Why did you write the book?
In the summer of 2011, I was working at 60 Minutes and taking summer classes at Georgetown, which meant I was doing a lot of reading at home. While working one night I randomly put on the Dirt album after not having heard it in a long time, and was reminded of what a good album it was. At that point, I started looking online for an Alice in Chains biography, thinking someone had written something in the years since Layne’s death. I didn’t find anything along the lines of what I was looking for. It was at that point that I first got the idea of writing it myself.
Did you do it because you’re a fan?
No. If I’d done this as a sort of fan tribute, the book would not have come out the way that it did. I approached this book the same way I would have written a biography of a president or prime minister. I think I was able to write it the way that it came out because I approached the story as an outsider, with no ties to the Seattle music community. Fun fact: before I started working on this book, I only had Dirt and Unplugged in my music collection.
How long did it take you to finish it?
I started preliminary research in July/August of 2011 and began working on the book part-time shortly after. I submitted the final draft to my editor in October of 2014. The first edition was published August 4, 2015.
How did you put it together?
The book is based on a combination of my own interviews with sources who had direct knowledge of or experience with the band, as well as hundreds of pages of public records, and a review of previously published materials. I also took five trips to Seattle to do on the ground research and reporting.
Did the band have any involvement with the book or authorize it?
I made several unsuccessful attempts to contact them while I was working on it over the course of several years. I wound up writing the book without the authorization or cooperation of the band, their record label, or their management.
How can you tell their story if they weren’t willing to talk to you?
Read the book and find out. This isn’t the first time a biography has been written without the participation of its subject.
How do they feel about the book?
You’d have to ask them.
Do you know anything about or are you involved with a possible Duff McKagan book about Alice in Chains?
The only thing I know about Duff’s possible book are his public comments about them in an interview. I would also refer you to this tweet:
— Duff McKagan (@DuffMcKagan) May 14, 2015
In other words, McKagan’s book may not even happen. I won’t say or speculate anything more unless this book is published and after I get a chance to read it.
What influenced your approach to writing this book?
By the time I started working on it, I had been in the journalism profession for nine years, and had a range of experiences on different stories in different mediums. One of the most crucial skills I developed in my career was obtaining and reviewing public records, which came in handy for this book. I also have a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, so what I learned in and out of the classroom also had a huge impact in how I operate as a journalist and writer.
As far as books, the ones that influenced me the most were:
- Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs
- Sally Bedell Smith, Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch
- Philip Norman, Shout! The Beatles In Their Generation
- Mark Bowden, Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw
- Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, All the President’s Men
Do you know anything about the unreleased Layne Staley material?
Some. I’ve written what I know about it in this blog post. If I find out any more, that post will be updated or corrected as necessary.
I’m curious to learn more about Alice in Chains or the Seattle grunge scene. Do you have any recommendations?
Check out the Bibliography section of the book or the Bonus Material section of this website, which lists books, articles, interviews and documentaries I’ve cited as source material.
What else have you written?
Besides Alice in Chains: The Untold Story, most of my past writing consists of stories published by CNN, Reuters, The Atlantic, and The Huffington Post. I also wrote sporadically at my former blog (now in suspended animation, since any future writings, posts, etc. will appear on this site). All of my writings are listed and linked to under the Articles tab on this website. In November 2016, I launched the blog Political Wilderness.
What is the correct spelling of your last name?
The correct spelling is de Sola (two words, lower case d, capitalized S).
Who is your agent?
I’m represented by Anthony Mattero at Foundry Literary + Media.
How do I contact you?
You can fill out the query form on the site. I can’t promise a response to each message but I will read them all. You can also post in the comments section of my blog posts on the site. I’m also on Twitter, Instagram, Medium and Goodreads.
If you want to request an interview, please contact my publicists:
Thomas Dunne Books
Shreve Williams Public Relations