Today I’m so pleased to welcome Cecilia Tan and the Daron’s Guitar Chronicles blog tour to The Novel Approach. Daron and this series have quickly become an all-time fave of mine, so enjoy Cecilia’s post and the excerpt too!
Not-So-Historical Romance: Writing the 1980s
by Cecilia Tan
My long-running series Daron’s Guitar Chronicles carries the tag line “coming out and coming of age in the 1980s.” We joke that it’s “historical romance,” but actually it’s sometimes as more challenging to get the settings and details right in a 1980s romance as it is in the Regency.
For one thing, it’s challenging because a lot of us are still alive to remember it, so if I get something wrong, someone is bound to call me on it! I use many real venues and locations in the book, from Madison Square Garden to small underground clubs, restaurants, bookstores, in cities like Boston, New York, and San Francisco. The difficulty is upped by the fact that Daron’s Guitar Chronicles, following the life and times of a rock musician, sometimes changes setting every chapter. When Daron is on tour, it’s a new city and new venue every day. A huge number of the arenas and music venues that stood in the 1980s are gone now and sometimes Wikipedia is the only trace online I can find of them.
Another thing that’s tricky to handle is technology. The current book, volume eight, takes place in 1991. Some of the characters have pagers and one or two have “car phones” but no one has a mobile phone like we’re used to today. Most of them don’t have email yet.
And the music industry is quite different. MTV is still playing music videos at that point. There are dozens of music magazines in the US and the UK that are gone now. We still have Spin and Rolling Stone, but gone are Musician, Blender, Standing Ovation, BuZZ, The Face, Melody Maker, and many others. The only path to fame was through the major labels and radio stations were owned and operated locally, instead of being run by giant national conglomerates. Same for concert venues.
It was, in short, a different world. The biggest thing that has changed, though, that is really central to the story, is LGBT rights and the visibility of openly gay celebrities. The environment in which Daron is trying to succeed as a rock musician and come to terms with his own sexuality is drastically different. Hysteria and paranoia over AIDS are peaking during the years the story takes place. Volume Eight, which released this week, takes place in 1991, two years before Tom Hanks starred in the movie Philadelphia, five years before the musical Rent reached Broadway, and six years before Ellen came out.
The other big challenge for me as I write the volumes is that time in the series moves forward. What started in 1986 in Volume One is now in 1991 in Volume Eight and I have to keep track of all kinds of news events and societal changes that will impact Daron. 1991 is a crucial year in which the music industry has hit a particularly stagnant period and US politics are in the 10th consecutive year of Republican presidency (two terms of Reagan, and then Bush the First). Freddie Mercury is still alive (but not for long) and Nirvana and the rest of the grunge scene are still unknown (but not for long). Both those events will be noted in Daron’s world.
I’m sure there are things I missed, too, but I hope when people read the books they feel immersed in Daron’s life, not only the tour buses and backstage green rooms, but the closet and Daron’s struggle to kick open the closet door. Fortunately, nothing can keep love down forever, not in my books, anyway!
Blurb: Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Coming out and coming of age in the days of AIDS, MTV, Reaganomics, and Just Say No. Winner of the Rose and Bay Award for Crowdfunded Fiction!
Daron Marks is a young guitar player with a dream, make it big like the guys he grew up idolizing in New Jersey–or at least escape his dysfunctional family. He makes it as far as music school in Rhode Island, and the rock clubs of Boston beckon him. But it’s hard to succeed from the closet. A story of how finding one’s self is key to finding love, and loving one’s self is key to loving another.
Excerpt: In this excerpt, Daron’s in a hotel in New York City. It’s Christmas time, and Daron knows Ziggy’s in New York, too. They had a brief encounter the night before and Ziggy slipped his pager number into Daron’s pocket. It’s almost six in the morning and Daron’s been awake all night when he gives in and pages Ziggy:
The phone rang gratifyingly quickly. “Hey. I guess you’re not sleeping either.”
“I’m on West Coast time,” Ziggy said. “Where it’s only three in the morning.”
“Uh huh,” I said, unconvinced.
We sat there in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes. I was the one who had paged him, so was it on me to say something? But he was the one who put the “call me” message into my pocket, so….
“Maybe we should get together to talk,” I finally said.
“Can you get away from your family?” he asked.
“For a couple of hours, no one’ll miss me,” I said. “But I wanted to ask what you’re doing for the holiday tonight. Tomorrow. No pressure, but you could join us here.”
“Daron, how should I put this…” He breathed, and I imagined him sighing with his eyes closed. “Your group there is kind of overwhelming. I’m not good with crowds.”
“I never thought I’d hear you say that.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Actually, I don’t. Explain it? I’m listening.” I lay back to listen.
“I mean, I’m fine with crowds if I’m the center of attention. But I don’t want to be—and shouldn’t be—the center of attention at your chosen family’s gathering.”
“Why shouldn’t you be? You outshine everyone in any room you walk into.” This room felt like it was spinning slightly. I had definitely drunk more than usual.
“Like there’s a spotlight on me?”
“Like you’re a star that fell out of heaven. Ziggy, you’re the most gorgeous human being I’ve ever laid eyes on, and that’s as true today as it was that day in the park.”
“I’m telling the truth.”
“Because you’re drunk.”
“Because I’ve been to therapy. And I’ve realized there are a lot of things I could have been saying that I haven’t been.” I thought about what Bart had said, that maybe me being forthright and truthful about my feelings was actually scary to Ziggy. If so, I was probably freaking him out completely right now. “Am I freaking you out? I’m not trying to. I just… have this thing about the truth.”
“Uh huh,” he said cautiously. “And if the truth is… it’s too late?”
“Then tell me to go fuck myself: break my heart and send me on my fucking way.”
“Whoa. Whoa.” There was a kind of long silence while I guess he tried to figure out what to say to that. Or got himself together. I don’t know which. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“It’s worth asking, isn’t it? Is it too late, Zig?” It felt crazy-good that I could send him spinning by speaking so baldly. Of course, the only reason it didn’t hurt like fuck to say was because alcohol had numbed me so much at that point. “Did I wait too long to tell you I loved you? Is it just fucking tragic when I say it?”
“Okay, you know what? I want to make a rule. No saying ‘I love you’ over the phone.”
“You don’t want me to tell you I love you?”
“On the phone. Seriously. I’m coming over there and then you can say it to my face.”
About the Author: Cecilia Tan is “simply one of the most important writers, editors, and innovators in contemporary American erotic literature,” according to Susie Bright. RT Magazine awarded her Career Achievement in Erotic Romance in 2015 and their prestigious Pioneer Award. Tan’s BDSM romance novel Slow Surrender (Hachette/Forever, 2013) also won the RT Reviewers Choice Award in Erotic Romance and the Maggie Award for Excellence from the Georgia Romance Writers chapter of RWA. She lives in the Boston area with her lifelong partner corwin and three cats.