‘If you can’t live it yourself, the song will take you there’
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 award-winning contemporary western romance writer Linda W Yezak @pprmint777
Soundtrack by Chris LeDoux,
One touch of a button on my CD player, one second of the galloping beat of Hooked on an 8-Second Ride, and I’m there – dead middle of the rodeo arena. Dust, cowboys, bulls so big they measure a foot and a half between the eyes. The smells of cotton candy and popcorn vying against ranker odors. The chorused groan of the crowd when their favorite crashes to the ground just an instant before the buzzer. The booming voice of the announcer echoing through the speakers. ‘Sorry folks. Maybe next time.’
The lyrics tell me all I need to know about the bull rider. But it’s the beat, the raw, driving, feral beat of adrenaline, that shows me how it feels to sit aback a brawny Brahma with tension steeling my nerves and determination throbbing through my veins.
This one song by Chris LeDoux puts me there, ready to ride. Doesn’t matter that I’m female. Doesn’t matter that I’m too old. With that song, I’m a young man with jangling spurs and a hat firm on my head. I feel the animal shift under me, feel his restless power, smell his dirty hide. My hand’s secure in the braided rope, my teeth are clamped. All it takes is one short order barked at the gateman: Pull it!
The gate swings wide, and the bull explodes from the chute . . .
That’s the wonder of music. If you can’t live it yourself, the song will take you there. It will lift you out of your skin, whisk you from where you are, and settle you where you want to be like nothing else, except maybe a gripping novel.
City girl – and Chris
When I was writing Give the Lady a Ride, I employed a variety of tricks to keep me in character, to inspire me, to immerse myself in this world I’d created. Although my mother’s family owned a ranch, I’ve never lived on one. Although several friends were involved in the rodeo, I’d never participated. So I needed all the help I could find to get this city girl on the ranch and rodeo arenas. I didn’t have a soundtrack of different artists. All I needed were my Chris LeDoux 20 Greatest Hits and Chris LeDoux: The Early Years CDs.
His cowboy and rodeo songs, like Hooked on an 8-Second Ride and Stampede, kept me in my setting, but all his music – not just his western genres – also played a huge role in my characterisation. Through his lyrics, I gained an insight into the personality of a ranch/rodeo cowboy. He’s a practical joker and a little on the wild side. Loves his friends and family. Loves the land. He’s high tempered and foolish sometimes, quietly wise other times. Quick witted. Resourceful.
Is this an idealised portrait? No doubt. But when the hero in your romance novel wears boots and a Stetson, a little idealism doesn’t hurt.
More than any other tactic I employed, music put me where I needed to be, introduced me to personalities and a lifestyle I’m not familiar with, and provided a rhythmic realism to my bull riding scenes. (Thanks, Chris. RIP.)
Linda W Yezak holds a BA in English, a graduate certificate in Paralegal Studies, and a bucket list as long as her arm. Among the things on the list is owning a stable full of horses, and since that’s not likely to happen any time soon, she includes horses in each of her novels, from her contemporary western romance Give the Lady a Ride and her current work, The Cat Lady’s Secret, to her work-in-progress, a contemporary western romance series tentatively called Family First. Until the day she can retire with her husband to their land in Central Texas and ride to her heart’s content, she’ll continue with her writing and freelance editing careers. Find her on Twitter @pprmint777, on her blog, 777 Peppermint Place, and on Facebook as Linda Yezak. Give The Lady a Ride won the 2011 Grace Award for romance and is published by Port Yonder Press through the SkySail imprint.