The new Limelights performing arts series by Orca Book Publishers launches on October 1 with three titles: Attitude by Robin Stevenson, Cut the Lights by me, and Totally Unrelated by Tom Ryan. Can’t wait to read these novels? To tide you over, here’s an interview with author Tom Ryan about his book in the series.
What is the synopsis of Totally Unrelated?
Neil plays guitar with his family’s band, the Family McClintock, even though he can’t stand the Celtic music they play, he doesn’t dance, he hates the outfits, and every single performance reminds him that he isn’t as talented as the rest of the family.
When his buddy Bert convinces him to form a rock band and enter a local talent show, Neil’s playing improves and everyone notices, including a girl who shares his musical interests. He starts to think that all those years of practice might come in handy after all. But it all comes to a head when Neil has to choose between an important gig with the family band and the talent show. He’s only sure of one thing: whatever he decides to do, he’s going to be letting someone down.
Have you drawn on your own experience at all in writing this book?
I grew up in a small town on Cape Breton Island, where music is a way of life and many talented families perform at community events and outdoor concerts all summer long. I thought it would be fun to write about one of these musical families from the perspective of one of its younger members. I also did a lot of performing when I was younger, as a singer in small three-piece bands like the one Neil and his friends form for the talent show, so I had a lot of fun revisiting those days.
How did you come up with your title? What other titles did you consider?
I don’t want to give too much away, but the title fits perfectly with the story! I will say that Neil’s relationship with his well-known family and his desire to break away and do his own thing are the central themes of the book, and by the time things wrap up, the title makes perfect sense!
Did you find it challenging to describe the thought process behind the creative process?
Yes! I spend a lot of time listening to music, but when I started writing the book I quickly learned that it is incredibly difficult to describe music and dance in words. By its very nature, music is meant to be listened to, not described, so turning the musical scenes that fill the book into part of a compelling narrative was a real challenge. Eventually I got into a groove and began to enjoy the process, but as hard as I tried, a written description of a musical performance will never match the real thing!
Have you done any performing arts as a teen or adult?
I’ve done loads of performing. As a teen I sang in a few bands, and I was also into theatre, both acting and building and painting sets. Later on, after university, I worked in the film industry for several years and had the opportunity to meet and work with lots of really interesting and talented people. I still play guitar a little bit and I’ve always enjoyed singing, but it’s been quite a while since I performed in front of an audience.
If you could be proficient at any one “performance skill” what would it be?
I would love to be able to play piano. I took lessons for a couple of years in junior high, but I didn’t stick with it and I’ve always regretted that. I haven’t ruled out picking it up again, someday when I have a bit more time!
Thanks for the insights, Tom. Totally Unrelated sounds like a book that performance-loving teens won’t want to miss!
For an interview with Limelights author Robin Stevenson, visit Tom’s blog. For an interview with me, visit Robin’s blog. You can also read sample first chapters and enjoy the Limelights video trailer (made by Tom) at the Orca Limelights site. Enjoy!