Pete Wentz was apparently not happy with something we said and decided to abruptly end our interview four questions in. In the interest of full disclosure, early on in the discussion, we did try to break the ice by referencing those nude photos that leaked to the Web in 2006. But if that riled him up, we think it would have made more sense for him to hang up at that point, instead of well into our interview, when we asked about the writing process for his debut novel, “Gray.” The book is an account of one musician’s rise to fame and the personal struggles he faces along that catapult ride to the top — not exactly a feel-good story. Maybe Wentz was having an off-day, maybe he’s a permanently grumpy rock ’n’ roller — guess we’ll never know. But at least we were able to salvage these (somewhat) coherent thoughts from our conversation.
You had been working on this book for years. What did it take to finally come out?
Yeah, it’s been in the works for awhile, it’s been like maybe four or five years it’s been going on. I don’t know, I guess it’s just — I mean, I don’t know. I think creative projects don’t really happen overnight, I guess. There’s no rhyme or reason to why it takes a little — I mean, there’s no specific reason, I guess, you know. I just think that, I mean, sometimes things get put on the back burner and stuff while you’re doing other things.
Did the story ever change shape while you were working on it?
I guess, I mean, the premise and the idea were the same. I mean, I think that the narrative took on different directions a couple of times, but you know, that’s the nature of, I guess, writing something.
The main character sounds like you — a Chicago guy who quits school when his band gets big. How much of you is in him?
Yeah, I mean, I would say it’s 100 percent fictional. I mean, there’s obviously, I mean there’s no way of not having your life be informed, you know, like, your art be informed by the way you live, but yeah, I mean, it’s fiction. There’s composite characters in the same way that I think that if you read people’s books throughout history they’re obviously informed by their lives, but I think in the kind of obsessed culture we live in people are like, “Well then that means that it’s autobiographical,” but it’s not. Pretty much none of those situations ever happened — those are all made up. I think if I was gonna write a memoir or something like that I’d wait 40 more years and have it be true, you know what I’m saying? I mean, you write about what you know about. Obviously it’s easier for me to write about Chicago than it is to write [about] Tokyo or something like that, but I mean I think for some reason people really want it to be who I am, but if you read the entire book, those events never happened to me. I could have written it as a nonfiction because you get more bang for your buck. Nonfiction it’s like on the ‘Today’ show … and it’s obviously a lot of easier to get [on the] New York Times Best Sellers list with a nonfiction but, like, I just, at this point in my life — which is not to say that that isn’t something that I’d be interested in, telling, like, the stories and, like, true stories. Like, there’s characters in the book that are composites of people in life, you know, it’s informed by that, but at the same time it’s, you know, I don’t know, I mean, it’s just not the road that I don’t think I would take.
Well thanks for clearing that up. Let’s talk about about your writing style — did you approach this book the same way you’d write a song?
Pete Wentz is at Barnes & Noble (97 Warren St., 212-587-5389) Thursday at 6 p.m.
Follow Meredith Engel on Twitter @MeredithAtMetro.