I’ll start with the basics. I’ve had a really hard time figuring out what to do with THE LAST SONG. [And no, it has nothing to do with the Nicholas Sparks book. He stole my title.]
It’s not because there’s no story, or because it has no audience, or because I wrote it nearly a decade ago. It’s because there’s no easy way to sum up the novel in current fiction-marketing terms.
It’s a rise and fall rockstar story; a kind of symbolic, fantastical journey through the music industry à la VELVET GOLDMINE, or even Pink Floyd’s THE WALL with groupies instead of Nazis. It’s told from multiple perspectives—band members, news articles, album reviews, fan accounts. One big celebration of pure rock and roll. There’s no real political significance beyond ambiguous expressions of sexuality.
Here is why I think it has an audience: you guys. The internet, that is.
Although I wrote the book years before Twitter or Facebook or even MySpace existed, it holds a kind of communicative tone that has more in common with casual storytelling than classic literature. With the rise of internet communities have come rabid fans of rockstars, fans who take their musical heroes and place them into all kinds of scenarios—both real and fictional. And while the characters of THE LAST SONG do not exist outside of their fiction, the movement of the story is reminiscent of the best reviews and stories fans share about their icons on the internet.
I guess what I need is someone who knows how to market this book to those people. The open, enthusiastic, irreverent crowd who may not read James Joyce but who know everything about when their favorite author is going to post their next chapter on an online journal. I need a viral strategy of sorts—one that bypasses the New York Times Book Review and goes straight to blog readers.
Because I really believe that THE LAST SONG is an important story. I believe it has life in the way that music does. People still discover records years after their release, after all.
I need help. THE LAST SONG needs help. Music only reaches those who can hear it. What should I do?
And because style is everything, here is an excerpt, from the latter half of the book. No spoiler warnings, because spoilers aren’t really the point here.
“I’m going to the newsstand. You need anything?”
“I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Even the eye contact was nonexistent. Nicky gave up after a few seconds and turned to walk towards the small magazine and souvenir station they had passed on the way to the gate.
The whole airport was sneering at him as if he didn’t belong. The planes always rattled him with their turbulence, trying to shake him off, trying to shove him the thousands of miles through the clouds before he had planned to let go.
But Nicky wouldn’t allow the mode of transportation to have its way. This was how things had to end, and if that meant the unnatural comfort of a business class seat, then he was willing to grip the armrests, grin in grit, and give up any argument. The four remaining cities were far enough apart to ignore the existence of roads. And a tourbus would have been just nostalgic enough to drive him away. He couldn’t go back.
He shoved his hands into his pockets and hid behind his sunglasses as he entered the store—one of about a hundred that peppered the Seattle airport with their stale reproduction. There were the exact same things at every station. Cheap sweatshirts with given city logo printed on the front. Endless boxes of variously flavored Altoids. Racks of magazines read by the indiscriminating, press-chewing public. The same movie star faces laminated onto every brightly colored cover. Nothing to scare, nothing to shock, nothing to offend. No airplane passenger could ever become angry with this quality of banal, predictable service. No altercations were possible. Because there was nothing.
Nicky had expected there to be seething remarks and livid looks directed at everyone in the band. He had imagined his throat would become hoarse with the yelling required to keep things under control. He had pictured having to stay up too late, turning red and raging. But Drey had not so much as insulted a member of Ecstasy since rejoining the tour in Phoenix. And instead of being overcome with relief, Nicky felt empty. There was just nothing to say.
He and Drey had exchanged perhaps ten words between shows. Only offstage, of course. Excluding the sets of screaming lyrics that, despite everything, Nicky still sang for one person. Excluding the sparks that crackled off of every vocal note in black clothes underneath bright lights.
They were under a spell. Nicky had been cursed from communicating with his former best friend. Cursed except on certain nights, when the stars were all aligned correctly, and they shined for the masses through soundboards and amplifiers.
The disagreements had deadened into quiet. Any signs of tumultuous relations had vanished. There was nothing, now. Nothing to speak of. Everything hollowed.
Still, the rockstar always said. This is poetic. This is perfect. This is the end. And I don’t need him to fuck up the epilogue.
Nicky moved past the glass island of cash registers until he reached the magazine and newspaper racks. It was mindless browsing. He didn’t actually expect to find anything worth reading. Every cover was filled with the same garbage. Slogans and headlines to attract the morbidly curious.
He hadn’t counted on one of them catching his eye. But the word still held sway, even after all this time.
The End of Ecstasy? said fine print in a left corner.
Nicky’s rockstar took over right away. He wouldn’t read it. He didn’t need to. It would tell him nothing new. Nothing whatsoever. These articles were for the peons and peasants of society who had nothing better to do than attempt to amuse themselves with ‘untold’ stories of celebrities that had either been told twenty times or were completely untrue.
His eyes moved past the magazine and headed down the ranks. He pushed his sunglasses farther up against the bridge of his noise. He crossed his arms over his chest.
Then, before he knew what he was doing, Nicky retraced his steps, returned to the magazine, lunged for the small print and began flipping pages madly.
He had no idea what page it would be on. He didn’t even need to look. The spread was laughing at him within minutes, against fan comments, critics’ jeers, three thin columns of theorizing, and a reprinted photograph that almost brushed him off the tips of his steel toed boots and swiftly into the arms of the cheaply tiled floor.
1989 was the year beneath the caption. The names were self-evident, and Nicky didn’t need anything more. His other self had gotten all it could take from these two boys with such smiles on their faces.
He stumbled backwards, quickly shut the magazine, and tossed it clumsily back into place before any more of Nicky Mason could try to tell him just how horrible all of this really was.
“Can I help you, sir?” The clerk in the middle of the glass island had been observing him, and she was now looking at him with the condescending politeness of clerk to annoying customer.
“No, I’m sorry. No thank you.”
Nicky rubbed his forehead and walked carefully out of the newsstand, covering his steps with backward glances as he went.
When he arrived back at the gate, Drey was sitting in the exact same position as before. With the others off to get food, no one noticed Nicky’s return, and Drey failed to even turn his head.
But under the circumstances, Nicky preferred this. He satisfied himself with it. He would much rather feel empty, he decided, than be forced to remember.