Saturday, January 22, 2005

Keep Struttin', Joe Meno

Imagine if you will. You've finished writing a novel, a pretty good one, dealing with issues of love, alienation and rebellion within a teenage boy. You use the music you love, punk rock, as a backdrop to enhance the mood and themes for your book. Bands like the Misfits and Minor Threat come back to life for you through the joy you give your character.

And then you get an offer from a publisher. Mtv books, to be precise. They love your book, they tell you. They "get" your book, they tell you. Only they want you to update it from 1991 to 2004. And they want you to change the bands, they ask you to drop the Misfits for Three Doors Down and to drop Minor Threat for Linkin Park.

You turn them down.

They offer you more money, and you still turn them down. The book you've written, those words and characters and moments you love and feel proud of still sits unpublished. Finally you land it at a small publisher that's taking their first forays into fiction.

Well that, according to the interview on NPR this morning is the story of Joe Meno. Meno, author of the book Hairstyles of the Damned that I briefly blogged about earlier, talked about this grand offer and how and why he chose to go with a small press instead of a monster who would have put his book on every big display rack in the country. Kind of an odd conversation, hearing Scott Simon (who either read the book or was very well prepped) ask questions about the Misfits and Minor Threat, but still good. Meno expressed great dissatisfaction with the current niche marketing of both the music industry and the publishing industry. But coming from a punk aesthetic, it's not surprising.

Anyway, Meno's choice in the end was the right one. Now after rave reviews in the Chicago Tribune, Library Journal, here and NPR, he's on his way up and over with this little gem of a book.

Keep going, Joe. I've got my eye out for your next one.



LadyLitBlitzin said...

Right on, Joe!

That SUCKS that MTV Books wanted to change it like that. What a load of bullcrap. I'm glad to hear that he stood his ground.

Anonymous said...

I ended up liking that book more than I thought I would. It struck me as a quick read (which it was), but I thought it'd be another fluffy teenage angst/finding yourself story (which in part it was). I was surprised by how subtle it was: the change in music doesn't take place overnight, relationships swerve unpredictably, and a motly crew of characters inhabit this world. I do not think it would have had the same punch if it was written today. And some of the issues (unless I'm just wrong which is always possible) might not occur today -especially the issues of white suprematism (sp?) and of course the music. Anyway, definitely recommend reading it. If you're not annoyed by the character's voice. (straight from Mr. H here, but oh so true)


Jen said...

I'll have to look for that. I remember there was a book out called "Geniuses of Crack" about a Virginia bar band that sells out to an LA label, with the expected results. I've often wondered whether the Tsunami song "Geniuses of Crack" is based on that, since Jenny Toomey always wrote so much about the detrimental effects of the music industry on artistic expression.