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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
authors, Bombay Bicycle Club, celebrities, contemporary fiction, Desert Island Discs, Ellie Goulding, entertainment, indie music, Jessica Thompson, John Legend, love songs, music, music for writers, music for writing, musical influence, musical interests, My Memories of a Future Life, mysterious place, Nail Your Novel, playlist for writers, quirky romance, romance, Roz Morris, The Undercover Soundtrack, This is a Love Story, undercover soundtrack, visual imagery, writers, writing, writing to music
- The Undercover Soundtrack is a series where writers - and occasionally other arty folk - reveal how music shapes their work.
- It began as a companion to my first novel, My Memories of a Future Life, and now thrives as a creative salon in its own right. Pull on your headphones and join us.
- If you're curious about the novel that started it all, click the image below.
Kobo featured book, London Book Fair 2013
Seal of Excellence for Outstanding Independent Fiction, Awesome Indies 2013
Underground Book Reviews Top Summer Read 2012
League of Extraordinary Authors Top 10 Indie Elite 2012
Multi-Story Pick of the Month March and October 2012
Alliance of Independent Authors Book of the Month, January 2013
Email merozmorriswriter at gmail dot com
- All content copyright Roz Morris 2011-2017. Nothing may be reproduced without my express permission in writing beforehand. Photography: Bonnie Schupp Photography, gcg2009 and Roz Morris
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What is The Undercover Soundtrack?Sleeve notes here
For the soundtrack of My Memories of a Future Life, you'll need Chopin's Sonata in B Minor, Rachmaninov preludes, lashings of Grieg's piano concerto in A minor and The Clash's Rock the Kasbah (they go together well).
You'll also need Samuel Barber's Dover Beach on piano, although that doesn't actually exist so do the best you can.
And the novel's undercover pieces. You can find them here
- What's on their soundtracks? Zip down to the footer and you can search by artiste or composer. See who shares your taste in inspirational music
Find something unforgettable
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- Making a living as a writer: how social media can be a long-term investment for your career
- ‘A dead soul, a journalist in a dystopian Scotland, and painful family memories’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Philip Miller
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- 'My Memories of a Future Life is a poignant story steeped with melancholy, edged with a desperate hope, and twisted throughout with darkness and humor'
- 'Some of the sharpest writing I've read in a long while'
- 'The feel of a modern-day witch trial with a tense romance'
- 'Clever when you think about it afterwards; haunting and engrossing while you're reading'