Interview with Canadian author Brent Jensen
Interview by JP
Canadian author Brent Jensen recently released his book "No Sleep ‘Til Sudbury". Sudbury is a small city in (semi) northern Ontario, hence the clever title, alluding to the Motorhead album. NO SLEEP TIL SUDBURY is an independent publication. It’s easy to read and Jensen’s casual, conversational prose is also very entertaining readable. I recently spoke to Jensen about his book. Visit the official Facebook site for details.
What inspired you to write your life-story in a Metal context?
Whether we like it or not, our formative years are really important to us. I was considering that idea one day as I listened to a Judas Priest record – how important music can be to kids who are trying to find their way through, trying to make sense of the world around them, and how I wasn’t any different. I’d been writing pop culture articles about bands I used to love as a kid, and I figured I could take it one step further and write a book about how the music of my favorite bands felt, not just what it sounded like, because there was real emotional power in this idea. And I figured there had to be other people out there thinking the same thing.
In this modern age of digital publishing why do you feel it was important to print an actual hard copy book?
I think there’s still a cross-section of society that consists of traditional people who love that physical tactility of a book – the front and back covers, the smell, what it feels like in your hands. And these factors lend themselves to the ritualistic approach people take when reading books. It’s no different from the newspaper, or even listening to CDs or vinyl for the added experience of the liner notes. Don’t get me wrong, I love my gadgets, but my school is old when it comes to print media. And I don’t think I’m alone.
Having said that, I do realize that there is an appetite for e-books, and the Kindle version of No Sleep Til Sudbury is with my manufacturer as we speak. Should be available very shortly.
Did you send your manuscript to publishers or was it always an independent project?
This was an independent project from the start. I was pretty headstrong about having creative control over everything, because I wanted to say what I wanted to say, y’know? I wanted the book to convey a certain tone that I wasn’t sure would come through had I handed the manuscript over to someone else. I will tell you that the entire process has been a huge learning experience though, and I’ve met a lot of people in the past year that have enlightened me in various areas of writing in general.
How long did it take you to write No Sleep Til Sudbury?
From start to finish I’d say it took probably three years.
Did you have a pattern or style of writing? ie. stay up all night hacking away at an ancient, dusty, typewriter or was it on the bus on a lap-top? etc?
Great question. The reason why it took three years was because I wrote it in tandem with my working at my regular job, which takes up a huge portion of my week. So, every Saturday from noon until about 5pm I would just lock myself away and bang it out, and I did that until I was finished. I wrote these huge chunks of ideas and then kinda shaped it all into a book. I wasn’t like a fiction novel, where I started on chapter one and it flowed through to the end. Sometimes I would come up with random ideas and type them into my phone so I didn’t forget. A good portion of the book was written on my Blackberry.
Did you ever experience writers block and/or go back and edit and re-edit certain sections?
Yeah, sometimes I would get distracted, and sometimes there was just there nothing there. I have a peculiar brain – I have to really dig deep into it to pull out all the worthwhile stuff. It’s not just instantly accessible. I wish I could say the book wrote itself, but it didn’t. And I did a lot of editing. Lots of stuff on the cutting room floor.
Did you have certain bands you listened to often while writing or did you go back and listen to the albums you were discussing?
Yes, I listened to the albums as I was writing, as it put me in the proper mindset to really articulate how I received these bands as a kid. The exception was writing that chapter where I talk about my cassette collection from high school, because the old tape player I had didn’t work anymore. Some of those cassettes are so old the player would likely have eaten them anyway (laughs).
How has initial feedback been to No Sleep Til Sudbury?
Better than I expected! Y’know, I think the toughest review I got was on your website (laughs).
The book is selling well, and people have said some really great things about it in the press and on the Amazon review sites, which is something I’m extremely appreciative of.
However, the thing about No Sleep Til Sudbury is that it’s definitely not for everybody – if you’re reading books about things like Christian Nationalism, don’t expect to be entertained.
Did any of your immediate family or circle or friends, who may have been part of the book, express surprise (good or bad) at some of the content of your life’s story?
Well, my mom’s face reddened a couple of times over the course of her reading the book, I’m sure. And when she told me that her friends read it, mine reddened too. Apparently No Sleep Til Sudbury is available in my hometown’s public library, which is a concept I’m still getting used to. People who were mentioned in the book by their real names were very gracious with allowing me to do so. I’m proud to have the friends that I do, they were incredibly supportive and continue to be so.
Have any members of bands or industry people (aside from media) contacted you and offered comments?
No, but I haven’t really advertised the book yet and it still has a long way to go in getting out there. I’ve been lucky enough to not have had any rocks thrown at me (yet). We’ll see what the future holds.
In retrospect, are there any parts you would like to go back and re-write or even delete?
Yeah, I had done a bit of that – changed names, deleted stories, you know. There are a couple of comments I’d still change, but maybe in future editions those things will be altered.
In fact, your review of No Sleep Til Sudbury touched on something I’ve reconsidered since the book was written. I had heard a track from Saxon’s newest record called "Hammer of the Gods" after I wrote the book that I ended up absolutely loving, and in turn proving myself wrong in a postulation I make in the book. Hey, at least I’ll admit it (laughs).
Do you have plans for a sequel?
I get that question a lot! Right now I’m more focused on plans in getting No Sleep Til Sudbury out there, but there may be a book’s worth of adventures in doing that. I’m doing a promotional tour with American writer Christopher Long that will take us through the southwestern U.S. in January 2013 – "Fear and Loathing in Atlanta"!
Lastly, there is an old saying that suggests, ‘everyone has a book inside them’. Now that you have released your book what was the most rewarding part of becoming a published author and telling your story to the world?
Funny you say that. One of my best friends quoted that exact saying to me years ago, and he was absolutely right – I believe everyone does have a book in them. One of the things I was focused on in writing No Sleep Til Sudbury is based on this premise, in that I wanted to explore the concept of connectivity and relation in experience. Everyone has a story, and you might be surprised at how similar our stories are despite geography, musical genre, culture, and so on.
When I launched No Sleep Til Sudbury in January, I just kinda braced for impact not knowing what would happen, but I’ve been lucky enough to receive a lot of great reviews and very kind words from people all over the world. Writers I looked up to, like Martin Popoff and Dave Ling, told me they enjoyed the book, which freaked me out a little bit. I’ve also developed some friendships with people who reached out saying they really connected with No Sleep Til Sudbury, and how their teenage lives had been eerily similar to mine. I heard that a LOT. So, this was really the most rewarding aspect for me, because this was the whole point of the book – to connect with the reader. It’s a great feeling, and it’s been a really gratifying experience so far.