Posts Tagged A Fine Frenzy

The Undercover Soundtrack – Rysa Walker

for logo‘Music is my cave, my TARDIS’

Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative environment – perhaps to connect with a character, populate a mysterious place, or hold  a moment still to explore its depths. This week my guest is the winner of the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA), Rysa Walker @RysaWalker

Soundtrack by The Section Quartet, The Jody Grind, John Philip Sousa, Scott Joplin, The Fratellis, Vampire Weekend, The Shins, A Fine Frenzy

I write in a house with two frequently noisy kids and a dog that seems to have missed the memo about golden retrievers being a quiet breed. Music is my writing cave in the midst of that chaos.  I have several carefully trained Pandora channels that keep me supplied with background music, either instrumentals or songs with lyrics I know so well that they cannot possibly distract me.  Instrumental covers of indie rock songs, by groups like The Section Quartet, along with albums I know by heart, like One Man’s Trash by now-defunct 1990s band The Jody Grind — these are the tunes that keep me company on days when I’m editing or revising.  While I don’t exactly hate those tasks, they are often tedious and if presented with any plausible excuse, my mind will stray.  If I listen to anything with lyrics I don’t know, a phrase will catch my ear, then I have to google it, and then I click on something else that’s bright and shiny.  Several hours later, I’m shaking my head trying to figure out where the time went.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn days when I need to actually create something new, however, music isn’t just a cave that shuts out the world.  On those days, music is my TARDIS.  The right song can evoke memories of events and emotions from my own past, and even take me to times and places I could never actually visit and that’s a vital tool when you write about time traveling historians. Sometimes I use period music to help set the mood while I’m writing, but songs from the era also shine light on the customs, social issues, and pop culture of an era, so it’s always part of my research.

The last third of Timebound, the first book in my Chronos Files series, is set at the 1893 Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair.  The Expo was home to the first Ferris wheel, which stood 264 feet high and could carry 60 people in each of the 36 passenger cars.  One of those cars was set aside to carry a full band that played songs like Sousa’s Gladiator March as the wheel rotated.  A bit farther down the Midway, a Broadway producer named Sol Bloom picked out this iconic tune while an exotic dancer billed as Little Egypt prepared to go on stage.  Visitors to the Exposition and the cafes surrounding the fair were also witness to the early work of ragtime great Scott Joplin, whose Maple Leaf Rag would take the world by storm a few years later.  A few recordings from the early 1890s are available online, like this very early rendition of Daisy, Daisy, but they’re all rather hard on the ears, so I relied heavily on covers by later artists.  I won’t claim that any of those songs from the 1890s is in heavy rotation on my iPod, but they definitely helped me get a feel for the era.

TimeboundCoverMusic is also vital for helping me manage another type of time travel.  Timebound is written from the perspective of Kate, who is 17.  When I was 17, many moons ago, I existed on a steady diet of pop music and could name every song in the Top 40 most weeks.  Thankfully, Kate is not autobiographical.  She’s more inclined toward indie artists. This is a very good thing, because otherwise I don’t think we could hang out together.   If I’m writing about Kate’s everyday life — school, friends, family — tunes by The Fratellis, Vampire Weekend, and The Shins help me climb inside her head.

There’s one last song I have to mention because I play it every few days—Borrowed Time by A Fine Frenzy.  I stumbled upon her album One Cell in the Sea when I was writing the second draft of Timebound, back when it was still called Time’s Twisted Arrow.   I love the entire album, but I’m deeply in debt to her for this particular song.  The voice, the lyrics and the music all combine magically to pull me into Kate’s reality every time I play Borrowed Time.

Rysa Walker is the author of Timebound, the first book in The Chronos Files series.  She grew up on a cattle ranch in the Deep South where the options for entertainment were talking to cows and reading books. On the rare occasion that she gained control of the television, she watched Star Trek and imagined living in the future, on distant planets, or at least in a town big enough to have a stop light. When not writing, she teaches history and government in North Carolina, where she shares an office with her husband, who heroically pays the mortgage each month, and a golden retriever named Lucy. She still doesn’t get control of the TV very often, thanks to two sports-obsessed kids. Find her website here, find the Chronos Files blog here, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter (@RysaWalker).

