Don McCallister talks about his Next Big Thing
What is the working title of your book?
What is the genre of your book?
Where did the idea come from?
My experiences as a literal follower of the 60s rock band Grateful Dead, though through the lens of a latter-day, second- (or even third-) generation Deadhead.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Following the 1997 death of 60s music industry icon Rose Partland, two friends and acolytes of her Dead-like band, Jack O’Roses, must rebuild their lives.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Starting in late 2000 and for the next five years, I had a number of false starts and occasional abandonments of this project. I would go on to finish a first draft only after finally completing another novel that felt important enough to pursue, in 2005. For the next seven years I wrote five other novels and a couple of dozen stories, but I’d occasionally re-visit Fellow Traveler, which was close to my heart, and eventually got it right enough to seek publication.
Who or what inspired you to write it?
The death of Jerry Garcia, my own last, disastrous Dead show (July 2, 1995 at the Deer Creek Music Theater outside Indianapolis), and the general curiosity I had about the sociological and multi-generation following that through the decades of their career grew and flourished around the band.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
What other books would you compare this book to within your genre?
That’s a tough question. I will leave it up to readers to tell me what other novels the book recalls for them. From my own perspective, Fellow Traveler seeks to meld a Conroy-esque southern family drama and search for personal identity by the protagonist with a kind of didactic work aiming to enlighten laypersons about what is clearly a version of that complex and interesting Grateful Dead scene, in which at one extreme people abandoned entirely their straight lives to live on the road, while others, like me and the characters in the book, ‘worship’ their band in their own way, have sociological stratification, have ritual, have grief and pain over the loss of their musical icon. That’s a longwinded way of saying I don’t necessarily feel that Fellow Traveler is sui generis, but I think from that mix readers may see what a difficult proposition it is to pigeonhole FT as being like any other particular novel.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Maybe it’s because I just watched The Master, but I see Joaquin Phoenix as Aston Tobias Zemp, Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Brian ‘Nibbs Niffy’ Godbold, and Amy Adams as Aimee Pressgrove.