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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 contemporary women’s fiction novelist Joanne Phillips @joannegphillips
Soundtrack by Morrissey
I’m one of those writers who needs absolute peace and quiet to concentrate. Birdsong is fine; distant lawnmowers are okay; total silence is better. Anything I can ignore won’t interrupt my peace, but I can’t ignore music so I never listen while working. Music has always affected me deeply; I discovered Radio 4 during a difficult period in my life when the most innocuous song could trigger an attack of the blues.
Because I haven’t studied music I lack the vocabulary to explain precisely what it is that reaches inside and yanks out strings of emotion. I know there’s an amorphous sense of longing, of trying to work something out, and it’s this feeling, produced only by a beautiful tune or resonating lyric, that I aim to recreate in the reader when I’m writing. Great music and good fiction should transport you in some way, and no artist is better at evoking this response in me than Morrissey.
Conflicted and empowered
Morrissey’s lyrics have often inspired ideas for characters’ inner conflicts and turmoil. In The Future When All’s Well – a beautiful, upbeat song full of hope – is behind Stella’s blind faith in The Family Trap. As I listen to this track I feel empowered to take risks, to be my own person, and I gave this motivation to Stella, who is often quite infuriating but to me she carries this sense of hope and positivity with her always. There is a ‘definiteness’ to Morrissey’s music, a challenge, an invitation to take it any way you choose. Stella’s character embodies this – I prefer to write characters who are challenging, perhaps not immediately likeable but all the more real for it. And on a more general note, if I’m ever flagging or feeling low, listening to this track will always give me a lift. (Who says Morrissey is depressing?)
Last year, while I was writing The Family Trap, we were lucky enough to see him live in Manchester. There is so much passion in his music, and in the response from his fans, as you can hear during this clip (Every Day Is Like Sunday). And listen to those first two lines. It’s a beautiful, evocative image that prompts the questions: Who stole them? What happened next? The use of the word trudging is perfect. When I’m trying to pin down a piece of narrative, to reduce it to its core, I reflect on the use of song lyrics to set up a scene or emotion so economically. It really helps.
Not only do I listen to Morrissey for inspiration and ideas, I often use his music to reconnect to my own passion for writing, to be reminded that it’s fine to do things the way I want to, that I don’t have to follow strict conventions just because I write in a particular genre. Morrissey is the master of emotional manipulation and one of his key techniques is to contrast lyrical content with musical style: heart-rending, near-suicidal lyrics set to an upbeat, jaunty tune (I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris). While both my novels are contemporary women’s fiction, they are not light and fluffy by any means. Both explore fairly dark themes for the genre – losing everything you own, materialism, the effect of having a parent in prison, the possibility of paternal abandonment – and I think these themes are all the more powerful for being set in a more humorous context.
Of course, I do listen to artists other than Morrissey! But he has provided the soundtrack to my life, and influenced my emotional responses to music and writing in ways that even I don’t understand. If I can evoke just an echo of that in my readers I’ve more than done my job.
Joanne Phillips is the author of contemporary women’s fiction novels Can’t Live Without and The Family Trap, both available in ebook and paperback from Amazon. She is studying for a masters in creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and works part time as an indexer. Joanne blogs about writing and publishing and you can follow her on Twitter @joannegphillips and Facebook
a parent in prison, absolute peace, authors, blind faith, Can’t Live Without, contemporary fiction, definiteness, Desert Island Discs, drama, entertainment, inner conflicts, Joanne Phillips, materialism, Morrissey, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, mysterious place, Nail Your Novel, paternal abandonment, playlist for writers, Roz Morris, The Family Trap, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, upbeat song, Women Writers, Women's fiction, writers, writing, writing to music
The Undercover Soundtrack is a weekly series by writers who use music as part of their creative process – special pieces that have revealed a character to them, or populated a mysterious place, or enlarged a pivotal moment. This week’s post is by contemporary fiction author, poet, editor and singer-songwriter Jessica Bell @MsBessieBell,
I can’t cope with music playing in the background when I write. It’s distracting. Why? Because I am also a musician, and every time I hear music, it’s hard to fight the urge to sing, or pick up the guitar. That said, it would also be very rare for any piece of writing of mine to not include music in some way. Writing is my ability to breathe, and music is my oxygen. Neither one can exist without the other.
