Pondering The Muse with Alli Marshall – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Alli will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Pondering the muse

I have this distinct memory of being in my car, coming home from the gym, and hearing the Counting Crows song “Rain King.” I’ve never been a fan of that band, but the line, “I belong in the service of the Queen / I belong anywhere but in between” struck me as an exact statement of how I felt about writing at that moment. Replace “queen” with “muse” and there you have it. That simple sentiment gave me the push I needed to write my just-published novel, How to Talk to Rockstars: It wasn’t just a hobby or a test of my own stamina. It was a mission.

Rockstars is a totally muse-driven book, a creative impetus that took on a life of its own. So much so that I would hear the voice of my main character, Bryn — a music journalist — speaking to me and telling her story, even when I wasn’t writing. Sometimes Bryn would narrate my walk home at the end of the day. Her character has such a raw and poetic way of describing her world, that some of the passages in the book were actually taken from those narrated walks.

I think most writers have that experience to some extent. I interviewed author Khaled Hosseini after his novel A Thousand Splendid Suns was published and he talked about missing his characters after he finished a book. Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants and At the Water’s Edge, told me that one thing she liked about going on book tour was that it gave her a chance to revisit her characters.

But what is it that makes those characters so real, so personable and imbued with their own personalities and agendas? Real enough that we miss them when we’re no longer transcribing their dialog? To call that “the muse” seems too easy and detracts from the considerable effort of the writer. I’ve never actually channeled anything — I know I used the word transcribing two sentences back, but that was mostly to be fancy — and I don’t know what it feels like. I do know that writing a novel is, at turns, thrilling, exasperating, exciting, devastating, energizing and exhausting. It’s an emotional roller coaster, a volatile relationship with little more than a laptop and a half-hatched idea.

But something — someone — has to drive the roller coaster. Maybe that’s the muse. Or maybe the muse is the one who waits in the quiet place where the words come from. The muse is the one with whom every writer is in community; the greater power to whom we answer.

How to Talk to Rockstars deals a lot with loneliness. Bryn is a loner. Much of her work has to do with talking to touring musicians who are isolated by being on the road for long stretches of time, or by a contrived stage persona, or by the strange trappings of fame. But what Bryn learns is that — even though professionalism prevents her from turning into a fan or trying to be friends with the musicians she interviews — the minutes she spends talking to a rockstar is absolute intimacy. It’s an encapsulated moment that might be awkward, might be strained, might not go according to plan. But it might also be pure magic.

Writing is kind of like that. It requires a lot of trust, and a willingness to get through the awkward moments to find the magic. I suspect the muse doesn’t judge between the two; the muse just asks us to show up and listen and do the work. It’s hard work. But it’s the best work.


“How to Talk to Rockstars” — think “Almost Famous” meets “The History of Love” — follows wallflower-turned-journalist Bryn Thompson. She has a dream job: she interviews rock stars. Bryn’s professionalism keeps her on track, but also emotionally removed from the gritty world of back stage, bars and drugs that she writes about. That is, until she meets musician Jude Archer, whose songs haunt her. As an unlikely friendship grows out of Bryn’s obsession with Jude’s album, Bryn begins to rethink all of the carefully-contrived rules that until now have helped her maintain a professional distance.

Enjoy an excerpt:

At the edge of the stage, in the limbo between darkness and spotlights, between anonymity and fame, Jude Archer knows two things: That he is a rare genius. And that he is a complete fraud.

Sometimes he turns these dual realizations over and over like a penny in his fingers. Sometimes he lets them alternately punish and soothe his soul, these words. One a barb and one a balm. The devil and the angel on his shoulders, but which is which?

Sometimes he lets the needles of knowing fill him with doubt, with hope. With fear, with excitement. And sometimes he just turns away from the knowing, tucks the coin away into a pocket for later.

Or for never.

Just off stage, Jude Archer is no one. It’s the moment of the day he hates most, those few seconds of not being. And then he hears his name.

For one night only —

And he’s already in the light, bathed in it, blinded by it. Soaking it in and becoming. Not just someone, but the one.

All eyes are on him, and he’s reflected back in their fevered glow. The one he’s become. But which one? The genius or the fraud?

Fame, fame. Remember my name.

Alli Marshall grew up in Western New York and has called the mountains of North Carolina home for more than 20 years. She’s a Warren Wilson College graduate and completed her MFA in creative writing at Goddard College. She’s been named the best arts reporter in Western North Carolina in the annual Best of WNC reader’s poll, 2011-2014. She received awards in editorial reporting from the North Carolina Press Association in 2005 and 2014, and from the International Festivals & Events Association in 2004. She also took home top honors in the Cupcakes for the Cure bake-off (local ingredient category) — but that’s another story. And though Alli doesn’t like to brag or anything, over the course of her career she’s interviewed Yoko Ono, Cyndi Lauper, Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes), Aimee Mann, Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), Britt Daniel (Spoon), Michael Franti, Neko Case, Daniel Lanois, Ziggy Marley, Peter Murphy, Grace Potter, Jamie Lidell, Kishi Bashi and many, many others.

For more information:

WEB: http://www.alli-marshall.com

FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/allimarshallauthor

PUBLISHER: http://www.logosophiabooks.com

Follow Alli on Twitter and Instagram @alli_marshall

Read a sample chapter at http://www.spdbooks.org/Producte/9780981575780/default.aspx
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thanks for hosting!

  2. momjane says:

    I really enjoyed your comments. This story sounds like something I would love to read.

  3. Thanks so much for hosting! This was an interesting essay to write. I’d love to hear readers’ thoughts on the muse in their own lives. Anyone?

  4. Rita Wray says:

    I liked the excerpt.

  5. Victoria says:

    Great post — thanks for sharing!

  6. Patrick Siu says:

    I have enjoyed learning about the book. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. Hey everyone, in celebration of this blog tour I’m announcing a special sale. “How to Talk to Rockstars” is $9.99 + s/h through June 20 at http://alli-marshall.com/how-to-talk-to-rockstars . Happy reading!

  8. Nikolina says:

    The book sounds very intriguing, thank you for the reveal!

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