Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Series: Chasing the Dream #1
Release date: June 17th 2014
Series: Chasing the Dream #1
Release date: June 17th 2014
Music major Maddie Taylor seems to have her life all figured out. She’s just finished her junior year of college, has a summer internship lined up with the LA Philharmonic, and plans to go to grad school to write movie scores. Only her roommates know she practices guitar every night and secretly dreams of a louder life. But geeky girls like her don't get to be rock stars.
Tattooed singer Jared Cross has a new girl every week, but when he catches Maddie playing one of his songs, she attracts his attention in an unexpected way. His band needs a fourth member for The Sound, a reality TV show competition—and he wants her. Though Maddie refuses to be another notch on Jared’s bedpost, she agrees to risk everything for the chance to be a rock star.
Once on the show, Maddie discovers there’s more to Jared behind his flirty smile, and with each performance their attraction becomes impossible to ignore. When the show pressures Jared to flaunt his player image, they’re forced to keep their relationship secret, but Maddie can’t help but want something real.
As the competition heats up, Jared will do whatever it takes for his band to win, and Maddie must decide if following her dream is worth losing her heart.
With a book called More Than Music, it’s obvious that music will be pretty important to the story – and not just because the characters play songs on a reality TV show. Maddie and Jared bond over their shared love of rock music, and at one point Maddie realizes: “Jared was the first guy who truly got me, who understood that music coursed through my blood and crept into every single thought – because he was exactly the same way.”
In More Than Music, Maddie and Jared go on a show called The Sound, which is a lot like The Voice but with bands instead of individual singers. Two of the songs they perform on the show are "Somebody Told Me" by The Killers and "Uprising" by Muse. I love the guitar in both these songs and thought they would be fun for Maddie to play, plus they have great vocals I can imagine Jared belting out.
When not on the show, Maddie and Jared also play songs for fun in their spare time. One of these is "Blitzkrieg Bop" by The Ramones, which they practice together in his hotel room, while he's trying to show her how to loosen up on stage. I chose this song because it's a punk classic that is easy to play but also really fun. In fact, I like to use it as a warm-up when I play guitar. Hey! Ho! Let's Go!
Jared also likes to sing to Maddie, and at one point sings "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" by My Chemical Romance to cheer her up before their audition on The Sound. This song then becomes a running theme for them throughout the entire book.
Another song that Jared sings to Maddie is “Stay” by Rihanna, which leads to things getting a bit steamy...because what girl wouldn't melt hearing a guy sing this to her? I was actually inspired by the cover of “Stay” by Thirty Seconds To Mars, along with their version of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance.” That song starts out as something that Jared and Maddie sing together for fun and later becomes pretty important in the book. I knew I had to use this song after hearing Jared Leto sing, "I don't want to be friends."
So now when you read certain scenes in the book you can also listen to those songs and watch those videos for the full experience!
Where did you get the idea for More Than Music?
I went to high school for a short time with Adam Levine and Maroon 5, back when they were called Kara’s Flowers. They played at our school dances and I sat behind them in class and was completely in love with them. Of course, they had no idea I existed! Many years later I saw Adam Levine on The Voice, and had the idea of a geeky girl joining an up-and-coming rock band at her school and going on a show like The Voice, and the book grew from that.
What kind of research did you do for More Than Music?
Most of the research I did was on the music in the book, because I really wanted to get that right. I play the guitar but I’m not great at it because I don’t have time to practice regularly. Still, I tried to learn many of the songs that Maddie performs so I could describe the way it feels when you’re actually playing them. I studied a lot of guitar tutorials, live performances by the original bands, and covers by other bands. I also watched documentaries on what it’s like to be in a band, especially in high stress situations. And of course, I watched many episodes of The Voice!
How did you pick the songs in More Than Music?
I tried to pick songs that are well-known because I wanted anyone who is a fan of rock music to recognize most of them by name (especially since I couldn’t include lyrics due to copyright issues). I also chose songs that reflect what the characters are experiencing in the book, so that each song is like background music for what Maddie and Jared are going through.
The show in More Than Music is obviously based on The Voice, but were any of the characters based on particular celebrities?
