you see looking at us is not what you see if you’re inside looking out. Barry O. – the Fireman, if you know his nickname – to you guys he looked like he had it all under control, but I knew that every second he was just waiting for it all to fall apart. He was just convinced that this was going to last for, maybe, another ten seconds. This went on for years.
I played the bass. I guess it was only natural that I’d be the down-to-earth guy, since that’s what I did for our sound. My bass was just like the anchor that kept the kite from flying off into the sky and getting lost. I guess I tried to do that for our band too. And you know how that turned out.
But why get ahead of things? Everybody always wants to know how it all got started and what happened, and to hear about all the craziness and everything. So now that it’s all over and I’ve got time, I’m like, why not?
HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED
Actually it was kind of spooky. I’ll never forget the day because my girl friend just broke up with me that same morning. She just finally got fed up with me for being the way I am. She was excitable. She didn’t mind that I wasn’t excitable, but it was the way I wasn’t that finally she couldn’t take any more. I’m just sort of a, get up every day, get the job done, don’t get distracted by stuff, just keep moving forward kind of guy. I sort of feel like a tank on a battlefield. I just keep going. Stuff can be blowing up around me, so what, I don’t care, I’m still going ahead. Meanwhile she felt like I was a snail, just going along too slow, getting nowhere. Like I said, she was excitable. She started getting crazy about it, hysterical. Which didn’t even faze me because I’m like what I said, and that drove her even crazier, and so it was just that same morning that she just said she was breaking up. Which was kind of like, I mean, even to a tank, a bomb goes off right underneath of you and you’re going to feel it. So I was trashed and in no mood to go anywhere, much less to an audition.
I’d heard about this audition Barry was having out in some old barn or shack or something. I wasn’t going to go in the first place and now I definitely wasn’t planning on going. I’d met him once or twice and my impression was that he was a little frayed around the edges. A little flighty. Maybe not serious enough. Tanks don’t wait for guys like him, we run guys like him over. So the hell with it, was basically my approach to the subject.
I was in no mood to see anybody, and then my phone started to blow up. All these calls were coming in. I tried to remember, did we always get this many calls on a weekend? Did my girlfriend used to just answer the phone? It seemed like way more than usual. All these people asking me to go here or there or come out and have a drink or let’s go to this party or hear this band or whatever. Some of them already knew about the breakup and wanted to cheer me up, and some had no idea. Finally I had to go out just to get away from the phone calls. So it was getting late already and I just took off for the bar to play pool and have some beers.
So now I’m out and my cell phone starts blowing up and I just don’t answer it. I’m not in the mood, as you can easily imagine. I’m playing pool, having a beer, trying to not think about anything. The misery is sitting on me like a wrestler that’s got another wrestler pinned. I can’t do anything about it and I know I can’t do anything about it, so I’m trying to not think about it.
And then this guy walks right up to me out of nowhere and says, “Hey man, can you give me a lift to Barry’s audition?” I don’t even recognize this guy. I’m so stunned that I actually forget to blow him off. I actually let myself get into a conversation with him.
“Dude, I’m not going to Barry’s audition.”
“Aren’t you Reid Taylor?”
“Do I know you?”
“I’m Travis. I saw you sit in with Sammy Marshall at Harry’s a month ago.”
“Yeah, well, I’m just hanging out here tonight.”
“Everybody says you’re going.”
The guy looked around vaguely. “I don’t know. People.”
“People? Who? Who said that? What was the name of the person who said that?”
“It wasn’t one person. It was at least two people.”
“That guy over there.”
He looks over at somebody and at that exact split second, before I can see who it is, the guy he’s looking at turns and walks out of the place.
“’Scuse me one second. I want to say hi,” I said, and went to see who it was.
So I head out of the bar and the guy is walking away towards his pickup, and I said, “Dude.” He stopped, looked around, I’d never seen him before, and I already don’t like him. I’d never seen the guy before, and I swear to God I already don’t like the guy.
“Yeah, what’s up Reid?”
“You know me?”
“No, some guys in there said you were going over to Barry’s. You want a lift?”
