Our lyrical raw materials: Cemetery –> Stars/Planets –> Band –> Apology Letter –> Unsent Invitations. Musically it’s a pretty song that takes things down a notch compared to the tunes that preceded it. And that’s the slalom course I tried to ski here.
Other connections were also in play. The opening line “Ladies roll by…” got mentally paired with “Ladies On Parade” several songs later, so I knew the same graveyard setting should be revisited when that chapter rolled around. By this point I had a semblance of a plot to move forward, so the trick became how to overlay L Extreme onto A Love Extreme while staying true to both in a complementary fashion regardless of whether someone was introduced to the book or the music first.
A crazy balancing act, but a fun one!
- A graveyard felt like the right setting for the next part of fake Halloween. I hadn’t worked out exactly what chased them (monster? neighbor? drone?), but linked the stars & planets imagery to a few interviews that referenced the UFO sighting at an outdoor Benji Hughes show witnessed by hundreds of people and it just clicked. (My favorite reader theory: it wasn’t a UFO, but a lamp that a neighbor threw so they’d stop being loud…)
- 128 monsters was the number of Sesame Street monsters on the Muppets Wiki at the time I wrote this chapter as a nod to C’s namesake. (Apparently the count has since gone up.)
- My boss/landlord/friend in LA owned a tea shop called “T” in West Hollywood. I lived diagonally across the street from an old Korean church that went on the market around the time he started thinking about opening a second location. I thought it was a perfect fit since it already had the name on the roof. Remembering that caused the busted steeple/cross forming an L to pop into my head.
- “Trying to whip the stars into compliance” was personal slang for attempting to make the puzzle pieces of this project work during early drafts.
- “Benjory” is a made up word (obviously) but captures the spirit of what’s happening so well both before you know the whole story and in medias res.
- Most of the items collected trick-or-treating were included in something called “The Benji Hughes Kit” sold online with a flash drive bundling three digital albums. The flash drive itself is the only item I omitted so as not to be too meta. (I also couldn’t work out a use for it that wasn’t forced—though I did just find an old note that said “That flash drive from Halloween has even more albums on it.”)
- The remaining contents had a chicken and egg history to them: sometimes the objects were invented first and a use later followed; other times I’d figure out what I needed while writing a chapter and go back and plant it in the stash. As Benji says, “Some of this stuff may come in handy…”
- Five-star instrumental jazz is a nod to the two instrumentals (dreams?) cowritten by Benji Hughes on the album A Thousand Kisses Deep by smooth-jazz trumpeter Chris Botti.
- C’s proposed party invite list includes members of past real-life Benji Hughes bands, a literal riff on the “wait until your band gets back together” line from the song. Christian is the only exception. That’s not a real person, but a reason to sneak in an out of context lyrical reference to yet another classic.
- Finishing this chapter was a struggle. I couldn’t find the right breakpoint to end on. Early beta reader feedback (correctly / astutely) said the interactions between C & Benji were funny but went on longer than necessary. I also had a longstanding tendency to want to go from A to B to C in my writing without omitting any character actions from the timeline. The lyrics clearly told me if I was waiting for a perfect section ending it was never gonna come. An abrupt pivot made sense—both to roll with the outro and to subliminally tease the larger change in direction coming soon…
- Editorial aside: “Waiting For An Invitation” is one of the more common gateway Benji Hughes songs popularized by its inclusion in an episode of How I Met Your Mother (see video below).