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The Undercover Soundtrack – Zoe Sharp

‘I wanted music that was angry and soulful, both at the same time.’

Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative process – perhaps to tap into a character, populate a mysterious place, or explore the depths in a pivotal moment. This week’s post is by multi-award-winning crime author Zoe Sharp @AuthorZoeSharp

Soundtrack by Beth Rudetsky, Linkin Park, Moby, Breaking Benjamin, A Fine Frenzy, Nirvana, Pink

Music has always played a big part in my creative process, usually at a low volume in the background so it goes in on an almost subliminal level while I write. My CD collection contains wildly varying music from Gregorian chants and opera to Cajun and Zydeco. And just about everything in between.

Anger and wounds

For Fifth Victim: Charlie Fox book nine, it was particularly relevant. The whole theme of the book is not knowing what you’ve got until it’s too late.  I wanted music that was angry and soulful, both at the same time.

By this stage in the series Charlie Fox is back at her close-protection job as a means to bury personal tragedy. She welcomes the dangers involved, despite the concerns of those closest to her. I listened to songs that stoked up those emotions while I worked, and the volume was cranked much higher than usual for most of the time. I was looking for an almost resentful tone, like that in Breaking Benjamin’s Breath.

Fifth Victim is a story told on a deadline — it has a ticking clock of kidnap and ransom where the outcome is not at all certain. The relentless beat of Nirvana’s Come As You Are really seemed to work with that. The MTV Unplugged live version is one that gets into your head and stays there all day. I revisited it while writing this piece, and it’s stuck there again now.

All through this story Charlie is working under pressure, constantly improvising and reacting. For those action scenes I needed a soundtrack with energy and raw power that also spoke of experience and loss. Linkin Park’s New Divide got a real hammering, as did Moby’s Extreme Ways.

But there are quieter, more reflective moments. Tasked to protect Dina Willner, the daughter of a wealthy Long Island doyenne, Charlie is asked if she’s prepared to sacrifice herself for her principal. At the time, Charlie says she hopes it won’t come to that. But later, at the hospital bedside of her lover — fellow bodyguard Sean Meyer — who has been in a coma for over three months after a near-fatal shooting, she thinks differently:

It didn’t give any comfort that Sean had gone down in the line of duty, as he would have seen it. Doing his job. Hesitation had never been a possibility with him and it seemed that to hesitate now would be to let down everything he’d stood for. So if it came to it, I thought fiercely, then yes, I would die to protect Dina Willner, as her mother had asked.

And maybe I’d do it just a fraction more willingly than I might have done, a hundred days ago.’

The longing and loss of such moments was beautifully summed up by A Fine Frenzy’s Last Of Days, and by Pink’s Glitter In The Air.

Song for Charlie

But the biggest musical moment of Fifth Victim came between the final edits and publication. I was contacted by the hugely talented US singer/songwriter, Beth Rudetsky. She wanted to write a song inspired by the book. I was stunned when she sent me The Victim Won’t Be Me, for which the students of Vision West Notts then produced a terrific video. The song is an interpretation of the book, and the video is an interpretation of the song.

The resulting combination is beautiful and haunting. And it is definitely part of my soundtrack for the next instalment in the Charlie Fox series.

Zoë Sharp wrote her first novel when she was fifteen, and created the no-nonsense Charlie Fox after receiving death-threat letters as a photojournalist. Her work has been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Barry, Benjamin Franklin, and Macavity Awards in the United States, as well as the CWA Short Story Dagger. The Charlie Fox series was optioned by Twentieth Century Fox TV. Zoë blogs regularly on her own website, and on the acclaimed Murderati group blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter (@AuthorZoeSharp).

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