‘To draw a curtain around a mental space’
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 novelist, short story writer, essayist and small press editor Bryan Furuness @furunati
Soundtrack by Rainymood.com
I’ve never been good at focusing. The smallest sound can break my concentration, but absolute silence can lull me into a daydream—which is cool, but not so great if I actually want to get anything done. But if I listen to the right sound, it can provide a shield against distractions, while keeping me from spacing out.
Most days the sound is the sound of rain. It’s the white noise of nature, an audio curtain you can draw around yourself to block out the world. Rainymood.com plays a looping track that is about 30 minutes long. At one point, a dog barks twice in the distance. Later, a train goes by. Then it all hushes, just for a moment, before starting over.
Carry me back
Day after day, the rainstorm brought me back to the world of the novel. It’s a kind of anaphora, which comes from the Greek term of anapherein, meaning to carry back. The writing process is another kind of anaphora: you revisit the same story or poem or essay over and over, again and again, with patience and focus and persistence.
The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson took about eight years to write, or approximately 8,000 rainstorms. The book’s about a precocious and dreamy boy who’s decided that he’s the second coming of Christ. His mother, an inventive storyteller, likes to tell him made-up Bible stories, which she claims are ‘lost episodes’, or outtakes from the King James version. Wild as prophecy and seemingly just as coded, these charming and dangerous tales feature steel mills, cars, and transistor radios, among other artifacts not generally associated with life at the beginning of Anno Domini. Faith can be fickle, though, and Revie’s belief in God and his family is shaken when his mother leaves home to pursue her dreams of stardom in Hollywood. Over the course of a year, one family and one boy must learn to sacrifice and forgive in order to be born again.
The book has no storms, but there it is again: anaphora. Second comings, resurrections, homecomings, retrospective narration, and listening to the same storm over and over are all built on the same pattern, the one called carry me back.
Maybe that’s the obsession that underpins all my other obsessions. I’m thinking now about a scene from the middle of the book, when a character named Pastor Mike tells Revie that God built the universe on a circular track. ‘Everything orbits,’ he tells the boy. ‘Including you.’
Including me, too. Including all of us.
Bryan Furuness is the author of the novel, The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson. His fiction has appeared in Ninth Letter, Southeast Review, Hobart, and elsewhere, including New Stories from the Midwest and Best American Nonrequired Reading. He teaches at Butler University, where he serves as the Editor in Chief for the small press, Pressgang. Find him on Facebook and on Twitter as @furunati
GIVEAWAY Bryan is giving away 2 paperback copies of The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson to commenters here. Extra entries if you share the post on Twitter, Facebook or other platforms – but remember to note in your comment here that you have! He also asks that if you happen to win, he’d be extremely grateful for a review on Amazon or Goodreads – favourable or otherwise.
Also, don’t forget that there’s a giveaway on the Nail Your Novel site as well… to celebrate a new cover.
11 thoughts on “The Undercover Soundtrack – Bryan Furuness”
I love this idea of listening to rainstorms as a way of staying connected to the work. I can’t write at all in total silence. I have to listen to music on earphones (even if I’m alone in the room) and it has to be the same album over and over again (current favourite is The People’s Key by Bright Eyes.) Because I’ve already internalised the music and words it acts as a mantra, reminding me that it’s time to get back into the world of the novel. I’m going to check out the rainstorms, though, and see how that works for me!
Hi NIcola! Isn’t the rainstorms a lovely idea? I understand what you mean by the mantra. I’ve been playing Air’s Talkie Walkie on repeat for days, although I think it might be time for a change soon.
I usually listen to Internet radio. I can’t listen to anything with a lot of talking or distinctive singers, so no Tom Waits. A lot of times, I’ll turn on Beethoven Radio or Mozart Radio, because it shakes the language part of my brain into operation. Otherwise, I use different songs to set a mood — sad music for sad scenes, inspiring music for inspiring scenes (like the soundtrack to Lord of the Dance), and so on.
Hi Erik! Some people find lyrics or voices too distracting, but I find it depends on my mood, and the kind of thing I’m writing. I’d never heard of Beethoven Radio or Mozart Radio – what a cool idea.
The type of music I listen to while writing usually depends on the mood of my writing. I’ll usually sift through songza stations or shuffle through my own collection. I haven’t listened to the sound of rain while writing (not recorded rain, that is), but I will have to try it. I agree with Bryan that rain is the white noise of nature.
Wonderful site you have, Roz.
Thanks, Michelle! I hadn’t heard of Songza – good tip! I loved Bryan’s post. The rain on Rainymood is pretty intensive if you listen to it, but most of all I liked the mood Bryan created out of it with his words.
I usually find any music too distracting when I’m writing. I’ll have to try the rain idea. I do like recordings of ocean waves if there aren’t too many seagulls crying.
I’m listening now. I love it! It really helps me concentrate. It’s super soothing.
It’s nice, isn’t it, Ann? Thanks for dropping by.