From record releases and concerts to theatrical performances, literary events to stand-up comedy shows, Xpress arts and entertainment section editor Alli Marshall has eagerly documented the stories of Asheville’s most creative doers for years. Now, with her debut novel to be released this May, Marshall’s got her own tale to tell.
Although it’s not an autobiography — or a “how-to” guide, although nuggets of journalistic wisdom do make appearances — How to Talk to Rockstars draws heavily on Marshall’s lengthy music-writing career.
When she first fell into journalism, Marshall says, interviews felt like a terrifying leap. But “I started to notice this pattern, at least with the good interviews,” she says, “where, in a really brief period of time, you establish this very intimate space in which you’re having a conversation — albeit a very one-sided conversation — but this pretty intensely personal conversation with another human being about their life, their art, their desires, their hopes and their personal message that they’re trying to convey.”
Under most circumstances, main character and music journalist Bryn wades through this sometimes deceptively intimate process with ease. Her strict, self-imposed professional guidelines help the admiring writer to remember that her role in the world of art is one of narrator, not actress. “But she’s really intrigued by this album that the character Jude Archer puts out, and she feels this real bond with him,” Marshall explains. “So she starts to question her own rules about not getting close or pursuing any kind of friendship with the artists she interviews.
“Some of the feelings in the book are autobiographical, but the storyline isn’t,” Marshall says, pointing out that she’s been happily married for the duration of her writing career, while Bryn wrestles with romance throughout the book. And it’s certainly these shared mental states that add the most color to the pages, often manifesting in hilariously familiar inner monologues that reveal Bryn’s quirks and insecurities in the most endearing light.
With her current IndieGogo campaign, which includes rewards like signed, advance book copies, professional band bios and even home-baked “rockstar cookies,” Marshall aims to raise $2,000 by Saturday, May 1. Funds will help cover book tour travel costs and a “creatively sourced publicity campaign.”
Here is the campaign video for How to Talk to Rockstars, created by Jesse Hamm: