Publisher’s Weekly praises Lauterbach’s writing to be as “energetic as a Little Richard song,” and names Chitlin’ Circuit one of the Top Ten forthcoming music books.
The book also received a starred review in the June 2011 Booklist: “A major achievement and an important contribution to American musical history,” as well as a starred review in the June 1 Library Journal: “A great read, well written and insightful. Highly recommended to anyone interested in the seedy history of American popular music.”
Yesterday, SLR contributor Adele Annesi posted yet another raving review about Chitlin’, so we thought you might like to meet the man behind all the excitement. With the book ready to hit shelves July 18, author Preston Lauterbach discussed his writing process with Adele, as well as the interesting path that led him to write about the blues (plus what lies ahead!). Enjoy.
SLR: You had a sense there might be a story even though the initial research revealed the chitlin’ circuit as a pretty desolate place. What about the subject matter drew you in and kept you going?
If you’re writing a book about the Civil War, you know it started in 1861, or if you’re writing a biography, you know your subject’s key dates, or could very easily establish that information. With the circuit, though it clearly had a rich history–anyone who knows anything about Ray Charles, B.B. King, Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix, or James Brown knows that those artists got started on the chitlin’ circuit–it took me years to establish the basic framework of the story: how/where/when it began, who organized it/participated. The obsession that comes with this type of search kept me going.
PL: Pacing and structure. In some sections of the story, I fly through a few years in the space of a few pages, and later I spent about three chapters in 1947. That has to flow right for the reader to feel in-step with the story. The structure was a greater challenge. It’s not an uncomplicated story, with important things happening with different people in different locales at the same time. The story features a large cast of characters and is set in multiple locations. The fact that everyone and everything in the story functioned in a unified form as the chitlin’ circuit holds it all together, but it was still a challenge to make it flow smoothly.
SLR: What types of roadblocks did you encounter during the research and writing, especially as a white author expounding what might be considered a black topic?
How did they get away with all this, as black people in the South in the 1940s and 50s? Buy the book!
SLR: Have you considered writing fiction?
PL: Thanks for the provocative questions. I’ve enjoyed this.