The rock star’s “mystery” fuels Jessamyn Violet’s new novel and concert tour – Orange County Register
In her debut book, Secret Rules to Being a Rockstar, Venice Beach-based musician and author Jessamyn Violet examines art, music and queer identity through the eyes of Kyla Bell, a quirky teenage keyboard player who broke into the ’90s Los Angeles rock scene years submerged.
The rock novel, which will be released on Tuesday, April 18th, is about a young woman who tries to find out who she is while chasing her dreams. Opportunities present themselves when Bell is spotted at a local show by a famous band and asked to perform with them. Instead of taking a full scholarship to college in her hometown, she puts it all behind and seeks fame.
Similarly, Violet grew up as a musician with a queer identity. She said that she and Bell share many of the same traits, but Bell is stronger in them, she claims, something Violet mentioned was “a trait I wish I had at the time.”
Violet plays drums in instrumental psychedelic rock band Movie Club, who are on their Reading Rocking Rainbow Tour later this month. The outing combines Violet’s passion for reading and music, as the outing combines book discussions with talks about culture, music in the ’90s, and live performances with other local artists and writers.
The tour begins April 18 in West Hollywood with back-to-back events. Violet will be at Book Soup at 7 p.m. to talk about the novel with comedian and writer Jacob Givens. Immediately afterwards, she will reunite with guitarist Vince Cuneo at The Viper Room to perform with Movie Club. The show starts at 9pm and also features Ohh La La and KCRW DJ Tyler Boudreaux.
“This tour with the book band was a lifelong dream,” she said in a recent phone interview. “I think it’s so exciting to break up the format of a traditional book reading and give it a more interactive vibe. I definitely plan on getting people out of the crowd to play games based on the book. For example, there’s a game where I ask someone to tell a story from their own life that proves they’re a rock star, just like Kyla, which is according to the rules in the book. The rules are printed on cards for fans to see.
“I really want everyone to get into this; I make reading cool again.”
Born and raised just outside of Boston, Mass., Violet was heavily involved in the music scene that flourished in the ’90s.
“It was a different time back then, the music scenes that we have today are different in a lot of ways, bad and good,” she said.
Similar to Bell, Violet grew up playing the keys thanks to her parents. They constantly played classical compositions by Bach and Beethoven around the house, which helped Violet with music theory and learning instrumental playing quickly.
Violet can’t help but bond with Bell, even if she’s a fiction.
“I definitely put some of myself into this character,” Violet said. “I think it’s possible for writers to write some characters that have nothing to do with who they are while adding some of their own personality. That’s the fun of writing. This is my first book I’ve written and I’ve written quite a few since then, but this was the first time I laid down all my crazy ideas while also infusing a lot of my own feelings and traits into a character like Kyla.”
Violet began writing Secret Rules to Being a Rockstar in 2009 while in grad school at California College of the Arts, with a thesis that quickly morphed into the inner workings of her debut book. She couldn’t have imagined it could come from a heavily loaded master’s project, but said she wouldn’t have wanted it any other way since she learned so much in the literature programs.
Though writing in a new decade, Violet’s love and lust for the ’90s was well represented in the book, including not just the fashion, music, and art of that era, but the rampant misogyny she witnessed at the time.
“In the ’90s we didn’t have pronouns or the vocabulary that’s there now and the incredible book scene that’s happening right now,” she said. “I’m honestly so amazed at the open arms I’ve had with this book.
“But Kyla has always had issues for me. A lot of people, myself included, struggled with their sexuality because it’s really hard to define as a teenager. It’s even more frustrating that people keep asking you to define it. And back then, margins were very limited and, like a lot of queer women, Kyla is just extraordinarily cool, and I wanted to make sure there were more stories like this.”
Movie Club Reading Rocking Rainbow Tour
If: 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 18
Where: Book Soup, 8818 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
Permit: Secret Rules to Being a Rockstar is available to purchase in-store on April 18 for $14 or pre-order at booksoup.com.
Also: Movie Club will perform after the book signing at 9 p.m. at The Viper Room, 8852 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. 21+ only. Tickets are $10-$15 at eventbrite.com.