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’s post is by Adrienne Thompson @A_H_Thompson
Music has always framed the big and not so big events of my life. It has always surrounded me. As I recollect the massive record collection that still resides in my mother’s home or remember the record players and boom boxes and Walkmen that were my constant companions throughout my sometime chaotic and painful childhood, I remember that music has always been there, and I know that it will always be there.
In December of 2010, I left the town that had been home to me since I was three years old and took a job transfer that required me to move 70 miles away. It was just me and my daughter who hit the road that winter, facing uncertainty together. My daughter adapted to her new environment right away while it took a couple of months for me to adjust. After I adapted to my rapidly changing life, I found my way back to my love—my purpose. I picked up a pen and began to write. I penned a book entitled Been So Long during my off days and snow days (yes, they actually let us miss work when it snowed).
This book, which often made me smile as I wrote it, would go on to outsell any other of the nine books I have written and published thus far. And I have to admit, if I had to pick a favorite character to write about, it would be Been So Long’s anti-heroine, Mona-Lisa Dandridge, with all of her issues and imperfections. The songs that helped me create this book are also the songs that would comprise the soundtrack of my life at that time. Both the songs and the book helped me transition from my old life, to a new one.
Please Don’t Go by Mike Posner jump-started the writing of this novel which chronicles the life of a very attractive African American woman. She is involved in a long-term affair with a married Pakistani doctor who just happens to be the father of her teenage sons. The lyrics aptly describe her lover’s feelings for her, and this song often put me in the mood to write the words that chronicled their complicated relationship.
Then there’s Southern Girl by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. This song inspired me to create the persona of the main character. In my mind, this song was the sway of her hips and the soft curves of her body. While listening to this song, I could see Mona-Lisa as she sashayed around her beautiful home, living the life of a kept woman. I could smell her expensive cologne and see her smile as she enjoyed the comfortable life her lover provided despite the fact that behind the smile was a past she’d tried very hard to forget.
At first glance, one would think Dr Wasif Masood was nothing more than a selfish man with selfish intentions demonstrated by selfish actions. But in listening to Bad Habits by Maxwell, I was able to see the layers of his character. I was able to recognize that what he felt for Mona was far deeper than what is found in your usual affair. Mona was more akin to an addiction than a mistress to him. At times, what he felt for her was completely out of his control. That song helped me understand his lack of control when it came to his feelings for her.
Whatta Man by Salt-n-Pepa featuring En Vogue played in my head every time I wrote the name, Corey Sanders. And what a man he is! Corey is a man from Mona’s past who shows up in her present and flips her world upside down. It is not only the lyrics that allow me to channel Mr Corey Sanders when I hear this song. It is the rhythm which reminds me of the swagger in his step. The driving baseline is his strength. And the guitar riffs which are reminiscent of the music of yesteryear allow me to channel the old fashioned values that are so important to his character.
And, finally, there’s Say Yes by Floetry. This song put me in the mood to write scenes where my characters needed to get up close and personal with each other (if you know what I mean). If there is such a thing as intimacy in the form of a song, this one is a prime example. I dare anyone to listen to it and not feel something… somewhere.
Wait, I can’t leave without mentioning the song which embodies the feel and mood of the entire book and inspired its title — Been So Long by Anita Baker. The very first line of that song sets the tone for both halves of what eventually becomes a very unique love triangle. And Ms Baker’s haunting vocals almost embody the emotions of all of the characters. I would sometimes put this song on repeat and listen to it over and over again as I let the underlying desperation sink into my mind. This song served as my muse for the entire book.
So there it is, Been So Long’s Undercover Soundtrack. Thanks for reading and thanks to Roz for the opportunity to share with you all!!
Adrienne Thompson has worn many titles in her lifetime–from teenage mother to teenage wife to divorcee to registered nurse to author. This mother of two young adults and one teenager currently resides in Arkansas with her daughter where she writes and publishes her stories full time. Find her on Twitter as @A_H_Thompson, Facebook, her blog and her website.