Page 3 of 3
BG: It would be possible to write a book like that, I'm sure. There are biographies that track people who have participated in genius for a longer stretch, whether in arts or the sciences or in other ways. But it would probably be a longer book. In our present-day economy, I capped myself at three hundred pages. Save the trees.
The L: For much of the book, Foxx's perspective is balanced by alternating chapters from the viewpoint of his wife, Betty. It seems to me that she provides for the reader the same grounding, pragmatic perspective ultimately missing from Foxx's Icarus-like trajectory. At what point in the process did you decide you needed the Betty chapters?
BG:Very early. Originally the book was even more of a duet, and Betty receded a bit because if she dominates, it's a different kind of book. But I love Betty. He doesn't always see how important she is for his sanity.
The L: Throughout the book, you offer snatches of lyrics, and describe the arrangements and melodies of Foxx's songs in detail. When you're writing about imaginary songs, what do you hear?
BG: I heard the full songs, but I am not a musician, and it turns out that the songs I heard were not necessarily the songs that came to be. Toward the end of the novel, I contacted the funk star Swamp Dogg, who had a number of critically beloved records in the early 70s, including "Total Destruction To Your Mind," and asked him if he'd like to take one song, the title song, and turn it into a real thing. He leapt at the chance, and we made the song. That was a mind-punching experience, to hear Swamp Dogg singing the song I made by imagining what people like him would be singing.
The L: There's a lot of sex and drugs, often simultaneously, in Please Step Back. Are these scenes more fun to imagine, or is there more pressure to get it right?
BG: Probably a little of both. They're probably less fun on the page than they are in real life.