Interview: Josie Bloss
Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: The Sarah Jane Adventures score music
Josie Bloss and I have some common interests, such as writing, acting, and playing instruments. While discussing these jobs and hobbies, we discovered that we also have some of the same favorite books, many of which happen to feature characters named after objects and places, like Turtle, Alaska, and Door. The main characters in Josie's debut novel Band Geek Love are immediately likable, but none of them are have noun-names. Josie's own experiences in marching band led her to this novel idea. Please take a listen to today's performance.
While performing in the band, Ellie feels comfortable, happy, and respected. What makes you feel like that?
When I was in high school and college, I was a lot like Ellie. I found refuge in the organized and predictable nature of band amidst the occasional chaos of adolescence and young adulthood. As an alleged grown-up, finding myself without any marching band options, I am most content and comfortable when I'm engrossed in writing. I probably feel most respected playing Wii boxing - I'm kind of awesome at it.
Was Band Geek Love your first completed novel?
Yes. Like many writers (so I've heard), I had a lot of partly-finished things laying around in my computer, and I felt overwhelmed at the prospect of completing a whole draft until I hit on a story about marching band.
How much of your real life experiences snuck into the story while you were writing it?
I wouldn't say the process was totally easy from then on out, but I sure had plenty of material from my own experiences to keep things rolling, which means a fair amount of my history snuck into the story!
What instruments do you play? Which were you trained in and which were self-taught?
I come from a very musical family. From hip-hop artists to folk singers to classically trained pianists, not to mention three generations of marching band geeks, we have it all. I started out taking piano lessons in elementary school, then in junior high and high school, I played trumpet. In college, I switched to euphonium (which is like a little tuba - I always get a lot of weird looks whenever I say that's what I played, as if people suspect that I'm making the word up) and played in marching band and various pep bands.
The euphonium is cool! There are so many unsung instruments. I knew a girl in grade school who played the samvadini at home. Have you been in bands outside of school - say, rock bands or professional orchestras? Do you still play any now for leisure or in performance?
I haven't kept up formally with anything since then, although I love singing for fun (either in the shower, during family music nights or at live band karaoke!) I haven't been in [rock bands or orchestras], though if there were a marching band for adults in my town, I would TOTALLY be there! Hmm . . . maybe I should look into forming my own�
Yes, yes, you should! Were your band uniforms neat, hideous, or somewhere in-between?
My high school uniforms weren't terrible, though we got new ones halfway through that involved bright white pants and shoes. Those were fun to try and keep clean. My college marching band uniform was, of course, the coolest thing ever. The thing that's great about marching band uniforms is that everyone in band is wearing them, so if they're hideous, at least you're all looking hideous together.
How did the regiment and routines of marching band prepare you for future responsibilities and deadlines?
How didn't it prepare me? Like any team-based activity, marching band helped me learn how to be part of a whole, how to put aside my own individual wants for a while in order to be a piece of something bigger than myself (an important experience for this only child!) With band, I was expected to be somewhere at a certain time and to act a certain way even if I didn't particularly feel like it, which is very much what the world expects out of me as an adult. You show up, you get stuff done, and you try to have fun along the way - I couldn't have asked for better training for life.
What are your favorite traditional marching band songs?
"Hail to the Victors," the fight song for my alma mater the University of Michigan, closely followed by "Let's Go Blue."
You also have a political science degree and acting experience. If you had become a lawyer, what avenue would you have taken?
Before I started seriously writing and while I was trying to decide if I wanted to be a lawyer, I worked in a couple of very large law firms employed by very large corporations. I can safely say I would NOT have taken that path if I ended up in law school, though I appreciated the experience. I probably would have been most interested in family or public interest law if I had stayed on that track.
Are you still pursuing theater?
I've just started acting again in community theater. It's been great fun, and a good way to get out from behind the computer. Acting has also been unexpectedly helpful for my writing, forcing me to think about how characters move around in a scene, how they express themselves physically, and how they speak.
I've also been trying my hand at playwriting, which has been a nice stretch for my brain after lots of journaling and novelling!
Let's bust some movie myths! I personally can't stand it when movies and television show people playing instruments incorrectly. Sure, we know that they often aren't really playing, but when a supposed flutist has both hands in the same direction, not even holding the instrument properly, I fairly flip out. What faux pas make you pause?
Oh, I'm right there with you! I absolutely hate it when there's a musician in a scene who is supposed to be playing something and his or her fingers don't even remotely match up to the notes that you hear. Seriously, no current or former musicians are hanging around the set and able to tell them how ridiculous that looks?
Also, I was generally irritated at the infamous portrayal of marching band geeks in "American Pie" (though not at the actress who played the main band geek, obviously!), and I just wish there were more stories told about marching band...like, couldn't they produce one less football movie and make a band movie instead? I suppose it's all wishful thinking, though...sigh.
What are your ten favorite books of all time?
Yikes, I knew this was coming! I'll try my best...
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
The Giver by Lois Lowry
His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman (can I count that as one?)
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland
Read my review of Band Geek Love.
Visit Josie's official website.