DIGITAL BOOK TODAY AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH RACHEL BURKE
1. What inspired you to write Sound Bites?
I actually started writing the story when I was about fifteen years old, only in the original version, Justine was the main character’s sister, and the original storyline didn’t have a music theme. Around the age of twenty-five I took up writing again and landed a freelance job as a music journalist (for a column that was ironically called “Sound Bites” which is how I came up with the title). After working in music journalism and reading several music inspired novels, I decided to go back to this original story idea and give it a rock and roll twist.
2. What specific themes did you emphasize throughout the novel? What were you trying to get across to the reader?
I was an avid music lover growing up, but had always viewed it as more of a hobby and a fun pastime. As I got older, I realized it was more than that – I felt music was something that defined who I was and gave me a sense of purpose. Watching and listening to music was when I felt the most alive, and I met so many people through the music industry that I really connected with and that influenced me in so many ways.
The theme I wanted to emphasize in Sound Bites is that your true passions are what connect you to other people, much like how music connected Dylan and Renee. I wanted to stress how important it is to follow your dreams, no matter how unrealistic they seem. When we’re first introduced to Dylan, we see this extremely talented artist who is so consumed by fear that he can’t even fathom the concept of pursuing his true calling. Unfortunately, a lot of people face this problem – they never pursue their true passion because they’re afraid of failing. But when you’re able to overcome your fears and follow your dreams, a whole realm of possibilities open up. You meet people with similar interests that you may never have met otherwise, and you’re introduced to a world of opportunities you never knew existed. So I wanted my readers to understand how important it is to be who you really are and do what you really want to do, no matter how impossible it may seem.
3. What was unique about the setting of Sound Bites and how did it enhance or take away from the story?
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received as a writer is to “write about what you know,” so if you’re going to base a story in a specific city, you should be familiar with the city. This is why I chose my hometown of Rockland, MA as the place where Renee and Justine grew up, because it’s a place I’m familiar with. I also wanted to highlight the strength of their friendship by showing them grow together as people – from small town girls to living in a big city like Los Angeles. At the time, I was attending college in Los Angeles and traveling back to Boston during the summers, so it was easy for me to transition between the two cities in the story, and describe the differences between the two and how it felt returning home.
4. Tell us about your main characters. Were they inspired by real people?
Renee’s character was, in a way, an exaggerated, more dramatic, more immature version of myself. It’s funny because I started writing the book over five years ago, and some of Renee’s beliefs were similar to my beliefs at the time. But now, there are parts of the book that make me realize how much I’ve changed since then. I’ll read a line and think to myself “Wow, I was so critical!” I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that, when you’re in your twenties, you think you have life all figured out, and once you reach your thirties, you realize you didn’t quite know as much as you thought you did.
Dylan’s character was sort of a hybrid of several people who had a big influence on my life. I think a lot of women have, at one time or another, fallen for the typical “bad boy,” but more often than not, once you get to know these people, you realize the bad boy image is just a façade, and their attitude is just a way of hiding their deep need for affection. I’ve also met several incredibly talented artists in my life who are very humble and, although they seem like “bad boy” rock stars, they’re actually really good people with huge hearts. So I sort of blended these people together into Dylan’s character. I wanted him to initially come off as the brooding, cynical musician, but in the end, show a different side of him that was humble, loving and caring.
5. How do the characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? Do these changes reflect any personal changes you’ve undergone?
Dylan’s character changes throughout the course of the story because he eventually conquers his fears and is able to pursue his passions, and we also see a different side of him at the end, when he loses the attitude and is able to show his softer side. But if anything, I think Renee is the one who undergoes the most changes.
When we’re first introduced to Renee, she’s very jaded, judgmental and closed minded. She’s convinced the world is strictly black and white – she’s created these expectations and images of her perfect soul mate and her perfect dream job that are exact replicas of herself. And she’s convinced that if you’re not with your perfect soul mate and working your perfect dream job that you’re settling and unhappy. Her character evolves throughout the story because she’s forced to take a step backwards – she takes a job she doesn’t love because she has no other choice. She meets her soul mate but has to fight to be with him. She learns how to forgive people who have wronged her. And throughout the course of these actions, she ultimately ends up with her soul mate and her creative career, but not in the perfectly aligned way she had planned. She first had to change her mind set and her attitude in order to attract these things into her life.
Her journey reflects personal changes I’ve undergone because, at one time, I was the same way. I was convinced that anyone who worked a desk job was miserable and that everyone should be their own boss. So I left my office job, sold my books, and suddenly had the life I had always dreamed of – I could make my own schedule and do what I loved on a daily basis. But then, a funny thing happened. After months and months of doing this, I realized that – GASP – I actually missed my office job! I missed being around people! Don’t get me wrong, I love writing, but the lack of human interaction had made me a little stir crazy. So I started doing part-time consulting jobs for companies, which allowed me the freedom to work half the year (and be around people) and take the other half of the year off to venture into my creative endeavors.
6. What research did you have to perform to back up your story?
Sound Bites contains a lot of information about the music industry that I acquired while I was writing the book. At the time, I had just started freelancing for a local music column , so I used the information about my current assignments when describing Renee’s internship. I had also written my college thesis paper on the digitization of the music industry and how indie artists can be successful in today’s music world, so I used my research when describing Dylan’s emerging music career – from tour scheduling to demo recordings to indie artist earnings.
7. What is your method for writing a book? A certain amount of hours every day? A certain routine? Are you a character/story builder or an outliner or do you use another method?
I like to write at night, and I try to write a few nights a week for several hours. I typically write half of a chapter in a night. When I started writing Sound Bites, I had never written a book before, and had no outline and no idea where I was going with the story. So it went through many, many rewrites over the years. Now, I always write an outline so I know which direction the story is going to go.
8. What challenges do you face as a writer?
Motivating myself to write. When I lived in Boston, it was easier to prioritize writing because the weather is cold for most of the year, so I didn’t mind spending 2-3 days snowed in with a cup of hot coffee and my laptop. Unfortunately in California, the weather is always beautiful and there’s so much to do, so it’s hard to pass up fun parties and beach trips and yoga classes to stay in and write. But I somehow manage to do it.
A challenge I face as an indie author is learning how to do everything independently. The ebook evolution is still so new, and there is so much information on the web that it can be overwhelming. Learning about book cover designs, ebook manuscript formatting, online marketing strategies – it takes a lot of time and patience.
9. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
As you’ve probably guessed, I love concerts and watching live music. There’s nothing that makes me feel more alive. Aside from that, I love outdoor activities – yoga, skiing, jogging – traveling, and spending time with friends and family. And massages. I get a LOT of massages :)
10. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I’m currently writing a sequel to Sound Bites that’s titled Love Bites, and it’s going to be from Justine’s perspective (Renee’s best friend). In Sound Bites, the story mainly focuses on Renee and Dylan’s relationship, and readers never get a chance to see what transpired between Justine and David. So in Love Bites, we get to flash back to Justine and David’s story, as well as see what happens with Renee and Dylan’s future.
Also, if you like literary fiction and women’s fiction, readers should check out my second novel, Finding Mia. It’s the story of a 16-year-old who grows up with a bipolar mother and reconnects with her estranged father. Fans of Jodi Picoult and similar authors will enjoy it.
Thank you, Anthony, for hosting my interview on Digital Book Today! I really appreciate this opportunity to connect with your readers.
(As featured in Digital Book Today: http://digitalbooktoday.com/)