Last month we were fortunate enough to interview Jeremy Holt, writer of indie titles such as Southern Dog and Cobble Hill, about his upcoming book Skip To The End. The book has been a bit of a passion project of Jeremy’s, and in the short time I’ve been speaking to him about its lengthy production I got the feeling he’s extremely excited to see it finally grace store shelves. The book isn’t out for another week, and this interview is spoiler-free.
DYECB: Hi Jeremy!
Jeremy Holt: Yo!
DYECB: So, you’re working full time these days? How do you find the time to fit your writing around that kind of schedule?
Jeremy: Yup. Full-time. I usually allocate three hours a day during the week to write. All day on the weekends. My wife is fairly understanding about it. It’s all about carving out a routine, just like exercise. Do it consistently for four weeks, and it’ll become more of a reflex than a conscious decision. The hard part for me is getting back into it when I’ve taken time off. Had some major setbacks with a novel that I spent most of last year writing. That took all the wind out of my sails. Haven’t written much in the past couple months. Turned focus to pitching some new comic projects,
Jeremy: Hmm… hard to say at this point. I think the seed of the idea has been with me for a very long time. Probably when I first heard a song that instantly transported me to a specific time and place. So high school maybe? That was the original concept, that music is a form of time travel. I’ve always believed that this will be the closest that I’ll ever get to experiencing it in my lifetime. From there I started thinking more deeply about the memories connected to specific songs in my life. I eventually became obsessed with Nirvana, and I think about Kurt a lot. I couldn’t help but think if one of the surviving members of the band could go back in time to save him, would they? And what would that be like?
DYECB: Are the band members in Samsara, the band featured in the book, meant to be exact parallels to Nirvana, or are they meant to be more like creative influences?
Jeremy: The parallels are definitely deliberate, but Nirvana’s history and legend is meant to serve as more of an allegory. Samsara’s bassist, and the protagonist of STTE, is completely fictionalized.
DYECB: What gave you the idea for the character of Jonny? Was it that desire you mentioned earlier to go back in time and save Kurt Cobain?
Jeremy: I think so. At least that’s how it started out for me. I spent two years conducting in-depth research about the band’s history, and Kurt’s life. This led me to A.A. meetings in musty church basements, all the way to visiting Cobain’s former mansion along Lake Washington Blvd. The initial story focused on a fictionalized version of Kurt, but I eventually realized that this couldn’t only be about him. There is just too much out there that tries to explain and/or justify the choices that led to his fame and ultimately his death. This story had to be more accessible than that, so I shifted focus onto the bassist because Krist Novoselic is the least known member of the band.
DYECB: You actually attended A.A. meetings for the book?
Jeremy: I did. It was actually recommended by my brother. He’s a doctor who focuses on opioid addiction, and informed me that there are Open Discussion formatted meetings that welcome respectful observers. Not being an addict myself, this was an invaluable experience.
DYECB: Well, nobody can say you didn’t do your research. Why was it so important for you to focus on opioid addiction in the story?
Jeremy: I wanted to explore the complexities of addiction, and the many forms that they can assume. For Jonny, music was his entire world, but now drugs are. I wanted to try and tell a redemption story of sorts.
DYECB: So, obviously, Nirvana is a big influence for the book, but grunge rock itself and its fans are touched upon at several points in the story. Did you have a certain soundtrack in mind when writing it?
Jeremy: This is probably the most boring answer, but Nirvana. I listened to the band’s entire discography on loop for two years. Everything that has ever been released by them I’ve listened to. My poor wife. She now sort of hates hearing them. Sometimes I’d mix it up by listening to all of the Sub Pop bands of the 80s and early 90s. The Melvins, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, Tad, Soundgarden, etc.
DYECB: The band’s breakout song, Skip To The End, is that based on any one specific Nirvana track?
Jeremy: Not really, but I think if it was ever to be recorded, I sort of imagine it sounding like ‘In Bloom’ or ‘Heart-Shaped Box.’ I do have to give a shout-out to my buddy John Merchant. He was my music guru in college, and exposed me to so much great stuff. He was the one that wrote the lyrics for the song, and did a great job.
DYECB: I have to say, I’d like to hear what Skip To The End would actually sound like. Maybe in ten years when you re-release the book, John should record the track himself.
Jeremy: Hah! That’d be awesome. He’s actually a very talented musician too. When we, and all of our friends from college, moved to NYC, he formed a band called Cinemasophia. Saw them a few times. They were great.
DYECB: So this the second time you’ve worked with Alex Diotto since your work together on Southern Dog. What made you two work together again on Skip To The End?
Jeremy: That’s a good question. I think his style perfectly compliments the story, but really it was more about availability. I pitched him the idea, and not only did he love it he was ready to start work on it right away. Over the past four or five years, we’ve developed a trust that makes it a lot of fun to work together. I’m very lucky that the timing was in the project’s favor. He too had to do research, which I was more than happy to help him with. He’s a young guy, 26, I think? I sent him tons of reference images of the band, the fashions of that decade, and live performances.
DYECB: So what are your plans moving forward? Are you going to take a break after the book is released, or are there any future projects you’re gearing up to write?
Jeremy: I’ll keep working like I’ve always done. We finished work on the book over a year ago now. It’s just taken some time for the book to release. I spent most of last year writing purely prose stuff. Managed to finish first drafts on two novels, but will be throwing one of them out, and starting over. I do have a couple new comic book pitches that are out to editors right now, so all the fingers crossed. I’m looking forward to getting to work on one of them if we get the green light. Oh, I should also mention that I have another graphic novel that’ll be out in October. It’ll be through the same publisher (Insight Comics), and will be a two-book series entitled After Houdini and Before Houdini.
DYECB: Well we look forward to reviewing it at DYECB when it’s out, too! Thank you very much for your time today, Jeremy. And congratulations on the book.
Jeremy: Thanks, Lewis. And thank you for your interest and support!
We’ll be posting our review of Skip To The End on the 11th of this month, so keep your eyes peeled for that. If you fancy following Jeremy on Twitter you can find his page here, or if you fancy learning a little more about the book (and maybe pre-ordering while you’re there, wink wink) you can find that link here.