While ‘Searching for Jimmy Page,’ on foot and on paper, Christy Hallberg grew into an author
“Searching For Jimmy Page” isn’t merely the title of Christy Hallberg’s debut novel. It was an obsession that once compelled Hallberg to hatch a wild plan to meet the Led Zeppelin guitarist.
In 2005, Hallberg learned that Page and Brian May of Queen were to judge a guitar competition in London. Hallberg flew there and worked her way backstage at the Hammersmith Palais, armed with an envelope that included a personal letter, a photo she hoped he would autograph and part of the book she had started as her Master’s Degree writing thesis.
“All I could do was chase him and I stopped him at the top of the stairway and just screamed the only thing that came to mind: ‘Jimmy, I came all the way from America just to meet you,’” she recalled. “It’s not my most dignified moment, but there you go.”
Over the subsequent years, Hallberg crafted that quest into the spine of what became her book. Her central character takes the same flight to the same competition in “Searching For Jimmy Page.”
Otherwise, if not for the bed of music beneath it, the novel is a family tale that reads as if it were set in the early 20th century, on Eastern North Carolina farmland. In the story, music and, particularly, the reverence of Page and Zeppelin, is a generational hand-me-down, baked into the marrow of lived experience.
“I’ve been such a big fan of Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page since I was 15. The book is a connection to my mother, to my brother, to my late husband. It’s a love song to all of them. To Jimmy Page,” Hallberg said. “Jimmy Page is a constant in my life and he connects me to those people. Being without them, that connection was sustaining. It was fulfilling.”
Hallberg is reading from her book Oct. 27 through a virtual event hosted by Malaprop’s Books in Asheville. She’s also reading Oct. 30 at the Hudson Library in Highlands and Nov. 19 at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva.
Hallberg lives in Leicester and has taught business writing, fiction and other courses at Eastern Carolina University since 2000. But with her own writing, Hallberg said she struggled for years. She detoured from a memoir when she settled on this storyline for her master’s degree writing thesis, but she couldn’t find an agent to take it.
“I was empty creatively. My mother had died and that had really knocked me off my pins,” she recalled. “When I met my husband, I was just enjoying coming back to life. When he died and I was alone in the house, the place began to feel like a real sanctuary to me. All those people who aren’t here now knew I was working on that story. It was almost like I felt a need to fulfill a promise, that yes, I finally did finish it.”
Hallberg has lined the walls of her study with images of Page and Zeppelin, of course, but also other musical icons of the ‘60s and ‘70s. While she has ideas for a sequel to “Searching for Jimmy Page,” Hallberg insists they will only play out on paper.
The University of West Alabama is publishing her book. Hallberg said she doesn't plan to again hunt down Page to personally hand him a copy.
“What if he takes issue with something? It would be crushing to think he wouldn’t like it,” she said. “I also have this dream, this hope, that he’ll come upon it organically. How wonderful would that be?”