#MusicMonday special: Q&A with David Ellis Overttun ft. everything from Queen to Bugs Bunny and @neoverttun

Hi and welcome to Music Monday! First of all, credit where credit is due: Music Monday is hosted by Drew a.k.a. @SarcasticEnigma over on The Tattooed Book Geek. Each week he presents a song that he really loves and this week I decided to join in again, but with a twist (all those thrillers I read are rubbing off on me apparently ?). So today, I’m delighted to welcome back David Ellis Overttun, author of the Terra Nova series (Universe:  Awakening and Genesis:  Vision of the New World), for a special edition of Music Monday!

Hi David, welcome back!
Hi Kelly, thank you so much for this Q&A. It gives me an opportunity to talk about my second love. (My wife, Natasha, is my first. Male readers take note. Never miss a chance to earn bonus points.)

Well sure, use my blog to score points with your wife, why don’t ya! But since we all adore Natasha, I’ll allow it. Why don’t you tell people how we “met”?
Natasha got on Twitter at the beginning of this year (@neoverttun). She came across your handle shortly after that and told me about it. We said, “Hmmm…‘Van Damme’… Could it be?” (We are both big fans of the “Muscles from Brussels”, in particular Bloodsport and Kickboxer.) Natasha loves your blog and I’m a big fan of your Music Monday. So, a connection to an action star was icing on the cake.
So, I approached you for a review of my first book, Universe:  Awakening. Unfortunately, you replied that it was a tad too hardcore (in terms of science). There was also no relation to JCVD. As a salve for my disappointments you posted my Music Monday request: “Make Me Feel” by Janelle Monáe. Awesome!

I sure did and it sure was! If you guys missed it, it’s right here.
Shortly after that, I emailed you saying, “If you ever have an open spot for a Music Monday request, please let me know.” A little time passed. Then, you tweeted Natasha saying that you had not forgotten about me and Music Monday. Natasha replied: “That’s great! He’s been moping around saying, ‘She don’t like Mondays. Tell me why? She don’t like Mondays. Tell me why?’”

Haha, she did say that… Thanks for that ear worm by the way! I made you wait a little bit because behind the scenes I was cooking up a little Q&A. People’s fascinations always fascinate me (that’s a euphemism for: I’m a nosy parker), so I’ve been wanting to find out more about your love for music. Do you remember the song / band that made you fall in love with music?
I cannot recall anything in particular that made me fall in love with music. As a matter of fact, given the way music was introduced to me, I should have opted for mime.
My mother loved music. Notwithstanding she had a tin ear, she was bound and determined that I would be musical. The possibility never occurred to her that I might have inherited her “abilities”. I started taking piano lessons at a local convent when I was 7. I endured an hour between 2 and 3 every Saturday. That just killed the day. By the time I got home, all my friends were off somewhere else.

Yeah okay, that sounds like something every seven-year-old would enjoy… Sooooo… I’m guessing you didn’t like it?
It was awful. I hated it. My mother made me practice 30 minutes every day. (Even on Sunday, which I argued was a day of rest. Odd, how adversity can lead one to find Jesus.) I resisted. I was stubborn. She persisted. She had a flyswatter. When I really dug in, she reached for the yardstick. (Remember Sister Mary Stigmata from the Blues Brothers? Yeah, something like that.) The nuclear option was, of course, my father. As I recall, she only ever had to invoke his name. Then, my fingers flew across the keyboard like I was practicing “Bumble Boogie”, not the piece, just a flurry of random keys.
It was made worse by the fact that I had absolutely zero natural ability. Add to that, my mother couldn’t tell the difference between middle C and vitamin C. Often, I made mistakes and then practiced them for the entire week.

Oh dear! So… It’s safe to say you weren’t that good at it?
Technically, my playing has always been somewhere between awful and terrible. I can read music but not exactly. I have always inserted or omitted notes here and there. Sometimes, I forgot whole lines or even on rare occasions the entire piece altogether. To explain, I always told my teachers that it sounded better that way.

Okay sure, let’s go with that! Do you still play or did you leave it once you got too old to be scared of your mum’s flyswatter / yardstick?Notwithstanding an absence of natural ability and technical shortcomings, I still play. However, since playing with my fingers has been a bust, I’ve tried to graduate to playing by ear.

How did that happen?
As Celine Dion says, “Love can move mountains.” It started in grade 10 and was about 10 months after I had suffered the greatest romantic disappointment of my life. I guess my heart was desperately searching for a home. I got this huge crush on a girl one year ahead of me. (I mean in school. Women are always ahead of men. It’s just like Robert Palmer says, “That’s right women are smarter. Smarter than the men in every way.”)

We are, but that’s beside the point ?
I have always been terribly shy with women when it comes to that first date. (Ask Natasha. It took me 3 years to ask her out.) Unable to speak, I decided I would play and sing to show this sophomore what I was feeling. (I’m also not a good singer but I figured the singing would hide my poor piano playing and my piano playing would hide my poor singing.) It never occurred to me that they could both sound equally bad and that you can’t carry a piano around like a guitar.
I went back into the music archives and looked for a song, the perfect song, a song that would say what I could not. I never did play it for her, but years later, it was the first song I played for Natasha. It starts like this: “It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside. I’m not one of those who can easily hide.”

I’m going to need footage! And a chat with Natasha! But this is starting to sound like a rather cheesy rom-com, David, let’s get back to safer ground. Would you rather keep listening to the music you know and never listen to anything new, or would you prefer only new music and never listening to what you already know?
I would choose to keep listening to the music I know and never listen to anything new.

