Recently KISS ASYLUM took a moment to catch up with Dale Sherman, author of KISS books "Black Diamond" and "Black Diamond 2", to talk about what Dale has been up to and about his upcoming KISS book project "A World Without Heroes." For those unfamiliar with "A World Without Heroes," it was first introduced to the Internet as an online novel here at KISS ASYLUM, and now with the help of MusiCare Online has been turned into a full blown novel and soundtrack with the sales proceeds going to cancer research in Eric Carr's name. Dale talks about all this and more in his latest KISS ASYLUM interview!.
KA: Tell us a bit about yourself, how you became a KISS fan and about your 2 KISS books.
Well, there's not much more than what people probably already know about me, but I'll run through the list.
I'm originally from Fairborn, Ohio (right next to Wright Patterson Air Force Base) and began writing back when I was 12 after reading Ray Bradbury's book FARENHEIT 451. That is to say, I started writing then, but I never got anything published until years later when I started doing a KISS fanzine called STRANGE WAYS with my friends, Larry Blake (the artist normally in the fanzine KISS HELL) and Carlyn Nugent.
After that lasted a couple of 100-page issues in the early 1980s, we went our separate ways, but I was still getting a ton of mail from fans about the fanzine because my address was attached to all of the ads that came out for it (which is out of date now, BTW, so please do NOT try writing me there!). In 1988 I started doing another fanzine with a friend, Jan Carter, in Dayton, Ohio called KISS FORUM. That lasted eight quarterly issues and before we called it quits.
I was still getting a lot of mail, however, and in 1988 I got the idea that the band really needed a more up-to-date biography about them, especially since there hadn't been one in the US since the 1970s. A lot of things had happened since then and fans had nowhere to turn except the fanzines, of which I was apart of in more ways than one by this point. So I wrote to Gene in December 1988 and got a phone call from the KISS Company (on January 9, 1989; it was a big day as I had just gotten a new job the same day after being laid-off for six weeks) saying that Gene thought it was a cool idea and go ahead and write it.
So I started researching the book and kept Gene informed about it. I even went up to the KISS Company offices to interview Eric Carr for the book back in 1990, thanks to Gene.
A lot of things happened between then and when the book was published in 1997. I actually had the original manuscript ready in early 1995 and went through about a year and a half agonizing process with two publishers that kept hemming and hawing over the manuscript before rejecting. One even told me that a book about KISS wouldn't sell as there was no interest in the band anymore, which was ironic as they are set to put out a book about the band in the early part of next year.
Finally, in early 1996 I rewrote the manuscript and sent it off to CGP in England. They grabbed at the manuscript and decided to release it. Which was great. Unfortunately, they had to wait until a time was available for them to publish it, and that didn't come until April 1997. They also split the book into two, with BD1 being the first half of the manuscript and BD2 being the second half (and then released the second half in October 1997).
Between starting the project and seeing it completed, several other things have gone on in my personal life, including getting a BS in Business (I already had an Associate Degree in Accounting from the early 1980s), getting a great job down in Louisville, Kentucky, and the biggest was getting married to my long-time girlfriend, Jill in 1991. So it's been a very packed-full decade, to say the least.
I'm currently working on my MBA (and am considering the JD program down here at University of Louisville), while working on my next book for my publisher (which will be out in the spring of next year). I've had articles in the first three issues of the KISS magazine CLOWNWHITE, my DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH articles for KISS ASYLUM and the publication of my reference book on Alice Cooper, THE ILLUSTRATED COLLECTOR'S GUIDE TO ALICE COOPER earlier this year. I also have a couple of other projects in the works, but I won't bore anyone with details until I know they will actually come out!
After all that, Iím planning on getting a snack and watching some TV.
KA: Were you pleased with the fans' reaction toward your Black Diamond books?
Definitely! In all, I've had a total of two nasty letters about the books and hundreds of positive letters and e-mails. Same thing happened with the Alice book, come to think about it. Most fans seem to understand that these books were written by a fellow fan and are a chance to try to set the record straight on the events in the lives of the individuals discussed.
Nevertheless, it is an ongoing project, even when the books are already released. My attitude has always been that, if a fan sees something that they believe is different, let me know. I've always tried to make each project a fun event for the fans and myself, so I'm always interested in talking with people about them. If there are corrections to be noted, there's always a chance that a subsequent edition will be done to add material to.
I knew I had done well with the book when the only complaints I ever saw conflicted with each other. One person would say I was too hard on a certain member of the band, another would say I was too easy on them. Someone else would say I had too much information in the books, while someone else said there was not enough. One person would say that I obviously hated the band because I criticized them too much, while another thought I was too much in love with them because I wasn't critical enough. Overall, I felt that was a good sign when every criticism seemed to counterbalance each other. To me that said the book was probably more balanced in tone than I originally thought.
