A day-by-day history of U2, now in its second edition.

Contest #2: 31 Questions About

By on December 11, 2008 in Promotion with 0 Comments

I’m exhausted. It’s a lot of work collecting and answering 31 questions from you folks. But it’s also a lot of fun. 🙂

That’s the number I ended up with after announcing Contest #2 last week. As I mentioned in the comments, some of the questions were off-topic, and I’ve skipped those to focus on questions about U2 – A Diary.

So, without further ado, here’s the full group interview of 31 questions and answers … followed by the announcement of the winner … and a quick preview of the next contest.

Your Questions, My Answers

Rachel Shattuck: Which member of the band would you be most likely to “burn at the stake,” so to speak, following the research and writing of your book, U2 – A Diary? Alternately, or in addition, which member of U2 would you most likely want to be best friends with after your experience of extensive research into the life of the band? Why?

My thoughts on the individual band members didn’t really change at all during the research and writing. I remember being frustrated on a few occasions with Bono’s spotty memory and his penchant for embellishing stories the more he retells them, but that was minor and temporary. I’ve always felt that different parts of my own personality are similar to each of the band members, and that didn’t change because of anything I learned while working on the book.

Lisa Zeitlinger: I am placing items in a time capsule for a future generation to see. I want to put something in there that will show them the impact U2’s music had and what made them so special in our time. Why should your book, U2-A Diary, be the one chosen to go in?

I don’t think my book should be the one thing to go in, but I do think it should be one of the things to go in. To see U2’s impact and show what made them special, I think you need things like the Red Rocks and Zoo TV DVDs, maybe the Live Aid and Amnesty Tour performances on video, a video of one of the Madison Square Garden shows after 9/11, and a video collage showing Bono’s humanitarian work and speeches. And then you could include a copy of U2 – A Diary because it would explain and add a fan’s perspective on how all those things fit together. I suppose I cheated a bit on this answer, but you can’t leave out the audio and visual aspects of U2 and really explain them.

Andrew: If Bono were to get the christmas he deserves, will your book be under his tree?

Well, I suppose so, since it’s probably about the only thing he doesn’t already own. 🙂

Arlene Pelayo: This was obviously a huge undertaking which I’m guessing consumed quite a bit of your personal and family life, Matt! Was there ever a point in which you felt overwhelmed and thought about abandoning the project entirely?

Overwhelmed: Yes. Abandoning the project: No. I couldn’t abandon it, because I signed a contract and made a commitment. There was a point in October/November 2007 where I really thought I would not make the deadline. I wrote about it in this post — 75 Days To Go — and you can probably sense my frustration and fear. But I remember sometime in November just walking out of my office and saying to my wife, “I’m gonna finish it on time.” That was the first point I was sure I’d make the deadline.

Jeremy: In writing U2-A Diary, what is the funniest/most surprising thing you learned about one of the band members?

When I interviewed Chas de Whalley, he told some great stories about the early days in the studio with U2. He produced their first two singles, and this was when U2 wasn’t … umm … very skilled musically. He told a story about how they really struggled to record “Out Of Control,” and that Larry kept screwing up the drums and that made the whole band fall apart. Here’s the rest of his quote from the book:

“He [Larry] would go out of time, and because he went out of time, none of the band came back in properly. The track would fall apart. So I just kept saying, ‘This isn’t good enough, we have to do it again.’ I remember Bono saying, ‘You can’t be right. Larry’s had lessons with the best drummer in Ireland, and he can’t be playing it wrong!’ And I was going, ‘He is!'”

We had a great conversation, and that story totally cracked me up. You can picture Bono doing that….

OptimaX: Someone is going to write a book. It will be called -“Matt McGee” A Diary-. The book is about you and covers a diary for all (and only!) those days you have worked on U2 A Diary. Who would YOU want to write that book?

That would be the poorest-selling book of all time, that’s for sure. I’ll say Neil McCormick. He might be able to make it interesting for my family, but I don’t think anyone else would read it. 🙂

Erica: Bono’s reputation for recall is a bit notorious. Did you find in your research that this reputation is justified? And if so, how much extra time and effort did it cost you?

Oh, yeah. I kinda answered this above…. It happened a lot, and not just with Bono. It’s not fair, I suppose, to expect the band to remember the exact dates and details of things that happened 20-30 years ago. I barely remember what I was doing last week! But yes, the research was like one continual game of Is it worth it to really dig into this story/event and spend time figuring it out, or should I move on?

