By TOM CHESEK
“It was great to see everybody,” says Mimi Cross in reference to her performance last weekend at Asbury Park’s Langosta Lounge, part of the annual Light of Day slate of musically minded benefit events. “I haven’t been playing much the past couple of years, and it was like coming home to family.”
Once a frequently sighted fixture on Shore area club stages — and a two-time Asbury Music Award winner for her self-released albums like Monkey Trap — the singer-songwriter soprano has indeed kept a low public profile since she became a mom. It’s an uncharacteristic stance for an artist who can boast of having shared stages with Bruce, Bon Jovi, Bonnie (Raitt), (Jackson) Browne, Lauryn Hill and Sting.
At the same time, however, a whole other fanbase has gotten to know the local “Yogini” as the certified Kripalu instructor of Two River Yoga, as well as the spirit guide behind Body of Writing, the program that melds two of her passionate pursuits (exercise and creative writing) in ways that “provide inspiration and boost creativity, not just for writing, but for any artistic endeavor.”
As it turns out, her creative soul has been a lot busier than many of her peers may have realized, as 2016 finds her marking the publication of her first novel, Before Goodbye. Just out from Skyscape Books, the debut is being celebrated this Thursday evening with a 7 p.m. book launch party hosted at one the author’s favorite local haunts — River Road Books in Fair Haven.
“After my son was born, I needed to do something without so many moving parts,” says Cross, in regard to the re-channeling of the creative impulse away from the late hours, load-in hassles and built-in lousy aspects of the live music circuit. “He loves picture books, so I wrote a picture book for him (The Crankamacallit)… and someone made my text into an app.”
A follow-up picture book, Alligator Waiter (viewable here on the website Abe’s Peanut) prepared the budding author for a new adventure as a storyteller in prose. And the arrival of National Novel Writing Month, in which the challenge was to write 50,000 words in 30 days, was the spark that kickstarted Before Goodbye into being. Set in a familiar New Jersey milieu and aimed at the Young Adult market (“the publisher would probably say it’s for ages 13 and up… I’d want to maybe adjust that to 15 and up… I think a lot of adults would like it”), the novel details the connection between Cate Reese and David Bennett, two high schoolers who find each other in the wake of suffering separate but equally devastating personal tragedies.
Classical guitarist Cate becomes “musically paralyzed” after losing her “best friend and muse” Cal to a horrific accident, while “golden boy” star athlete David struggles with the aftermath of his brother’s suicide. A seemingly unlikely relationship between two spheres of the high school social structure begins to take shape, as “the two shattered teenagers learn to examine the pieces of their lives… and, together, find a way to be whole again.”
“Music really does play a big role in the story,” says Cross of the book, whose cover is illustrated with an image of a girl soulfully strumming a guitar. “It does touch on other things, too; how in the darkest times there is always hope.”
As the author reveals, River Road Books itself “played a key role in inspiring me to do this. I always liked to go in there and hang out… I love Young Adult books, so I’d go in and grab some titles. Kim (Robinson, former co-owner and still-current staffer) helped me set up my Body of Writing series.”
It was consequently a no-brainer as to exactly where the newly minted novelist would host her first-ever book signing session, with Cross praising the long-running indie store and its owners as “a community unto themselves… there’s real passion and inspiration there, for all that those women have done for book lovers and writers.”
Having “done my own indie thing into the ground” with four self-released music CDs, however, Cross was more than happy to access the printing and distribution resources of the Amazon-affiliated Skyscape imprint, a team that she praises as “my champions… they made me feel like a star!”
“Supposedly, no bookstore is going to be fond of Amazon,” the author observes of the e-tail giant that’s been blamed for placing the mom-and-pop shop on the endangered species list. “But the truth is that Amazon needs those indie bookstores… and indies can make money off these Amazon-published books.”
“This is all very new to me, but it’s still just the beginning,” adds Cross, revealing that she has another new book on the way, scheduled for release in May 2016. Entitled The Shining Sea, it represents the first in what is intended to be an ongoing series — a story arc that features “a fantasy element, with both feet in the world… but paranormal.”
For now, the focus is on the stand-alone story of Before Goodbye, and the event that Mimi Cross describes as “a party to celebrate with family and friends,” rather than a dry reading.
“They’re telling me to bring my guitar,” she says of those friends and family members. ” I still love singing, and I want to find a way to do the two things — making music, telling stories — with each other.”
Call (732) 747-9455 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a signing copy for Thursday’s event.