When I had the idea to write The Book, I knew immediately that music would have a place in the story. Though it’s not a feature, it’s important to my main character’s arc. About 60% of The Book, set in the early 1980s, is written from the perspective of a five-year-old girl named Bonnie. I hint, through the journal entries of her mother, Penny, and the transcripts of Bonnie and Dr Wright, her therapist, that due to her premature birth, she has trouble learning, and significant behavioural problems and eccentricities. However, I try to juxtapose this through Bonnie’s matter-of-fact point of view. The reader is then able to see how differently she perceives the world compared to the adults in her life.
This is where my soundtrack comes in.
When I was a kid, I remember getting song lyrics wrong all the time. The worst misunderstanding I can remember is from REM’s Losing My Religion where the first line of the chorus became ‘let’s pee in the corner’. This gave me the idea to show the reader some quirks in Bonnie’s personality through the way in which she misunderstood lyrics. However, in the end, this is not what I focused on. Because I wanted to emphasise Bonnie’s overly logical perception of the world, I made her comprehend the lyrics perfectly, and comment on how they didn’t make sense.
Bonnie doesn’t grasp the fact that lyrics can be metaphorical and/or symbolic, she only hears what the lyrics mean literally. Through this, I was able to show that despite the adults around her being conditioned to believe she had a learning disability, she is actually quite skilled at vertical thinking, and might very well have the qualities of a genius hiding behind her over-emotional demeanor.
For example, I used Talking Heads’ lyrics from Burning Down the House to illustrate this. Bonnie confidently explains that you can’t put fire out with fire, and that fire isn’t wet, so why would you need a raincoat? After her mother tries to explain that the lyrics are like art and don’t have to make sense, she shrugs and decides to accept the fact that despite the song not ‘making logic’, at least it is great to dance to. This not only shows that she can make sense of language, but also shows that despite not agreeing with something, she is willing to overlook it, and embrace its value. A pretty strong trait to have as a five-year-old, yes? It’s also something that young, stressed, ill-informed parents of the 80s would boil down to her being just a quirky five-year-old girl, and not notice how smart she is.
Bonnie also questions the deeper meaning of lyrics. After hearing Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams, she says:
I rooly rooly like that man that sings the sweet dreams are made of weeds song. I askted Mummy if all bodies are looking for sumfing, and she said they are. And I askted what she was looking for, and she said that she was looking for love, but she already founded it, so she’s not looking anymore. I askted her to show it to me. But she said that love isn’t tangible. I don’t know what tangible means, but I would still like her to show me the love she found.
The excerpt above also draws attention to Bonnie’s misunderstood wisdom by showing how capable she is of rational thought. Annie Lennox must be a man because she has short hair and wears a suit and tie in the video just like Bonnie’s father does; and the fact that logically, if you find something, you should be able to hold that something in your hand.
Trying to understand music through the eyes of a child was an amazing and eye-opening experience. It really made me realize how much of what we ‘know’ is almost like a stamp. We learn something, and assume it is correct, because that’s what we’re conditioned to believe. But Bonnie questions a lot of basic things in life that we take for granted, and it made me realise how much adults can learn from children. Children tell the truth. Children’s opinions aren’t blurred by a lifetime of experience. Their opinions are pure and simple. And sometimes pure and simple is a smarter way to live than the tainted and complicated lives us adults lead. Don’t you think?
The music that influenced The Book wasn’t just a trigger for the muse.
It was a voice.
The voice of logic.
