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Local author publishes his first novel
By Wendy M. Fontaine/Daily News staff
This article originally appeared in The Newport Daily News on 4/7/2001.

PORTSMOUTH - After two years of writing, developing ideas and researching, a local man has published his first novel.

Justin Katz, 25, is the author of "A Whispering Through the Branches." It is the first installment of what will be a series called "A Symphony Without Music."


For Justin Katz, songwriting is not a science
by Vaughn Watson, Journal Pop Music Writer
This interview originally appeared in The Providence Journal on 9/14/2000.

The book's main character is Nathaniel Ariss, a mysterious and lonely writer who gathers a group of people at his house in the Catskills. The story incorporates elements from great American novels by authors Jack London, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne and others.

While most of the novel takes place in the Catskills, a portion of it is set in Newport.

Katz said the first line of the story came to him after a music history class at the University of Rhode Island.

"A lot of the book felt like excavating," he said Monday. "Ideas would pop into my head from places."

He wrote the book's preface on the eve of the new millennium - Dec. 31, 1999.

Katz grew up in New Jersey. He always enjoyed writing but, as a teen-ager, wanted to be an actor. He auditioned for movies and commercials. Later, he developed strong interests in music and art.

At age 19, he dropped out of Carnegie-Mellon University in Pennsylvania to "pursue the rock-star dream," he said. He moved to New [Jersey] and took a job selling fish from a truck. After about [two years], he enrolled at University of Rhode Island. He graduated in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in English.

Today, he works two jobs, one as an editor at International Data Corp. and the other as a copywriter and graphics designer at Lightolier. He is also creating a musical compact disc.

He lives off Church Lane with his wife, Kim, who graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1994.

Who he is: Justin Katz, 25, of Fall River.

What he plays: "I play mostly piano, some guitar when I'm bored with piano," Katz said. "I was a disaffected teenager and found music was a good release."

Katz has played piano for 14 years.

Writing, too: Katz is also a songwriter. "You read interviews with musicians and they say it's hard to understand how songwriting happens: Sometimes words come first; sometimes music." For Katz, "sometimes you just have a lyric you want to get across and that will dictate a style of music. I read once that John Lennon said he could write a song on demand, but it might not really be that good. Whatever comes first, comes first. Songwriting is not a science."

Or then again, Katz said, "maybe it is for the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears."

Matching the moment: On Crazy Child, Katz's guitar work mimics the song's drama. It begins as a pensive pop ballad. Then, at the end, heavy guitar playing disrupts the pop piano and mimics the lyrics' increasing intensity: "Crazy child, why don't you take responsibility instead of taking it out on me? Crazy child, you can give sentimental value to what's just not there, aw but baby I still won't care."

History: Katz grew up in New Jersey and came to New England to attend the University of Rhode Island.

Who he likes: "I spent a few years listening almost exclusively to classical, I was so disgusted with what's going on in pop," Katz said. These days, he says, "Elliot Smith is great, and the obvious ones -- the Beatles, Elton John. Another favorite is Nick Cave, on the darker side of things. Essentially, it's all the pop stars of yesterday."

Recording: Recently, Katz has compiled a collection on one CD of four demo tapes he recorded between 1996 and 1998.

He took a break from music after he made the tapes to write a novel, A Whispering through the Branches.

"Being a songwriter everything was short, within 5 to 10 minutes," Katz said. In the book, he says, he was able to write a long narrative instead.