Author: Barnaby Hazen
Release Date: April 1, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Received a copy in exchange for an honest review
An ensemble sets off on a dark comedy of errors and uncertain conclusions, featuring original music throughout the story.
Theo and Judah, two childhood friends, are trying desperately to find an audience for their hard-edged, “grunge” music as they move past their twenties and feel the need to establish careers. Together, they enroll in an unusual college, called The University of Jazz and Music Technology.
Attracted at first by the means within the school to professionally record their own original music, the two friends embark on what could be a lifelong journey. But the endeavor has an alternate effect, as Theo begins to question his musical efforts with Judah.
Entanglements with co-eds quickly complicate matters. Theo and Judah hit as many rough spots as any amateur band may find along the way, including a disastrous mini-tour of the northwest during spring break. Little do they know; the misfortunes have just begun…
My favorite part about Hazen’s “Misfortunes of T-Funk” was the built in music. This was definitely a first for me as I’d never had a book with music made specifically for it. I felt that each of the four recordings was made specifically for this book by the author. It made it feel more personal which I really liked. The storyline was great and the music was well placed and it seemed to flow well. I thoroughly enjoyed “Misfortunes of T-Funk” and highly recommend it to anyone, especially those who love music.
Q&A with Barnaby Hazen
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book is actually unpublished, and it took me several years to write. I don’t plan on trying to publish it—it’s quite raw, and rabid, if carefully crafted and I just don’t want to put that out into the world right this second. What inspired it was a long running case of existential desperation and borderline clinical depression—along with a reckless dose of various substances.
My first published book is Seven Eleven Forgotten and Other Stories, and what inspired it was convenience stores—convenience stores I have been to, heard about, looked in on from the outside, or imagined.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I actually read Mark Twain before I started writing Misfortunes of T-Funk. There was something on my shelf of his I had been meaning to read—Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins.
Who knows if that reading had any impact on the matter but for Misfortunes I think the voice is sometimes very formal and sometimes very pithy. My style involves some complex sentences that don’t read that way—long sentences, sometimes entire paragraphs long—but these act on behalf of a stream of consciousness inside the mind of a character or as a side-trail offered by the narrator.
How did you come up with the title?
One of the main characters will acquire the nickname “T-Funk” sometime in the next two books of the series. Misfortunes are an ongoing theme throughout this three-book trilogy—in some cases we see misfortunes particular to musicians, in others those more general to humankind.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
As a musician, there are hurdles, and rewards for that matter, that I don’t think most people think of when they think of bands on the road or recording or doing what we do. It’s a way to try to bridge what I see as a gap between the profession of musicianship and the audience or critics.
I became most aware of this through teaching music, I think. It seems to me people look at musicianship as a combination of fun, built in talent and honestly…magic. It may very well become those things, but there is so much work on the way there for the vast, vast majority of people who take it further than a weekend blues jam or like that—and so I hope this book and the two following help to bridge that gap in understanding for some readers, while also taking the same readers on a roller coaster ride with laughs and dips and so forth.
How much of the book is realistic?
It’s set in the near future. That really doesn’t show itself much in Book 1, so I think it will read pretty true to the times, as far as what it’s like to attend an alternative music program, put a band together and make a go of it.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Some of both—very much so. Friends’ stories were just as influential on this as were my own.
What books have most influenced your life?
Influenced my life—as separate from my authorship and craft. I would have to say…that’s a tough question. Whatever I’m reading at any time probably has more influence on me than what I read five years ago, as far as my day to day perspective—so at the moment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I just read The Brothers Karamozov for the first time since high school and it gave me much to think about. I related more to the religious and philosophical aspects of the book, rather than just the relationships and the deeds of these people as was the case in high school. Very different experience reading it at this point in my life than high school, but still, a lot of it stayed with me since that first read which says a lot.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Probably Franz Kafka. He wouldn’t have taken me as a student, though—that’s my guess.
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading a very rare and strange book called The End of the World. I could write quite a bit about this—it was sent to me by the same friend who introduced me to Baudelaire and some other influences back when I was writing mostly poetry and song lyrics. This book is about just what the title implies—possible ways, times, and different ideas people have had about the end of the world, which the author refers to as inevitable—eventually. The author was Geoffrey Dennis—a salty bastard for my heart, by my best reckoning from this work. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the friend that sent it to me. He says that he is collecting the remaining copies he can find and sending them to certain people. I’m honored he decided to put me on that list, and enjoying the book tremendously.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Someone compared Seven Eleven Forgotten to Margaret Atwood, so naturally I was curious. I read The Handmaid’s Tale, enjoyed it but I wasn’t sure I saw the comparison. So far what I’ve read on Dostoyevsky Wannabe has been right up my alley—Timmy Reed, Richard Brammer.
What are your current projects?
Just this series for now. I’m about half way through book two, it’s all mapped out and I probably will be pretty much caught up in it until Book 3 is published.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
You know every once in a while I think of a detail I might have added, but no—I don’t cringe in regret or anything.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Grade school—and then especially a couple of assignments in Jr. High. Then I remember in high school, I wrote a story that was deliberately experimental in that I changed the POV about half way through. I did this very much on purpose and that was the point of the thing. The only note that teacher wrote was, “The POV is not consistent.” The reason I mention this is that set precedent for my life as an artist in general—in writing, in music—I do things a little differently on purpose, and then the first feedback from some reviewer tends to be just a note of that with the implication of disapproval.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Book 2 will present some of the near future elements of the story. We’ll get a closer look at the latest technology in this depiction of the near future, and the times and especially how these things may impact working and struggling musicians. So there’s a dystopian taint coming into play—I’m having a lot of fun with it.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Sometimes I actually do dread putting my characters through hardship, and I have to push myself a little to begin writing a scene for that reason
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Back to Franz Kafka. As soon as I picked up The Castle I felt a kinship. Without having ever read him in the language of his original text, I am just so struck by how directly that book and everything else of his speaks to me.
Do you travel much concerning your book(s)?
Yes. For Book 1 my wife and I went to Ashland, OR just briefly to have a look around. I did this knowing that in my depiction of it, there would be many and considerable changes, but I wanted a place to start in my mind’s eye. Other travel plans directly to do with this series will include northern and southern California—even though I’ve spent much of my life in those two places—and also Cuba. If all goes well.
Who designed the covers?
My wife, Sarah, provided the drawing of the two main characters, Theo and Judah. Naomi Bigbee—my step-daughter, did the design. I couldn’t be happier with the whole thing. Here is Naomi’s link: http://www.naomibigbeedesign.com
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Rewrites are always the most work for me. I go through and think how to sharpen it up, and it can be a little dizzying sometimes, but I am very scrupulous about refining at the latter stages of a project.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I felt like this was a lesson for me in creating accessibility to the reader. I was tempted to go off on some tangents that would have been fun, but weren’t really what I was after for the reader as far as presenting this trilogy. There will be plenty of time for tangents in the next two books, but in this case it was about getting straight to the characters and their stories, since this is the first of three and like I said, I wanted to offer some accessibility above that of my first book.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Just take your time, and keep at it. Don’t hurry anything, as it won’t do you any good.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thanks for reading, and please consider putting a review up.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
I always knew I’d write a book covering musicians’ lives, and I figured it would come pretty naturally. While that turned out to be true, I’ve also had to dig deep in order to live inside these characters and experience this whole thing with them. Really the challenge was just to keep digging until it was fully told.
Meet Barnaby Hazen
Barnaby Hazen is an author, editor and musician. Driven strongly by collaboration, it seems natural his first venture into writing began with a friend. Seven Eleven Stories periodical took shape in 2014 and just one year later, Seven Eleven Forgotten and Other Stories debuted with a full-length collection featuring nine strange tales on convenience store fiction.
In 2017, Misfortunes of T-Funk, the first in a series, pulls directly from Hazen’s own life in music. Having been a lifelong, dedicated listener, teacher and performer, his latest novel incorporates his self-recorded and produced musical tracks directly into the chapters of his new novel. Hazen’s music illuminates his main characters and further elaborates on the story, creating a unique and personal soundtrack for readers of the book.
Having spent years as an educator, Barnaby’s time as an elementary school music teacher particularly inspired him to become involved with The Bud Hawthorne Revue. He writes and edits the publication, along with Mr. Hawthorne himself, and is eager to continue offering contributions to literary culture given his unique perspective on writing.
Hazen lives in Taos, New Mexico with his wife Sarah and their adorably troublesome pets.
Stay current on all of his upcoming fiction at SevenElevenStories.com.