Q&A With Adam Wilson

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Q&A With Adam Wilson 

Another author Mickey Mikkelson connected me with is Adam Wilson. Adam has a new book coming out this October of 2024 Last Of the Pops. Adams other works include Brian & Bobbi, In the Fallout, Helium, the novella What About Tuesday. Adam in a past life was a former comic editor. Adam is one of the co-publishers of Read Furiously & an award-winning comic writer. 

Q: Adam would you like to give a brief description of your upcoming novel Last Of the Pops? 

A: Sure, Last of the Pops is a graphic novel that follows five interconnected stories that all loosely center around the last ever radio broadcast. It’s a story about music and how it connects us, but it’s also a story about how change and growth can leave us feeling like an island. 

The story spans about four decades from the 1980s to the 2020s and each of the characters explores these ideas in different ways. There’s the DJ who was at the height of her popularity and watched as the radio industry was gutted and sold for parts around her. The singer who used music to escape an abusive childhood, only to discover he was just as alone in his success. And on the flip side, the young college student who just came out of the closet and finds a community for himself by auditioning to play bass in a queer punk band. And then there are two kids in a newly blended family that are struggling to adjust to their new normal and end up on a road trip together searching for supposed songs that don’t exist being broadcast all over the country on abandoned radio towers.

Q: Where did the idea for Last Of the Pops come from & what made now the right time to write & release it?

A: Music was always something adjacent to my writing, and also something I used a lot to understand the world around me. But it was rarely something I actively included in my work. Recently though, I’ve wanted to write more exploring my connection to music. 

At Read Furiously, we publish an anthology series called Life in the Garden State, which my co-publisher S. Atzeni and I contribute to and edit together. In the first two volumes, I used my pieces to explore parts of the New Jersey music scene that were important to me in my formative years, and they’re probably two of my favorite short stories I’ve written. So I really wanted to do more to look at the impact music has on people’s lives. 

That’s when I came up with the title Last of the Pops. It was a play on the Top of the Pops TV show over in the UK. I really loved the title and I couldn’t believe it’d never been used before. So I wanted to do something with it. I didn’t know what, so for a while I had a Word Doc with the title that was just a dumping ground for all the ideas I had, eventually though characters and a story started to present themselves. 

The book took a lot of different forms as I was drafting it though, and I would put it away for periods and come back to it occasionally. It wasn’t until the Pandemic that things kind of clicked into place for the book. While we were in lockdown and things were closed, a friend of mine discovered that a little bar in the town where we grew up had a Jukebox that someone didn’t turn off. It was connected to one of those mobile apps that lets you pay a dollar through your phone and pick the song it’ll play. So he started a podcast where, if you donate money to help support the restaurant workers who were out of work during the lockdown, he’d play a song of your choice on that Jukebox. He was a standup comedian, so he’d have guests come on and they’d talk and it was a really entertaining show. But all the while, even though no one was in there (not even him) to listen to them, these songs would be playing on the Jukebox to an empty bar. 

Something about that resonated with me, and I think really encapsulated a lot of what I was trying to explore with Last of the Pops. So it kind of reignited my interest in the book, like I found the piece that was missing from what I wanted to say with it. Up until that point I’d really only looked at the book as being about music and our relationship to it. But then I started to see the interpersonal aspect of the story as well, how music is such a driving factor in how we relate to each other. Even when it’s being played in an empty bar where no one can hear it. So now as we’re here in the post-pandemic world still in a lot of ways trying to fully adapt to the new normal of our everyday life, I feel like the story resonates more than it did previously.

Q: How long does it take you to write your books? 

A: Last of the Pops actually took longer than any book I’ve written before. My other graphic novels, from a writing perspective, would sometimes take me a few months or a year of writing – I mean In the Fallout I wrote the initial draft in a long weekend, going back and forth between listening to John Coltrane and Marina and the Diamonds on loop. Then between working with artists and rewrites, sometimes another six months to a year before the book is finished. But Last of the Pops was different. Last of the Pops took almost 5 years to write. 

I think that makes sense for it to take so long though. With my first two books, Brian & Bobbi and In the Fallout, they were written in my twenties, they had a very distinct (and very young) voice. I’m not that person anymore, so I don’t sound like that anymore. With Helium you can kind of see me trying to transition into something new – though when I read it I see a different person still trying to write in my younger voice. Last of the Pops is really a shift in my writing. 

I wanted to take more chances with the book, do something very different and really challenge myself. So with Last of the Pops I actually didn’t approach it as just a graphic novel, I also tried to write it as an epistolary novel where I don’t rely on dialog within the page to help push the story along. Instead I wanted to try and tell the story in three different ways. 

There were the visual scenes that played out on the page, the narrative storytelling that was done through a collection of letters, podcast transcripts, interviews, email newsletters, and then there was the interplay between the visual and storytelling components, how they complimented or contradicted what the reader was seeing. 

It’s a lot of interplay and experimentation and really made me think about comics in a new way. But I think in the end, it was really worth it, and I’m really proud of how it turned out. Especially because, as I was writing Last of the Pops, I did a lot of research about comic storytelling and epistolary storytelling, and from what I’ve found there really aren’t any books out there that have tried to combine the two on a scale that Last of the Pops has done. So I hope people will really enjoy it.

Q: If you are currently writing your next new book, is it similar to Last Of the Pops?

A: Well, Last of the Pops is set to be released in October, so right now I’m still very focused on that and going through all the final work to get that ready for its release. But, in the meantime, I have also started work on my next project. S. Atzeni and I have started work on the third volume of Life in the Garden State. With the past two installments we’ve gotten the chance to work with some incredibly talented authors, so we’re really excited to get going on that again.