At this point I actually said, screw it, I might as well go. I mean, why not at this point? It was either go or hear about it all night evidently. It was turning out to be the path of least resistance. The easiest way to not have to think about going was to head over there. I could already see that if I didn’t I’d spend all day tomorrow answering people who wanted to know why I didn’t go.
“Yeah, sure, why not,” I said. I got my axe out of my trunk and got into his pickup and we took off.
The guy said his name was Clay Hicks.
So now I’m headed off on a mission to be in this band, when in fact I could care less. I felt like one of those embedded reporters who travel with the army.
The plus side was, I needed a laugh, and heading off to this thing without caring at all what anybody there was going to say about me was funny. They were going to be judging everybody and I was going to be not even beginning to care. I was way beyond caring already tonight about anything any of these guys were going to say to me.
And I had to admit it was a welcome distraction from this misery I couldn’t shake.
After a while Clay started driving too fast. Way past the speed limit. He’s taking curves at roller-coaster speeds. I’m looking at this guy, I’ve never seen him before, and I’m wondering, is he testing me? Is he waiting to see how I’m going to act? Or is he just trying to rattle me so I can’t audition? I watch the road. He’s not skidding much, he’s not driving outside the lane or anything. He seems to be able to handle the car at this speed. So I don’t say anything.
We’re driving way outside of town and the streetlights are getting farther and farther apart, and finally we pull up in this parking lot outside of some kind of big old run-down looking building. I grab my axe and get out of there because there’s no way I’m talking to this guy since I’d only tell him that no matter how proud he is of whatever he thinks he was doing, he’s just like one of those comets heading down through the night sky, that burns bright while it’s burning itself up. Let’s put it this way -- chances are that when he crashes his car, I won’t be in it.
The front of the building looks dusty. The door doesn’t feel solid when I open it. Inside it’s dark. There are tables all around – it’s some kind of closed restaurant. There’s people milling around on the far side of the room, and that’s where the lights are on. There’s a stage set up over there. I see Barry, long-haired, rattled-looking but cheerful, proud that this is his thing, he’s running it, everybody’s there to win his approval. People drive all the way here, they get here, and they’re into it, man, you can feel it. It’s electric. People want to be chosen.
I consider just hanging out back here in the dark and watching, but that’s too ridiculous. Besides, I need more distraction or I’m going to get swallowed whole by this wretchedness that feels like it’s eating me alive. So I head over to the edge of where everybody is and see a singer I know named Shawn.
“Hey, how you doin’?”
“Reid, all right man, how are you?”
“I heard you and Sharon broke up.”
“You okay with it?”
I like Shawn, but why do people always have to ask the wrong question? He’s saying it like he’s my friend and being all sympathetic, but what if the answer is what it really is, namely that I’m anything but okay with it? He’s gonna make me talk about that? Expose myself like a fish flopping around on a boat deck waiting to be iced? Is that like a friend to do that, to bring that up, to try to make me say it? I don’t even give him the benefit of the doubt. I bet that somewhere in the back of his mind, he knows exactly what he’s doing. When you’re suffering, it almost takes a saint to be your friend.
There’s nothing I feel like answering. I’m not a good enough actor to say I’m fine and have anybody believe me. Or maybe I could, I’m not going to protect myself by lying, by hiding, by pretending to be something I’m not.
“No. I’m not okay with it. It sucks.”
“I’m sorry, dude.”
To me that looks like the fakest sympathy ever. So what. I don’t care. I don’t say anything back. I move on.
Barry spots me and comes over.
“Hey Reid! Good to see ya’. Thanks for coming over.”
“Glad to be here, man.”
“I didn’t know how to reach you, so I just told people to let you know about it.”
“Okay, cool. It worked.”
“Excellent.” He moves on to talk to somebody. It’s like I said, the guy’s a little flaky. He didn’t know how to reach me, so he just told people. But it worked, I gotta give him that.
“Hey, how’s it goin’?” A drummer I know has spotted me, a good guy, named Leon.
“Okay, man. How’re you?”
“I heard about Sharon, dude.”
“That sucks, man.” He says it like he’s talking about a coat that doesn’t fit. He’s not making that big a deal out of it. You can see he’s not acting like it’s the end of the world. Leon’s an okay guy.
