Posts Tagged Tom Petty

The Undercover Soundtrack – Linda Collison

for logo‘Road trips require a soundtrack; so do some novels’

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 Foreword Review finalist Linda Collison @LindaCollison

Soundtrack by Paul Simon, Audioslave, Kid Rock, KT Tunstall, Gwen Stefani, Tom Petty, Matt Campbell

Without a soundtrack a road trip is just humming tires, cacophonous thoughts and monotonous dialogue. Long drives require a soundtrack. So do some novels.

profile picI studied music in high school and wanted to be a musician. Music is eloquent when words fail. In a parallel life I’m a rock star or a concert pianist, but in this life I write. Because I can’t sing. Still, music resonates in my bones and melodies are a time machine. My tastes are catholic: baroque, classical, American jazz and blues, pop, classic rock, alternative rock, hard rock, metal, experimental, folk, bluegrass, sea shanties and show tunes – all have been my muse.

I don’t always play music when I’m at the keyboard working on a novel, but typing is only the tip of the iceberg; much of the writing process occurs when I’m dreaming, driving a car, or doing the dishes. Music affects my stories in ways I can’t even know.

Music plays a big part in Looking for Redfeather, a literary coming-of-age-on-the-road novel. But it ain’t Jack Kerouac’s road trip!   I wrote the first draft during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2007 – the year in which the story is set.  It took six years for the edits. Paul Simon’s, I’m Workin’ on the Rewrite comes to mind… In October it was finally published, winning acclaim as a finalist in Foreword Review’s Book of the Year Award.

Looking for Redfeather is set in June of 2007 in the Great American West. Fifteen-year-old Ramie Redfeather hitchhikes out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, bound for Denver, Colorado, 100 miles away. He’s looking for his Apache father, a blues musician playing in a bar called Ziggies (a real blues bar). Ramie’s never met his father and he’s got a bone to pick. Ramie also has to be back in two weeks, for his court date. In his pocket, a cheap MP3 plays Audioslave’s Cochise. The album by the same name, released in 2002, expresses Ramie’s unresolved anger about his absent father.

Meanwhile, a bug-splattered Cadillac Eldorado with Maryland tags is rolling through Cheyenne. The guy behind the wheel is 17-year-old Charles Sweeney, who, until recently has gone by the rather unfortunate nickname Chuck. But Chuck has re-invented himself as Chas and he’s left his Maryland home in a stolen car. Technically, he didn’t steal the car – he borrowed it from his grandmother. Without permission. He has also taken six dusty cases of vintage wine from her wine cellar, which he does not intend to return. Chas’s identifying song is Kid Rock’s Cowboy. He is fleeing his ‘so-called life’ back east.  because they’re ‘all brain-dead’. Actually, his mother really is brain dead; she exists in a vegetative state following a drug overdose. His father is on house arrest, and Chas feels the need to escape the prison that is his life. He hopes to experience the great American road trip, envisioning a 21st century On the Road, or Easy Rider without the crash ending. Just south of Cheyenne, he stops for a hitchhiker. It’s Ramie, thumbing his way to Denver. Together, they go looking for Redfeather.

Sixteen-year-old old Faith Appleby has learning disabilities but she has been given an amazing voice.   Believing her voice is her only chance for success, Faith changes her name to Mae B LaRoux, buys a fake ID with money she nicked out of the church collection plate, and leaves her conservative Christian home in Baton Rouge, guitar in hand. Her plan is to win the Breakout Blues contest at the Austin Music Festival but she gets on the wrong bus — the bus to Denver. LaRoux’s identifying songs are KT Tunstall’s Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree and Bobby McGee. She also admires the badass attitude Gwen Stefani exudes in Hollaback Girl.

Ramie and Chas manage to sneak into Ziggies but Redfeather, the scheduled entertainment, is a no-show. Ramie’s father has disappeared again. But Mae B LaRoux shows up, looking for a gig. The three teens connect, heading out on the road to get LaRoux to Austin in time for the contest, looking for Redfeather on the way. Tom Petty’s music, especially Saving Grace, captured our mood and motivation.

Looking for Redfeather BOYA 10003076_10203553731672707_1146057099_nA lot can happen in two weeks – and across 2000 miles – to change the course of a teenager’s life. Especially in a borrowed Cadillac with like-minded friends and a trunk full of Grandma’s wine.

I write because I can’t sing. Lucky for me, my sons are musicians. My youngest son, Matt Campbell, wrote a theme song, Outlaw Trail, for his mother’s road trip novel. Check out the entire song list for Looking for Redfeather on YouTube.