Jessica Bell is an Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter. She also makes a living as an editor and writer for global ELT publishers (English Language Teaching), such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning. She is the co-publishing editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. The Book is available from Amazon US, Amazon UK and Kobo. For the book trailer see here. Connect with Jessica at her website, blog, on Facebook or Twitter @msBessieBell
authors, behavioural problems, contemporary fiction, Desert Island Discs, drama, entertainment, Eurythmics, fiction author, Jessica Bell, literary novels, losing my religion, music, music for writers, music for writing, musicians, My Memories of a Future Life, mysterious place, Nail Your Novel, pivotal moment, playlist for writers, premature birth, R.E.M., Roz Morris, singer-songwriters, Talking Heads, The Book, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Women Writers, Women's fiction, writers, writing, writing to music
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 multi-genre novelist and indie publisher Devon Flaherty @devtflaherty
Soundtrack by Barenaked Ladies, Alanis Morissette, Gungor, Passion, Tom Waits, She & Him, The Sing Team, Adele, Waterdeep, Glen Hansard, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Brothers and Sisters, The City Harmonic, Trouvere, Lowland Hum, Over The Rhine, Putumayo, Belinda Carlisle
I have to admit, ever since I started staying at home with babies/small children, my interaction with music has been different. Not only do I have to put up with terrible kid music (with the exception of BNL’s Snacktime) and avoid music I formerly loved with questionable lyrics or themes, but I also have the occupational challenge of keeping my ears open, all the time, listening for a breach of boundary, a breaking glass, a sibling fight. Most of the writing of my recently published book, Benevolent, has taken place in this music vacuum—stealing moments of Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill while driving alone to a friend’s home.
But this has been a really big month for me. On section two of my next novel, The Family Elephant’s Jewels, my husband has graduated nursing school, my son has been registered for kindergarten, and mommy has been given — by the appreciative husband — an iPod Nano! Fifteen years ago I wouldn’t have been caught dead without my Discman, but an iPod seemed a little extraneous with my loveable cling-ons. And now? It’s truly wonderful.
Last night, while listening to Gungor’s Dry Bones and folding clothes (and doing air pumps and some orchestra conducting), I saw the vision for my much-needed book trailer. The music just flowed through me. And I don’t know about you, but when I get really carried away with a song, visions break out like fireworks on my inner retina, making music videos of my creativity, my thought-life. Which is why, for me, music is such an integral part of the writing process.
I have been known to say, in recent interviews, that my ideas often come from moments in life when something small and extraordinary jumps out at me. I can’t begin to count, even during my music-starved twenties, the times that that small and extraordinary moment was fueled by music. My future fantasy trilogy Spin was almost completely born out of the song White Flag by Passion (which is kid-friendly). I have a whole story built around Tom Waits’s A Little Drop of Poison (which happens to be on the Shrek soundtrack).
Oh for Bose
So now that I am planning long hours lost behind noise-cancelling headphones — and the eventual transfer to a Bose stereo that I can blast when I am the only one home ‘working’ — I plan on creating the townscapes of The Family Elephant’s Jewels with the juice-flowing inspiration of all my latest (and greatest) favorite bands: She & Him, Sing Team, Adele, Waterdeep, Glen Hansard, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Brothers and Sisters, The City Harmonic, Trouvere, Lowland Hum, and many others, many as yet undiscovered by me.
The truth is, that even without music playing all the time (which it had for the first twenty-five years of my life), music was still inspiring me as I wrote Benevolent. It’s evident when I reach out and bring in a very specific piece of music, even in the prose. Gaby is listening to Over the Rhine’s Good Dog, Bad Dog as she rumbles bus-bound through Jerusalem, thinking about her romantic attachments. Putumayo’s Gypsy Groove lilts on the air during a disastrous scene near the end of the book (no spoilers!), but I had to change the title (Mali to Memphis) due to time differences. Heck, Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven is a Place on Earth was the song that got me in the whole 80s and 90s mood to begin with. And let’s not forget the one I made up (because that’s how story and legend often convey):
And The Queen and her lover
ran for cover
Holding each other tight.