I spent a ton of time digging into the Shalom story, which extends for about five years in the book. The band never really spoke much about it until the past five years or so, which made getting the sequence of events tough. But, with some help from a couple friends and some newly discovered articles from the early ’80s, I think the book tells that story as accurately as possible, despite Bono’s reputation for poor recall. 🙂

Jason: Do you plan to maintain your notes as the band’s career continues and release updated versions of your book in the future?

There’s no guarantee that the book will be updated, but I am keeping track of 2008 and have no plans to stop. I think if the book sells well, and continues to get good reviews, we’ll probably do an update some day.

Keir: Does your Diary concern itself at all with U2’s torturous way of making sausages? The band has stated numerous times in their career that the studio recording process is often a trying time for them, to varying degrees. Did you get any insight into what seems to be a familiar progression by now?

There are some stories and quotes in there that speak to the way they make music and why it takes so long these days. But, to be frank, if you pay close attention to the media coverage of U2, you’ve probably heard most of it before. The book is more about facts and events, and not so much an investigation of how they turn musical ideas into albums (and why it takes so long).

Harry: Did you enjoy writing this book, or did it become more like a job after some point?

I loved it! Even in the “I feel overwhelmed” times, I was loving it. I tried to write a book about U2 fans in the mid-1990s, but that fell apart after about two years of work. There was no way I wasn’t going to enjoy this, knowing that it was going to see the light of day as long as I hit my deadline.

Cristiano: What has changed in your perception of the band after doing research for the book? Is there any aspect of U2’s history that you learned to appreciate that you didn’t before you started?

I learned a lot about 1986, and have a better appreciation for what was going on during the making of The Joshua Tree. I tracked down one of the men that was with Bono and Ali in Central America and got some excellent background on that trip — a lot of new details. And a fan in New Zealand named Scott Cleaver sent me a big envelope full of press clippings related to the death of Greg Carroll and U2’s participation at his funeral. Those two events were back-to-back in the summer of 1986, and so many songs on The Joshua Tree developed from those two events.

Matthew Atkin: In your research for U2 – A Diary, what rumour that commonly circulates among the online U2 community did you find the hardest to verify?

I’m still disappointed that I was unable to confirm if Bono ever played that chess match against Garry Kasparov after Paul McGuinness won the opportunity in a 1993 charity auction. Maybe some day we’ll all get an answer to that!

Marcy Gaston: As a Larry Mullen admirer (I’m female, can you blame me?), I have a question for you. Did you ever get to the bottom of why he grew his hair out for Vertigo?

Hehehehe. No. I’m pretty sure there’s no mention of any band member’s hair in the book. Sorry about that. But we do talk about Larry’s wrist and back problems a fair bit!

Kaitlin Ann: Now that you’ve spent countless hours researching the band, what are three questions that still stick in the back of your mind that you want to ask them?

1. Bono, did you really throw a bag filled with dog manure at one of your teachers?
2. Bono, did you ever have that chess match against Garry Kasparov?
3. The rest of you, tell me more about what happened with Chris Thomas during the Atomic Bomb recording sessions.

Curt Murdy: As a grandfather who grew up with U2 in my college days (’79-83) and then stuck with them at every step in their/my journey through life, is there a sentence or paragraph in U2-A Diary that my granddaughter could someday read and say, “I now understand”?

I don’t think anyone could sum up U2 in a sentence or paragraph. But, I’d like to think your granddaughter could read the Introduction that I wrote and say that she understands. I’m pretty proud of how that turned out. So, how about reading a page, not just a sentence or paragraph? 🙂

Javier: My question is in regards to the separation of your own deeply entrenched love for various thing U2 and putting that aside to create an even handed, objective telling of their history. Did you find at times you had difficulty with certain eras or events in particular? And how did you deal with your own bias?

It was actually pretty easy, because I decided at the beginning — and my editor agreed — that there wouldn’t be much editorializing in the telling of the dates/events. In a book that tries to tell the history of one of the all-time great bands, my opinions don’t really matter, y’know? I probably do a little bit of editorializing in the introductions to each year, but I think that’s needed to keep the story together.

Plus, I come from a journalism background — spent seven years working in newspaper/TV/radio jobs. So being an unbiased reporter isn’t new to me. It’s how we do things on @U2, too. So, it wasn’t a challenge to keep my own biases out of the book.

