Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Interview & Review with Brian Joyce

Hello readers. I hope my fellow Midwesterners are staying safe in this icy cold, and if you're from somewhere warmer- I am insanely jealous. Today author Brian Joyce was cool enough to drop by my blog and answer a few questions about his book The B-Side Diaries. Thanks for stopping by!


What inspired you to be a writer?

Well, I know this is the part of the interview when most authors state how they always pictured themselves as writers, how when they were young they were always crafting stories, and that they spent a large majority of their youth with their noses in a book, but the reality for me is I became a writer when my first son was born.

It wasn’t until my wife and I adopted my son Milo in 2007 that I decided to write a book, and even then, it wasn't to publish it. I wrote THE B-SIDE DIARIES for kind of morbid reasons. When I became a father, I was 34, going on 35. Becoming a father forced me to remember when my father passed, at the age of 40. When he passed, I was very young. There were a lot of things I would like to have asked him in my teens and early twenties that I just didn't get the chance to ask him, and so I thought it was my fatherly duty to have something for Milo in case I wasn't around to provide advice. This way, I felt he could come back to the story, and gain some wisdom on how to lead his life. That was my original goal and inspiration for becoming a writer. Like I said, pretty morbid, but I’m glad I had that thought because it changed my life. When Milo came into my life, I was really out of shape. I weighed 220 lbs., and I am five feet six inches tall. My cholesterol was sky high (over 270 points), and I didn't take very good care of myself. Adopting Milo changed all that. I lost 50 lbs., and dropped my cholesterol by over 100 points, and I became an author in the process.

Also, when I first read the quote: “Some people’s lives are like an epilogue,” I knew that I would one day use it within a story. I read that quote for the very first time in the Rhode Island College library in 2003, and it changed the way I looked at my life.

I understand that this is a work of fiction, but is it based on a story from your life?

While this is a fictional story, there are parts of this book that borrow from life experiences. They mirror feelings and relationships that I had growing up. I feel most authors borrow from their own life experiences to create authenticity in their characters and their stories.

In particular, certain traits found in Rory’s friends are borrowed from friends that I had growing up, and the type of relationships I had with my closest friends. Also, I lived in Nashville for three years, so the love Rory feels for Nashville closely resembles my own. Next, the lyrics at the beginning of each chapter are actual lyrics from songs I wrote in my bands The B-Side Diaries and My Morning Radio. Last, the emotions of the story are anchored by feelings I felt when I lost my father at 10, my best friend Josh at 13, and my brother Tom at 17. While much of THE B-SIDE DIARIES is about death, I feel it is as much about life. It’s kind of like the Law of Polarity—you cannot talk about one, without referencing the other.

Music is a big focus of this book. What songs would you tell your readers to listen to while reading The B-Side Diaries?

Originally, the quotes at the beginning of each chapter were from punk bands I listened to when I was a teen. Once the book was finished and I thought about self-publishing, I realized that using other bands lyrics would not happen without some real dough, so instead I used lyrics from my songs that I felt matched the mood, or theme of the chapters. The bands that I originally quoted before I changed it are: Embrace, Face To Face, Jawbreaker, Watashi Wa, Gorilla Biscuits, The Starting Line, Foreverinmotion, The Promise Ring, Hot Water Music, Bayside, Descendents, Jimmy Eat World, and Procession Came Opposite. You can find all of the bands online somewhere.


Jimmy Eat World – For Me this is Heaven, and a LOT of the songs on their album Clarity
Bayside – Winter
Embrace – basically every song on their self-title album from 1987 (Dischord Records)
Gorilla Biscuits – Start Today
Watashi Wa – Broken Man and 10 Years and Separated States
Jawbreaker – Boxcar, Ache, and Accident Prone
Face To Face – Basically all of the Big Choice album
The Starting Line – Best of Me
The Promise Ring – “B” is for Bethlehem and Nothing Feels Good
Foreverinmotion – Ghost of an Old Friend
Hot Water Music – Minno
Descendents – I’m The One, Get the Time, Hope
Procession Came Opposite – My Radio Has Been Off For Years and Tape of Reason

Oh, I love Jimmy Eat World & Descendants. Good picks. Now, you're stranded on a deserted island and can bring only one book with you: what do you grab?

Probably one of the books in the survival guide series, preferably, one on surviving life on a deserted island. If not that, then Call of the Wild by Jack London, because it was one of my favorite books as a child.

Another great pick, Call of the Wild is one of my girlfriend's favorite book as well. Some authors write only in purple ink, others must sit in a specific chair when they write. Do you have any quirks or must-haves for when you write?

