When I was a kid, my brother and I would regularly climb up on the bench seat of my parents’ stone fireplace and entertain the masses (eh-herm, my parents and maybe the dog) with our performance of Kenny Rogers / Dottie West songs. Another early musical memory that I have is cranking up my parents’ 8-track player and blasting Eddie Rabbit’s “I Love a Rainy Night” and then go hide under the couch. Because – you know, after the second or third time that this happened, I’m sure that my parents had no clue who the perpetrator was.
OK – so I’ve established that I was a goofy kid. The other thing? While I didn’t turn out to be a virtuoso musician, music is something that’s really important in my life and to my creative presence as a writer.
In September, Sisters in Crime had an interesting group of questions for its blog hop and since I’m apparently immune to deadlines – I figured I’d respond to one of the blog prompts: Do you listen to music while writing?
Oh absolutely, I listen to music while I’m writing. I currently have over 130 hours of music saved up in Windows Media Player and if I’m working on my day job or if I’m writing fiction, there is always music playing. I also have a little mp3 player that has a mix of music on it – that’s for airplane rides, gym trips, and writing evenings at Panera Bread when I’m not feeling the easy listening that pipes through their speakers or I want to tune out the noise that’s around me.
What’s on your playlist?
Before I delve into my personal playlists that I’ve constructed from my Works in Progress (WIPs), there’s one author who really does playlists well: Deborah Harkness. In fact, when I met her at a book signing – I stuttered my thanks for introducing me to the music of Florence + the Machine. “Of course!” she replied.
Ms. Harkness is the author of the “All Souls Trilogy” that chronicles the journey of Diana Bishop, a thoroughly American witch, and Matthew Clairmont, a mysterious and prestigious biochemist who also happens to be a vampire.
Harkness’s playlists are stunning and chronicle her inspiration for her individual characters, as well as the books themselves. As someone who is an avid reader and as someone who really loves music, Deb Harkness’s Spotify playlists are a little piece of heaven. (Find Ms. Harkness here on Spotify.)
Two of my WIPs have their own playlists. The music therein serves a couple of purposes – one is to evoke a certain feeling in me while I write. It’s not unheard of for me to play a certain song over and over again while I’m writing a certain scene or trying to get into a character’s head. The other purpose is to mentally transport myself to a certain time and place that inspired me in the first place. My novel “Afterlife” is set in 2002-03. No, I’m not going through and finding the “NOW” CD compilations from that time, but I remember what CDs I was obsessed with when I was 25 years old. Listening to Moby’s “Play” album transports me back to the tiny house that I rented when I was a broke journalist. U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” had been out for a couple years at that point, but I had just discovered that album – the song “In A Little While” in particular.
There is a tricky father-daughter relationship that weaves its way through my story. One day I was scrolling through my mp3 player and came across Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son.” That was like a visceral punch to the gut. The anguish in Stevens’ voice helps me understand some of my characters’ misunderstandings. Pearl Jam’s “Man of the Hour” also helps.
So yes – music is a constant of days and of my work.
What about the rest of you? Anyone else out there who builds playlists for their writing lives?