Claus Brinch Sorenson: You just put me through an hour long creative, philosofic, metaphoric, mindexpanding process, hoping to end up with a question that would put you through a similar process. All I ended up with, was wondering, what might have been your intention and reason for this kind of contest?

🙂 To get more fans talking about the book, thinking about the book, and learning about the book. And, hopefully, that translates to more people wanting to buy the book.

Robert Perry: Q magazine’s review opens with two citations from your book – the first, historic and rock-‘n’-roll-related (the band’s first ever meeting with REM); the second, less so (Bono playing Pac-Man with two local radio personalities). When reading Bill Flanagan’s U2 At the End of the World, I was interested to notice that it was the less historic, more everyday events that fascinated me (for example, Bono leaving the studio to play husband and Daddy). These excerpts made possible a deeper insight into the band members as people, rather than simply as musicians. Which of these two aspects of your book – the historic or the less historic – did you find more intriguing, and which do you think will be more intriguing for the reader?

I’m with you 100%! Many U2 fans know the big, important dates and events. But when you can uncover the little things (like the Pac-Man story), I think you get much more complete picture of the band as a whole, as well as of each band member as individuals. When I was researching, I loved uncovering those little details. I think it’s those small stories that distinguish U2 – A Diary from all of the other U2 history/biography books out there. At least that’s what I hope….

Christie Ritter: I wrote a book last year and let me tell you, the worst part was sitting on my arse for 12 hours a day trying to make my deadline. The best part was the education I gained in doing the research for my book. What was the best and worst part for you in writing your book?

First, Christie – congrats! I’ve always respected authors, but even more now that I’ve done a book, too. It ain’t easy.

Best part was what happened here on U2diary.com: U2 fans were so enthusiastic in following along as I wrote about the research and writing, and even more enthusiastic about helping when I asked for it. Donal Murphy in Ireland even made a few trips to his local library to look up old Irish newspapers on microfiche! The help from the U2 fan community was easily the best part.

Worst part … hmmmmm … I guess the worst part was having a deadline. I could really spend another 10 years researching and still not feel like I uncovered all the facts and events that should go in the book. On the bright side, though, no one has told me I left anything out so maybe I’m the only person who feels more research time was needed. 🙂

Robyn: What do you hope the band thinks of such a book? Do you expect some kind of Thanks from the band, or do you feel that this book was to show then how much you appreciate them?

If the band reads it, my only hope is that they think it’s fair and accurate. Those were my two goals. But I don’t imagine they’d be interested in sitting down and reading 336 pages of diary entries about themselves. I wrote it for U2 fans, not for the band, so I’m most concerned with what fans think of the book. So far, so good, on that count. 🙂

Dermot Lucking: When compiling the diary did you find youself relating major events in the history of the band back to events in your own life be they major or minor, highs or lows?

No, not during the research. I’ve actually always done that. 🙂 My wife and I had our first date two weeks after The Joshua Tree came out. We got married two weeks before Achtung Baby came out. My son was born four days after the end of the PopMart Tour in North America. I could go on…..

Joel Conlan: What kind of compliments and or criticism do you think U2 would give you after reading your book?

I guess I kinda answered this above to some degree with the fair and accurate comments in Robyn’s question.

J.P. Fleming: I would imagine that — during the process of formulating the book — there would have been a lot of material which didn’t make the cut (whether because of length restrictions, publisher’s legal advice or your editor’s decision). What are three things that you would have liked to have included that didn’t make the published version? And, do you see a future avenue for publishing the info — or “is what’s done is done?”

My editor and I agreed at the start that personal, family things would not go into the book unless they had a direct impact on the band. Births of children are listed, but most other things are not. In 2001, there was a terrorism scare at the school of one of Bono’s kids — that’s in there because U2 had to cancel a post 9/11 appearance. On the other hand, earlier this year, one of Bono’s daughters appeared in her first movie. I emailed my editor and we agreed it didn’t belong in the 2008 diary I’m keeping because it has no impact on the band.

Really, other than little things like that, everything I could confirm and attach to a date is in the book. There are certain things I couldn’t confirm well enough, like the Garry Kasparov thing I keep mentioning in this interview. If I can somehow confirm what happened there, and we publish an update, it’ll be in the next version.

Chris Hunter: Over the years, U2 (primarily Bono) Have done some interesting things, ranging from eccentric to flat out bizaar (giant lemon mirror ball, uno dos tres catorce, and even a seductive crawl by Bono a quarter of the way around the Chicago oval with a mike in his crouch). How will your book help us U2 apologists engraciate the band to our skeptical friends who don’t know what to think about such behavior?