My must-have is music. A lot of THE B-SIDE DIARIES wrote itself when I listened to music as I typed. I wrote seven chapters in one night listening to The Weakerthans! The bands I listen to the most during writing are The Weakerthans, Owen, The Promise Ring, and Bayside (acoustic). Basically, I keep my music selection to soft, indie-rock music during writing, and I have it on really low. It helps clear out the clutter of my mind that is usually there to distract me.

There's no doubt that Rory would have wanted to talk to Christopher one last time. If you could sit down with any person, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Qow, good question! There are so many people that come to mind, from historical figures to poets, to writers, to rock stars, but quite honestly, I would have to say my father. He was one of the greatest men I have ever known. When he passed away, they closed two schools in our town so children and families could attend the funeral. They even named an outstanding achievement award after him that is given out every year at Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania. Specifically I would ask him to share his single greatest piece of advice for being the best father I can be. I don’t know a better way that one person can leave lasting changes on the world then by being an excellent parent.

The characters in your book identify as punks. Were you a part of the punk rock scene back in your school days? What "clique" did you associate with if not? How did it shape you?

During high school I appreciated punk rock. I was straight-edge, and was a skateboarder. I don’t think I identified myself as being a part of any clique. I gravitated toward genuine people, and didn’t think about cliques. While I hung out with punk rock kids and skateboarders most, I was friends with people at school that would classify themselves as anything but. That being said, skateboarding and punk rock music definitely shaped the person I am in many positive ways. Skateboarding taught me a lot about setting goals, and perseverance, and punk rock music provided me an ethos that anything can be created if you believe in the idea enough. In addition, both of these scenes showed me what community is all about. At a show or any skate spot, there are people from all walks of life and tolerance and respect is the cornerstone of these scenes. I became friends with and made acquaintances with many people I may have not associated with otherwise simply because I was invested in both of these scenes.

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers out there who want to put their book out into the world?

Well, this may not be profound, but I would say, believe in yourself and your stories. Every author is unique, with unique set of life experiences and perspectives. If you are being true to yourself as a writer, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I would say that being true to yourself should be your goal, and to not write to fads, or genres that are hot. The reason why fads are fads is because someone, somewhere dared to be real, honest, and true to themselves as a writer, and readers connected to that. Last, the internet brings people together, and self-published books are forever. If you are an indie writer, and you have not found people buying your book in droves, don’t fret. You may not find your audience right away, but if your book is authentic, it will find an audience. One last piece of advice: be proud of your work, don’t denigrate because it didn’t make you famous or published. Writing is art, and art is its own reward.

Thanks so much for the great advice and the music tips too! Now, onto my review.


Title: The B-Side Diaries
Author: Brian Joyce
Format: Ebook
Pub. Date: October 31st 2013
Source: Brian Joyce


Three and a half stars, rounded up.

The B-Side Diaries is a faux-memoir that chronicles the story of seventeen year old Rory. Having been separated from his hometown and his old friends due to a move, his old life comes roaring back at him with a simple phone call: his best friend Christopher has died in an accident. And what makes his heart break further? It's he who will be writing the eulogy. The B-Side Diaries is a book about growing up, trying to find the truth in a crazy world, and how memories and music alike can shape you into who you really are.

When I got a request from the author to read this in exchange for my honest review, I knew immediately that I'd give it a read. As if the cover wasn't enough to draw me in, once I saw punk rock I was sold.

I really liked the message and the overall story of this book. I connected with it on a personal level because these "punks" were my friends in high school too. We were the ones going to shows and wearing dark clothes and make-up, letting music shape us and bring us closer together as friends. This is a story that I feel everyone will relate to though, regardless of clique. We've all been confused teens. We've all been uprooted in one way or another, and we've all had truths and fears that we have to overcome and search for. And, unfortunately, most of us have lost friends too young as well.

I really liked that Brian Joyce incorporated actual recording artist songs/lyrics in this book instead of defaulting to fictional ones. It was cool to be able to look up the words and hear the music as the character (and author) heard it.

The things I weren't so fond of were a few minor editing problems (that I'm sure will be fixed) that didn't hinder my reading too much. Additionally, I felt that sometimes the lead character's thoughts were a bit too poetic. Don't get me wrong- I totally get thought tangents that flow and don't stop. But I felt at times that his level of narration or assessment weren't in sync with his age.

All in all this is a book worth reading, especially for those who are fans of rock music. Thanks so much to the author for my chance to review this. You can pick the book up here on Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting interview! The book sounds really interesting too, I'll have to pick up a copy for myself! Great review and interview!