The Undercover Soundtrack – Glynis Smy

for logo‘I heard a song being played in an electrical store’

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 romantic novelist Glynis Smy @GlynisSmy

Soundtrack by Madonna, Roseanne Cash, Etta James, James Vincent McMorrow

Quite often a piece of music will transport me back to an emotional time in my life or a happy event and words flood into pea-brain. I don’t seek out music intentionally but often find inspiration within the lyrics or rhythm.

Music stimulates my creative juices. For my fourth novel The Penny Portrait, I tended to be more aware of music as a scene writing influence than in previous times.

10426557_10152287113790988_4736214646342535311_nI’ve been known to jot down notes in a supermarket when they are playing a piece of music that forms an image in my mind. This happened when I heard Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, being played inside a well-known electrical store during a visit to the UK. I sought out one of the assistants as I knew the original singer (Rose Royce) but didn’t recognise the version they played. It appeared the song was by Madonna. It triggered the base of a novel plot which eventually became The Penny Portrait. It is the emotional growth and survival of a sixteen-year-old Victorian girl abandoned by her parents. I could see Elle Buchanan, standing alone and forlorn and the rest is in the story.

When my father passed away I played one of his favourite pieces of music, Sea of Heartbreak by Roseanne Cash. I was living in Cyprus at the time and a dreadful wave of homesickness came over me. I altered the town where the novel was set. I took it back to my birth town, to where my father now rested by the sea. I had walked along a spot where we became trapped by a returning tide when I was a child and recalled how he carried me on his back to safety. This was where I eventually took my character. To the place my father had been my hero, to where I played with my best friend who passed away when we were 36 years old, and to the place where I walked with my boyfriend (now husband). A rugged pathway of emotions beside the sea – a sea of heartbreak and joy.

Return journey

The song triggered so much emotion in me that the decision was made for our return to the UK. In 2013 I walked along the path to the area I remembered and knew it was the right place to write my character’s journey through a difficult life. Elle Buchanan finds friendship here, she falls in love and also loses a friend in the area.

Browsing through Madonna’s video selection a few months later, I stumbled across, Frozen. Although I was writing an emotional scene at the time, another was triggered by the words at the start of the song. My characters Elle, and Matthew, took me on another journey and during that journey I created a project for Elle to pursue but couldn’t get her to grasp what I needed from her. She obviously prefers to listen to Etta James, as when I played Damn Your Eyes from Mother’s collection, Elle sent me images of what I needed to write so she could open up her artistic soul. A whole chapter and an ending came from a mix of inspirational words and visions they conjured up for me. Elle couldn’t express her feelings for Matthew during the creation of a painting and left only black eyes as windows for his soul. Her French friend despaired of her and basically told her she had frozen her soul to ignore the facts.

Kindle front ppWhile researching the railway service of our town I played my YouTube listing as I browsed endless snippets of information but all I gathered were dates. Useful but not the wow factor I required to inspire me that particular day. Around two hours into the project I tapped my foot to This Old Dark Machine by James Vincent McMorrow. Bam! The chapter of Elle and her mentor Angus, rose to the fore, although the words did not relate to what I’d been researching the title and rhythm of the song triggered a chapter about the first steam train ride for Elle.

Glynis Smy lives in the UK, in the seaside town of, Dovercourt, Harwich. She writes historical romance with a twist. The Victorian era fascinates her and she says the best part of writing a novel is often the research. She also writes poetry and short stories. Proud writing moments in her life include being shortlisted for the Festival of Romance Fiction 2014 New Talent Award –  and reaching the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2014. When she is not writing, she enjoys making greetings cards, cross stitch, fishing and the company of her granddaughter. Her blog is here, and you can find her on Facebook and Twitter @GlynisSmy.



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  1. #1 by Glynis Smy on February 25, 2015 - 9:16 am

    Thank you for sharing, Roz.

  2. #2 by Glynis Smy on February 25, 2015 - 9:18 am

    Reblogged this on Glynis Smy: Author of Historical Romance with a Twist and commented:
    Today I am a guest of Roz Morris. I share my music inspiration.

  3. #3 by denizb33 on February 25, 2015 - 10:42 am

    Thanks for sharing some of your musical inspirations, Glynis! I love it when a song sparks story or memory…

    • #4 by Glynis Smy on February 26, 2015 - 4:04 pm

      Deniz, you are welcome. Music is a great source of inspiration!

  4. #5 by Deborah Swift on February 25, 2015 - 10:43 am

    hi Glynis, I didn’t know Madonna had done a version of Love Don’t live here Anymore. Great atmospheric video too. Enjoyed your choices and your post.

    • #6 by Glynis Smy on February 25, 2015 - 11:05 am

      Hi Deborah, thanks. As a fan of Madonna, I was surprised to find I’d missed her version!

    • #7 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on February 25, 2015 - 5:38 pm

      Hi Deborah! I didn’t know that version either, and was rather pleased Glynis discovered it.

  5. #8 by denizb33 on February 25, 2015 - 11:12 am

    Thanks for sharing your inspirations, Glynis!

  6. #10 by Margot Kinberg on February 25, 2015 - 12:40 pm

    Roz – Thanks for hosting Glynis.

    Glynis – Thanks for sharing your soundtrack. Isn’t Roz a great host?! It is amazing to me how a simple piece of music can resonate with a person and trigger memories and emotions.

    • #11 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on February 25, 2015 - 5:37 pm

      Hi Margot! Nice to see you here again. You were one of my earliest guests!

    • #12 by Glynis Smy on February 26, 2015 - 4:06 pm

      Margo, Roz is a fabulous host and I had the pleasure of meeting her a few weeks ago. Music has stirred so much inside of me since I started writing novels. Thanks for visiting.

  7. #13 by williamkendall1 on February 25, 2015 - 10:22 pm

    Quite a strong connection to music, Glynis!

    • #14 by Glynis Smy on February 26, 2015 - 4:07 pm

      Hi William, thanks for commenting. Music has become a vital part of my novel writing. The connection is getting stronger!

  1. ‘I heard a song being played in an electrical store’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Glynis Smy | Nail Your Novel

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