My very first novel called Resurrection, Inc. was entirely inspired by the Rush album Grace Under Pressure, and I put that in the acknowledgements of the book when it was published in 1988. I signed copies and mailed them off to the members of Rush. I just kind of forgot about it for a year. Then, one day I came home and opened up my mailbox and found that I had a seven-page letter and they’re from Neil Peart who had read the novel and really enjoyed it. So, this has been a long-time coming. He reads a lot of my stuff and of course, I’ve listened to all of their music.
Neil and I wrote a short story together called “Drumbeats” and then he wrote the introduction to one of my short-story collections. W’ve always wanted to do something a little bit more substantial, something that really brought my writing together with the lyrics and stories he told of his music. When Rush was developing their new album called “Clockwork Angels,” it was a big steam-punk fantasy adventure that had a young man going through this fantastical landscape, but there’s this villain called the “Anarchist” who wanted to destroy order in the world. And there is a big-brother type controlling figure called the “Watchmaker” who wanted to keep everything running perfectly in order and rigidly controlled. There were airships, and alchemy, and lost cities and wonderful stuff like that Neil was developing as parts of his songs and as part of the overall structure of the album.
He and I started talking about it as a more detailed story and I was looking at it as a novel writer about how does he get from point A to point B and what changes his attitude to go here and how does this wrap to come there. We decided that it would be a great project to do a novel version of the album.
The album already has a story in it, but the songs in the album are just little snapshots. It’s almost like the quick scenes in a movie trailer. You might get the overall impression of what the story is, but you don’t get all the nitty-gritty details. So, Neil and I went to Colorado and during one of their concerts out here, we spent a day climbing a 14,000-foot mountain—because what else do you do in your day off?
We were brainstorming the real details about the character and the specifics of his journey and how things would all tie together. Neil had already sent me the lyrics he was writing and he kept sending them to me as he finished them up. So, I started to work on that then we got the story and then I applied my story architect skill. Once we were ready, once the album was nearly finished, I got to listen to the rough cuts of all the songs. To me, that was really important to hear the actual songs rather than just reading the lyrics because it’s like a different delivery method.