The sun was shining, the birds were singing and my metal horns were flying high when Anna-Marie O’Brien rang me up recently. Author of the acclaimed, Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian, O’Brien had much to say about some of my favorite topics; reading, writing and rock & roll. This is a “highlight reel” from that conversation which may also be found below in both Audio and Video formats via SoundCloud and YouTube respectively.
It’s been said that writing a book is a labor of love. And with various publishing options available to writers today, O’Brien chose lovingly to go independent with her 2019 debut rock & roll memoir. And for the Phoenix-based author, it turned out to be the right path.
“The book, Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian had been kind of brewing in me for 20-plus years. But I went through college and grad school and I just didn’t have time to write it. I became a mom, you know, the whole thing. So finally, as I hit my early 40s, I felt like I finally had the space to tell my story and I started working on it. It took me about seven full years from the very first scratchings to getting it published. The last five of it were pretty intense. So, I decided to self-publish because I thought it was a unique story and I wasn’t ready to give it away. It’s been a great journey.”
But is self-publishing an option O’Brien would recommend to other authors?
“I think it’s a great experience, if you take the time to learn how to do it. And that’s going to be different for every author, and maybe even every book. So, I think it’s a great way to learn the business, your market — actually how to do it and how to produce — how to find an editor, a formatter, an artist for the cover design. I wanted to keep it as concise as possible. I didn’t want to lose control of the project. So that’s why I chose self-publishing for this book. And I would absolutely recommend it. But like I said, it’s going to be different for everybody.”
A compelling, personal coming-of-age story, Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian is the real-life tale of a young girl with a passion for music and books. And at 18, O’Brien roared out of her humdrum hometown to pursue her rock & roll dream. (Read my original V13 review of Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian HERE.)
“As a Midwestern kid and a product of divorce, heavy metal was kind of the masculine force in my life, where books were more of the feminine force in my life, and they both kind of raised me. I was a typical Gen-X kid like most of us are, who was kind of free-range and was allowed to explore. And heavy metal kind of hooked me. So, I moved to LA at 18 and it was basically a big survival story — surviving the struggle of LA.”
The success she achieved and the notoriety she received from Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian, soon led O’Brien to launch her own “writing coach” service — a venture that drove her to release her latest book, THE MAGIC KEY: Unlock Your Memoir, An Intuitive Guide for New Writers.
“I was compelled to write The Magic Key because over the years of doing the coaching, both as a writer and in my former career as a librarian, I worked with writers all the time. A lot of people have a lot of hang-ups about writing memoir, and it’s hard enough to get started on a book. But when you’re trying to do a memoir, especially talking about topics that are traumatic or really painful, a lot of people are hesitant. So, I wrote The Magic Key to just kind of lay it out, like it doesn’t have to be scary. You really do have to negotiate with yourself. It is an emotional process. It is a physical process. And memoir can lead to other really great things if you’re starting out as a writer. So, I think memoir is one of those big things you should tackle first as a writer, especially if you’re a little older and have some stories to tell. Because it can be a really good jumping-off point for a very rich writing career.”
O’Brien currently is developing TWO new books; LIBRARY CONFIDENTIAL: A Not So Quiet Memoir, where she reveals some of the dark underbelly of being a librarian in a public library, and The Papa Project, which she describes as a deep dive into the life of her grandfather. You can get the scoop on both of O’Brien’s exciting new projects, as well as additional qualified writing guidance and a slew of her unique, razor-sharp insights on classic heavy metal by listening to this full, fat-free episode of my V13 podcast, Conversations — online NOW.