The best review I had, however, was one when a reviewer said that the book was like sitting in a room with another fan and just gabbing about the band. That was what I wanted to achieve with the books anyway, so when someone actually said that in print, I felt very good about it.
And, I know that some of the guys behind the scenes and in the band itself thought the books were cool, so that was a nice touch as well. Besides, how often can someone say that they got mentioned in PLAYBOY (twice!).
Without having to expose themselves, I mean. ;-)
KA: A third book, Black Diamond 3 was going to be released which was supposed to include interviews with a lot of people around the KISS world, including producers of some of the KISS albums. Why was the book shelved?
I know now exactly how Eric Carr felt when people kept asking about the Rockheads. I'm sorry now that I mentioned it before it was really a done-deal. I'll do better about that the next time around.
There were a few reasons for the demise of BD3:
1) I had planned to do the book concurrently with the writing on the Alice Cooper book. However, I soon discovered that the Alice project was going to take more time than I had originally planned. Plus, with other things going on, including the rewriting of the KISS novel, I just didn't have the time to do everything at once like I had thought.
2) After doing two books about the band and really living in a KISS-world since 1989, I was feeling a bit burnt-out from dealing with research on the band. That would have had to be a major part of any new book project on the band, and I just couldn't get the energy going on such short notice.
3) A whole slew of new KISS books were supposed to come out in 1998 and 1999 (of which, surprisingly, none have come out with the exception of Andre's book and the possible release of the Chip Rock book). My publisher felt, and I totally agreed, that there just would be too many books on the market. Why put it out when it would just get buried under the others (including my first two BD books)?
Would it have done well? I don't know. I might go back to the project sometime in the future. I know at least one person had been spreading the rumor that I was forced out of doing the book because of pressure from the band, but that's not true. I did get a phone-call about it from someone in the band at one point, but the person merely wanted to know what my intentions were with the book. When I told them I was planning on dropping the project for now, that was it. So, ultimately, there really wasn't any good gossip to spread around because of my dropping the project.
KA: How did the "A World Without Heroes" novel come about?
I came up with the idea at about the time the band had taken off their makeup for good in 1983. Now, here was the band that had always been known for their makeup and had always tried to project an other-worldly appearance about themselves. They were even superheroes in the comics and on television. Suddenly the makeup comes off, and at the time a lot of fans just weren't sure why they did it (we had a feeling that it was a way to inject new life in the band, but no one was quite sure at the time). Thus, the idea came to me about the superhero-personas of the band and what the taking off of the makeup would mean to those characters. That was the initial spark that brought on the whole story idea. I also liked the idea of going backwards through the band's history and seeing what would have happened if the band really DID have super-powers. The story just evolved from there, really.
When we did the STRANGE WAYS fanzine, the initial idea I had was to do three chapters an issue until the third issue and then the story would be completed. I never expected it to take up 25 chapters . . . or 15 years to complete, for that matter.
KA: Why did you decide to bring the novel online at KISS ASYLUM and what was the reaction from the KISS fans?
Well, I've always had a good relationship with KISS ASYLUM, even before I had the first KISS book coming out in 1997. I'll tell you why, as well.
At the end of 1996 I had gotten my first computer (yes, that means that the many drafts of the BD books were done on a manual typewriter) and had gotten on the Internet. In doing so, I started checking out the KISS sites and there were a couple that I thought looked interesting. A couple of weeks later, I had some news related to the band that I thought would be interested in and I e-mailed both KISS ASYLUM and the other site with the news. Just as a fan and nothing more.
Within a day I had heard back from Chris about the news and it was posted up on the site. I never heard anything from the other site at all. Nothing. So when the time came for the books to come out, I had always given the news first to KISS ASYLUM because I felt there was a bit more affiliation with the fans than some of the other sites (although KISS Freaks is a great site as well).
The funny thing about all that was, after the first book had been promoted for a time on KISS ASYLUM, I finally heard back from the other site. They were mad that I didn't give them the news about the book first. Sorry, but since they didn't care about me when I was just another fan, I didn't see why they would care about me when I became the writer of a KISS book.
Anyway, when the idea hit me to try and finish up the KISS novel, I thought KISS ASYLUM might be the best place for it. After all, it certainly gets enough readers. I also thought it would be neat to have the chapters come out on a weekly basis, like an old-time serial in the magazines or newspapers. Little did I realize how much work was needed in cleaning up the book when I started rewriting it.
So, all in all, I think it turned out pretty well. The fans who wrote seemed to think so as well, which all you can hope for.
KA: When you initially brought the novel online was it already a finished piece or did you have to go back and finish it up / re-write certain chapters?
The first six chapters were in finished form and had appeared in STRANGE WAYS back in 1984/85. Yet, when I went back to the text, I realized just how BAD a lot of it was (and I don't think you'll find a lot of writers who are happy with their older work anyway, so that's a typical sign). I started rewriting it with the first chapter onward, and that took up a lot of time.