That would be my choice too, I think. Why is it yours?
I am reminded of a conversation between Jean‑Luc Picard and Deanna Troi in Star Trek: Generations when he said, “I’ve been aware that there are fewer days ahead than there are behind.” I calculate that I am probably somewhere there. So, I probably have listened to more music than I’m going to listen to. The time period would also encompass a very special time in my life. To quote Chris Rock from Never Scared, “Whatever music was playing when you started getting laid, you gonna love that music for the rest of your life.”
If I could request a song from that special time for Music Monday, it would be the unforgettable Hall and Oates July 4, 1985 Liberty Concert performance of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summer Time”.

As a music buff, how important is music in your writing process?
Very. Sometimes, a song will pop into my head related to the scene I’m writing. Often, it’s from a movie: “What a Feeling” from Flashdance, “Born to Be Wild” from Easy Rider, “May It Be” from Lord of the Rings. It helps to set a tone and give inspiration and ideas to my words. (I understand that’s how Quentin Tarantino developed Kill Bill. I’m not trying to copy him. That’s just how it works for me.) There is an example from a recent guest post of Chapter 85 – Heron of Edenoud from Universe:  Awakening where the William Tell Overture provides the main impetus for the chapter.

Ah yes, I remember, you did a guest post on Lorna’s On The Shelf Reviews (for those who missed it, it’s right here). Do you have a playlist per book?
Any music associated with a book would come after it is written from the songs that popped into my head while I was writing. Add to that any lyrics to songs I’ve written for the book. (FYI there are 3 songs in Book 1, 2 in Book 2 and 1 in the in‑progress Book 3.)

Does that mean you also listen to music while you’re writing?
Never! I find my attention starts to focus on the song instead of my writing and it turns into a disaster. Just watch Long‑Haired Hare. Bugs Bunny is singing a song close to an opera singer practicing for an upcoming concert. At some point, the opera singer starts singing the same song as Bugs. That kind of distraction happens to me.

Ha! I totally get that, I can’t even write a half-decent mini-review when there’s music on! If you had to pick a title song for each of your books, what song(s) would you choose?
I would have to go with “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” for Universe:  Awakening. The Prologue starts with a flashback of an oral exam being taken by one of the main characters. It ends after the exam as the character, his brother and a female friend are set to engage in a physical confrontation with a group of bullies. I can imagine a slo‑mo shot of the 3 of them walking towards something they’ve been waiting to do for a long time with the song playing in the background.
The first song that comes to mind for Genesis:  Vision of the New World is Queen’s “One Vision” but the energy is all wrong. The opening to Genesis has a darker mood to it. The Prologue features a woman recounting the pain of jilted love, plotting her revenge. So, it has to be “My Heart Is Broken” by Evanescence. To me, the song expresses an anguish felt by my character.

Interesting choices! I’m partial to Evanescence myself, no one does anguish like Amy Lee! Well thanks very much for this Q&A, David, it was a pleasure having you back on FromBelgiumToBookLove, and may we meet again!

As for you, my dear book & music lovers, thanks for stopping by! Until next time, and in the meantime, happy reading and/or listening!

If you want to know a little more about David, here are some useful links:
Beth had David over for an Indie Spotlight – Terra Nova Series on beforewegoblog here.
Lorna had an Author Q&A on On The Shelf Reviews here, shared the Cover Makeover for Genesis: Vision of the New World here and shared an excerpt here.
There was also an Author Q&A – Cinematic and Visual Influences on The Book Hole here.
Zoé had David as a guest to talk about the Background to Universe: Awakening and for an Excerpt (“Wanderer”) on Zooloo’s Book Diary here.
And last but by no means least, our favourite Tattooed Book Geek shared Universe:  Awakening Excerpt Chapter 66 – The Second Way here.

And if you really cannot get enough, this is David Ellis Overttun in a nutshell:
I grew up in a lower‑middle‑class neighborhood in a town in the Midwest. My mother was a bookkeeper for a small HVAC company and my father was a draftsman. For the most part, I had a very happy childhood. I was educated in the public‑school system. In university, I studied chemistry. However, when I graduated, I did not (or could not) pursue that vocation because I was terrible in the lab.
I have been a storyteller ever since I can remember. It started as a way to get out of trouble and evolved as a way to entertain those around me. My first recollection of writing prose was in elementary school when I had to write a short essay about a picture from a magazine. (Mine was a freshly baked loaf of bread.) In grade 7, I penned two short stories for a school writing competition. One was entitled “My Funny Cousin”, a descriptive piece about a relative (a little older than me) who stayed with us one summer. My mother very quickly killed that story. At the time, it didn’t make sense to me because she told me she thought it was very funny. It was only later that I figured out that I could have replaced “Funny” with “Flamboyant” in the title. So, it was back to the drawing board. My second attempt was a collection of anecdotes about the life of my maternal grandfather titled “The Hilarious Things My Grandfather Did”. That one went on to win.
My first complete novel was a story about a soldier of fortune in the age of horse and bow. At the time, I had contact with people in the entertainment business in California. The feedback I got was that I should take one of the chapters and expand it into a novel. That made no sense to me. What the heck did that mean? How could you expand something so small into something big? So, I never pursued it. However, the comment stuck with me. It was only much later that I figured out that it meant that I should never rush the telling of a story. This brings us to the present and the Terra Nova Series. (Book 2 has just been published and Book 3 is in progress.) I write for an audience of one:  my wife. She loves the stories.

Another gorgeous design by Natasha Evelyn Overttun, inspired by Elton John’s Rocket Man, one of David’s favourite songs.

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