Linda Collison’s writing has received awards from Honolulu Magazine, Southwest Writers Workshop, the former Maui Writers’ Conference, and the National Student Nurses Association. The New York Public Library chose her first novel, Star-Crossed, to be among the Books for the Teen Age – 2007. Linda began freelance writing while in college and was a scriptwriter and director of marketing for a small video production company in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She loves to travel by foot, fast car, or sailing ship. Her experience as a voyage crew member aboard the H.M. Bark Endeavour, a replica of Captain James Cook’s 18th century ship, led to the Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventures: Barbados Bound and Surgeon’s Mate, published by Fireship Press. Her latest book, Looking for Redfeather, was a finalist in Foreword Review’s Book of the Year 2013. Linda blogs on her website  and you can tweet her on @LindaCollison

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The Undercover Soundtrack – Terri Giuliano Long

‘She’s just a kid, flying high, full of imagination and life’

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 journalist and award-winning debut novelist Terri Giuliano Long @TGLong

Soundtrack by Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Robbie Robertson, Tom Petty, Radiohead, Mother Love Bone, Keith Jarrett, The Cowboy Junkies, Madonna, Oasis

Dave and I are in the car on our way home from dinner. He puts a Bruce Springsteen CD in the player, Greetings From Asbury Park. The song Growin’ Up strikes a nerve, and I ask him to hit replay. I listen to the song over and over. The song is still playing when we pull into the driveway 30 minutes later. In this song, I see Leah – a 16-year-old girl, pushing boundaries, horrifying the adults all around her. She’s just a kid, flying high, full of imagination and life, yearning for independence, trying to make her way in the world.

This song opens a door

Dave and I have four daughters. As I’m writing the novel, they’re all teens, and I see Leah from a mother’s perspective. I love her, but she frightens me. This song opens a door, shows me another side of her. I see tremendous energy and vulnerability so deep and true that it brings tears to my eyes. I try to integrate this new understanding into her scenes, but it’s not until late in the novel, after she’s run away from home, that it pays off.

When I wrote In Leah’s Wake, songs—like Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey, Robbie Robertson’s Showdown at Big Sky and Tom Petty’s Face in the Crowd provided the emotional connection I needed to define certain scenes. The novel opens with Leah’s parents, Zoe and Will, playing poker—a metaphor I didn’t notice until the second draft, when I realized how much parenting teens resembles a poker game. Tupelo Honey spins on the player. After a spat, Will leaves the table and replaces the sweet love song with Zoe’s favorite song, Showdown at Big Sky. That night, alone, waiting for Leah, he listens to A Face In The Crowd, a haunting song that speaks to his profound loneliness, as he sits by the window, imagining the unthinkable horror that may have befallen his child.

Often, the instrumentals, the sound, the tone—the emotional energy—of a song put me into the scene. Paranoid Android, from Okay Computer by Radiohead, I’m On Fire, by Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, Stardog Champion, from Stardog Champion by Mother Love Bone, I Loves You Porgy from Porgy and Bess, by Keith Jarrett on the CD The Melody At Night With You, and Misguided Angel from The Trinity Session by the Cowboy Junkies—all set an emotional stage for a scene I was working on.

In the lyric

Occasionally, the lyrics spoke to me, as was the case with Madonna’s Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, from the film Evita, released in 1996, a few years before I began In Leah’s Wake. Early in the book, Zoe is in the car, on her way home from work. She’s thinking about Leah, all the changes that have occurred of late. Leah’s behavior drives her out of her mind. She also feels guilty, selfish for putting her own needs and desires ahead of her family. ‘I love you,’ Madonna sings, echoing Zoe’s feelings. ‘And I hope you love me.’

The best writing moments occurred when – as with Growin’ Up – a song moved me emotionally and its lyrics gave me insight. Our house at the time was wired for sound. One morning, when I stepped out of the shower, Oasis’s Champagne Supernova from What’s the Story? Morning Glory, was playing. I was working on a pivotal scene: Leah’s 12-year-old sister, Justine, asks for a cigarette and Leah, hesitant at first, sees her sister as her equal for the first time and allows her to smoke. The song’s textured ethereal feel, for me, mirrored Leah’s state of mind. The lyrics, about getting high, people changing, felt right. The metaphor gave me psychological clarity, a window into Leah’s heart.

As I progressed through draft after draft, music, which had initially inspired me, took on a defining role in the book. Scenes where the characters were listening to music began to different feel from scenes that were virtually silent, except for the dialogue. To me, those silent scenes feel stark, and emotionally raw. Maybe that’s why they so often end with an argument or a crucial event that, to one of the characters, represents catastrophic change.

Without music, In Leah’s Wake would be a very different book. How do you identify with music? When you read a book, do you relate to songs or find them a distraction?

