LBDG Commentary 1: October 1969

Kicking off my traditional series of author’s commentary posts for Local Boy Done Gone with—wait for it—Chapter 1!

Before we go there, a quick origin story:

There was always an idea for a sequel to Timely Persuasion, but I never thought I’d actually write it. Years later came a completely different concept of a companion piece following the Local Boy musician character from 1969 to present, re-telling the story from his perspective while filling in a few time-jump gaps. I dug the idea enough to run with it for a few NaNoWriMos starting with the leap year anniversary in 2020 (TP1 was released on 2/29/08)…and another leap year later here we are!

Original plan was to kick things off when the narrator visits his father in 1969 from Chapter 14 of TP, but quickly decided it was more interesting to base it on the version of the same scene from Chapter 24 when Local Boy’s fame gets undone via some time travel shenanigans. Technically this makes Done Gone more of a straight-up sequel than a retelling, but the 1960s and 70s scenes were such a small part of the first book treating it as an overlapping yet mostly independent story was a fun challenge. That said, there are some sly comments in the original hinting the 2002 present-day father knows more than he’s letting on I wanted to explore more. Always needing a stunt to keep writing interesting, “standalone sequel that might actually be a prequel” fit the bill and fueled my fire.

Ye Olde Tidbits:

  • A working title of “Father’s Days of Glory” named for a line in a Carter USM song stuck around for years, though eventually using the LBDG initials made more sense. Local Boy’s debut album in TP1 is titled Local Boy Done Good, but a little over a year after the book came out my future self sent me a vision of what another man done gone inspired by the Billy Bragg & Wilco take on Woody Guthrie. That future self was last year’s me!
  • Similarly, the opening line used to be “Here I go again on my own” leaning into the original TP narrator’s penchant for speaking in song lyrics. Two problems there were a) the song that lyric comes from wasn’t around in 1969, and b) one of Local Boy’s guiding principles is “don’t mock the greats.” Cutting the anachronism was the right move.
  • Six paragraphs in and the cousin from two brief first book scenes gets a name! One of the stunts in TP1 was to not reveal the name of any character except for Nelson. Here I considered going the complete opposite and naming every minor character every time they drifted by, but instead decided to be selective. Stays true to the spirit of the first book without being completely beholden too it, and in my mind stays realistic since most people don’t go around announcing their names left and right in real life while amongst friends.
  • As referenced above, the other stunt of TP1 was the narrator speaking in song lyrics. Since Local Boy respects the greats too much to steal, I liked the idea of having him thinking in original lyrics that aren’t very good. Like father, like son but with a twist. This perfectly fit his established character background of being an excellent musician and vocalist but not a good songwriter.
  • Local Boy was originally loosely inspired by a guy I knew from college named Ben Wood. His philosophy was “Never lose your stride” — a line I mentally associated with Local Boy in TP1 but never had him say/think until he does here while mowing the lawn.
  • Example of a bad original lyric: “Blades of grass, blades of metal. Pickup trucks, it’s all connectal.”  Beta readers were quick to point out connectal isn’t a real word (duh!) and assumed it was a typo, so I tagged on “Not my best rhyme, but not a bad rhythm” in an effort to let people know it was intentional.
  • I don’t love the father/son dialogue on the lawn, but since this is a retelling of an old scene I resisted the urge to rewrite and instead augmented/masked it with inner monologue. “His speech sounded scripted” is a nod to both the recycling and keeping it intact. Same with “Not that good of a line,” said with winking irony after introducing some of Local Boy’s lyrical stylings.
  • At the end of TP1, the time traveling son’s adult father explains how he chased a solicitor off the lawn and immediately went inside to write “Won One.” So why’s he going inside to write “If Only” as the opening chapter closes? There’s always another side to the story…

Check Out Local Boy Done Gone

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