Friday, September 23, 2011
Writer Musician Keith Cronin
Though he holds a bachelor's degree in music and an MBA, Keith claims to spend his free time serenading local ducks and squirrels with his ukulele. However, this prolific writer's work has appeared in numerous publications such as Carve Magazine, Amarillo Bay, The Scruffy Dog Review, Zinos, and a University of Phoenix management course. Which leads us to question his claim of having any "free time."
Accustomed to being a pen behind the scenes, the performer we hear but never know, Keith is now seeing his own debut novel, "Me Again," take life. In "Me Again," Keith explores the fragility of life and the strength of the human spirit. The main character awakens from a six year stroke-induced coma only to discover the people in his life have moved on, and he doesn't really remember what that life was. When he meets another stroke victim, the pair learns that who they were may not have been such a good thing, and that what we construe as tragedy can sometimes bestow blessings.
"Me Again" is a tale of courage and awakening told with heart and humor readers of all ages will enjoy and appreciate. Keith Cronin is clearly destined to be a major part of the literary scene… if we can just pry the drumsticks out of his hands.
Q) A significant portion of the proceeds from "Me Again" is donated to the American Stroke Association. Why have you become so involved with this particular affliction?
A) At the time I wrote "Me Again," I had no real skin in the game; it was just a "what if?" scenario that I found intriguing, exploring the intertwined paths of two young stroke victims forced to start over in life. But stroke is a terrible affliction that impacts not only its victims but also their loved ones. And it affects a huge group of people: stroke is the third leading cause of death, and the leading cause of adult disability. While I was finishing the book, I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable about using such a horrible health problem merely to entertain. So I talked to my agent, and asked if she would think I was crazy if I decided to donate 25% of whatever I made from the book to aid in fighting stroke. She posed no objection, and the decision just felt right to me.
That was back in 2008, but it would prove to be a prophetic impulse on my part. In June of this year, my longtime bandleader and friend Clarence Clemons died as the result of a massive stroke. I'm still reeling from the loss, but I'm proud to honor his memory with a book dedicated to fighting the disease that took the Big Man down.
Q) You also wrote the Comma Boy Comics, quick, witty stabs at the writing profession. Have those barbs ever come back to haunt you? http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/keithwriter/
A) (Laughs) No, at least not yet. There's a prominent literary agent who used to post a very popular anonymous blog as "Miss Snark," and she once contacted me privately to tell me she enjoyed the comic strip - even when she herself was serving as its punch line. But so far James Patterson and Clive Cussler have ignored me, which is probably a good thing. I haven't done a new comic in ages, but it was a lot of fun while it lasted, even if the humor tended toward "inside baseball."
Q) You've lived in Illinois, California, Florida, and a cruise ship. How was life on a cruise ship?
A) It was pretty surreal. Although I was born in Miami, I was raised in Springfield, Illinois (the setting for "Me Again"), and never saw an ocean until I shipped out on a seven-month contract aboard a Caribbean cruise ship in my early twenties. It took a few days to get my "sea legs," but once I got used to the constant motion, I learned to love it. I had some wonderful experiences, played drums with some great musicians and entertainers, had the obligatory passionate shipboard romance, and got the suntan of doom! Adding to the surreality of the experience, I went overnight from total poverty (graduating penniless from music school in the midst of a terrible recession) to living in luxury, where my toughest challenge was choosing between the lobster or the filet mignon for dinner.
It was also a great cultural lesson: there were something like 40 nationalities represented among the ship's crew, and Americans were in the minority - and not at all a favored minority. So that was a real wakeup call, making me aware that the jingoistic "we're number one" conditioning that we unconsciously absorb growing up in the U.S. doesn't necessarily resonate with the rest of the world. That experience made me a huge advocate of the importance of international travel, particularly for young adults. Don't get me wrong - I love the United States, but it's great to learn firsthand that our way is not the only way.
Q) Do folks confuse you with the Irish race car driver?
A) Not if they've seen me drive - I'm a major slowpoke! But it's fun to see videos of his races come up when I Google myself (something authors spend WAY too much time doing). He's got nothing to worry about from me; I'm far too nervous a driver to ever want to race anybody. I seem to be lacking The Need For Speed.
A) In some ways that funneling is good, because it can occasionally force you to step back from one discipline, and immerse yourself in the other. I think taking an occasional break from an intense pursuit is healthy, and can help you return to your work refreshed and recharged. But writing and music can also complement each other nicely. The life of a professional musician is one of hurry-up-and-wait. Traveling, sitting in airports and hotels, waiting for technical difficulties to be ironed out at soundcheck: all of these provide time for reading and writing. I did a lot of writing - and a lot of homework - while touring with Clarence Clemons. (I know this doesn't fit the image of wild rock n' roll life on the road, but going to grad school while touring in a band calls on an artist to make certain sacrifices.)
Q) Music and writing take time away from your family. What do you and your family do to stay connected and together?
A) In my case, music is a unifying factor for my family, so a lifestyle that might seem odd to others seems normal to us. My life partner is a professional singer, songwriter, producer, and photographer, so she has a firsthand appreciation of the demands of a career in the arts. And my daughter has grown up in the music business: back when her high school friends were working summer jobs at Burger King, she was working on a Springsteen tour. And now she's an attorney, starting her career in entertainment law with a ton of music business experience already under her belt. So I think it all comes down to what you're used to.
And my family has always been incredibly supportive of my writing. Historically I have let them know what I'm working on, and warned them that it will take a lot of my time and energy, but frankly they've been too busy following their own pursuits to feel slighted. There's no shortage of initiative in the family, that's for sure. And staying connected is easier than ever: after all, we're all friends on Facebook!
Q) Any parting comments for your readers?
A) I know some people are intrigued or surprised by the divergent professional paths I'm taking, but I just want to offer myself as an example of something I learned embarrassingly late in life: We are capable of doing more than one thing. For years I never believed that, and was convinced that the only way to succeed at a pursuit was to focus on it and nothing else. I was nearly 40 before I finally figured out it ain't necessarily so. So I'll leave you with this wonderful quote from one of Robert Heinlein's novels:
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
I couldn't agree more. So if you'll excuse me, I need to go plan an invasion.