Two weeks since its release, a recurring critique I’ve read online about my book is that it is too Layne-centric. I think it’s a valid point, and thought it would be worth explaining my creative/editorial process for why I wrote it the way that I did.
By the time I started working on the book in August of 2011, I had been in the journalism profession for nine years and was also in the middle of my second masters degree. The reason I bring this up is that during that time, I had written many stories on a range of topics, and had also read a variety of biographies and history books on different subjects. Why is this relevant? When I started working on this book, I had very strong and specific ideas about what I thought would work or would not, based on my own professional experiences as well as from what I’d read in other books.
There are lots of great (and not so great) rock biographies out there, but to the extent I had a basic model that I was aiming for, that would have been Chris Salewicz’s Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer, which I highly recommend. The book had Joe in the title and as its main character, but really it was a biography of The Clash, before, during and after the band’s heyday. I outlined my book on the same basic pattern: Layne would be the central character, and the other members would be well represented to the best of my ability. For a time, I considered calling it a biography of Layne Staley, but thought that would limit my scope too much and exclude stories about Jerry Cantrell’s solo career, Mike Starr’s post-Alice in Chains years, and the band’s comeback with William DuVall from 2006 to the present. In the end, I opted for a broader, if imperfect, focus on the band as a whole.
Also worth noting: at the time I started working on the book in 2011, I was hoping the band members and Susan Silver would eventually agree to go on the record. I had hopes for that right up until I submitted the final draft to my publisher in 2014. I very much wanted to have more information about the other band members. Ultimately you publish the story you have, not the story you wish you had.