About the book: 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.
“Do you know this one?” Jared asked and then started up “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones. It was one of those songs most rock guitarists learned since it was simple but a lot of fun to play. I reluctantly joined in when the chords repeated again. When he got to the chorus, I sang along too, and he grinned at me.
As the song went on, I loosened up and let myself get into the music with him, tapping my foot to the beat. We jammed on our guitars and grew louder and more ridiculous, not caring if the people in the rooms next to us complained. It was the kind of song you could easily be silly and over the top with, and by the end, we were bouncing around and belting out the words like we were drunk.
When it ended, I fell back on the bed and laughed, my pulse racing. Playing with Jared like this, banging on our guitars and singing at the top of our lungs without caring what we sounded like, it was different from playing alone or with the band or even in front of Julie and Carla. With one song, Jared had reminded me why I loved playing guitar in the first place.
He crashed on the bed next to me, and we stared at the ceiling as we caught our breath. After a minute, he propped himself up on one arm to look at me. “I’m impressed you could sing all the words to that one. Who knew piano player Maddie had this hidden punk rocker inside her?”
“No one. Before I joined the band, guitar was a secret, a guilty pleasure. Something I only did when I was alone in my room.”
He raised an eyebrow. “And yet you picked up my guitar at a party and played one of my songs like you had written it yourself.”
I covered my face with my hands and groaned. “I knew you’d bring that up eventually.”
“Hey, I’m flattered. Besides, it worked out in the end.” He trailed a finger across my arm, his touch soft, making me shiver. “I saw the real you that night, and just now I saw her again. That’s the trick. When you’re on stage, play like you do when you think no one’s watching.”
I dropped my hands to stare up at his face, so close to mine I could smell the shampoo he’d used. I wanted to kiss him so badly my body ached with it. It wasn’t just how his hair was still wet, framing his blue eyes and dark lashes, or the way the tattoos on his arms stood out against his otherwise flawless skin or how his voice made me forget everything but him. It was the Jared I discovered every time we were alone together, the one who somehow found the real me and set her free.
His hand cupped my face and his head dipped lower, lightly brushing his lips across mine. Little warning lights flashed in my head. What was I doing, lying on a bed with Jared, about to kiss him? This couldn’t happen. Not only because of what Dan had said about the producers and the show, but because I knew if I fell for Jared, I might never recover.
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, set a week after More Than Music at 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!
About the author: 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.