Let’s hand over to those two reprobates, Chris Golden and Tim Lebbon to get the full lowdown. Guys?
TIM LEBBON: When did you discover Frank Turner?
CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN: For those who don’t know him so well, this is Tim, looking for a pat on the back! You’ll get it, mate. Truth is, right around the end of 2014, I entered a fairly depressed period during which I didn’t sleep a single night without taking something to help me sleep. That went on until Halloween, 2015. Sometime around September of that year, I’d just been listening to the same old same old music for a while, and I posted online about needing recommendations for new music. I listed some of my favorite musicians, and two people who know me very well both immediately recommended I listen to Frank Turner.
The first was Matt Bechte (pictured far right with me and Frank), who has a story in TEN-WORD TRAGEDIES. The second, moments later, was you, Mr. Lebbon. Fittingly, I wouldn’t have even been led down the path to Frank if you hadn’t introduced me to Flogging Molly years ago. In November of that year, I reached out to Frank via email to sort of awkwardly tell him how much finding his music had meant to me, and that it had helped me get through a rough time. He replied a couple of hours later with an invitation to come down to Providence, RI, which is about ninety minutes from my house, to see him live with the Sleeping Souls at a small club called Fete. I brought Matt Bechtel with me and saw my first Frank show on December 16th, 2015. I’ve seen him live another six or seven times now, most recently at Lost Evenings 3 in Boston last week.
CG: So how’s about you, Tim because I know you’d been listening to Frank much longer than I have. What’s your Frank Turner story?
TIM LEBBON: Glad you took me up on that recommendation! Mine is a nice story, too. My daughter Ellie is in university now, but back when she was living at home all year round, I’d often pass her room and hear music creeping from the door (she’s a big music fan). She’s always had quite a broad taste in music––some days it’d be Beyonce or Mumford & Sons, some days Green Day, and quite a few singers and bands I didn’t really know. One day I heard a bit of gentle piano music and a gentleman singing in a very English voice about listening to his music on a portable stereo. I stuck my head in the door and frowned. Ellie knows me so well, so she said, “Just wait a minute, Dad.” I’m glad I did wait. With a “Hi ho, hi ho, hi ho . . .” Frank launched into Four Simple Words, and for me my love of his music was instant. I listen to a lot of rock and roll, but my tastes have definitely widened since my metal teens, and Frank Turner’s music really struck a chord (if you’ll forgive me). He’s such a wordsmith that every song tells a story . . . and I think he’d actually be a great novelist. I’ve told him that, too. Who knows, maybe his first published fiction in this anthology might lead elsewhere?
TL: Do you remember the first time you heard Mittens?
CG: It was right after you and Matt recommended him to me. You know my musical tastes a bit better than Matt and said I needed to listen to Frank’s newest album (at the time), Positive Songs for Negative People, which had just come out. I love the whole damn album, from first note to last, though given my state of mind at the time it’s certain that “Get Better” will always be my favorite. Still, I loved “Mittens,” and what I loved most about it was that opening verse. As a writer, I was fascinated by Frank’s ability to paint an entire short story just in those few lines about discovering all those old postcards for sale in a New York City thrift shop. The idea that as a songwriter he would buy a box and ship it home for later inspiration stuck with me. I’d like to say the anthology was my idea, but I can’t honestly remember if it was you or me who came up with it, only that we had to do it together.
CG: You’re the one who managed to persuade Frank to send you a box of postcards to choose from for this project. I don’t remember which of us first learned the postcards were a true story, but how did you come to acquire them, and how did you select which ones you were going to send to the contributors?
TL: I remember the Skype when we came up with the idea. I think we were just talking about how great his lyrics are, and one of us quoted those lines, and the other said, “And that’s a great anthology.” I honestly can’t remember which one of us it was . . . we’ve collaborated so much that we are now, actually, one person. We’d both discovered by then that Frank is actually very approachable, and I think it was you who emailed Frank with the idea. He responded to say that it was a true story, and next thing he was shipping a big box of postcards to me (which I still have . . . I really must return them)! As for selecting postcards for contributors, I went through the box and pulled out the ones that I thought were interesting––whether it was picture, message, or sometimes just a one-word note. Then when we’d established the list, I picked three for each writer, at random, and sent them off.
As for a home for the anthology, PS felt so natural.
PS felt so natural. I’ve known Pete for a long time (some people would probably say too long . . . I know he would), and I remember him once saying to me, ‘Music makes the world go around’. I know he’s a big music fan, and I’m sure this has created one more Frank Turner fan, at least!
TL: What were the challenges of putting together such an eclectic mix of stories?
CG: It was the opposite of a challenge, really. It was an outrageous pleasure, the kind of freedom that rarely comes along, both for us as editors and for the contributors. So often you get invited to contribute to an anthology that has such a specific remit, or at least is bound by a particular genre. What writer wouldn’t love the freedom of being asked to take a look at three postcards, pick one, and write a story inspired by it—any story you want, in any genre you want, or no genre at all? What a wonderful gift to be able to give the authors, and the readers, and ourselves.
CG: What surprised you the most, as the stories came in? (Aside from how great Frank’s contribution is, which should really come as no surprise to anyone.)
TL: I think it was how different each story was, and also how differently each writer approached the invitation. Some were quite literal, writing stories inspired by messages or pictures on the postcards. Others seemed to just allow the postcards to trigger something in their mind, and the stories were only very tangentially linked. I think it goes back to what you said about the freedom of such an idea. And as a writer, I know that’d be a great thing. We’ve ended up with such a pleasingly eclectic mix. I’m delighted with how it all worked out!
TL: You’ve edited a lot of anthologies, was this one relatively easy to put together, or more difficult than usual?
CG: A little bit of both. Coming up with the list of authors we wanted to invite was difficult, as we wanted authors who are inspired by music, who are fans of Frank Turner’s music specifically, and who wouldn’t be terrified of fucking up such an open challenge as this offered. But we began with a core of writers whom we knew would jump at the chance. And the results . . . folks will see for themselves, but the results are extraordinary. I’m as proud of this anthology as I’ve ever been of anything with my name on it.
CG: What would you say about this book to readers who aren’t familiar with Frank’s music? And what would you say about it to Frank’s fans who may not be familiar with some of the authors?
TL: I’d say to those readers, check out Frank’s songs, because his styles and themes are as varied as the stories in this book. And for those who love Frank’s music already, this anthology is not only a great chance to read his first published fiction (how lucky are we!), but also to try out some other writers you might not have heard of before.
We’re thrilled to be launching the book at The Lexington, on Pentonville Road, London, on 10th July. And we’re even more pleased that Frank will be doing a short acoustic set at the launch, and then signing books.