Sunday, 21 April 2013

Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer by Brian Sweany

Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer by Brian Sweany

Published by and available from The Writer's Coffee Shop

Follow on Twitter using @briansweany and @TWCS_pubhouse


Hank Fitzpatrick’s life is what you might expect from a man-child stumbling his way through and beyond adolescence in the late 1980s in small town Indiana: hypersexual, drunk, stoned, prone to fits of spontaneous masturbation, occasionally Catholic, and accidentally well-intentioned. His life is in perpetual conflict as he confuses sex for love, heartache for passion, desperation for honesty, and abuse for affection.
Caught in the crossfire of raging hormones, bad decisions and family tragedy, Hank is just a boy not yet ready to be a man. And like many boys growing up, Hank is desperate to impress his father. The impossibly perfect patriarch of the family, John Fitzpatrick decides at age forty-two he wants to have a vasectomy reversal. Is Hank ready to be a brother again at age seventeen? What about his mother’s narcotics and gimlet-soaked uterus? A child will come of this, but not without consequences.
Laura is Hank’s first true love. From their stolen nights together as high-school sweethearts to their final encounter as twentysomething adults, they never figure out how to stop hurting one another. Beth, the girl who loves Hank unconditionally, can only wait for so long before longing turns to regret. But everything will be okay as long as Hank’s best friend Hatch is there to help him exorcise his demons with a half-gallon of bourbon and a bottle of cough syrup.
Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer is more than just a tribute to the last uninhibited pre-9/11, pre-Facebook generation. It’s a comedy. It’s a tragedy. It’s a love story. It’s a subversive yet empathetic, warts-and-all portrait rooted in real-life that kids will read behind their parents’ backs. And if somewhere along the way we can all share in the redemptive power of a belly dancer’s love…well, that’s okay, too.
Author Bio

Since 2000, Brian Sweany has been the Director of Acquisitions for Recorded Books, one of the world's largest audiobook publishers. Prior to that he edited cookbooks and computer manuals and claims to have saved a major pharmaceutical company from being crippled by the Y2K bug. Brian has a BS in English from Eastern Michigan University, from which he graduated magna cum laude in 1995. He's a retired semi-professional student, with stopovers at Wabash College—the all-male school that reputedly fired Ezra Pound from its faculty for having sex with a prostitute, Marian University—the former all-female school founded by Franciscan nuns that, if you don't count Brian's expulsion, has fired no one of consequence and is relatively prostitute-free, and Indiana University via a high school honors course he has no recollection of ever attending.
Brian has spent most of his life in the Midwest and now lives near Indianapolis with his wife, three children, and a neurotic Husky/Border mix named Hank. He’s currently working on his next project, Making Out with Blowfish, which is the sequel to Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer and the second book in a planned trilogy. For future details, check out the author’s website at:
Interview with Brian
First Up... I'd like to wish Brian a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! He turns 42 today, has a new book being released in a few days... exciting times really.

So, it's your birthday, how do you plan to celebrate?

For my birthday I'll probably end up at my favourite local microbrewery taproom, and close the night with homemade chocolate cake with whipped cream icing, although my wife Robin has been known to surprise me.

If you gave one of your characters an opportunity to speak for themselves, what would they say?

My protagonist, Hank, would bask in the adulation. If he was talking to a woman, he would say something inappropriate that much to your dismay you couldn't help but find endearing, and all the while he'd be wondering what your calves or feet looked like. If you happened to be a man, he probably wouldn't trust you enough to say anything or else talk too much just to prove how much smarter he was than you.

Do you have plans for a new book?   Is this book part of a series?

I'm almost finished with MAKING OUT WITH BLOWFISH, which is the sequel to EXOTIC MUSIC OF THE BELLY DANCER. My deadline to have a finished manuscript to my editor is June 1, so I better be almost finished. The plan is for this series to be a trilogy.
What books have influenced your writing?

Tough list to narrow down. The ones that come immediately to mind without having to think about it are Hunter S. Thompson's FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, J.D. Salinger's CATCHER IN THE RYE, Ken Kesey's ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, Kurt Vonnegut's SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, John Irving's THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP,  Rob Thomas's RATS SAW GOD, Chuck Palahniuk's FIGHT CLUB, Dave Eggers' A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS, and Stephen Chbosky's THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.

Is there an Author that you would really like to meet?

