Today I'm particularly excited to welcome an author who I believe is breaking new ground, both with the content and the format of her latest book.
The Noise Beneath the Apple® is a unique and vibrant study of the culture of street performance, its legitimacy in modern times and, perhaps most intriguingly, an intimate look at thirty-five buskers throughout New York City.
The book is a limited-edition coffee table book, released with an eleven-track vinyl record that was mastered by Grammy and Academy Award winning mastering engineer Reuben Cohen. The Noise Beneath the Apple® is a one-of-a-kind tribute to the chaotic, beautiful and spirited world of busking. Heather is giving away some amazing prizes as well, so stay with us to the end of the interview and be sure to enter the giveaway.
KB: What do you write?
HJ: I love non-fiction in all its guises; true crime, memoir, biographies and essays. I love music and the people and faces that make up that musical string of our society. Take these two loves and sprinkle in a childhood spent in the very rural country of Indian land, (which has, I’ve been told, skewed my perspective), and you land on my favorite topic to write about; busking.
At its core, the centuries old tradition of busking is what it has always been: the spirited mad ones from a Jack Kerouac novel who embody a magic that is exclusively their own, yet extraordinarily communal. We walk by them playing their guitars, singing their songs, performing their music, entertaining us as we wander down the streets. We may smile at them. We may not. We may stop and watch. We may not.
In the world of this busker, none of these things matter. They are there because they belong there. The streets have called them. The world underfoot has beckoned them. They become more real than the trains whizzing by, more concrete than the skyscrapers overhead. And they give the city a life and breath, an undercurrent of alchemy, which would not exist if they were not there. They invite us to sing out of key, to dance out of step; not necessarily trying to discern the meaning of life, but rather to experience being alive.
I guess it’s the right mix for me, as my current book, The Noise Beneath the Apple®, which is focused on busking, is a finalist for a Book of the Year Award.
KB: Tell us about one of your books in 3 sentences.
HJ: The Noise Beneath the Apple® is a limited-edition, 200-page Art-Style, Coffee Table book full of high quality photographs and intimate stories from 35 groundbreaking musicians in New York City’s underground music scene. It also comes with a very special eleven track vinyl record, which features the original music of a select number of participants and was mastered by Academy Award winning engineer Reuben Cohen. The intent of The Noise Beneath the Apple® is to create a dialogue about the art and history of busking as a culture and social paradigm and to help stem the tide of regulation that is suffocating creative expression and taking performers off the streets.
KB: Why do you write? Give us three reasons.
HJ: I wish I had some poetic reason for writing; something flowery, that rolls off the tongue with great finesse and conviction, but, I’m not wired like that. The truth is; in school, I started to write, because I sucked at math. When my school years were done, I continued to write, because, it was cheaper than therapy (and I liked getting free coffee for being the barista’s favorite authoress!) I have found, it’s a cheap addiction and something I get better at with age.
KB: Complete the following sentences:
My first ever published piece of writing was…A Cow Named Pepper….published in the 4H Newsletters of Klamath County in my youth, during the seventies. I was instilled with such a great sense of pride at seeing my words in typed print that I followed it up with Odes to all my various barnyard animals.
A book about writing I love is… Stephen King: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
A novel I love is… In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, which is not a ‘novel’, but a book that captured me at a very young age and cemented the genres, I know and love today. To back up for a moment; I grew up on Indian land in the southeastern part of Oregon. My Grandmother would make a monthly trek to town, to purchase supplies for the livestock and us humans. Upon her return each month, she would present me with a dilapidated cardboard box that would be overflowing with all sorts of books, in various stages of wear. Some would have covers that were falling off; others had no covers at all. Some had watermarks or torn pages. They had all been previously loved and were soon to be loved by me. I read everything in the box; from Kerouac to Poe, King to the Encyclopedia Britannica; but when I came across the classic by Truman Capote, In Cold Blood, I was hooked. As soon as I was able to go to town and buy my own books, it was the true crime and non-fiction shelves that I raided.
My favorite place to write is…in my writing room; which isn’t to say I have a huge house with oodles of space. In fact, I don’t. I live in San Francisco, a City that tries for 3” clearance between the postage stamp apartments; usually settling on 0” clearance instead. What I do have, is a dedicated ‘space’, for writing; a place that I go to at the same time every day, with the purpose and intent to write. It is a small section of my ‘craft’ room, with two big windows looking out on a street filled with Victorian buildings; natural light floods in and my disco ball—(yes, I have a disco ball), sets my room to dancing. I have beautiful crystals, affirmations and piles of The Rolling Stone for inspiration. I love this space, and I love my City by the Bay.
Something/someone who helped me improve my writing is…my Grandmother.
My Grandmother was a hard headed woman, who came from a Texas dairy farm. She was unmarried—(or more correctly, married many times over and none stuck); single minded of purpose, focus and sheer intellect. The fact that we had no running water or electricity and the school was over an hour away, did not dissuade her from providing me with an education to take into the world. She had boxes and boxes of The Reader’s Digest. I would sit at the table, while she churned butter, baked bread, grilled and drilled me on the obscure words found in its pages. To this day, I still know what a doodle sack is and can use it in a sentence!
Writing is…connection between souls.
