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 post is by Jessica Thompson @JThompsonauthor
Music greatly affects my writing and levels of inspiration.
This is something I only realised recently, when completing my second novel. I found myself thinking about how often I was listening to music while creating it, and how I experience such a variety of emotions as a result of lyrics and melodies. A song alone can be enough to make me want to rush to my laptop and get writing.
I’ve always been into music, and I’m a singer myself. While I was always encouraged to write, music was a massive part of my childhood whether it was classical or soul. My dad, whose taste is rather more traditional, found himself liking some of my teenage musical interests including Kanye West and Jay Z, and I was constantly surrounded by Classic FM whether it was on the kitchen radio or in the car.
It isn’t a surprise that music now ties in so deeply to my biggest passion – writing. What I find so helpful when considering plots, characters and emotions is the imagery in music. When I listen to songs, I imagine in detail the feelings that are being put across. Lyrics, like the words in novels, bring about a cocktail of sometimes very strong visual imagery.
John Legend has always been a huge musical influence of mine, so as well as listening to his music when I wrote my first novel This is a Love Story, I also decided to directly include him in the storyline itself.
Hopelessly in love
While This is a Love Story, isn’t a true story, it is naturally an extensive collage of things I’ve seen, heard and experienced in my life. When I was about 20 years-old I saw John Legend live in London, and it was an unforgettable gig. Having listened to Legend’s debut album Get Lifted so many times it was probably imprinted note for note in my brain, I was thrilled when my boyfriend at the time took me to see him.
I was hopelessly in love when I went to this concert, and so it helped me to summon up the emotions I needed to pour into This is a Love Story, which takes a youthful look at love and all its complications and emotions.
I loved writing this scene and had so much fun with it. I could have chosen other artistes, but it made sense to draw from an experience I’d known so well. I wanted to portray the dimness of the room, and the electricity everyone felt when he started to sing.
While I refrained from telling readers which song he was performing in the closing part of that scene, I imagine it to be So High, but almost any song from the whole Get Lifted album would have worked perfectly for it.
Legend’s songs are not only deeply romantic, but fun too, and I decided this would be perfect to incorporate into my first book.
While writing This is a Love Story I was influenced by quite a lot of other music too. I was really into Ellie Goulding’s debut album Lights, and I think looking back, I incorporated a lot of the sweetness in Ellie’s lyrics and stage personality into Sienna.
People who come and go
Sienna’s young, fairly naïve, but essentially a good person inside and out. She struggles to gather the guts or the confidence to go after the man she loves. I see a lot of how she feels about Nick in the track Starry Eyed. She’s also pretty cynical in many ways, and Under the sheets made me think about her romantic life, the people who came in and out of it and the kind of hopeless frustration in the way they never quite measure up to Nick.
A number of indie bands helped me form Nick’s character – a young man, with a lot of mischief, silliness and confusion in him. I think your 20s are a pretty turbulent time, and a constant battle of whether you should be out partying until the sun comes up, or whether you should be chasing after someone you really like. There’s pressure from lots of different angles and everyone seems to have a different idea about where your priorities should be. Indie music really encapsulates that, with the wildness of it tied in with heart-wrenching romance. Cancel on Me by Bombay Bicycle Club is the song that reminds me most of Nick, there’s cynicism there, but also real vulnerability.
Jessica Thompson is an author and freelance journalist living in north London. She also works part time in communications for a children’s hospice. In her spare time she likes to run and has also sung in a variety of projects including two bands. Jess is 25 years old, and was born in Keighley, Yorkshire. This is a Love Story is published by Coronet and you can contact Jess on Twitter @JThompsonauthor