The Music and Research that Went into the Creation of SUPERSTAR!
It isn’t just an overactive imagination and the ability to type that creates a story that sweeps you away. And when I say “sweeps you away”, I’m talking about not only the way I feel about Superstar, but how many reviewers reacted to it as well. No, it’s the research that goes into the story and, considering my first “envisioning” of the story had not intended to span nearly thirty years (and longer if you consider the backstory as well), more and more research was required.
The part I enjoyed best though, was dealing with the music in the story because you can’t have a superstar writing and performing songs if you haven’t figured out what they sound like.
Obviously, as I am neither song writer nor musician, I depended on what I could find that suited my hero, Paul Montgomery. I was already familiar with all the songs and performers that wafted through my mind during the telling of this story because Rory and I are shared the same birth year and thus listened to these same songs on the radio. Even bought many of them.
Although copyright laws disallow “borrowing” more than a smidgen of lyrics verbatim, it was the sound and theme I used. Fortunately, using song titles of tunes covered in the band’s early performances could be used and definitely added to the feel of the era.
Among the superstars on the charts I borrowed arrangements, compositions, and song stylings from for the Montgomery “sound” were Kenny Loggins, Barry Manilow and a few other composers who owned the 1970s and 1980s music marketplace. They inadvertently wrote the songs my muse and I knew in our hearts belonged to Paul Montgomery. Of course, a few tunes from the ‘90s and beyond worked a bit of magic, too, but as most of the recording sections of the story took place in the earlier years, those hits were particularly inspirational. Besides, once a performer has a Top 40 tune, they’re stuck performing the same song into perdition. Beyond the compositions and arrangements themselves, Michael McDonald contributed Paul’s voice with a touch of David Clayton Thomas of Blood, Sweat and Tears with Robert Palmer and Michael Bolton thrown in. With McDonald and Loggins both sporting beards, Paul had to have one himself. Can’t help it. I like dark haired guys with beards! Though these days none of these performers are sporting dark hair.
Unfortunately, because I hadn’t listened to any of this music in decades, making a separate Pandora channel with these gentlemen’s and other singers and groups hits to listen to as I wrote slowed things down since I tended to get up to dance or pressed the headphones closer to my ears to picture Paul on stage while I sang along. As I, like Aurora Chambers and Jill Gordon, not only can’t carry a tune but what passes for a tune is generally flat, I needed to drown myself out. (Pandora station I named is "Montgomery-esque")
Bonnie Tyler belted out Jim Steinman and Dean Pitchford’s “Holding Out For A Hero” in 1984, which means Rand Gunning doing the same for “Hero” in the 1970s predates her, although it was Bonnie who supplied the vocal in my head. And the piano in the arrangement fueled my descriptions of Paul accompanying Rand on “Hero”. The playlist of songs I high jacked for Paul’s “sound” follows this note for those who are curious or want the “total” Montgomery experience. The criteria was orchestration arrangement (sound) and vocal performance rather than lyrics, though a lot of them sound Montgomery-ish as well. It’s a long list but then I was covering three decades of creative output for Paul, so actually, it’s short!
And although he hates disco, I loved it! When he draws Rory onstage, the song I choreographed the dance to was a far more modern song though: Phil Collins’ rendition of “You’ll Be In My Heart” from Disney’s Tarzan.
A personal history of dating more than one disc jockey (and marrying one) and reprising the sequence with musicians (and marrying one of them, though not a rocker) probably leaked into the story. I culled info from them about the music biz long before I knew I would be using it. Having made things up as needed, I confess that any errors or inconsistencies that appear should be laid at my door alone. Had to toss in KLUC radio in Vegas as I worked there in the early 1970s and listened to it in the 1980s.
If I hadn’t decided I was going to be a novelist when I was twelve, maybe I would have chosen, as Aurora did, to go into fashion design. I created a lot of dresses for one very well abused original Barbie Doll once upon a time, and firmly believe there is no such thing as enough clothes. The closest I’ve come to being a fashion designer is mentally filling the closets of my various heroines over the years with things that couldn’t be found in the stores. It was a lot of fun sitting down with Rory at the drawing board to create her lines for the runway. Yet again, all the errors – mine – if they exist. Logic was my guide in some cases.
I was in London in 1968, although I sent Aurora there in 1967. Mary Quant designs ruled, and the Carnaby Street fashion revolution was in full swing both years…well, for more than those two years, actually. I loved those clothes, especially Quant’s.