While the tall story man
and his evil war band
Chased down the beautiful knight.
Where have all the heroes gone?
I want a stately red-headed queen
to make love to angels
and wield a sure sword
And Jaden to save the day,
Oh-oh Jaden to save the day.
I like to bring my readers all the way into a story, and that means engaging all the senses, if possible. They are seeing a dingy 1980s dining room, eating chicken, smelling old carpet, feeling a chink in porcelain under their fingertip and the roughness of a tuxedo jacket against their arm, listening to—what? Besides Nadine yammering on? Besides the humming of the fridge and the clink of silverware? In Gaby’s opening scene, I have music everywhere: being rudely interrupted, then bursting out again, ‘in the foreground and background and off the walls,’ Stellar crooning obnoxiously to Bette Midler.
And I like to be immersed, myself, into life. I like to see, feel, smell, taste, and hear when I walk through the woods, when I take my husband on a date, when I read a book, and definitely, most definitely, when I write it.
Devon Flaherty is a writer in Durham, North Carolina. Originally from metropolitan Detroit, she is a mother, a wife, a hobby yogi, photographer, painter, and foodie. She has been writing seriously since her very earliest brushes with literature, and has published articles, poems, and photography in literary journals and magazines. She received a bachelors in philosophy and was an assistant editor, freelancer, and blogger, until she founded a publishing company, Owl and Zebra Press, and launched her novelist career with Benevolent. Follow her on Twitter @devtflaherty, at her blog The Starving Artist, or by signing up for her E-Newsletter. You can buy Benevolent here (or plenty of other places).
GIVEAWAY Devon is giving away a signed copy of Benevolent and also a copy of She & Him’s new CD, which Devon says is the kind of music her protagonists would be listening to today. You can enter both these giveaways via the links on Rafflecopter. For the signed copy of Benevolent go here, and for the She & Him CD go here. (And she’d probably appreciate it all the more if you also share the post!)
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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 guest is Andrew James @4ndrewjames
Soundtrack by Guns N’ Roses, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Nirvana, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Faithless, Chris Thomas King, Jeff Buckley, Purcell, Malena Ernman, Philip Sheppard, Sonny Boy Williamson, Moby
So let’s get the pretentious statement out of the way first, huh?
Prose and music: to me, they’re the same thing. Perhaps more accurately, they’re part of the same thing. Because I could include art and film into that statement, too. I could expand on this at length, but in the interests of brevity and lucidity, let’s crack on with the soundtrack to Blow Your Kiss Hello, my novel of love, rock & roll, guns and quantum physics set in the 1990s. And just a little bit in the 1600s.
The above statement does at least provide a reason (or excuse) for the way I write; staccato sentences interspersed with torrents of tumbling words, driven not so much by actually listening to music as I write but the music that worms itself into my head as subliminal material. The novel itself – at least in my head – is in three acts, with hidden references that occasionally bounce from one act to another. And the music that makes up its soundtrack works in the same way.
Act one sashays its way through straightforward radio rock, setting both the tone and the period with Guns N’ Roses’ Paradise City kicking things off, although for the full effect you’ll need to listen to this with a scarf wound around your head, so it’s muffled and distant. From here, settle into the groove of the Rolling Stones’ Emotional Rescue and then ratchet expectation via David Bowie’s Queen Bitch, a first suggestion that notions of past, present and future hold no sway here.
