JILL MENIKETTI throws open the rickety doors of a dodgy Tuscan farmhouse to welcome you into the moshed-up sloshed-up washed-up world of imploding rockstar Mike Mays. Jill's book WELCOME TO GROOVE HOUSE (which she assures us is a work of fiction!) navigates an obstacle course through the sleaze - so hold on tight for a bumpy ride...which might even have a happy ending!
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Hey Jill, first of all, tell us how you've managed to juggle all your hats (band manager, booking agent, rock-wife, webmistress, blogger, interviewer, author etc) to arrive at a fully-finished product. When do you find the time to actually sit down and write? Was the plot already there inside your head and just needed to be typed out in detail, or did the storyline change as you went along?
Writing Welcome to Groove House took years of waking at 5:00 a.m. in order to slip in a few hours of writing time before starting my Y&T workday. It also involved turning down plenty of weekend fun (or at least being ultra-selective) so that I could focus on writing. Needless to say, when I finished, Dave was relieved to have his wife back... at least, until the next project!
I wish I could've written it more quickly, but managing Y&T is a more-than-full-time job. And since I also go on tour with the band (enter yet another hat: tour manager), my writing must be in fits and spurts, as I consistently leave for every tour leg each year. I'm sure my editor didn't relish trying to work within my crazy schedule.
With so many other things going on, how easy was it each time to pick it up where you left off?
It was actually super easy for me to pick up where I'd left off, because my brain was (and still is) always brimming with ideas just waiting to leap onto the page. I suppose the craziness has worked for me, in some ways, as I've yet to be hindered by writer's block.
So Jill, how much of Welcome To Groove House is actually fiction and how much is based on the real actions of real people that you've met in the business? And is there a danger that any of these real people might recognise themselves if you hadn't changed the names to protect the innocent/guilty? Spill some beans for the GRTRoll readers!
Sure, there are some true elements that I've attributed to my fictional characters, but of course I must protect the innocent! If you were to look a little closer, you might be able to figure out a few bits... Naturally, the novel is steeped in real life - the life that I live; that stuff can't help but leach into my stories. While some characters may be amalgamations, I can assure you there is no one particular character that I modeled after any one real person. Sure, I tossed bits of realism into the mix, and certainly my thirty-plus years around real-life rockstars and their quips have influenced me and added extra spark, but there aren't any true incidents, per se. For example, as much as I'd love to, I don't own a house in Tuscany... at least not at the time of writing this!
You've had great feedback from some of the major players in the business - Sammy Hagar, Don Dokken etc. How inspirational was husband Dave during the writing process? Did he contribute a scenario here and there, keep you topped up with wine, act out the plotlines to provide realistic dialogue etc etc? I've got a visual in my brain here of Dave doing all that and more, so don't disappoint me unless I'm way off target!
Now, that's a brilliant idea! But knowing how much Dave detested "acting" in his own MTV music videos back in the day, I should probably steer clear of ever asking him to act out anything. He was, though, an excellent sounding board. I often ran ideas past him, sure! He was instrumental in offering up a number of suggestions and funny bits (some landed on the cutting room floor). And since he so graciously read each finished draft (and that's a huge commitment to ask of someone!), I insulated him from certain details to spare him any spoiler alerts. I wanted to keep that element of surprise, even when he thought he was well informed on where a scene might be going. Oh, and of course he brought me wine at the end of long workdays!
Alot of the "let's get the band back together" movies are riotously hilarious but strike an uncomfortable wincing chord when you have inside knowledge of the business - I'm talking of course about Spinal Tap, Still Crazy, Bad News etc... Groove House is definitely a movie waiting to happen, so if you were wearing the casting director's hat, who could you see playing Mike Mays? And the other characters?
So true! Dave and I saw Spinal Tap in a movie theater, and we just sat there, probably the only people in the theater not laughing. Many musicians will tell you that. For us, the mishaps were so familiar... so Y&T. Watching it again later, though, we laughed our asses off.
I actually wrote a bio on each of the Groove House characters. It was a living document that I regularly updated. For me, that's the best way to get to know the characters as each one evolves. And, since these characters are true amalgamations, I attached numerous actor photos to each. I visualized different actors at different times during the writing process. I'd prefer not to share the many actors I envisioned for each character, as I'd rather not predispose any reader - readers should be permitted to use their own imaginations! But I will tell you two things: a movie producer who read an early draft thought that Mike Mays oozed Jack Nicholson; and a friend who's reading the book just told me yesterday that his mind's eye waffled between Lemmy and Nick Nolte. Funny, I hadn't thought of Lemmy when I was writing. It's fun to hear what people draw up themselves.
Is there a sequel in the pipeline?
Already readers are asking for a sequel... and a prequel! I adore these characters and I'd love to spend more time with them, but I do have several other rock 'n' roll stories in me to tackle first.
As a reader rather than a writer, what are your three favourite books of all time - and for each one, why? And your three favourite authors, and why?
Ooh, that's a tough one for me to answer, as just like with music and film, it's ever-changing. That said, I enjoyed Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. I found it gripping from the start. However, I haven't felt that way about his other novels. The classics by John Steinbeck are always among my faves: Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and so on. On the non-fiction side, I was fascinated by the story of the HeLa cell in Rebecca Sloot's medical biography, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Put your band manager hat on while I ask you about what's coming up for Y&T... What's coming up for Y&T?
This year's world tour, of course! But, currently, the most exciting news is the Y&T documentary. It's a story that's been 41-plus years in the making. We're all looking forward to working on it over the course of this year, and to its release next year. Come on out to a Y&T show near you, this year, as you just might make it in the documentary!
Who is your biggest inspiration, and why? (Not necessarily someone in the music business). And what the wisest advice you've ever taken on board, and who gave it to you?
Honestly, Dave is a huge inspiration to me. Not only because his energy each night on stage amazes me, but he has the best morals of anyone I know. He's funny, smart, level-headed, always sensible. Still 33 years later he makes me laugh. The wisest advice... hmm, I'm sure another one will come to mind as soon as we're done here. I suppose that would've come from my mom, who taught me that you're in control of your own actions, and to control the things you can but learn to let go of the things you can't control.
What outstanding ambitions would you like to have fulfilled in 5 years time? And in 10 years time?
In five years (sheesh, I hope sooner), I'd like to have released my next novel. In 10 years, I'd like to think there'll be at least two more beyond that. ;) Somewhere in there maybe Dave and I can finally get that place in Italy, and then I can say, "Welcome to Groove House!"
Just remind us, where can we go to order Welcome To Groove House?
The fastest delivery of the hardcover is from the Y&T web store, but the novel is available at most online bookstores. Visit my book's page for a variety of online bookseller links.
Thanks Jill, and remember... don't stop running!
© Get Ready To Roll - 25th March 2015