I have chosen to make my new novel, “Liberty,” available exclusively on Amazon.com for the time being. Why? Because Kindle is where it’s at right now. Fear not, however, you can still read it on your iPhone, iPad, and iWhatever with the free Kindle app available from Amazon.com. The launch price is only 99 cents, and Amazon will periodically offer it for free during brief promotional periods.
What’s it about, you ask? Well, it takes place in the 1980s and is centered around two teenagers from opposite ends of the United States who are sent to a fundamentalist Christian “boot camp” in order to cleanse the “evil” influences from their lives. These types of places really existed, and still do on a smaller scale, and I’ve always found the idea fascinating. I was only 13 at the end of the ’80s, but even in the ’90s I experienced many a run-in with religious authority figures over the subject of heavy metal music. Much of the fundy rhetoric included in the book is taken from these real-life experiences, so in a sense it is somewhat autobiographical. I went to a private school, I heard all of the anti-rock propaganda, I was subjected to “interventions” after I was seen in public wearing an Ozzy Osbourne shirt, I’ve been accused of being a devil-worshipper; none of this stuff is exaggerated, folks.
I decided to set the story in the ’80s because that era was not only the golden age of metal in the minds of many fans, but because it was also the heyday of the “satanic panic” movement. I thought I had it bad during the following decade; kids in the ’80s had it much, much worse.
It was a lot of fun to casually reference minor pop culture landmarks like New Coke and Hill Street Blues, but I didn’t go overboard with these references. They are purely functional, and there is no sense of “wink wink” I love the ’80s on VH1 nostalgia accompanying them. Nobody drinking a New Coke in 1986 or slipping on a pair of Airwalk high-tops gave any thought to the cultural significance of such things; they just were. And that is how they are presented here.
In other words, this is not a “retro” book. I had to immerse myself in the culture of the decade in order to write this book. And make no mistake, although I was young, I do remember the ’80s, and clearly; the good as well as the bad.
My intention with “Liberty” was initially to create the literary equivalent of a John Hughes movie, but with a darker edge. To put it simply, instead of a poppy, new wave soundtrack, you would be hearing the buzzsaw guitars and screaming vocals of bands such as Judas Priest, W.A.S.P, Exodus and Slayer. And that’s another thing: Terry, the main character, is a 16-year-old metalhead. He’s not like the purists of today who eschew anything slightly mainstream as “untrue.” He likes Twisted Sister as well as Possessed. Kids back then weren’t “kvlt.” They didn’t have the luxury of being as selective musically as they do now. There was no internet, there was only word of mouth and magazines like Metal Forces, Kerrang! and Hit Parader. And good luck finding those if you lived in a small town. Some of those places didn’t even have cable TV yet.
Terry’s connection to the world of metal comes via his friend Chad, whose brother drives him up to Rainbow Records(A real store, the “ruins” of it still sit abandoned on the streets of OKC)to buy all the latest releases from bands like Dio, Iron Maiden and Megadeth.
(I was actually granted permission by members of several bands such as Metal Church, Vicious Rumors and a few others to use lyrical quotes in the book, but in the end I played it safe and opted not to include those. Never know when someone else who co-wrote a song or owns half the publishing might come out of the woodwork and try to be a dick about it. )
The girl he falls in love with, Kayla, is sort of a proto-goth type chick who dresses in black and listens to Depeche Mode, The Cure, Alien Sex Fiend, etc. She’s led a much tougher life than the more innocent and untested Terry, but they somehow manage to find common ground and become quite fond of one another.
Do you remember what it’s like to be a teenager in “love?” I didn’t until I really started to think about it and remember how I felt in those days when it seemed as if the world was against me and everyone in a position of authority over me existed solely to destroy my happiness. That is the point of view that I had to write from, and although some of it might seem silly because of that, it’s the way that teenagers think. Does she like me? Should I tell her I like her? Oh God, what do I do? Does my hair look okay? What if she doesn’t like me? It’s that ridiculous sense of teenage insecurity that permeates the book. I was like that, and so are you, unless you were blessed with the kind of massive popularity and good looks that made life oh-so-easy for you. In that case, you probably don’t read anyway so there’s no for me to waste my time trying to market this book to you; you won’t understand or relate to it.
For those of you who will understand, who will relate, whether you’re a fan of heavy metal or not, I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy this book. It comes from the heart; it’s a labor of love. It’s a love/hate letter to the 1980s, to put it succinctly. Check it out.