Mike Blakely is an accomplished traditional western singer/songwriter as well as an award winning novelist. His latest, A Song To Die For, uses the Austin music scene of the Seventies as its backdrop. Vietnam vet guitar picker Creed Mason is in the midst of building a band for the comeback of country legend Luster Burnett when he gets in between a Texas Ranger and a mob hitman as they prepare for a showdown. It’s a fun, rollicking tale that oozes with the twang, humidity, and barbecue of its place and time.
MysteryPeople: This is your second book dealing with the Texas outlaw music scene of the Seventies. What drew you to that era?
Mike Blakely: I began performing professionally in a garage band in 1976 at the age of 18, so I experienced the real deal firsthand. I was able to use quite a few of my own experiences in A Song To Die For.
MP: Are Creed and Luster based on any particular performers of that period?
MB: Both are composite characters based on some famous legends and some lesser-known artists I have worked with over the years.
MP:This is also the fourth book you’ve written with a musician as the central character. What do you want to get across to readers about those folks?
MB: The musically-inclined characters I create are all “lifers.” They know they can never completely give up making music. I hope my readers understand through these characters that it’s a tough life and a hard way to make a living but also an endeavor full of occasional rewards and moments of deep satisfaction.
MP: What do most writers get wrong about the music life?
MB: I’m not sure there’s a way to get it wrong in a business where anything can happen. There are so many paths a musician can take. Some get lucky breaks early on and ride the wave of success for decades. Others who are just as talented may work for years without much notice. The music scene can be just as wholesome or as seedy as an individual wants to make it. It can be a wild romp or a methodical climb to success. It can be all about the money or all about the music or anywhere in between.
MP: How do you prepare to write a story set in the past?
MB: It starts with historical research, of course. I read about the era. I read things written during that era. I seek out objects from the time period so I know how they look and feel. Every time I sit down to write, I time travel in my mind to the era I’ve chosen. When writing, I try to assume nothing. I strive to verify that every detail I insert into the story is authentic.
MP: Do you think the musician influences the novelist side of you and vice versa?
MB: The two disciplines are very different, but they do influence each other. I’ve written songs about some of my characters in my novels. I have also had characters from my songs find their way into my books. There’s no reason to keep the two creative endeavors completely separated though they are very different in many ways. When I finish a novel, it may take a couple of years to start getting feedback from the public. But I can write a song in the morning and play it for an audience that night.
Mike will be joining author Robert Knott on January 14th to talk about writing western fiction and their latest novels (Mike will also be performing a couple of his songs), but we got a head discussing the book and the music life.