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Throughout his 20-year career as the frontman of Every Time I Die, Keith Buckley has been celebrated for his challenging and pensive lyrics. The singer has an English degree and is known for his love of books.
In 2016, Buckley released his first novel, “Scale,” and he has now penned a follow-up entitled “Watch.” The new book follows John Harvey on his quest to get revenge on the concept of time. After numerous tragedies happen in his life, Harvey realizes that every one can be traced to a specific moment of time on his watch. Upon this realization, the character smashes all the representations of time around him: his watch, his clock radio, his hanging clock, and the microwave. He decides to live unbound by time itself, continually ending up in a bar or idling in a swirling storm of hopelessness.
Is this a novel about Buckley’s life and experiences?
“I knew that I wanted to tell a story this time. I was obviously basing a little off of what I was going through in the Low Teens process, like what would happen if things went the other way. I didn’t put my emotions into it; in fact, that was taken out a lot, because I knew it was interrupting the storytelling part. It was too much of me in it, and I didn’t want that. It was all of me in ‘Scale,’ and I didn’t want that again. I realized that this guy, [John Harvey], isn’t me. This is not my family; it’s not anything about me. It’s just a story. It’s about the human hopelessness that everyone experiences.”
How does writing a novel compare to writing lyrics?
“It comes from a completely different part. You have to tune in to something different. I don’t worry about writing lyrics. Although I may not feel inspired at the moment, I know the second I sit down to write lyrics, something is going to happen. I don’t take it for granted, but it’s part of the process I have gotten familiar with from being in the band.”
“You just have to write, whether or not you have an idea. It’s something that I have found with writing a book. I wake up, I sit down and open the computer and just write. When you do it for days on end where nothing is happening—maybe a sentence or two—it can feel like your goal and where you want to be at the Olympics, but you are only doing a push-up and another push-up. The next day, maybe you do one sit-up. You think, ‘OK, I’m not going to make it anywhere at this rate,’ and it feels hopeless. Then, one day, something just clicks, and you see a similarity with something you wrote three weeks ago. These patterns start to form, and all of a sudden, you’re looking at it a little closer. You’re less removed from it.”
Does Buckley have any advice for aspiring authors?
“Just do it. Google any publisher you can and finish your manuscript and send it everywhere. Expect to hear a lot of ‘no’s. Don’t take it personally and don’t self-publish. You really need to have an editor with you, and you really need people telling you what’s wrong with your work so you can better yourself. Find someone who will take your stuff and tell you what is wrong with it. Listen when people tell you what’s wrong and try to get better.”
And what about his main character?
“I think he is just so content with being victimized. Everything in John’s life happens to him, and he doesn’t realize it’s because of who he is. He wasn’t paying attention to all these signs of where things were going. He doesn’t pay attention to anything, because he is a victim and he believes that everything is happening to him. It is all surprising him, and he never sees it coming. That’s the whole theme of the book: he doesn’t see it coming, but he should see it coming. He’s arrogant—that’s his character flaw.”
“Watch” is a wonderful read. It’s ghastly, reflective, and horrible, hellbent on presenting the reader with the knowledge that they’re watching someone struggle—especially in a beautiful scene at the end that depicts exactly what kind of person John Harvey is. It feels cultish and brash, but it dials in on the perspective of hopelessness and whether it’s possible to flip the narrative for the better of one’s life.