By now we and Pistol Star, the fictitious band fronted by my main character and good friend Joe da Flo, are in full flow and are being assaulted by Nirvana, the teen spirit smelling like an adrenaline rush, hurtling forward into a place where the future and the past are all the same, just riding the wave, dodging the bullets, crowd surfing our way into oblivion until it –
Act two. Three initial tracks, bridging the gap between then and something different. The trance of Faithless and God Is A DJ (Yes He Is) tips into the depths of Chris Thomas King’s Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues and wallows in Jeff Buckley’s mercurial and partially autobiographical Forget Her. These songs aren’t just illustrative, they sound as if they were written with the mid-section of the novel in mind and here the notion of the novel as a movie really hits home to me. It’s also here that the story’s marriage to its soundtrack starts to convey the debt it owes to the late Jeff Buckley, who carried the novel from its concept into reality every bit as much as I or my editor Debi did.
As the past started to impact upon the narrative, I was taken over for several weeks by the work of Henry Purcell (1659-1695) and in particular his opera Dido and Aeneas. One piece from that work, Dido’s Lament, became pivotal to a vital scene. However, to understand the soul of the book, to really get under the skin of what the novel is trying to convey, go here. If you’ve not heard this before, it’s quite possible that this might just change your life, or at least, your relationship to art in its broadest sense.
Done that? Deep breath. Time to move on.
Sonny Boy Williamson’s Cross My Heart creates the arc from act two into act three. Incidentally, I have an old vinyl album of Sonny’s music, on which he is backed by Jimmy Page on guitar, Brian Auger on keyboards and one Mickey Waller on drums. I mention this only because in my late teens I could usually be found on a Friday evening in the old Kings Head on the Fulham Palace Road watching Mickey play drums behind another guitarist who now sadly resides in a different universe, Sam Mitchell. As a brief aside, check out this link, simply as a reminder that sometimes we’re closer to greatness than we realise.
As the novel nears its final chapter, it flies on the work of Richard Melville Hall, otherwise known as Moby, and the breakneck Electricity before my wildest dreams hear a song playing as the final credits roll and the audience sits damp eyed and holding hands. Ladies and Gentlemen, Jeff Buckley, live at Sin-e, and Eternal Life. Now you know where that title came from.
Andrew James owned a marketing agency, which he sold in 2010 whereupon Blow Your Kiss Hello began to take shape. He spent his teenage years employed at the Whitehall Theatre, studying for school exams in the lighting box watching such formative productions as What, No Pyjamas? He is a pretty good cook and an okay musician, has curated an art exhibition, climbed Snowdon, ridden motorcycles at ridiculous speeds, had poetry published in Magma Poetry magazine and spent three years living in a church in North Yorkshire. A lifelong Crystal Palace FC supporter, he is also a devotee of South Africa’s Western Cape. He still works in media and marketing and currently lives in south-west London. Blow Your Kiss Hello is his first novel and a second is under way. Find him on Twitter @4ndrewjames
GIVEAWAY Andrew is giving away 2 signed copies. To get a chance to win, he wants you to reply or tweet where the book title comes from. If you take the tweet option, include the link to the post and the hashtag #undersound. Good luck!
Andrew James, authors, Blow Your Kiss Hello, Chris Thomas King, contemporary fiction, crime, crime fiction, David Bowie, Desert Island Discs, drama, entertainment, Faithless, Guns N’ Roses, hidden references, Jeff Buckley, Jimmy Page, literary fiction, literary novels, male writers, Malena Ernman, Moby, music, music for writers, My Memories of a Future Life, mysterious place, Mystery, Nail Your Novel, Nirvana, Philip Sheppard, playlist for writers, Purcell, quantum physics, queen bitch, radio rock, reincarnation, Robert Plant, romance, romance fiction, Roz Morris, Sonny Boy Williamson, The Rolling Stones, The Undercover Soundtrack, thriller, thriller novel, undercover soundtrack, writers, writing, writing to music
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 guest is Vivienne Tuffnell @guineapig66
Music is such a powerful influencer that I’d rather have silence than the wrong music. I’m not someone who’s constantly plugged into an ipod. I can’t have music as background. When a piece of music grabs me, evokes emotions or images or a roaring rush of words, I listen till I cannot bear it any more. Then I write it. This is probably why I don’t like live music (that, and a year of roadie work).