None of the characters were based on any particular celebrity, but many characters were loosely inspired by them. The most obvious one is Jared, who was named after Jared Leto, the singer of Thirty Seconds To Mars. Both Jareds are flirty, talented, and hard-working, but also pretty down-to-earth – and both have brothers in their bands, too. And the mentors on the show were inspired by lots of different musicians all rolled into one. For example, Dan was loosely based on Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, and Chris Cornell, but also had a little Adam Levine and Blake Shelton in him, too.
What’s next in the Chasing the Dream series?
First up is Kyle’s prequel novella, More Than Exes, set at the Battle of the Bands that leads to the gig at the beginning of More Than Music. Next will be Hector’s novella More Than Comics, set a week after More Than Music Comic-Con. After that, I’ll be writing books about Maddie’s best friends Julie and Carla, but you’ll have to wait a little longer for info on those, sorry!
“I need your help,” Jared said, fixing an intense gaze on me. “We have a live audition tomorrow for The Sound. Problem is, our bassist quit last night, and we need a fourth member of the band.”
“What?” Was he saying what I thought he was saying? No. Impossible.
“I know—worst timing ever. Can you play bass by any chance?”
His face fell for an instant, and some reckless part of me wanted to lie and say yes or promise him I’d learn. How hard could it be to learn the bass if I knew how to play guitar, right? Though I immediately realized how dumb that idea was because a) I could never learn bass in time for an audition tomorrow; b) I shouldn’t care about making Jared happy, even if his disappointed face broke my heart; and c) none of that mattered because he couldn’t possibly be asking me to join his band anyway.
“That’s okay,” he said. “I can play bass, and you can play guitar. It’ll work.” His smile lit up his face again, with a look that could charm any girl lucky enough to bask in it. Right now, that girl was me. “So what do you think?”
Jared was asking me—me—to play guitar in his band. In an audition on live TV. In front of four of the greatest musicians ever, plus millions of people at home. Mind. Blown. Somehow I’d been handed my secret dream on a silver platter. Next up, Jared would ask me out, too. Yeah, and then we’d ride off into the sunset on a rainbow unicorn with our million-dollar record deal.
“You want me to join your band?” I asked slowly, studying him for any sign that this was all a joke.
“Just for the audition. That should give us enough time to find another bass player to take Becca’s place.”
Ah, there was the catch. I would only play with them for one day, giving me a tiny taste of their lifestyle, and then they’d drop me as soon as the audition was over. No, better to never know what it would be like to play guitar on stage, to be part of a band, to make music with Jared and Kyle. Besides, I couldn’t play guitar in front of the world. Guitar was my secret, my fun escape, and nothing more. My internship started on Monday, and I needed to focus on that—not on silly dreams of being a rock star.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t.” I spun around and rushed toward the exit before he could respond. I didn’t want him to see my face and how much I desperately wanted to do it.
“Wait!” He ran after me, but I kept going, past other students who watched us with curiosity. “Maddie, wait!”
Damn his long legs. He caught up to me, practically jumping in front of me to stop me in my tracks. I kept my face glued to the floor, to the contrast of his black combat boots and my green Converse. I couldn’t look up at him or I’d be tempted to say yes to anything.
He lowered his voice. “Please, you’re the only person who can help us. You’re an amazing guitarist, and you already know our songs. We need you.”
I shook my head, looking anywhere but at him. Hearing him say he needed me with his whiskey-chocolate-sex voice made my legs a bit shaky, but what he was asking for? It was too much.
Jared got down on his knees, right in the middle of the hallway, and everyone stopped to watch us. He raised his hands like he was begging. “Please, this is our one chance, but without a fourth member, we can’t do it. You’re perfect and it’ll only be for a day, and then I’ll owe you. I’ll do anything you want.” He topped it off with a grin. “Help me, Maddie Taylor, you’re my only hope.”
Damn. How could I say no to a Star Wars reference from a hot guy on his knees? The word slipped out before I could stop it. “Okay.”
Elizabeth Briggs is a full-time geek who writes books for teens and adults. She plays the guitar, mentors at-risk teens, and volunteers with a dog rescue group. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and a pack of small, fluffy dogs.