The Undercover Soundtrack – Claire King

for logo‘Very French; weighed down by heat and melancholy’

Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative process – perhaps to open a secret channel to understand a character, populate a mysterious place, or explore the depths in a pivotal moment. This week’s guest is debut novelist Claire King @ckingwriter

Soundtrack by Eric Satie, Cat Power, Counting Crows, Francis Cabrel

As an author whose days are pulled and split between parenting, work, chores and all the other usual distractions, when it’s time to write I find it really helpful to use sensory prompts to pull me quickly out of my own world and into the story. Visual prompts like photographs help, as do smells, tastes and definitely music.

Claire King 9The Night Rainbow, my debut novel, is set in southern France in the heat of August. It is narrated by five-year-old Pea, and plays out in a very limited environment – her house and the surrounding meadows and hills – but which of course seems much bigger to a child of that age. It also takes place over a surprisingly short span of time. But again, to a child a week can seem like forever. Because of this, I had a relatively small selection of music that I played when I was writing The Night Rainbow that would bring me back to the place, the time and the characters. I always listened to it on headphones, which emphasised the feeling of immersion.

Margot and Pea

The one album that I played over and over was Eric Satie’s Gnossiennes, by Alexandre Tharaud. Of these pieces, Gnossienne 1 for me really captured the feel of the novel. I found this piano music perfectly evocative of the environment I was trying to create – it’s very French, and it seems weighed down by heat and melancholy, yet the delicate notes of the piano evoke the lightness of childish movement. As Pea and Margot made their daily forays down through the peach orchard, over the fence and down past the donkeys to the stream, they were accompanied by this music.

Claude and Pea

Pea’s mother has been struck by tragedy twice in quick succession, having recently lost a baby and her husband. Burdened by grief and isolated from the village, she has retreated into herself. So, left to their own devices, Pea and her little sister run wild in the meadows. This is where they meet Claude, who Pea believes is at least a friend, and possibly a potential new papa. The relationship that develops between them is a cornerstone of the novel. On the one hand it’s an unusual relationship, which from an adult point of view can look rather sinister. But on the other hand, Claude is giving Pea what we, as readers, want to give her – company, food, shelter and kindness. The song that pulled me back to this relationship again and again is Cat Power’s cover of  I Found a Reason.

There is something magical and ethereal about this simple song. I hooked onto the sense of being believed in, of hope and of being saved by someone.  What struck me when I saw the cover for The Night Rainbow that Bloomsbury had designed was that they had somehow picked up on this image I had of Pea running, running, running. (See also the book trailer for another representation of this) and the piano music they chose (independently) to represent the book. A perfect synergy with my intention for the novel.

The-Night-Rainbow-frontMaman

As Pea busies herself trying to take on the role of the adult in her family, her mother is sinking deeper and deeper into desperation. Heavily pregnant, apparently alienated somehow from her own parents and in danger of losing her farmhouse home now that her French husband is dead, Maman is struggling badly. I had to be so careful when writing this character because I wanted readers not to condemn her for being neglectful, but to sympathise with her plight. Her song was Amy Hit the Atmosphere by Counting Crows. I found her desperation in this song, but also a great evocation of that powerful need we have for our mothers, for someone to care for us.

Love

Pea is reminded, towards the end of her story, of a moment between her mother and father dancing. The song they dance to is Je t’aimais, je t’aime et je t’aimerai by Francis Cabrel.

This song is in French, and I’ve not found a translation of the lyrics on the web that I’m completely happy with, but here’s one example.

This song was important to me because in amongst its many beautiful images, it captures the naivety of childhood, the messiness and the regrets of adulthood and amongst all that the essence of enduring, abiding love, that I wanted for my characters. Ultimately isn’t it what we all want for our children and for ourselves?

Claire King works and writes in southern France – where she lives in a shabby stone house in the middle of nowhere with her husband and their two young daughters. Her first novel – The Night Rainbow – is now out from Bloomsbury. Find her at her website and on Twitter @ckingwriter

GIVEAWAY Claire is excited to give away a print copy of The Night Rainbow to a commenter here. Bonus entries if you share on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and elsewhere (one entry per medium). Don’t forget to come here and tell me in the comments where you’ve shared it as I might not know!

About these ads

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  1. #1 by cydmadsen on February 20, 2013 - 8:22 am

    Yes! Another juicy book to read and more exposure to great music I’ve not yet heard. The book sounds wonderful. Yes, that is what we want for our children, and what a lovely image of the mother and father dancing, especially as it’s remembered by a daughter becoming a mother.

    • #2 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on February 20, 2013 - 8:38 am

      Wow Cyd, you’re up early! It sounds a real treat, doesn’t it?

      • #3 by cydmadsen on February 20, 2013 - 8:55 am

        It certainly does. You find the most interesting writers to share with the rest of us. And for that, I’m grateful.

  2. #4 by Annecdotist on February 20, 2013 - 10:32 am

    What a delight in so many ways on such a grey morning (in England). Claire’s novel is currently on my wish list and I’m even more looking forward to reading it after this. As someone who’s been sneaking snippets of music into my blog posts I’m also impressed by the smooth interplay of words and music here and will certainly be inspired to do it more. Will definitely be linking to this on my blog (sorry it’s not Facebook and Twitter et cetera but I haven’t yet progressed to those dizzy heights).

    • #5 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on February 20, 2013 - 11:08 am

      Annecdotist, nice to see you work your way over from the Authors Electric blog! I’ve been seeing a lot about Claire’s novel so I’m really glad she could stop by for an Undercover Soundtrack. Thanks for sharing this post!

  3. #6 by Peter Domican on February 20, 2013 - 10:42 am

    Love Lou Reed as a songwriter. Peter Gabriel’s version of ‘Power of The Heart’ with The NEw Blood orchestra is just beautiful. Often have that on.

    • #7 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on February 20, 2013 - 11:08 am

      Hello Peter! Ah, Peter Gabriel. A longtime favourite of mine too. I don’t know that song, though – will have to check it out now.

  4. #8 by moriarty2 on February 20, 2013 - 2:09 pm

    I love Satie. Broken, beautiful, indefinable. Love the soundtrack to Betty Blue and opera for very heightened emotion. Punk for housework though…makes me angry and moody to power on through it. Classical always for writing…..

    • #9 by Claire King on February 20, 2013 - 2:56 pm

      Haha! I like punk for housework too! Impossible to clean up to classical.

  5. #10 by Paula Beavan on February 20, 2013 - 9:24 pm

    Just listening to the piano music while reading about Pea made me want this book!

  6. #12 by Nicola Reid on February 22, 2013 - 2:11 pm

    Thank you for this post. A soundtrack to read the book by. It’s all so beautiful.

    • #13 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on February 22, 2013 - 8:15 pm

      Dig around here, Nicola. There are plenty of gems waiting to be discovered. And I’m delighted to have Claire bring such a lovely book to my site.

  7. #14 by azuriteenigma on February 23, 2013 - 1:06 pm

    Beautiful look and feel to the book cover! Lovely trailer too. Interesting about the music… Have just been writing letters to Tchaikovsky symphonies, but sometimes the pen seems to stop, or start to doodle, as get lost in the music!
    (will tweet)

  8. #15 by Toby Speed on August 1, 2013 - 10:56 am

    I was drawn in by the book’s title and then all the new (to me) music, and the reasons the author found it evocative, and then the name Pea, and then the beautiful book trailer. I am intrigued. Thank you for sharing this, Roz.

  1. ‘Very French; and weighed down by heat and melancholy’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Claire King « Nail Your Novel
  2. A Launch Party Mingle - Claire King

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 247 other followers

%d bloggers like this: