The conversation goes the same way. “So, what is Beside the Music about?” I get asked.

“It’s what happens to a marriage when an ‘80s metal band moves in to a couple’s house.”

“Wow, that’s sounds funny. Is it based on true events?”

Everyone asks me that. I love that people think I am cool enough to have an 80s metal band live with me. When I say that it’s not based on true events, then people ask me, “So, how did you come up with this idea?”

Well, here’s the thing. With fiction you can literally make stuff up. You are limited by your imagination. There are millions of novels out there that all happened as a result of some writer’s over active imagination.

With Beside the Music I started thinking about those ‘80s one hit wonders that you never hear of anymore. What happened to Richard Marx? (He’s now a music producer, and has made his career behind the mixing board not behind the microphone.) What happened to Ratt? Concrete Blonde? Poison? Cinderella?

At some point they were all told, “Party’s over folks. The money’s gone. Now what?” I imagined a scene where these 80s rockers were called into a conference room. They all showed up in their eyeliner and leather, of course. Then they were told that the money has dried up. The public is no longer interested. You must either re-invent yourself or go get an office job in a cubicle fixing copy machines or something like that.

Then I imagined the tantrum. “What do you mean the money’s gone? Where did it go? Don’t you know who I am?” They always ask that. Because at some point that question sparked curiosity. Oh, you’re so and so from that band. Of course. VIP room is right this way. No, it doesn’t happen anymore, does it?

Some of the bands in this situation choose to stick it out. We can modernize our sound. We can change. We can be relevant again. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Our true fans will stick by us no matter what. Sometimes that works (have you been to a Rush concert in recent years? The die hards are still there.) And sometimes that doesn’t work. The crowd leaving the arena says “That was awful, they didn’t play any of the old hits, just that new shit.” (I went to a Bob Dylan concert last year, and this was totally the case. I am not a fan anyway, I went with family. I was bored to pieces at all the new songs that all sounded the same over and over. I recognized one song.) Hydra, the band in Beside the Music, decided to stick it out. They decided to be more interactive with their American fans, which is how they came to meet Brenda and Tim.

So, in a way the story is based on true events in that this scene has happened to so many bands. But it’s not about a real band or a real couple. There is nothing about this story that ever happened in my real life. Portia, the meddling mother in law, is NOTHING like my mother in law (I swear!)

There is one thing in there that is based on my life. And it’s the story about how Brenda and Tim met. Because it’s exactly how Todd and I met.

I used to play my guitar at open mic nights. It was a great way to meet men, admittedly. There was this acoustic trio, I think they were called Area 51 then, who also used to play at the same events I did. We became friendly. I developed an enormously embarrassing crush on the lead singer. I wrote a bunch of songs about him. I played them at the open mic night while his girlfriend glared at me. Then Todd joined the band. Eventually I was the opening act for Area 51, who became Roadside Prophets, then Mad Hatters, then 51 Mad Prophets. I met my last boyfriend at one of the shows. Todd was dating an opera singer who was studying at Princeton. Todd got dumped. I got dumped. After a show we sat in my car in the parking lot at a diner and talked for at least an hour before going in to join everyone else.

He moved back to Vermont after that, but we were friends and we’d talk on the phone. He called me at work and it was a stressful day. He said “You should come to Vermont, it’s relaxing here.” So I said “Sure.” Then I showed up at his parents’ house that weekend. He tried to teach me how to water ski. He showed me around. Before I left on Sunday night we made out for the first time—and that was the last first kiss I ever had.

But the rest, I assure you, is a result of many (many) daydreams.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.