Many of the songs on A Love Extreme have phrases I adore so much they became non-negotiable blueprints for L Extreme chapters from the earliest drafts. Here the magic words were “jambox” and “Halloween.”
Inserting a jambox as a recurring prop was relatively easy. Working Halloween into the book’s timeline proved more difficult…
Why was it hard? At first I tried to timeline things too literally. Benji gets stood up on April 17th, but that’s a flashback so the date doesn’t matter. It’s Halloween in the next chapter, and enough time needs to pass so it can be April 17th again X chapters later for the Flaming Lips show. Five months is doable. But they go swimming in a parking lot in between, and I’ve only got the winter to work with. Maybe they time travel? Are the two April 17ths really the exact same day?
My plotting was going off the rails, so I briefly tuned it out and went back to individual vignettes. I could always deal with linking them together later.
“Happy Halloween from your neighbor down the hall” is such a simple lyric, but in the context of “Neighbor Down the Hall” I always got a kick out of how it comes out of nowhere—somewhere between a grand reveal and an inside joke. So that’s what I did.
Three grown men pretending it’s Halloween when it really isn’t under the guise of an undercover neighborhood watch mission was so absurd it made anyone I pitched it to smile. (They didn’t always think it was a good idea, but they always grinned at the unreasonable zaniness of it.)
- One year on a post-Coachella 2am drive home to LA I asked my wife to pick out some driving music. She put on “Still Crazy After All These Years” and fell asleep 12 seconds later. In her defense, when I woke her up for a do-over she said she wanted to hear “Kodachrome” which would have been acceptable. In Paul’s defense, he once blew a room away when he was underage in a funky bar. But all things considered I side with C here. He’s awesome, but as a general rule Paul Simon isn’t loud.
- While researching musical themed books I found a Monkees tie-in novel Who’s Got The Button? by William Johnston. Davy astutely says “That’s not the landlord’s knock!” early on. I borrowed that line here as a tribute.
- The line “I’m an excellent judge of volume” (aka an EJOV) has been kicking around in a draft of a different novel for years before I co-opted it in a different context here.
- The Say Anything reference with the red line for the stereo volume foreshadows “Vibe So Hot” later on, but during the writing process this early line inspired that future chapter.
- 13 apartments upstairs and 12 downstairs represent the 2 LP version of A Love Extreme with 13 songs on disc one and 12 on disc two. (The CD would be 11 & 14, but I went with vinyl to keep with the “sides” theme of the sections.)
- I’ve always interpreted a shift in narration between the first and second verses of this song, with the knock-sounding drumbeats signifying the handoff to another point of view if it were a musical performed on stage.
- Frank’s silence at their first meeting was always a thing, but the why around it evolved quite a bit between various drafts. Same with exactly who had the idea for neighborhood watch. Ultimately it’s Frank planting the seed with Benji, though how much free will is involved is a valid question to have.
- Want one of Frank’s business cards? Comment here or hit me on Twitter and I’ll send you one (while supplies last).
- Benji Hughes famously/frequently/randomly wears a cape in concert, so casually introducing it here just made sense.
- C says Halloween is 101 days away, which would make it July 22—the date A Love Extreme the album was released.
- Per the Believer Magazine article by Joe Hagan that first introduced me to Benji Hughes, “ashkanah” is Benji’s made up non-sequitur that means “whatever” and allegedly went viral around Charlotte for awhile.
- “Even factoring in the popularity of the costumes would still be counting on a longshot.”
- Ending with something sinister chasing everyone was there from the first draft, but it took me a few years to figure out exactly what chased them and why. This Wanted/Needed/Loved article helped me figure that out plus some other character motivation yet to come.