Digital Book Nook recently caught up with Patrick R.F. Blakley, author of “Drummond.” We are excited to share this insightful interview with our readers today.
When did you first discover that you enjoy writing and wanted to become a published author?
I started writing technical marching percussion books as a sort of hobby to share my thoughts on a fairly niche instrument. I slowly expanded into another technical book for a broader audience before I ventured into writing a children’s book. I had developed a fun idea of a drum that joins the marching band. With a little push from a friend I began to outline a novel that would become Drummond. It all happened so gradually, and I knew I was prepared when I started putting words on the page, having unintentionally practiced for so long already. I still consider myself only a musician, having written a novel doesn’t really change that in my mind, hearing people call me an author just feels too formal. Maybe the term writer is more fitting. I’m glad to have gotten my story onto paper, but I’ll always be a musician first!
What is your favorite and the most challenging aspect of writing?
My favorite part is definitely the freedom to tell whatever story I please! Nobody to negotiate with, no collaborators, nobody to disagree with the little things, just blank pages on which to write whatever I feel is necessary. I have several favorite quotes throughout the book as well, if you’ll indulge me. I think my favorite quote from Drummond relates to my own personal sleep habits. I struggle to wake up each day, as I’m sure many people reading this will agree. Drummond narrates, “I lift my arm and feel around for the snooze button, the only word I know in braille.” This succinctly implies that he uses his snooze button so much that he knows the word by feel. Granted, I don’t think most alarm clocks have braille on them, but the point remains clear! Another one of my favorites revolves around how slow time moves when you’re stuck in a meeting or something similar. When you stare at a clock, time seems to move slower! Drummond does this in the opening chapter and reprises it in the closing chapter to recall the idea. “I’m not totally engaged with the man, rather, the clock on the wall behind him. About six, but ticking slow and tocking even slower.” To round out the question, challenges came in all shapes and sizes, but being a stickler for grammar, especially verb tense, was probably at the top of the list!
Tell us about your latest release.
I’ve written a technical instruction book about marching tenor drums called Quadratics and another one for the field percussion section as a whole called The Field Percussion User Manual. More recently, I wrote an illustrated children’s book about marching band called Drummy Drum Joins Marchy Band. My illustrator, Emily Hogan, was a member of the band I taught. She drew exactly what I pictured, a drum joining the marching band! Finally, the children’s book inspired the Drummond novel, which explores why a drum would join the marching band in the first place. As it turns out, the drum was just a projection of his inner-self, and Drummond had to find out who he really was inside! Drummond then uses that information to fit in and connect with his new family. Drummond was fun to write and is very auto-biographical for a fiction story. Most of the events in the book did actually occur! However, some chapters are complete fabrications, although the feelings they explore are all things I felt in my years within the marching band. These are the feelings all readers will relate to, having been a musician in their past or not. That’s something I’m quite proud of, that this book can go in two directions based on who happens to be reading it. Marching band alumni will be shaking their heads in agreement on every page, while non-musicians can tap into the emotional side of the story more. I also think this novel will resonate with readers of any age beyond the young adult genre!
How did you come up with the title of your book?
Well, I was very much inspired by the illustrations in the Drummy Drum children’s book. Emily Hogan did a fantastic job depicting Drummy as a drum among humans. I kept asking myself why is he a drum and everyone else is human? I quickly realized that his outward appearance was who he was inside! I had to expand on that idea, and the most logical place was for the next oldest readers, young adults. Although this is a work of fiction, Drummond is very much myself. In fact, most of what happens throughout the story are events that occurred when I first joined marching band. Some chapters are completely made-up storylines, but the feelings conveyed are genuine feelings we’ve all experienced in our young lives, musicians or not. Drummond, the title, gives the implication of drums, which is who he is on the inside. He just needs to find that out for himself!
What do you hope readers are able to get from reading your story?
I want people to understand that nobody knows who they really are inside until they truly seek that information out. Don’t let life happen to you by accident, young readers. Forge a path if at all possible. I know, I know, it’s so much more easily said than done. But sometimes you have to look deep, and often it takes until you’re in your forties before you find it. Hell, there could be a few things in there if you look hard enough! Drummond doesn’t know who he is, the name gave him a clue, but it was up to him to seek it out and find out who he was inside. Lucky for him, he found himself in the music at age 13, but please don’t stop until you also find something within yourself!
Who are some of your favorite authors?
My favorite authors all tend to be non-fiction writers, in contrast to my own book being fiction. I think I like reading real stories, and for the most part I consider Drummond a real story as well. There are several fabrications and some chapters are completely made up, but the story ultimately is my own story, so to me it’s very real. When I reach for a book off the shelf I always start with Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. The two go hand in hand, and I never expected myself to enjoy evolutionary biology as much as I do today!
Do you have any advice for writers looking to get published?
My only advice is to try not to write for other people. Your story is yours to tell, and nobody needs to get in the way of that. I don’t write to sell books, I write for myself, and if someone wants to come along and figuratively sit next to me I’ll enjoy that too. Some people won’t like the Drummond character in my book, and there’s nothing wrong with that! He isn’t for everyone, nor was he intended to be! To each their own!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patrick R. F. Blakley is a SAMMY award-winning percussionist from Syracuse, New York. He is a music judge for the New York State Field Band Conference and participated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2018! Blakley has written two technical marching percussion books and also a children’s book called Drummy Drum Joins Marchy Band.
Drummond is available at Amazon on Kindle and in hardcover.