10 May 2015

{Guest Post} with Breakout Author Kevin Emerson

By: Me My Shelf And I | 10 May 2015 at 12:31 AM | | | | |

It's a thrill to have author Keving Emerson on the blog today talking about his new stand-alone novel BREAKOUT, and telling us about his time playing in bands himself!

About The Book

Author: Kevin Emerson
Release Date: Feb, 24, 2015
Publisher: Crown Books For Young Readers

Anthony, age 13, writes his first rock song. The only problem? It contains a certain word that will get him suspended if he sings it at the school talent show.

Anthony's had a bad day and his song lyrics reflect how pissed off he is at everyone and everything, including insipid cutebot girls, meaningless school assignments, and Fat Class at the local Y. The song - "Gotta Get Out" - goes live thanks to his best friend and fellow Rusty Souls bandmate, Keenan. Anthony becomes an insta-hero to everyone at school. Except for the clueless teachers. And his parents (who he imagines as the enemy Nazis in his favorite video game, Liberation Force).

What are your rights to free speech when you're just a 13-year-old kid? Emerson captures the frustration of the quintessential 13-year-old boy, too old to be babied but suffering for his growing pains too.

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Guest Post


(Kevin in high school, either playing Rush or Journey)

I never played in a cool band in middle school or high school. (Can you count a Rush cover band? I think not). Since then, I’ve been in a few bands that have had their moments like Anthony and the Rusty Soles have in BREAKOUT, where you get your first brush with notoriety and you have to figure out how to respond.

Being in a band is all about collaboration, or, most of the time, clashing egos. It can be good; some of the best bands of all time had members who hated each other, but that doesn’t mean it’s very much fun at the time. One of the things you argue over is “who you want to be.” It might not be a calculated conversation, but it’s one you’re having when you decide on a wardrobe for a photo shoot, or a font for your website. You want to be real, except, you know, way more interesting than just real. But still authentic. Yet slightly mysterious. It’s odd to think about and easy to get wrong.

In BREAKOUT, Anthony is having his first brush with this, and it’s coming at him in an area where he is very sensitive: his voice. Not just his newfound singing voice, but his artistic voice. By writing the lyrics to Breakout, Anthony has cast himself as not only a rebel, but also as a spokesperson for all the kids his age who feel like the world is being defined for them when they are not yet able to define it for themselves. Anthony hasn’t figured out how to change that dynamic yet, but he has figured out that the feelings stinks.

The problem is, Anthony already felt like a rebel, or at least an isolated voice. He struggles with his behavior. He struggles with his body. He struggles with the fear that he is already a failure, that given how teachers and adults perceive him, he may not get very many chances in life to make his mark. Therefore, doesn’t he have to act on this moment? Doesn’t he have to be the rock star hero of the eighth grade? But what if doing so causes him to lose Rock Band, one of those precious few chances for him to be the version of himself that he wants to be?

Most of being in a band is the little decisions and disagreements that Anthony and Keenan and Valerie face. What to name your band when all the names have been taken? What should your logo be? What should you wear on stage? And yet now and then come these big moments, when the question becomes: who do you want to be? What do you want to say? Those questions are still in the back of my mind, every time I take the stage. What will Anthony do when he gets up in the spotlight in front of his school at the end of the book? He doesn’t know, he can’t know, but he’s going to find out, ready or not.

About The Author

KEVIN EMERSON is the author of the Exile and the Atlantean series for teens. He spends much of the year leading writing workshops in middle schools and high schools. Kevin got the idea for Breakout while he was teaching a creative writing residency at a Seattle public school. One afternoon, he saw an after-school rock band practicing. He was amazed to see a few of his students rocking out - teens who had barely talked during his classes. Kevin wanted to write a book about them, too young to be seen as adults but far too old to be kids anymore. Like Anthony, Kevin lives in Seattle and loves to rock. He has played in bands ever since middle school and has toured the US, Europe, and the UK. You can find Kevin online at kevinemerson.net, on Facebook, and on Twitter at @kcemerson. 

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