Oh, Chris … I’m sorry to say, but I don’t think there’s any book that could ever justify giant lemon mirror balls to the U2’s skeptics. That’s a tall order — probably too tall. But you could point out the Fall 1997 diary entries that talk about only 20,000 people showing up for some PopMart stadium dates, and tell them that U2 diehards were skeptical about that, too. 🙂

Carly Griffen: Matt, which diary entry/U2 event did you wish you could have witnessed/been a part of the most?

You’re asking me for one event, right? Does it have to be a single day? Hope not, because I’d want to have been on Tenerife with U2, Willie Williams, and others as they brainstormed what eventually became Zoo TV. If it has to be a single day, I’d say opening night of the Zoo TV tour. Would’ve loved to be there.

Rajiv Udani: Did you ever think you were going too far with details of their personal life? (dates describing family members or band members’ illness, Edge’s relationships with his wives, Bono’s dealing with death, etc). Did the publisher censor any of your entries related to these (or other events)?

I was very cognizant of the need for delicacy when describing certain events. The situation in recent years with Edge’s daughter would be in that category. Adam’s troubles in 1993 on the Zooropa Tour are in that category. Maybe one or two others I’m not remembering right now. But I never felt I was going too far because I only wrote what had been documented elsewhere. That’s where sticking to facts and not editorializing was certainly the right decision. And no, there was no censorship. My editor kept me posted as he went through the manuscript, and only edited some typos and changed spellings to the UK style. 🙂

Elisabeth Deaton: Now that you have completed this book, how would you explain the significance of U2 to a class of six-year-olds? Also, what would you tell them that you learned about being a writer as a result of this experience?

I would ask them to have tremendous respect for people who write books, because it’s a lot more difficult than it seems. And I would stand in front of the class (that’s 1st or 2nd grade, I think) and read them the Introduction. I think that would help them understand U2’s significance.

Katie Joyce: When you were writing U2 – A Diary, what was the most surprising fact or instance that you learned about?

That Bono was due to make an appearance at the Farm Aid 2 concert in 1986, but as soon as he landed in Texas, he got a phone call telling him that Greg Carroll had died in Dublin. So, he turned right back around and flew home. I’d never heard of any connection between Bono/U2 and the Farm Aid shows. That really surprised me!

Anna: To what other (U2) book would you compare U2 – A Diary?

Well, it’s probably a cross between U2 Live – A Concert Documentary, with its day-by-day events listed chronologically, and U2 By U2, because it covers the band’s entire history, going back to their childhoods and even earlier. I’d be honored if fans included my book when talking about how good those are.

Richard Lamberti: What did you learn most about whilst writing the book – U2 or U2’s fans?

Writing the book confirmed for me how awesome U2 fans are — but I already knew that. So, I’d have to say I learned more about U2.

Liron Hallak: As U2 fans we read a lot about them and accumulate many bits of information that probably don’t mean anything, but one thing I’ve never really encountered is something that shook me. U2 are good people I guess. Was there anything that you’ve seen/read/heard during your research that completely took you by surprise/made you upset/amazed you? What was it?

There were a lot of small discoveries and things I learned, like the Farm Aid 2 thing I mentioned a couple questions earlier. But I can’t say anything shook me. I’ve been running a web site about U2 for 13+ years now, and been a fan for 27+ years — what shakes me at this point is seeing them in concert. I’ll have to wait a few more months for that, I think. 🙂

Thank you all for the excellent questions!

And the winner is?

Tough choice, but the one question that I struggled the most with is the one that Lisa Zeitlinger asked. It’s the second question in the interview — the one about the time capsule. I think I started answering that 3-4 times, only to delete and start again.

Great question, Lisa! Your copy of U2 – A Diary will be on its way promptly. 🙂

Thanks to all who asked questions. Even if you didn’t win the contest, I hope you enjoyed the contest. And I hope you enjoy the book if you decide to get a copy, anyway.

Will there be any more contests?

Yep. I have one more contest in mind, but with a twist: In order to enter the next one, you have to own a copy of the book. The prize will be some sort of cash consideration or gift certificate, maybe Amazon or iTunes.

That contest won’t happen until after the holidays, so if Santa brings you a copy, you’ll be able to enter. It’ll probably be the final contest, unless I come up with or stumble on another idea. 🙂

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