Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Author Guest Post: Erik Atwell, Author of Thank You For Flying Air Zoe

In association with Chick Lit Plus, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Erik Atwell, author of Thank You For Flying Air Zoe!

My 15 Minutes

Me and some guys from school
Had a band and we tried real hard
Jimmy quit, Jody got married
Shoulda' known we'd never get far. 

Bryan Adams
"Summer of '69"


Whenever I'm asked who the target audience is for my debut novel Thank You For Flying Air Zoe, I usually say, "It's for anyone who has ever sung into a hairbrush and dreamt of becoming a rock star."

As well as anyone who's ever wrenched a shoulder doing windmills on the air guitar. 

Or bruised their hands while keeping the beat on their steering wheel. 

The core storyline of Thank You For Flying Air Zoe focuses on a forty-something woman's loopy yet determined attempt to reunite the all-girl garage band she was in as a teenager. As a consequence, these days, I find that I'm often asked whether or not I've ever been in a band. 

Wistfully, and with just the right hint of nostalgic melancholy, I smile and say, "Yeah. I was in a band once."

Legendary artist and fruit loop Andy Warhol once said, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes." I can't say that I was actually world famous. And my fifteen minutes was more like ten. But in my life's grand plan to leave no stone unturned, I can proudly and honestly say that I was indeed in a band. 

Even though the band didn't have a name. 

Essentially, our nameless band was a revolving door of recreational musicians that numbered anywhere from two to five at any given time. Our sound was inimitable, but to be honest, what band would aspire to imitate an outfit made of four guitarists and a keyboard player?

Erik, Chris, Jon and Sean were all longtime friends in my colorful New Hampshire hometown, and each of them could do some pretty excellent things with a guitar. I was the one with the keyboards. At the time, I had my roommate's grand piano at my fingertips, as well as a massive Ensoniq ESQ-1 synthesizer. This was one awesome piece of musical mayhem, capable of making sounds like pianos, string sections, drums, helicopters, seagulls, airplanes, spaceships ... No joke, I could've composed a piece that sounded like The Boston Pops was performing a symphony on a Logan Airport runway that was being invaded by bird-watching aliens. 

I was also the one living in a house with a cavernous, high-ceilinged living room, which was my roommate's construction project in progress. This room was probably a thousand square feet of hardwood, and it was without question an acoustic miracle. So every now and then during the winter of '92-'93, a few of us would get together to jam. 

I can't even type that with a straight face. Serious musicians jam. We basically got together to have a bunch of beers and make noise. Still, after a few get-togethers spanning several weeks, a funny thing happened ... 

We started to sound sort of decent. Or at the very least, decent adjacent. 

We also discovered that on occasion, we could actually get through a song from beginning to end without too many major hiccups. Though our performance arsenal was only about a half-dozen songs, we were nonetheless very proud of our surprising accomplishment. 

At the time, I lived about two miles up the road from a place called The New England Inn. Every Tuesday night, the tavern at The Inn hosted an event called Hoot Night, which was our area's version of Open Mike Night. Hoot Night was hosted by my friend and one time soccer coach Rod, a talented musician in his own right, who spent much of every Tuesday entertaining the crowd himself. When he wasn't on stage, any one of our little community's fantastic singers could be found up there covering a classic while the rest of us tavern types happily drank cheap pints 'til closing time. 

Looking back now, the collision course could not have been more obvious. 

We got together to jam at the house. 

We sounded pretty damn good.

And it was a Tuesday night. 

So guess what we decided to do!

It was Chris, Erik, and I who left the house for the Inn that night, but at some point during drinks at the bar, Chris smartened up and concluded that he would be just fine watching the spectacle instead of becoming it. There were probably 25-30 people in the audience that night, so there would be witnesses who could ultimately crush our image as nice, normal guys. So without Chris, Erik and I were left as a duo, which somehow sounded less appealing now that we were actually there watching real musicians perform. 

Erik and Erik. Not exactly Hall and Oates, you know? So unanimously, finally, we all decided that taking the stage would probably be a bad idea.

Yup, a really, really bad idea. 

Funny thing about a bad idea. Sometimes all it takes is one person to think a bad idea is actually a good idea for the idea to once again spring to life from the depths of dissolution. So when Sean showed up later in the evening and said that he'd have no problem whatsoever with hitting the stage, suddenly there we were again. 

I told Rod that we wanted to play a few songs if there was any time available. Rod, probably sensing the likelihood of a tale that would ultimately go down in the annals of Hoot Night lore, said that for us clowns, he would make time. And soon enough, he called us to the stage. 

And get this. Not one of us bolted for the door. 

We played Seven Bridges Road by The Eagles, which was probably our signature tune because its harmonizing masked our mediocre voices. Then we slowed it down and played Running To Stand Still by U2. I have since sworn that if I were to ever play Hoot Night again that I will never take the reins of a piano-driven ballad about acute heroin addiction. It's just bad form. I sang this one, I think because I was the only one who knew the lyrics. This would've been fine, save for the fact that, y'know, I'm not really a great singer?

