Welcome back to the blog tour. Here’s today’s link. Thank you to One More Exclamation.
In today’s news, my favorite café, the place where I’ve written many stories and parts of both of my novels, may be closing permanently due to ongoing staffing shortages. I’m writing from there today, trying to wrap my mind around the concept of this not being a part of my life after, what, fifteen years or so?
I have a batch of my books for sale here. While I’m not worried about them selling, it feels full circle, and I really like having them here. (There’s also a copy of my first novel in their collection in the back.)
Anyway, did you know that as an author, you have to sympathize with even your most unlikable characters? You have to try to understand, at the very least, why they do what they do. It’s your job to figure out why, and to say, “That makes sense,” even if you loathe what they do.
Let’s talk about Velvet in Southern-Fried Woolf. She’s the country music legend ten years Michael’s senior with whom he’s having an affair. It’s important to remember that the novel is told in first person, so we only get to see things from Briscoe’s perspective. Personally, I have a lot of sympathy for Velvet.
First of all, let’s remember that she left the tour with Michael out of guilt. She knew what they were doing was wrong, and though it meant ruining the tour, she left. Then she tried to apologize to Briscoe, but Briscoe would have none of it.
V. tries to explain things to Briscoe, but Briscoe doesn’t want to hear, at least at first. I can’t say much more because I’m treading into spoiler territory.
Then there’s this enforced stay in a house where she’s persona non grata, except to the man she’s clearly trying to flee her attraction to. She HAS to finish this album or risk losing her reputation, her fans, and tarnishing her parents’ legacy.
And who knows how she feels about Michael? We don’t get a glimpse.
Is V. entitled? Absolutely. However, she isn’t given an inch in this territory. Her husband, Robert, doesn’t even allow her to bring any of her sycophants along. Since it’s summer, she has no college interns, the ones who normally help her out, and apparently she is between PA’s or her hubby won’t let that person come along, either. At any rate, she is dropped off on the doorstep of the house where the album will be recorded, luggage in hand, at a place almost entirely hostile to her.
Once there, who does she have? (I did this on purpose; you are meant to feel for V.)
Obviously, Briscoe doesn’t want anything to do with her. Bernita doesn’t really speak to anyone, so she’s not an ally. Jules, though closer in age to her, isn’t about to side with her against her daughter. What about the band? We don’t see her interacting much with them. Any time she does reach out to Briscoe, she’s rebuffed.
Let’s talk about V.’s appearance. She’s always overdressed. She wears her makeup and hair like armor. She’s stage ready, according to Briscoe, but to me, it just shows how vulnerable she feels that she thinks she needs all of that. And she probably thinks her fans expect it. She wears false eyelashes early in the morning!
Where is she most comfortable?
What about her and Robert? While I don’t say so in the book, I think he 100% has a little sumpin, sumpin on the side. And clearly, he and Briscoe are attracted to one another, but she just can’t bring herself to care right now.
At this point, Robert and Velvet have a business relationship more than a marriage, the kind Michael and Briscoe seem to be veering into. The couple has a daughter, Natalie, who is a singer but apparently does not write or perform with her mother. I’d like to know more about that, I think I’ve already mentioned.
Mild spoiler ahead!! You’ve been warned!!
What about the tragedy that Briscoe nearly glosses over? V’s parents were shot dead at a concert, and no one knows why! How traumatic! How horrifying! And V. feels partly responsible since she told them she was fine after her surgery and that they should go on without her until she was all better. Otherwise, she would have likely suffered their same fate.
How has that shaped V.?
We’re told she has a religious bent; I think because of that, she’s doubly tormenting herself for this affair with Michael. She feels as if she has been spared for a reason, though, which keeps her going in the music world, and she fasts, we are told, on anniversary dates. Briscoe sees this as a method of dieting, but is it?
While Briscoe, though she doesn’t seem to know it, has all of these people taking care of HER – Patrick, Bernita, her mother, and Benny, V. is trying to find her way in an awkward place, to say the least. She gets zero special treatment that we see, and it seems as if she endures it because she believes she deserves it for what she and Michael have done.
V. attempts to reach out to Briscoe. She offers her tea and pizza; she sits beside her poolside despite surely feeling unwelcome. (Not that we blame Briscoe. Obviously.) Look at how often V. wanders off on her own, or with Michael. Sometimes I think she just wants to be alone, and Michael follows.
Here’s what I think happened. You tell me what you think.
I think that she and Michael were likely playing some of her parents’ songs together one evening when they happened to be alone. They were harmonizing; he was playing guitar, and that excitement that builds when something sounds good grabbed them.
Then, likely, they wrote a song together based on her and her parents’ music. For her, it was like having her parents back, because Michael was so intimately familiar with their music that he was able to recreate a nuanced version. For him, it was inhabiting a time and place he never imagined he could, performing with the daughter of the man who made him want to be a musician to begin with.
Co-creation is seductive. What began innocently enough became overwhelming and led to more.
Hadn’t Michael’s romance and eventual marriage to Briscoe started just so? She herself says that their marriage must seem like a plucked chicken beside this dream of Michael’s now realized. While she’s hurt and triggered, to say the least, she gets it.
To complicate matters for them all, they HAVE to write and record this album, but when they begin to work on it, it turns out that the illicitly written songs are the ones with all of the passion and power. Something about their physical commingling has brought forth something that can’t be got at any other way.
Briscoe sees this. Michael sees this. Robert sees this. V. sees it, but she doesn’t want to any more than the rest of them do.
No one wins if this album isn’t finished. But so many people lose if it is.
What is art worth? What should be sacrificed for it?
I think many of the characters in this novel are asking just that.
What do you think of V.?