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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Character on the Couch & Guest Post - Cecilia Tan's Ziggy

I'm excited to welcome bestselling and award-winning author Cecilia Tan back to the blog today with her character Ziggy of the Daron's Rock Chronicles series. Volume 7 dropped, er, launched on Tuesday.

First, let's hear from Cecilia why she decided on the fascinating setting of the 1980's rock scene:

Why Rock Fiction?

I've been writing Daron's Guitar Chronicles since the 1980s, when I was a teenager living in the suburbs of New Jersey. MTV was new then, and nonstop music videos brought visions of David Bowie, Prince, and Siouxsie Sioux right into my suburban den. These are the visions that saved my life, the guardian angels who told me through their songs and their mere existence that there was something else besides the crushing conformity of suburban life. Rock and roll called to me as a lifeline.

I was always the "weird kid." Even when other kids didn't know WHAT was weird about me, they knew I was different. I just couldn't conform enough to their idea of normal. Teachers called me "creative," but didn't really know how to support my overactive imagination: no one lets you write fiction instead of a book report. (I confess: Mr. Mantegna, that book I said I read about the silver condor in fifth grade? I totally made that up.) To protest the tyranny of the "fashionable girls" I started wearing a Han Solo costume to school, complete with blaster strapped to my leg. To me the idea of being a rock star would mean I could wear whatever the heck I wanted--spandex? a unicorn horn? a tuxedo?--and people would love me for it instead of bullying me. Rock and roll, to me, has always been about the outsider becoming loved instead of reviled.

In Daron's Guitar Chronicles, our hero is a talented guitar player who dreams of escaping suburban hell in New Jersey and making it big (sound familiar?). When his story starts he has made it as far as music school in Rhode Island. Daron has a lot of challenges in his way, not the least of which is he's scared to death people will find out he's gay. Heck, Daron is scared to death of BEING gay. He fears not only that if his sexuality is exposed it will prevent him from having a successful career, but on a deeper level he fears intimacy.

Enter Ziggy, the lead singer Daron's band needs to succeed, but what relationship is more intimate than being a partner in creative pursuits? Writing music together, performing it live, and bonding as bandmates gives Ziggy far more access to Daron's head and heart than Daron realizes. 

Some see Daron as having two quests, one for artistic success, one for romantic love. But really it's all one big quest for love: from the fans, from the men in his life, and from himself. 

So why rock fiction? It's the perfect vehicle for me to explore the inner workings of my poor angst-ridden heroes and the ways they push against conformity. These boys aren't going to live in a suburban box. They can't. They'd die, creatively and spiritually if not actually, if they were forced to be "normal." And I get to explore all the issues about love and acceptance in a giant metaphor (the music business) for how damaging love can be. Like the Bowie song says, "And when the kids had killed the man, I had to break up the band."

Oh, and did I mention the story is set in the 1980s? I started writing it then and when I started publishing it in 2009, instead of updating it to the present, I kept it in the era of AIDS, Just Say No, and Silence=Death. In 1986 the "alternative rock" revolution hasn't happened yet. And neither has the gay "coming out" movement. So that's yet another way I get to equate rock music and love outside the mainstream.

It's all one giant addictive tapestry of garage rock, arena shows, basement rehearsals, tour mishaps, friendship, love, and art, told through the eyes of a musician who has as much to learn about life as he has to learn about himself. 

Daron's story is now seven books long--volume seven in the series releases today [CD note - er, Tuesday]!--and the web serial continues over at http://daron.ceciliatan.com. Readers have told me they find the series deeply entrancing. Daron becomes like a best friend to many, so talented and beautiful and flawed, you want to root for him to succeed day after day. 

If you want to cheer him on, too, book one of the series is free right now on Amazon and Smashwords, and the full chapters of the entire serial can be read at any time on Wattpad or on the Daron's Guitar Chronicles home site. 

Thank you so much, Cecilia! This sounds like a fascinating series, and I can't wait to meet the characters in depth. Let's start with Ziggy, who's this week's Character on the Couch: 

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

Ziggy has a rocky history with psychologists. He was sent to one as a teenager and ended up in bed with the guy, because seducing people is the way Ziggy gets the upper hand in any relationship. (CD - Oooh, nightmare patient). Now, though, he's in his mid-twenties and he's a successful pop star. You'd think he'd be happy, but he isn't. The pressures of fame and his mother's recent death have been gnawing at him, as is his broken relationship with his former guitar player/partner, Daron. I think he goes to see a psychologist because he wants an impartial judge, someone who has no investment in whether Ziggy's ego gets bruised or not. (CD: Okay, that's better)

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

The weight on Ziggy's back is guilt. Ziggy has always put himself first before other people. He grew up somewhat underprivileged but doted on by his single mother. However, she died while he was out of the country, on a spiritual retreat to India he didn't even tell her he was going on. He has nightmares that she died alone, that she died from worrying about him. He also feels very guilty that the breakup of Moondog Three, the band he and Daron founded, is his fault, and that he screwed Daron's career by going solo. At this point the guilt itself might be so overwhelming it might prevent him from making amends.

CD: This is great multilayered internal conflict! (takes notes)

3. It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

Ziggy saunters in like he owns the place, full of self-possession, and even smiles because he wants to seem friendly. He's optimistic as he shakes hands: he wants help, and he loves talking about himself, so this should go swimmingly, right? He kicks off his electric blue boots and sits crosslegged on the couch in a half-lotus.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be? What will he or she say first?

Oh yes, he loves to talk, especially about himself. But he guards his heart, too, so I expect he might talk a lot about little things at first, "winnable" battles. But eventually he'll say, "Look, I've read some Freud. I know I've got some kind of Oedipal complex going on. I'm absolutely haunted by my mother right now."

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

Ziggy orders a cosmopolitan and stares into it, playing with the cherry on the end of the toothpick but not drinking it. Then over the top of the rim of the glass he makes eye contact with someone. Doesn't matter if they're male, female, married, single, alone, or there with friends, he'll be having sex with them in under two hours, guaranteed.

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

Characters like Ziggy have a lot of layers. I know them very well the moment they pop into my head but it takes time for all their twists and turns to be revealed. That only happens when I "play test" them, i.e. through real writing of the scenes they're in. That's how you find out how they'd really react or what they'd relaly say. Ziggy is full of surprises and yet they all add up. Just for fun I put him through a Myers-Briggs test online and he came up ENFP, same as what Frost, the last character I sent to your couch came up with! I hadn't realized I liked that type so much!

CD: It's funny how we gravitate to certain types like that. I tend to write introverted intuitives. It would be interesting to research whether we tend to write types closer to ours.

So, once again, if you'd like to meet Daron and Ziggy (and I definitely do!), here are the links:

New book: Daron's Guitar Chronicles volume 7, launches August 4, at Amazon: https://amzn.com/B00ZN34BEK

First volume of Daron's Guitar Chronicles is free at:
The full chapters of the entire serial can be read at any time on Wattpad or on the Daron's Guitar Chronicles home site.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cecilia Tan is the winner of the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in Erotica and the author of over a dozen novels. Her forthcoming January 2016 novel from Hachette/Forever, Taking the Lead, pairs a bad boy rock star and a Hollywood heiress with a secret.

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