The opening scenes of The Bet came from a vivid, disturbing dream, but that first chapter was written to Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The main character has taken his newborn son away from hospital without permission and is making his way home through the snowy countryside. His mental and emotional state veers wildly from severe anxiety, back to numbness, frozen to slowness, and his movement reflects this. Breaking into a frantic run, then standing staring blankly at the falling snow, heart and mind racing. He’s done something terrible, shocking even, but the reader does not yet know how shocking. The music steered this jolting narrative from one change of tempo to another. Writing it, knowing what had really happened, the music kept my focus on building and exploring the internal turmoil without revealing the truth until almost the end of the chapter.
The next music that influenced me in writing this novel is from Tanita Tikaram. The song Preyed Upon is like hearing overheard snippets of dialogue between myself as author/creator and the main character Antony Ashurst, and between him and other characters. It was that phrase ‘preyed upon’ that haunted me. People who get preyed upon. Why? What makes them so vulnerable? Ashurst ‘s father says to him on one occasion, ‘Boys like you get preyed upon’, and the phrase haunts him too, and makes him question what is going on in his relationship with Jenny.
There’s a second song by Tanita Tikaram that powerfully influenced the novel: I Love You. The Bet is not a love story or a romance. But obsessive love (which is not the same as love at all) is a theme that underlies the whole novel both in terms of the main plot and the subplots too. It twists everything; it twists the two main characters into a tangle neither can extricate themselves from. Valentine Heart is another song that felt like I was overhearing the words Jenny and Antony didn’t say to each other. In the penultimate chapter, Antony does say to Jenny, ‘I was too young, too damaged and far too innocent to have seen you coming’, but it’s far too late by then for it to make any difference.
The final song I’d like to share is Tori Amos’s Little Earthquakes. It’s such an evocative piece of music that influenced the writing of the final few chapters, especially the lyrics about disintegration of self, the loss of connection to self-hood that Ashurst experiences during the novel, and his need to find himself again after all the pain. At the end of the penultimate chapter he says to Jenny ‘Anyway, I need to let you go, now, so I have a chance to find myself again, out of all that pain. I won’t miss you any more; but I do miss myself.’ The chanting at the end of Little Earthquakes is very much the emotions I was running with as I wrote the final words of the novel. It ends with a cliffhanger; literally, as it ends in a high place, but also metaphorically with a symbolic act that leaves the reader in no doubt as to Ashurst’s intent but perturbed about whether he could ultimately carry through that intention.
Vivienne Tuffnell is a writer who seeks to explore the hidden side of human existence, delving into both mysticism, the paranormal and deep psychology in her stories. She writes character-driven fiction, soul-filled poetry and blogs about soul growth at Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking. Her two previous novels Strangers & Pilgrims and Away With The Fairies have been regularly in the top 100 for their categories in the Amazon Kindle UK charts. Find her on Twitter @guineapig66
authors, Away With The Fairies, contemporary fiction, Desert Island Discs, internal turmoil, literary fiction, literary novels, literature, love, music, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, mysterious place, mysticism, Nail Your Novel, newborn son, obsessive love, paranormal, parapsychology, piece of music, poets, psychology, Roz Morris, severe anxiety, Strangers and Pilgrims, Tanita Tikaram, The Bet, The Undercover Soundtrack, Tori Amos, undercover soundtrack, Vivaldi, Vivienne Tuffnell, Vivienne Tufnell, writers, writing, writing to music
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
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- The Undercover Soundtrack is a series where writers - and occasionally other arty folk - reveal how music shapes their work.
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Kobo featured book, London Book Fair 2013
Seal of Excellence for Outstanding Independent Fiction, Awesome Indies 2013
Underground Book Reviews Top Summer Read 2012
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- All content copyright Roz Morris 2011-2023. Nothing may be reproduced without my express permission in writing beforehand. Photography: Bonnie Schupp Photography, gcg2009 and Roz Morris
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
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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'
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