Thursday, August 13, 2020

Q&A with Kathy Valentine

Kathy Valentine is the author of the new memoir All I Ever Wanted. A member of the famed all-female band The Go-Gos, she is based in Texas. 

Q: In the book, you say of the idea of writing a memoir, “I had to write it, moved by a force very different from the one behind all the songs and music written and played throughout my career.” Can you say more about what compelled you to write the book?

A: I felt I  had a compelling story to tell, and that it was important to get women in music and rock and roll stories out there. And in terms of the greater context: what made me go into music, and the context of the band’s success.

Women musicians talking about music is not common—I talk about my influences, how I felt about playing music, what it was like to go on stage, and to feel empowered for the first time.

There was also the other side. I was very interested in exploring being a writer further. I felt my initial book had to be a memoir, a story only I could tell. I felt it would open the door to my being perceived and accepted as a writer.

Q: You describe the musician Suzi Quatro as an influence on you—what impact did she have on your life and career?

A: Since the book’s been out, it’s coincided with a magnification of her own role in music. She had a documentary out, and we’ve become friends. It’s been a wonderful outcome.

She was the one who showed me women could be musicians in a band. I hadn’t seen that. With the advent of the internet and YouTube I learned there were a lot of bands in the ‘60s [that included women]. It’s not like there weren’t, but it wasn’t part of my knowledge [at the time]. Women were either front people or rock singers or folk singers.

I was aware of Heart, but mostly it was the guy doing the rock and roll stuff. There were women, but they were not doing what I wanted, until I saw Suzi Quatro.

Q: How would you describe your relationship with your four bandmates during the time you write about? Are you in touch with them now?

A: We were just on a Zoom call doing an interview for a documentary. I’ve been out of the band for almost five years. I was fired, and we’d gone through a lengthy and terrible divorce.

Most people would think I’d be writing a hit piece, but that wasn’t what I wanted to write. I felt that whatever was happening now, I wasn’t going to let it destroy the celebrity and the achievements we had. We let it go and moved forward. There had been a lot of toxicity and dysfunction.

We’re in touch almost daily with the documentary coming out, and a tour might happen next summer, I’m not sure. We’re in a very good place. When I wrote the book, I was not in the group but that did not affect my feelings about what this band was. I wasn’t going to let what happened in 2012 poison what happened in the 1980s.

Q: You also recount your experiences with addiction. What do you hope readers take away from that aspect of the book?

A: For a while, I was active on Facebook. On my sober anniversary I would write something about my sobriety. It got hundreds of responses and I’ve had dozens of private messages over the years from people saying it helped them.

I knew that talking about getting clean and sober had an effect, and it was a very important part of my story. Me being a changed person—for the story arc, that had to happen. I came out changed, and sobriety was the impetus for my change. It was very important to write about that, and it ended the arc of the story very well. I got to do the Go-Gos again in a more mature way without all the craziness.

Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: I didn’t have a title for a while. It drove me crazy. When I write a song, the title is the lighthouse, keeping it on track. I was keeping a list of titles, and that was one of them. It’s a line from my biggest hit, “Vacation,” and all I ever wanted was to be in a band, to be a musician, to be part of a sisterhood.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: As soon as Covid started, I thought I’d start my next book. I wasn’t sure what to write—I wanted to write a second memoir. I felt I have another compelling story. That is in the works. I’ve started writing with that in mind.

Recently I started looking at a collection of short stories I’ve done over 10 years. I’m feeling very excited and motivated for that to be the next book, and I would like that [also] to be a soundtrack. I loved making the soundtrack to the memoir. I like to keep that literary-musical drive.

There’s definitely enough to get me started on shaping them. I need to do a proposal and pitch it to a publisher. The memoir was well-received, and I’m hoping with one book under my belt, I’d get consideration for this—and that [the memoir] would establish that there’s a legitimacy to my writing ambitions. It’s not just mining my own life.

The main thing is that it makes me feel excited. I can’t wait to work on it!

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I would like to tell people is that you don’t have to be a Go-Gos fan to relate to the book. I wrote the book from the idea of a literary memoir, for someone who likes that genre. I urge readers who are fans of the genre not to discount it. And I hope Go-Gos fans like it too!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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