It has been suggested that writing is a solitary endeavor; one that finds the author hunched over a typewriter or computer screen, plucking away, long after the sun has set. My experience is that this is entirely untrue. From those spirits who inspire and inform my world and hence provide me stories to tell, to my childhood mentors who taught me how to spin a good yarn, to the editors who help mold and shape them, to the designers who help present them in a manner pleasing to the eye, to the people who ultimately read them and cast their hard earned dollar in my direction, and so many other unsung heroes; writing is anything but solitary.
Editing is…perhaps the single most important thing to be done for your book and something that we as writers cannot do ourselves. Editing sets your work apart from the sea of basic ‘self-published’ books and instills a look of professionalism. There are a few types of editors; and I think you need all of them. There are copy editors, who will fix typos, misspellings, grammar, clean up your prose, and correct a fact. There are line editors who will help you arrange your paragraphs and then there is a most important type of editor, who I call a ‘planning editor’—that person who will partner with you on the project and tell you things you don’t want to hear, i.e.; you need to get rid of half of what you wrote or this isn’t a topic that warrants an entire book or this should be a screenplay not a novel.
Publishing is… According to Wikipedia, publishing is “the occupation, business, or activity of preparing and issuing books, journals, and other material for sale.” This is a great definition and it’s important because it demonstrates perfectly our ability to be creative within our chosen field, if we so choose. This definition tells us what it is, but that’s not enough. The more important piece is to know what’s NOT there. What are we choosing not to do, who we are not interested in working with, what issues/statements/causes are we not supporting. For example; in my current book, The Noise Beneath the Apple®, I chose not to focus on the politics of busking. I address the political aspects from a historical viewpoint, but not rendering an opinion to where the politics are today. I chose not to do this, so that the book could remain timeless, in spite of changing politics. Once you know what is there and what is not there, you have a Universe of choices before you.
KB: Describe yourself in six words.
KB: Why are you so creative?
HJ: Indian land itself had no electricity, telephones, television or running water. I was a white kid growing up on Indian land. Indians didn’t play with white kids and white kids didn’t live on Indian land; which meant that I had no species appropriate being, my own age, to talk to. That did not mean that I didn’t have friends. I had a cow named Pepper who would patiently stand still, while I pumped her tail up and down pretending she was an oil rigger and we were in Texas; I had a pig named Mike, who would allow me to dress him in a top hat and parade him down a make-believe city street; I had raccoons, deer, hound dogs, horses and chickens—all of who gave me lessons in living. One of the most important things they taught me was about imagination—who is the mistress of creativity.
Today, that creativity manifests in a number of ways in regards to marketing and promoting my various projects. Whether it be a book or music or my line of Record Bags—(Rock Art for the Hip at Heart), and I hear that they won’t work because, it’s already been done or it’s too hard or the market is dead or it’s too risky, etc…what I really hear, is that there are no sure bets (at least not where we want to look for them). For me, this is the best news, because these realities prompt us to do things differently, even creatively.
For example; one time, I did a ‘book tour’ with my book Milf Notes, appearing at the gay hamburger chain, Hamburger Mary’s, which was a staple in the gay & lesbian community, complete with Drag Queen servers and a menu to match. It was described as an “open-air bar and grille for open-minded people.” It was a blast and extremely successful. Remember, that fun and success are not mutually exclusive territories.
KB: What’s your next big writing challenge?
HJ: Writing for television, which is HUGELY different than writing a blog, column or book. This opportunity came about from a successful crowd funding campaign that I ran. We took 30 NYC street musicians that are featured in my book, The Noise Beneath the Apple®, and went to Grand Street Recording in Brooklyn, New York and recorded the hit song by Billy Joel, New York State of Mind. From this day we created a short documentary film, From Street to Studio, which will be released soon. As a result of this film and being named a finalist for a Book of The Year Award, I was approached to do a television interview. I then took the opportunity and pitched the idea to do small video segments featuring buskers; think Guy Fieri—(Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives), Meets Street Musicians across the country. They dug it and I’m doing it! I am very excited about this prospect; however, the type of writing required is a switch from what I have previously done.
But, I am a Fire-Horse, so change is what motivates me!
KB: What advice would you give to a brand new writer?
HJ: A few things that have helped me are to read, read and read some more. By reading everything, you become a better writer. You learn what you like, what you don’t and why. Follow that up with writing, writing and writing some more.
The next thing is to gear up mentally. There is a paradigmatic shift happening within the publishing industry. Remember the game, Musical Chairs, that we used to play as children? We’d romp about in a circle and when the music stopped you would grab a chair. But, there would always be one less chair than players and if you didn’t get a chair, you were out. I found this game stressful, as I was always thinking about the music and the chairs, and not thinking about the other players or other options. As writers in today’s economy, we have to bring our own chair to the game, and fortunately, it’s easier than ever to do exactly that.
KB: What does your current Twitter or other online profile say?
HJ: Vixen of Vocabulary who waxes poetic about the world of street art, music, busking, baseball and all things indie.
KB: What would you like it to say?
HJ: When you encounter a street performer, it’s important that we check our biases at the corner and leave our judgments at the curb. By doing so, we just might experience something revolutionary in the guise of a street performer; the best music, the best dance, the best acrobats. If you dig what you hear or see then dig a little deeper and drop them a buck, for the song, the experience, the story, the photo, the YouTube video; because after all, this small exchange of daily experience is a currency, which is not exchangeable for articles of consumption. In other words, you can’t buy it at Walmart!
KB: Where can we find you online?
Facebook: TNBTA or HeatherJacks
Blog: The Noise Beneath the Apple®
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