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Two of My Greatest Loves

I want to tell you a story. A story about a story, and about a period of history that I’m crazy about. The 1960’s.

So why the sixties, you might ask?

Well, the sixties and I go way back. Not literally – I missed the decade by a couple of years, and probably wouldn’t have been old enough to appreciate them if I had been born the requisite nine months after my parents married in mid-1967.

But I ‘discovered’ them in a major revelation when I was sixteen, when I ‘discovered’ The Beatles.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’d heard plenty of sixties music before then on the radio. I grew up listening to sixties music, because it was still a huge part of radio programming in the seventies. Well, on the kind of radio station my mother listened to, anyway. (Hint: not the kind that played ACDC, the Angels or Cold Chisel!)

And I often looked on in fascination as one or the other of my parents loaded up the record player (that I was not allowed to touch, on pain of death) with something from their small collection of records.

And I also was lucky enough to see plenty of sixties TV shows, as they were still popular through my childhood and well into my teen years.

It all flowed by me rather meaninglessly until my mid-teens. Then I started watching the old Beatles cartoons from 1965/66 that came on the TV, and found I quite liked their music. Mum was tickled pink, and bought a cassette of their number one hits. Dad dug out his old reel-to-reel tape player from the same time period and a reel he had recorded for mum from the time that had the Please Please Me, Beatles For Sale and Help albums on it. And I was hooked.

I started collecting anything to do with the Beatles that I could find – cassettes, records, books, memorabilia. I also started haunting the op shops we visited for sixties clothes, and doing my hair and make-up sixties style. By the time I left home, I had quite a formidable collection of music, books and other related items.

Then I started branching out and collecting other music from the sixties. And from the fifties, as I found that appealing too. When I met the man who became my first husband in the early 90’s, he was astounded by my collection. But then, I was rather astounded by his, as he had collected masses of music on record and cassette by nearly everyone else from the fifties and sixties – except the Beatles. He said he hadn’t known where to start, considering they had such a large catalogue. It was a perfect match.

We started collecting everything over again, on CD, and built up a staggering amount of music. He was on community radio, and it wasn’t long before we had a show together, playing all our favourite music. Between us we had hundreds of CD’s, books, records and cassettes, and a fair bit of memorabilia related to music from the fifties up to the eighties.

Just a little bit of the music collection!

The marriage didn’t last. But he was happy to leave the music collection with me, as most of it was available online for him to access. It will always have a pride of place in my life, all that wonderful music and the books about it.

But that’s not all there is. I wasn’t just interested in the music, even though it was my biggest focus. I also had books about the sixties in general, and TV shows on video and DVD. I studied the decade in depth – popular culture, counter-culture, world events, war, politics, other events. For someone who wasn’t around in the sixties, I kind of know a bit about the time period.

So it seemed inevitable that one day I would want to write a story set in the sixties. Mind you, I love most periods of history – ancient times, dark ages, medieval, renaissance, modern and recent. My absolute favourites, besides the sixties, are the Tudor/Elizabethan times, leading into the renaissance, and the Victorian period. No surprise that most of my retro-fantasy stories will fall into one of those eras.

The trouble was, I hadn’t had many worthy ideas for a story set in the sixties. The decade was already so stuffed full of interesting people and events, I couldn’t think how I could possibly write something that would do my idea of it justice.

And then along came Jones. Angela Jones. Funny thing was, I originally wrote this story in a contemporary setting. I imagined it so vividly, so I wrote it as I’d imagined it, and it worked okay. And I put a healthy dash of sixties influence in the story – Ange had inherited a love of sixties music – especially the Rolling Stones – from her father. She wore her hair in a short page-boy style that wouldn’t have been out of place in that era. She liked vintage things, like the 1958 Cadillac her mother had passed down to her. And she wanted to drive Route 66 in it.

So I actually wrote the entire first book, edited it, and was ready to market it as a contemporary story. Then I wrote the second and third books. But before I got around to editing them, I started thinking about things like marketing, and author platform, and building a fan base. And I had a rethink.

It occurred to me that everything else I had in the pipeline – every novel-length work – was set in the past. I had high fantasy in a medieval setting, I had steampunk/gaslamp fantasy, I had one set in 1918, I had one set in 1941, and another that encompassed the entire 20th century. But nothing else contemporary whatsoever.

Would it have hurt my author platform and destroyed any fan base I’d built to put out a contemporary trilogy, then only historical ones? I don’t know. I wondered, and it was enough to get me thinking about possible solutions. Very quickly, the idea came to me that I could easily revise the trilogy and reset it in the sixties. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. There was no going back. I had to do it!

And what a joyful ride it was! Just like Ange, cruising along Route 66 in her vintage Cadillac, soft-top down, wind in her hair, and Steppenwolf and the Stones blaring out of her speakers. Only time will tell if I made a good decision. But I think I did. I love the unique story I’ve come up with, and I hope others will too.

Unbelievably, I found – in the process of research – a song from the sixties called ‘Angela Jones’! So that has been added to my playlist that goes along with the trilogy. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the things we love best could come together in such a wonderful – and dare I say it – groovy way!

Keep a smile on your dial until next time, and peace and love in your heart

From Lana Lea and her time-travelling muse

PS: If you're interested in seeing more, here's a link to an interview I did on ABC Open a few years back about the music collection. Just copy and paste the link into your search engine, and it should work

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