My First Novel

29 Jun

Hey Friends,

Ten years ago, I stood in my driveway and told my mom the news of Michael Jackson’s passing. I was surprised when both of us cried a little.

Later that day, I went to every library in my county, checking out 9 or 10 books on my childhood hero, MJ.  I started that day to research and write a new book about him. Now, ten years later, I’d like to begin sharing it with you. The book is both true to the history of MJ, and also a fictional exploration of what might have turned out differently, as MJ runs away from fame and family at age 18, to pursue musical mastery on his own terms, and hoping not to be recognized for his true identity along the way.

To write or talk about MJ is fraught with complexity. Even as his music inspires people the world around, he is almost certainly guilty of sexual abuse of children. In all my research, the work that faced this conflict most directly was Margo Jefferson’s On Michael Jackson. I highly recommend this book. Jefferson is a Pulitzer Prize winner, and can speak to Michael Jackson’s place not only in American culture at large, but also in the Black American experience.

When I finished the first draft of this book, I gave copies of the manuscript to a circle of writers, musicians and friends. A few of them mentioned that this book could live under the fan fiction umbrella. As I got hip to the genre, I discovered, where in fact there are more than 1,200 fiction stories about Michael Jackson! This was simultaneously a relief and a disappointment.

Why did I write this book? First, because on June 25 2009, the day that Michael Jackson died, I was strongly gripped by the idea that things could have turned out differently for him. His art and life contain some kind of distilled American essence: his art, his identity, his fame and struggles therein, and yes, the monstrous aspects of the man.

My book is called “I WISH THE KING”. The first chapter is largely non-fiction, and sets us up for MJ’s departure into another life. My intention was to write an inspirational book – perhaps something that a young musician could use to find their compass in life. Dan Millman’s “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” and Herman Hesse’s “Siddartha” were both templates in this regard. There are several African American characters in this book. I do not believe myself to be any kind of authority on their experience, and I tried to write those characters with respect. I hope to learn from the experience of putting this book out, so if anyone is troubled by what I’ve written, I’d be grateful to hear from you.

By and large, the book is a love letter to music, and to the musician’s path. It is my first effort as a fiction writer, and it’s definitely the work of a novice. Nevertheless, I hope you find the book to be entertaining or inspiring.  I’ll be sharing a new chapter on Wattpad every Tuesday throughout the summer.

With respect,
Chris Peck

Cover Art by Cameron Forsley:
MJ messy Cursive

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