Once we got to Chapter 7, I had to go back to my notes for the novel and pretty much reinvent the text as I didn't like how I originally ended the story. That lead to more chapters and finally the direction of the novel that it presently has. In all, every chapter got a rewriter, and everything after Chapter 12 was done just this past year. Amazing how much of it had been locked inside my head for so long, looking back on it.
It was tough, and at this point I'm still rewriting parts of it for the book-version of the novel (so those of you who printed off the novel on-line may want to check out the book to see what differences there are). I just can't leave it alone!?
KA: How did you team up with Kathy Labonte and the MusiCare Online KAOL projects?
It was really quite by accident. Kathy had sent me a copy of the second KAOL album to review for KISS Freaks and I gave her a good write-up (and deservedly so). She e-mailed me to thank me for the review, and in response I jokingly mentioned that if she ever wanted to turn the novel into a KAOL project, just let me know.
She snapped up the idea and ran with it. I have to hand it to her, as she has done a lot of the footwork on the project, much more than I have. I just wrote the book, but she's getting it printed, distributed and advertised. That's a lot of work and a lot of trouble. Remarkable, really.
Actually, Kathy and I came up with the idea almost simultaneously. I wrote to hear about the idea of using some of the songs from the earlier KAOL albums as a sampler in the back of the book (much like the first BD book had a CD). She was thinking of something with new material instead, but we worked together on the idea a bit and the soundtrack album just came together in no time.
I think it's a great idea for the book! Certainly unique, thatís for sure. Not a lot of books that come out with their own soundtrack album.
Now if we can just turn it into an animated movie! (No, Iím joking, of course.)
KA: Did you ever think the novel you wrote for the fanzine would grow to being seen globally online or even be put together in book form with an accompanying CD soundtrack?
When I offered to put the chapters online through KISS ASYLUM, I had no intentions of seeing the novel actually published in book-form, nor with a CD, illustrations or anything else for that matter. It was a real surprised to me when all of this just starting working out, besides helping out a good cause at the same time. So, as you can guess, I'm very happy with the results of all of this writing.
As to it being seen globally, I figured that would be the case, knowing how well-received KISS ASYLUM is for most fans around the world. Thus, it wasn't really a surprise on that end of things.
KA: Do you have any plans to write a sequel to "A World Without Heroes"?
I had never planned on it, but that seems to be a question that a lot of readers have asked over the months since the book was completed on the KISS ASYLUM site. At first I would have said no, but in rereading the text of the novel, I now realized that the book really is written in such a way that it could be open for a sequel.
I do have a couple of ideas for a sequel, but that's far off in the future if I do so. It would also depend on if there was really enough interest from fans to do another one. We'll just have to see, I guess.
Lastly, I do want to mention to everyone to consider getting the book, even if you have read the novel on-line. Not only are you going to get some great artwork from Larry Blake and a couple of other artists, but you're going to get a great soundtrack album from a lot of talented fans as well. It's certainly going to be worth the cost, and all the profits are going to the hospital in Eric's name. If that final reason is not enough, I don't know what could be.
Thanks everyone, and I hope you enjoyed the book when you see it!
The official start of pre-ordering for the Novel/Soundtrack by Dale Sherman and KAOL is here - the countdown has begun! The story by Dale will be released in paperback this January with a full length 25 song KAOL KISS Tribute CD in the back - a Soundtrack that follows each chapter. This will be our biggest fundraising project yet and all profits will continue to go to the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. This is a time sensitive offer.
ORDER NOW - YOUR NAME CAN BE PRINTED IN THE BOOK!!!
The music is in the final production stages in preparation for manufacturing. The book is in layout at this moment and will be kept in that stage until December 31st so that we can get all of YOUR names listed before it is sent off to press. Every one of you that pre-orders this project will be forever remembered in print as a KAOL member and a supporter of Children's Hospital in memory of Eric Carr. Imagine what a wonderful acknowledgment it would have been to have your name printed in the 9 pound KISStory book. We are reserving an entire section in the back of Dale's book to list the KISS Army OnLine by name! You must order between now and December 31st to be eligible to be included.
HOW TO ORDER: We now take CREDIT CARDS!!!! It's easier than ever to order KAOL. Simply go to our brand new website and in a matter of minutes you'll be ordering " A World Without Heroes". Of course you can still order by mail as well. You can also order by phone if you choose. Full details are on the webpage. As with all KAOL products, this project will come with some very cool KAOL keepsakes and collectibles. You'll receive a special "A World Without Heroes" pen and bookmark with your order. Come order now because once this window of time passes, the book goes to print with or without your name. Let's see how many KISS Army OnLine members we can put in print and how much money we can raise for the big hospital event next year. Come to: www.musicareonline.org