Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to spotlight debut music history author Rik Forgo. I asked Rik to tell us briefly a little about himself and his writing, and this was his response:
My friends call me Rik. I’m a writer, editor, and entrepreneur. I started writing in high school for the school paper and later writing sports for a local paper. I worked for a local record store chain near Washington, D.C., and my interest in music was piqued. When I joined the Air Force, I wrote for base newspapers where I was assigned. But I’ve always been interested in history, music history, and local histories, and I love digging for information that brings new light to the subjects I’m covering.
Rik, where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
My first book, Eagles: Before the Band, is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers online.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
You can go to my website, TimePassages.net, and there’s a signup page for our newsletter, which should be rolling out shortly.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Eagles: Before the Band?
We try to cover the band’s history in a format no one has seen before. We write about the band and its players, the songs, albums, and the people who helped them succeed.
Time Passages books are unique in format. They are not laid out in one continuous narrative like most rock biographies. Instead, we write a series of interconnected short stories that are designed in a season-based timeline (e.g., Spring 1975, Summer 1980, etc.) so that people will know when events are unfolding in the band’s career arc and can match that with what they might have been doing at that time. It allows the reader to personalize the band’s story with their own experiences in the timeline.
It’s unlike any other rock book ever published. We align our stories into four basic categories: features, profiles, spotlights, and continuity stories. Our features usually span two to four pages and tackle some of the most pivotal moments in the band’s history. Profiles focus on the individual band members or people who were instrumental in their success. Spotlights focus on individual songs or albums, and continuity stories are short stories that form the ongoing fabric of the band that weaves them all together. Along the way, we sprinkle in dozens of informational graphics and in-the-moment photographs that help show how the band has evolved over the years.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
I like to call what we do “forensic rock research.” We start with the low-hanging fruit of other published works. Then, we delve deeper through hundreds of magazine articles, newspaper stories, trade magazine snippets, video interviews, radio interviews, and our interviews with the band—or in the Eagles’ case, people associated with the band. There are more than 2,100 citations for the Eagles’ books.
What was the inspiration for Eagles: Before the Band? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
I love the Eagles. Their songwriting, for me, is touching in the way they work through the ironies of their personal experiences yet write them in a way that makes it feel like it’s about your life. “Wasted Time” is an excellent example of that. I have been listening to the Eagles since I was a kid, and I knew nearly every song by heart. I’ve read the other published material about them and learned a lot, but there were inconsistencies. And it always made me curious: one source says this, and another says something else. So, which is it? I wanted to answer those questions and flesh out the parts of the Eagles’ story that weren’t given much detail. I wanted to know more, and I thought others might too. I started at the beginning with Eagles: Before the Band, which chronicled the band’s individual stories before becoming the group we know today. I finished that book just before the pandemic started, and, having never written a book before, I learned a lot. It’s hard publishing a book, and you need help.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
I have always had a love for rock music. I managed a record store in Forestville, Maryland, for a D.C. record chain for almost four years, and I loved being immersed in the music every day. Over the years, my love for music, classic rock, in particular, has grown. I love knowing the stories. Sometimes just hearing a song on the radio and sharing the details with friends about how the band came up with it is fun. I love sharing stories.
I think people who love these bands may feel the same way. You can see it in the message boards and the threads on Facebook. People know bands like the Eagles and want to share that knowledge. I’d like to think that Steve Cafarelli (my co-author) and I have put together the most detailed book on the Eagles ever published. It’s almost encyclopedic, although that wasn’t the intent when we started. But all the songs are there—the band’s thought processes, how the albums came together, their love (and hate) for each other, and the pressures that led to their breakup are all explained in a detail that no other book has accomplished.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
Eagles: Up Ahead in the Distance is the second of three volumes. The first, Eagles: Before the Band, tracked each band member’s individual histories through the summer of 1972, just before they released their debut album. Steve and I are now working on the final volume, Eagles: Hell Freezes Over. It picks up where the second left off and tracks each band member’s post-Eagles solo careers and their reformation in 1994. It will include the same level of detail that we had in the first two books.
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?
My wife and I live in a cozy suburb near Annapolis, Maryland. We are about 20 minutes from the U.S. Naval Academy, and it’s a great place to live. I have a techie background, so my 10’x11’ office at home has computer screens, printers, and scanners everywhere, but I do most of my work from a glass-topped desk that looks out onto the trees in our side yard. I have a sizable bookshelf in the office that houses an extensive array of rock and roll books and a great collection of David McCoullough books (a few of which I have not read yet). As I’m working on stories, I am often visited by my lovely wife, Maureen, and our dog, Zeus, a Golden Retriever-German Shepherd mix, who likes to curl up at my feet and sleep and breaks me from my word processor-driven gaze by insisting on walks like clockwork at 5 p.m.
What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?
My favorite writing adventure didn’t involve researching or writing rock and roll. As a reporter in the Air Force, I was assigned a story to fly with one of our McGuire AFB, New Jersey, squadrons to Saudi Arabia to write about a post-Gulf War State Department diplomatic mission. We didn’t know the details when we took off. I was there to write and photograph a story about pallets of unused meals ready to eat that the squadron was delivering to Albania, which had recently broken away from the Eastern Bloc nations. Our aircraft was greeted by Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the Albanian diplomatic envoys. I didn’t know at the time that Mother Teresa was a native Albanian, and she had returned home when the nation was liberated. I helped escort her from plane to plane and gave her a short tour of one of our C-141 Starlifters; she likened the interior to a movie theater because of all the palletized seating. My conversation with her was brief but memorable. She said she was grateful for the supplies and that her nation’s people were starving. The story I wrote covered four full pages in the newspaper when we returned. It included photographs of the now-sainted nun, including some with crewmembers who were so emotionally uplifted they wept in her presence. It was undoubtedly the most memorable experience of my writing career.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
Trust your editors. Line editors can be rough sometimes, as can your copyeditors and proofreaders. Put your ego away. Don’t let your pride get in the way of a better product. Yes, push back if you feel like there’s simple wordsmithing going on, but in the end, you hired these people because you want a better product. You will not achieve this goal by going it alone.
Rik, thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions!