Living With Music: Dean Bakopoulos
Dean Bakopoulos is the author of two novels, “Please Don’t Come Back From the Moon” and the forthcoming “My American Unhappiness.” He is now on the faculty of the M.F.A. program in creative writing and environment at Iowa State University and has just moved to Ames, Iowa.
I write while listening to music, mostly because the world beyond my headphones is too chaotic. I have a 4-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son, and a good chunk of my forthcoming novel, “My American Unhappiness,” was written in the basement with the sounds of dance parties, play dates, art projects and general rompiness pounding above my head. Music — which I could never listen to while writing before I had children — became essential to my process. Now, for each project, I create a soundtrack that encompasses the mood I’m trying to create with my fiction. I turned in a draft of “My American Unhappiness” in the fall of 2008; the next week, the publishing industry — and my publisher in particular — joined the rest of the American economy by falling into collapse mode. The small rural arts center where I was writer-in-residence fell into the red and so did every thing else that might possibly pay me. One night, having just dipped into my last thousand bucks, and having just received a withering letter of editorial criticism from a trusted mentor, I found myself requesting cash advances from my credit cards. And then I spent a bunch of money on iTunes. In the months ahead, as my manuscript languished in the inbox of my departed editor, I simply went back to work. A quirky, dark novel about the end of American optimism and entitlement became a quirkier and darker novel. A winter of rewriting amid recession-fueled panic, seasonal depression and relentless self-doubt began. Thankfully, there was always music.