Interview with Celine Keating
ULM: What inspired you to write your novel, Play for Me?
A train trip across Canada, a kind of concert in motion, jumpstarted the idea. I had begun studying classical guitar, which led to writing for music magazines. When I heard about the train ride and how several bands would be performing, jamming, and interacting with their fans, I decided it was something I just had to be part of and write about. It was quite an experience, and I found myself wanting to explore why music is so powerful for us and about obsession and hardcore fandom. To top it off, on the train I was berthed next to the leaders of two of the bands and had a front row seat to their very explosive romantic breakup – they became the models for my lead singer Blaise and her guitarist JJ.
ULM: What was it like creating the main character, Lily?
I actually based Lily in large part on my sister. Her twin daughters were going off to college and she was suddenly confronted with empty-nest angst and the realization thatshe had lost sight of her own needs through years of work and childrearing. I wondered,is it possible to reinvent yourself in middle age, to rediscover your own creative potential? In a way, Play for Me is a cautionary tale, especially for women, of what can happen if you lose touch with your deepest self.
ULM: Since your novel is around the central theme of music, what kind of music do you enjoy listening to?
While I love most styles and kinds of music of music, my favorite is anything guitar-centric, whether rock, acoustic, classical, flamenco. I also really enjoy singer songwriters.
ULM: How would you describe your novel, using only three words?
emotional, intelligent, honest
ULM: How would you describe your other main character, JJ?
He’s charming, sweet, needy, super talented, and, ultimately, selfish.
ULM: What advice would you give to other writers?
I advise writing every day, even if just for 15 minutes. One trick I use if I’m stuck is to work off other writers. Sometimes I copy out entire passages I admire and then use that as a base to write something of my own. It’s a great way to improve technique. I also recommend joining a writing group – whether in person or online –for feedback, advice, and support.
ULM: Do you have any future writing projects that you can share with us, readers?
I’m currently working on a new novel set in Montauk, Long Island, with a broad cast of characters. It’s about the conflicts and pressures – environmental and financial – on a beach/resort town.
ULM: What is it like being both a writer and editor? Which task would you say was easier? How long have you been an editor?
A very interesting question! I think it’s sort of right brain/left brain – both are creative in their way and both also require basic language skills, but overall, editing requires the analytic part of the brain while fiction depends on the intuitive and on the imagination. Happily editorial work doesn’t make the same kind of demands on me that fiction does –of invention and imagination. So they are complementary but very different. For me, editing is easier, because most of it can be learned, whereas fiction is an art, and any art relies on being able to tap into the deeper parts of the self and on honing one’s creativity and unique point of view—and how all of that works is something of a mystery! I’ve been an editor for decades. I started out in publishing as an editorial assistant and worked my way up through various editing jobs. Then I switched to magazine copyediting, and now I work as a freelancer.
ULM: Being a music reviewer, would say that this had some influence on writing your novel, Play for Me?
Yes, absolutely. I have been able to do many interviews with musicians for various articles and found their lives and struggles to be quite interesting. So I used a lot of that material in the novel. Also, in writing reviews one has to describe – to people who are listeners but not necessarily musicians – how music sounds. Finding the right descriptivewords and a way to put them together is a unique kind of challenge. The experience writing reviews really helped when I was trying to communicate how JJ’s music sounds to Lily so the reader can imagine it, and also to understand the profound effect the music has on her.
ULM: How did you become a music Reviewer?
I find that pretty interesting. It’s not every day one hears about meeting a Reviewer of music. Breaking in to music reviewing is similar to breaking in to other writing for publications—with a query letter and your clips (already published work)—except that you are requiredto play an instrument yourself. I wrote a query letter to Acoustic Guitar magazine about a CD I wanted to review, and they accepted. After that they asked if I’d like to review for them regularly, and that led to longer pieces and to writing and reviewing for other places as well.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your work online?
I’m at www.celinekeating.com and I’m always happy to hear from readers. Many of my stories and reviews are available, as well as excerpts from my novels.
International Book Award finalist in literary fiction
Indie Excellence Award finalist in fiction
USA Book Award finalist in fiction
“Keating combines the soul-searching of Eat, Pray, Love with the rock ’n’ roll fable of Almost Famous to create a novel of midlife crisis with music at its core.” —Booklist
Middle-aged Lily impulsively joins a touring folk-rock band, leaving her job and marriage behind in an attempt to find a second chance at life, passion, and art.
It happens without warning: At a folk-rock show at her son s college, Lily becomes transfixed by the guitarist s unassuming onstage presence and beautiful playing and with his final note, something within her breaks loose. After the concert, Lily returns to her comfortable life an Upper West Side apartment, a job as a videographer, and a kind if distracted husband but she can t stop thinking about the music, or about the duo s guitarist, JJ. Unable to resist the pull of either one, she rashly offers to make a film about the band in order to gain a place with them on tour. But when Lily dares to step out from behind her camera, she falls deep into JJ s world upsetting the tenuous balance between him and his bandmate, and filling a chasm of need she didn t know she had. Captivating and provocative, Play for Me captures the thrill and heartbreak of deciding to leave behind what you love to follow what you desire.” (less)
Play for Me by Celine Keating is a contemporary piece written mostly for women. I can feel the main characters’ emotions as the scenes played out…I also noticed that the writer’s book held her passion for music. Deep, entertaining, and well-told. As I followed the main character, Lily, I got lost within her story. She goes out doing what she loves and ends up entangled in her own problems. Decisions have to be made….and the consequences are intense. Making the novel’s atmosphere that more electrifying. Romance between two that shouldn’t occur, a marriage held by a strong, and destruction of her daughter’s life lay ahead. As I read through the pages and wasn’t sure what advice I would give to Lily. I felt her pain as the plot continued. Celine Keating has a way of luring readers like myself further into the book.
Play for Me is exactly as it states and the options get harder as one wife slash mother tries living her life and balancing the old with the new. But as with reality, life has a way of knocking us back down to earth. Overall, great read for women everywhere. Easy to relate to and connect with the characters.