“I appreciate that.”
“For sure. You think it’s really over?”
“You were with her, what, a couple of years?”
“Well, if it’s not right, it’s not right, huh?”
“Yeah, man. Thanks.”
Barry gets up on stage – the action’s starting, and Leon goes to find out when he’s up. These encounters are taking too much effort, so I go sit down on the outer edge of the group, in the shadows but not like I’m trying to avoid people. Barry’s warming up, playing some old blues.
Sitting down, there’s not enough distraction. I’m trying not to think about Sharon, but it’s too big to avoid. It’s like a yacht bearing down on a rowboat. You want to enjoy the beautiful day, but you see that yacht bearing down on you to cut you in half.
Then I realize I already got cut in half, when Sharon left. This misery is too big, I can’t fight it, I’m just going to have to go through it. I get ready for it, I look for how to like the grief, how to want it, how to make something good with it. Feeling it means something, it means finding out what you’ve lost, like a store owner taking inventory after a flood. It’s super painful but you have to do it so you can keep the store going.
For a minute I didn’t even notice what was going on. Then I started to hear the new stuff Barry was playing. He wasn’t playing blues anymore. This must be his own stuff. It’s pretty much just straight chord progressions, but these aren’t the same old tired boring patterns I’ve heard a million times. I’ve never heard these progressions before, and the chords he’s got sound great together.
I know what this means if it’s not a fluke, but I figure that’s gotta be all it is. There’s no way he’s got a lot of this stuff. But then he hits us with another one, and another one. This is the DNA of songs that haven’t been written yet. This is what I’ve been looking for. Sharon thought I wasn’t getting anywhere – she didn’t see that I was looking, waiting, for what it’s starting to look like just showed up here in this busted-up closed restaurant.
I want to stand up and charge the stage. It’s such an overwhelming mix of feelings – this wretchedness on top of this exaltation and excitement. I get the sense a person can hold an infinity of feeling. It starts to make me feel physically bigger than myself. It’s making me giddy. It’s making me dizzy.
I move really quietly over to some friend of Barry’s with a note pad and get my name on the list. Then I sit back and watch what goes on, carried along on these sensations like a loose rowboat – or a piece of a loose rowboat that got cut in half -- on top of huge ocean swells.
Bass players, drummers, singers come and go. Leon tries out and does great. The bass players are just playing right on top of the same notes Barry’s got, just a few octaves lower. It’s driving me crazy. I can’t stand it. I can’t wait to go up. Finally they call me. I walk up, plug in. Barry hits it. Leon’s on the drums.
This tremendous sense of power hit me. I was so full of passion over breaking up with my girl and now it was going into the notes I was playing and the counterpoint I was finding. It was like the whole day was fated to put me on fire for this. I blew that room away so hard that even my competitors just looked at each other and they all saw each other felt, I was the guy.
When you live a certain way, certain days come along and change the rest of your life. And when that happens it just kind of naturally shows you were right all along – waiting, believing, praying, hoping for that to happen. And that is quite an experience. The surprise that you were right about that stuff, that you were right you could do these things, that you could find what you needed in the world that was missing in yourself, and put that all together, and make the things happen that you thought you could, and where other people wonder how you got there and how you did it – it puts awe into you. Of course, that night, it was still just my belief, my hope, my faith, that that was what had happened. Nothing was proven yet.
Leon did not get chosen. It hurt his feelings, and I felt like my friend had been dropped into a deep deep well and I didn’t know how to get him out. And who did get picked – Clay Hicks. Clay had outperformed Leon on the night, no question. But how could I tell Barry that I had a bad feeling about Clay based on one crazy car ride? Barry didn’t know Clay, didn’t know Leon – none of us knew each other yet.
If you'd like to find out more about Vik or his books, you can visit him at:
Vik is generously offering to give away 1 paperback copy of his novel, CONQUEST, to one US mailing address and 2 ecopies of it to 2 international winners. Following is optional, but it is highly encouraged!:D:D Giveaway lasts 2 weeks and will end December 29th. Haha, just fill in the Rafflecopter form below, and you're all good to go!
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