Terri Giuliano Long is a contributing writer for IndieReader and Her Circle eZine. She has written news and feature articles for numerous publications, including the Boston Globe and the Huffington Post. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. In Leah’s Wake is her debut novel, winner of the Coffee Time Reviewer Recommend Award, the Book Bundlz 2011 Book Pick, the Book Bundlz Book Club Favorite, 2012 – First Place and nominated for the Global eBook award. For more information, find her on her website. Or connect on Facebook, Twitter or Blog.

 
 

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The Undercover Soundtrack – Matthew Dicks

‘I wanted music that a certain breed of men might like but would rarely admit to liking’

The Undercover Soundtrack is a weekly series by writers who use music as part of their creative process – special pieces that have revealed a character to them, or populated a mysterious place, or enlarged a pivotal moment. This week’s post is by contemporary novelist Matthew Dicks

Soundtrack by Bob Seger, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Supertramp, Wham!, Abba, Nena

At the heart of Unexpectedly, Milo is a road trip.  The protagonist, Milo Slade, heads south in search of a woman who may or may not be alive, and since music has always played a large role in every road trip that I have ever taken, I felt like it should play a role in this book as well.

Savants and self-awareness

I wanted the choice of music to say something about Milo as a person, and so I enlisted the help of my wife, who is a near savant when it comes to music, to help me choose the playlist.  Milo first begins by burning a CD with the type of classic road trip music that you might hear in a movie.  He is a movie buff, and in many ways, he views himself as a character within a film, so includes songs like Bob Seger’s Against the Wind, Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ and Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run on his playlist.

He doesn’t necessarily like this music, but it is what he thinks he is supposed to play, which is in many ways Milo’s problem.  He has spent his life pretending to be the person he thinks he is supposed to be instead of the oddball that he truly is.

Unlike a film, where a three-minute song can fill an entire road trip montage, Milo is surprised to discover that his carefully constructed playlist runs out before he is even able to leave the state of Connecticut.

Guilty pleasures

Milo then turns to music that he likes but is too embarrassed to play around his soon-to-be ex-wife.  Bands like Supertramp, Wham! and Abba enter the rotation, and it was these choices of bands to which my wife assisted me.  I wanted music that a certain breed of men might like but would rarely admit to liking.  Not the toughest guys in the world, but not exactly wimps either.  Catchy tunes that an average guy like Milo might enjoy.  The guilty pleasures of the everyman.

It was also important that Milo kept his love for this kind of music hidden from his wife.  While Milo’s wife, Christine, is not the nicest of people, Milo is at least partially to blame for the failure of his marriage because of the number of secrets he has kept from his wife.  She knows nothing about his obsessive-compulsive nature, and this has required Milo to construct an elaborate and secretive life from her, undoubtedly causing barriers in their relationship.

In fact, music plays a large role in this secret life as well.  As an obsessive-compulsive, one of Milo’s compulsions is to sing the German karaoke version of the 1980s hit 99 Luftballons by Nena to an audience.  When the demand strikes, Milo’s mind cannot be put at ease until he takes the stage and performs the song.  As he prepares for his road trip south, he makes sure to have a copy of the 99 Luftballons karaoke CD in the event the compulsion strikes.

Karaoke bars tend not to have this song on hand.

The song originally chosen for this compulsion was The Hokey Pokey.  Milo’s compulsions often involve escalation and eventual release, and I liked the way The Hokey Pokey followed this model, adding one body part at a time until the dancer is permitted to truly hokey pokey.  But my agent wisely steered me away from this song, thinking it a little too over-the-top and silly to be realistic.  The more obscure but still well known song like 99 Luftballons worked well, especially when I decided to use the German version of the song, which was actually popular in the United States for quite a while.  It added to Milo’s oddity, and the fact that he was required to sing the German version further emphasized how little control he had over these compulsions.

The song ends up playing a key role at the end of the novel, though that came as a bit of a surprise.  It was one of those writes-itself moments, and I ended up loving the scene.  The novel has been optioned for film, and as the process grinds along slowly but surely, I am hoping that the writers, producers and director decide to keep 99 Luftballons as Milo’s song of choice.  It’s the song that plays in the back of my mind whenever I think about Milo and his story.

Matthew Dicks is not one for long, crafted sentences, preferring the stylings of Vonnegut over those of Saramago. He is an author whose works, to date, include the novels Something Missing, Unexpectedly Milo, and the as yet unpublished Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend; a blog; and a number of Op Ed pieces, all of which, at some level or another, tend to examine the outcomes of the quirky and/or rebellious individual when forced up against staid society; however, to say that he is an author is an understatement, for this husband and father from Newington, CT, who has faced a number of near-death experiences, lived in his car, and been tried for a crime that he did not commit, is also an acclaimed elementary teacher who has received the Teacher of the Year Award, is the co-owner of a DJ business, and still wishes that he could beat some of his friends at golf.

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