Sadly, while Aurora and Bobbie wear the same uniform I did in high school, there was no tempting boy next door for me to lust after. Rory, Bobbie, and I all share the same graduation date, of course. And I let Rory drive my first car early on. Sadly, I let her have my emergency appendectomy, too.
Regarding Paul’s music videos, at least one owes its look and choreography to Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” in 1982, “Thriller” in 1983, and “Smooth Criminal” in 1987. Thank you, YouTube for having them available to watch again. MTV wasn’t born with that moniker, which is why I’ve called in Music Television, which is what it premiered as August 1, 1981. I’ve loaded the airing schedule with Montgomery tunes which isn’t that far off since Rod Stewart had five that aired that first day. And from those on the real schedule that are still available on YouTube, the guy putting Paul’s together read them right – nearly all might as well have been shot in a club or someone’s garage. Blah to a modern audience, as is (which surprised me) Michael Jackson’s 1979 entry, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” Chroma key and green screens have come a long way since then.
It’s strange the way stories come together. Superstar was in progress for decades. I started writing it in the late 1980s and here it is decades into the 21st century. Early parts of it made an appearance (under a different title) in my degree work for a Masters in English Composition with an Emphasis on Creative Writing.
And despite what I said earlier, I would like to thank the late John Andreoni for setting me right on what Paul would have done during his tour of duty in Viet Nam with the advisory forces, and my former brother-in-law Mark Albright for what little I know about life in the motor pool where I dumped Jim Gordon for his time in Nam. I may be detail oriented when it comes to writing tales set in the 19th century but the 20th…well, I tend to think I remember things correctly, though I don’t. And, to save Mark’s reputation, I confess to embroidering a lot!
Superstar is the only storyline of its kind that my muse and I have dreamed up, genre fiction being more our forte. The fact that there would be no similar books to follow it contributed to the slow progress. I nearly tossed it out more than once, but Paul and Aurora wouldn’t let me forget them. I hope their story touches a chord with you, gentle reader.
(Noted by artist, not composer)
“Addicted to Love”, “Simply Irresistible”
“If You Leave Me Now”
“What Kind of Fool”
Barbara Streisand and Barry Gibb
“Turn Your Love Around”
“Nobody Does It Better”
“Footloose”, “Heart to Heart”,
“Whenever I Call You ‘Friend’”,
“Celebrate Me Home”, “Danger Zone”,
“I’m Alright”, “Sweet Reunion”
“When I Wanted You”, “Somehow We Made It”,
“It’s A Miracle”, “Could It Be Magic”
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”,
“What A Fool Believes”, “Sweet Freedom”,
“Yah No B There”, “I Keep Forgetting”,
“Holding Out For A Hero”
“Kyrie”, “Broken Wings”
“That’s The Way Of The World”
Earth, Wind and Fire
“God Bless The Child”
Blood, Sweat and Tears
“What You Won’t Do For Love”
“All I Need Is A Miracle”
Mike and the Mechanics
“Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”,
“Hold On My Heart”,
“Throwing It All Away”
”I’ll Be Over You”
“I Don’t Want To Live Without Your Love”
“Now and Forever”, “Should’ve Known Better”
“You’ll Be In My Heart”
“The Power of Love”
Huey Lewis and the News
“Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?”
“Baby Come To Me”
Johnny Hates Jazz
“Got To Get You Into My Life”
“Just The Two Of Us”
Grover Washington Jr.
“Biggest Part Of Me”
“Play That Funky Music”
Now, if you haven’t read Superstar yet, isn’t it about time that you did?
Find it only at Amazon:
You might think I’d already spent too much time with Paul Montgomery, but such is not true. When I launched into writing Ghost Notes, a romantic suspense with a jazz music theme, I needed a music studio and, considering I’d already created one for Superstar, there seemed little reason to invent another one.
But along with the Visions’ recording team came the Rawlings kids, now well into their careers. When my hero in Ghost Notes feared his voice wasn’t up to standards after ten years of not singing, I gifted him with a music legend for a godfather. Yep, he called Paul who turned up in the Phoenix area the next day to accept a secondary character position but also be very involved with the stage show that lures the murderous stalker from hiding. Rory came along to take over stage costuming as who could turn down the offer from a still well-known though retired fashion maven? If one book with a music theme, and Paul Montgomery, isn’t enough, pick up Ghost Notes at Amazon and other online bookstores: getbook.at/GhostNotes.