Finally, we finished our set with Last Day of Our Acquaintance by Sinead O'Connor. Pretty sure I sang this one too, so intoxicated was I on adrenaline and a shiny new false sense of vocal virtuosity. To their credit and our surprise, the audience met our misguided efforts with tremendous applause. Though to be fair, I privately wonder if Rod went table to table during our "show" and asked them to do so purely out of pity. 

Still, for ten minutes, we were a band. On a stage. Beneath spotlights. And I swear, if you close your eyes while in such a moment, it's not too difficult to imagine that your crowd of 25 is actually a crowd of 25,000. 

So what about you? Have you ever been caught by another driver singing your heart out at a stop light? Do you have a repressed inner superstar that's bursting to rock out? Because if so, it's never too late to take a quick personal detour. 

Here, let me give you a little push:

Yes, yes, there are stages all across the country just begging for your debut. And remember, if Open Mike nights sound like too much for your inner rocker ...

There's always karaoke!

Oh man. the karaoke stories I could tel ... 


Thank you so much for having me here on Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Kathleen. I really appreciate the stage. 

About The Author:

Erik Atwell started his writing career in grammar school, when a one page history class assignment ballooned  into a forty page fictional account of a politically controversial silversmith in Boston circa 1776. From there, he wrote short stories while living in New Hampshire, screenplays upon moving to Los Angeles, then finally novels when he ultimately landed in Seattle. He now lives in Seattle with his rock star wife and six-month-old son, whose only musical claim to fame thus far is sleeping through an entire Go-Go's concert. But in his defense, he was three weeks old, and the stage was a quarter-mile away. Thank You For Flying Air Zoe is his first novel, and he hopes to write a second novel before the little guy treks off to college. 

BUY THE BOOK: Thank You For Flying Air Zoe

To enter the contest, click on the above link and leave a comment on Erik's tour page to win a $10 Amazon gift card. If you purchase your copy of Thank You For Flying Air Zoe before February 20 and send your receipt to , you will get five (5) bonus entries! 

Book Description: Thank You For Flying Air Zoe

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fasten Seat Belt sign has been turned on, but feel free to ignore it, because sometimes life is best lived on its dizzy edges. Your cruising altitude today will be sky high, and you will be flying at staggering speeds as you travel alongside Zoe Tisdale, former Valley Girl and rock star turned bored butter saleswoman. 

On the heels of a brush with mortality, Zoe concludes that she's been letting time pass her by. Realizing she needs to awaken her life's tired refrains, Zoe vows to recapture the one chapter of her life that truly mattered to her - her days as drummer for The Flip-Flops, a spirited, sassy all-girl garage band that almost hit the big time back in 1987. But reuniting the band won;t be easy. The girls who were once the whiz kid guitarist, the prom queen bass player, and the hippie lead singer grew up and became women who are now a reclusive dog trainer, a wealthy socialite, and a sociopathic environmentalist. Will Zoe bring the band back together and give The Flip-Flops a second chance at stardom? Is it possible to fully reclaim the urgent energy of youth? 

As you follow this wild flight path, please know that your destination could be anywhere at all, complimentary oxygen is provided upon request, and baggage flies free. We hope you enjoy the ride, and Thank You For Flying Air Zoe.


  1. Great post - sounds like a perfect night(or ten minutes.) I think everyone has dreams of being in a band. I got pulled up on stage once to sing "Our Lips are Sealed" by my friends who were in a band - terrifying but fun!

    And just the mention of "Last Day of Our Acquaintance" has made me nostalgic (hmmm do I have that on my iPod??)

    Thanks for the walk down musical memory lane!!

    1. Hey, thanks, Natalie! And how apropos that The Go-Go's -- perhaps Zoe's original catalyst are part of your own Memory Lane!

      Thank you for reading!

  2. Eric, I loved your guest post ... but now I have the Go-Go's and The Bangles music in my head ... *sigh* :p

    Here's a funny karaoke story for you ... about 8 years ago I was in the Poconos for a nascar race weekend with my Mom, Aunt and Cousin Jimmy. We went out to dinner at a local lakeside bar and restaurant on Sat night. Cuz decides to hit on our waitress who proceeded to supply us with jello shots and the next thing I know is that the 3 of us are on the stage singing Karaoke to God knows what ... next thing I know it is 6am Sunday morning and I am deadly sick with a huge hangover and a mother and aunt who are pissed because we had to get ready for to go to the race track, while my Cuz is snickering in the background .... I think I was set up?! Let's just say I will never drink jello shots and sing karaoke with my Cuz again .... okay I lied ... we did it again a few years later while in Dover, De for another race weekend ... I'm seeing a trend here ... it's all my Cuz's fault. :p