I actually work in publishing and have met a lot of my favorite writers, including Alice Walker, James Lee Burke, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Franzen and Chuck Palahniuk. Of those I haven't met, Dave Eggers easily tops the list. Of those who are no longer with us, I would have loved to sit at a round table with Vonnegut, Hunter and Hemingway and a bottle of expensive bourbon.

Do you prefer ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?

I prefer reading paperbacks and smelling hardbacks, although I work on the acquisitions side of publishing and certainly prefer carrying around twenty e-galleys to twenty physical galleys. Then again, if the airlines just allowed me to use my e-reader during takeoff, landing and taxiing, I might never again buy a physical book.

What book would you like to read again?

Ernest Hemingway's THE SUN ALSO RISES. Read it in my early 20s. It's generally regarded as Papa's best book, but for some reason I don't remember it that way. 

I'd like to re-read Robert Pirsig's ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE and David Foster Wallace's INFINITE JEST, but that would require me getting through them for a first time, something I've failed to do on multiple occasions.

Is there a particular movie that you preferred over the book version?


What book are you currently reading?

Michael Sullivan's THE THEFT OF SWORDS, book one of a new fantasy trilogy. After reading literary fiction almost exclusively for about ten years--Philip Roth, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jeffrey Eugenides, etc.--I've recently circled back to sci-fi/fantasy, which is really the genre that turned me into an avid reader back in my teens. When I was supposed to be learning Shakespeare, I was worshiping Isaac Asimov.

Are there any Authors that have grasped your interest recently and why?

Basically any male author who's still trying to do something ambitious, grand and muscular with the American novel: Philip Meyer, Brady Udall and Pete Dexter come to mind.

Who designed the cover of your book and what is the story behind the cover design?

The cover was pretty much my baby, although I credit designer Jennifer McGuire at The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House for taking my idea and running with it.

The title of my novel is taken from the title of an actual belly dancing album from the 1950s called Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer by Mohammed El Bakkar. I managed to track down the rights to the artwork for the original album. In fact, the first draft of my book described  that original art:

A voluptuous belly dancer shimmied up the left side of the album cover, her hands raised above her head and her right hip thrusting out. The album’s title bar cut off the belly dancer’s face at the chin and her raised arms just above the elbows, giving her an air of mystery. A shadow covered half of the belly dancer’s body like a question mark, bisecting her creamy-white skin at the navel, running up from her waist, around the bottom of her left breast and then across her underarms and chin. Below her navel she wore a multi-layered silk skirt fastened low on her hips with a pearl-encrusted belt, all of the ensemble in various shades of gold to match her pasties. The pasties themselves were pointed teacups. Shiny, metallic moons ending in gold tassels that crowned the smoothest, most perfectly rounded breasts I’d ever seen. They became the standard by which all breasts were compared for the rest of my life. 

While I was talking to the record company that owned this art, however,  I came across the work of Malaysian photographer Han Ghazi. She had taken this photograph of a belly dancer's shimmy skirt that immediately captivated me. I took a simple straw poll of family,  friends and my publishing peers, and Han's photograph won out.  And so, my "new" belly dancer was born:

The album’s title bar cut off the belly dancer’s face, giving her an air of mystery. She appeared in profile on the cover, her body in the near-perfect shape of a question mark. She was voluptuous and shirtless, silvery metallic cups crowning her smooth, bronzed breasts. Her abdomen muscles ran in a faint vertical line from her breasts to her navel. Below her navel she wore a small, red shimmy skirt fastened low on her hips and covered in dangling silver coins that matched her pasties. Finally, one solitary hand motioned behind her, fingers cupped and turned outward as if she was beckoning me to follow her.

I like that Han's photo is more subtle and mysterious than the original art. Building on this mystery, I tilted the image on its side so that at first glance you might not even recognize the belly dancer image. Given that my writing leaves little to the imagination, I wanted my cover to be purposely less suggestive. Although it's entirely a coincidence that my publisher is the same one that discovered and launched E.L. James, I would point out that FIFTY SHADES OF GREY has this same less-is-more approach with its ubiquitous neck tie cover. 

What do you have coming out next? 

MAKING OUT WITH BLOWFISH , the sequel to EMOTB, is slated for a March 2014 publication. It picks up where EMOTB leaves off, taking the protagonist Hank Fitzpatrick from his early 20s into his late 30s. It's less of a coming of age novel than EMOTB and more of a  "fear and loathing in the burbs" book like Tom Perrotta's LITTLE CHILDREN.

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