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Become a Novelist
by Anneli Rufus

Long before he became a rock star and racked up two Top 10 hits and nigh-on a dozen albums, Greg Kihn loved The Twilight Zone. Skin-prickling episodes about apocalypses and phantom hitchhikers made him yearn, unlike the books he read in English class, to spin spellbinding stories all his own.

Turn Your Life Into Literature
Write about what you know. Dig up all that old dirt, then dish it.
Write about what you love. Would Patrick O'Brian's seafaring Aubrey/Maturin novels have been any fun if he was hydrophobic?
Join a writers' group. Monthly meetings with like-minded friends are a great source of feedback.
Go back to class and learn from a pro: Meet your future competition in an adult-school course.
Write to your favorite writer. Greg Kihn did.
Best-selling authors Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron know how to coax fledgling writers into full flight; check out their how-to workbooks.
The more you read, the better you write. Harold Bloomshares his persnickety secrets of joyful reading.
Correspondence with others jump-starts your inner author: Chat with other avid readers and writers about character, plot, markets and more.
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The songs that eventually made him famous in the early `80s were not about ghosts but the garden-variety terrors of modern relationships. Kihn's was a career that skyrocketed, then plummeted. A few short years after opening for the Stones he was lucky to land small town club gigs. He had hurtled down his own personal 40 miles of bad road, and it showed.

Like everyone who realizes his days of banking on boyish good looks are over, Kihn skidded to a soul-searching stop. There had to be, he told himself, "more to life than sex and drugs and rock-'n'-roll." He'd been divorced twice, lost two fortunes. And the more he thought about it, the surer he was that his storytelling days had just begun.

Writing horror novels with musicians as their main characters is Kihn's way of bringing together a lifetime's passions and a lifetime's demons. Virtually single handed he has launched a genre he dubs "music thrillers."

Not everyone has groupies and groovin' with Mick Jagger to look back on, but anyone with a big backlog of life-experience ought to consider taking a stab, as it were, at writing fiction.

"They say you should write what you know," Kihn says so in his fourth and latest book, Mojo Hand, a washed-up guitarist with substance-abuse problems struggles toward a comeback while famous bluesmen turn up grotesquely dead. The guitarist character demonstrates "what it's like to be an asshole and get your comeuppance," says Kihn, a Bram Stoker Award nominee. "I was all that."

He had no formal training as a writer when he started. So while his renderings of concert scenes now throb with authenticity, Kihn found himself having to refine basic English skills while learning new lessons in humility as editors and successful novelists like his idol, Dean Koontz, to whom he showed some early attempts criticized his work. Still, "the stories couldn't wait to get out of me."

Those insistent stories are the key to everything. He urges aspiring novelists to keep their inner ears and eyes peeled for snatches of scenery or dialogue that might morph into stories.

Penning novels packed with evil spells, slashed stiffs and Stratocasters seems a fitting cap-off to years spent onstage, says Kihn, who writes three to six hours a day, six days a week. And he swears it's more fun.

All right, so how do I start that prize-winning novel? Advice and examples.

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Web Links
• Greg Kihn Band homepage

Related Books
• Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Natalie Goldberg
• Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life, Natalie Goldberg
• The Artist's Way A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Julia Cameron
• The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, Julia Cameron

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