My guest this week used to regard music as a mostly-ignorable atmosphere. Then one inspirational moment changed everything. She was listening to Mike Oldfield when a character leaped, fully formed, into her imagination – an enigmatic pirate of the Caribbean, skilled with a cutlass and a roguish smile. This character also proved a turning point in her career, as her agent advised her that the adult readership did not want stories about pirates. But so strong was her conviction about the character that she wrote him anyway – and thus her indie career was born. She is Helen Hollick, her novels are the Sea Witch series, and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack. All say ‘arrr’.
‘The thoughts start flowing again’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Will Overby
I’m finding it so curious to see how many novelists in this series are inspired by Bruce Springsteen. He’s probably not the kind of artiste people would imagine if you mentioned using music as a muse to write, but he’s behind so many characters and character dilemmas. My guest this week has compiled writing soundtracks ever since he was at school, and still keeps mixtapes from that time. He revisits them occasionally out of amused curiosity, and says that Springsteen gave his characters a gritty humanity he couldn’t otherwise have found. Decades on, he’s using soundtracks just as much as ever – sometimes not to write, but to fill himself with the book’s mood before he sits down at the keyboard. He is Will Overby and he’s on the Red Blog with his Undercover Soundtrack.
‘Visions break out like fireworks on my inner retina’ – Devon Flaherty, The Undercover Soundtrack
My guest this week describes inspiration as those moments when something small suddenly leaps out and becomes significant. And countless times, the trigger has been music. An entire fantasy trilogy conjured itself when a song took root in her mind. She says she’s sometimes had to hide her soundtracks in case her young children come across unsuitable lyrics, but would not be separated from the songs that feed her imagination so richly. She is Devon Flaherty and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack. PLUS there’s a signed copy of one of her novels AND a CD to be won…
Shaking off the ghost – guest post at Jessica Bell’s
When I was ghostwriting, I longed to have a novel published with my own name on. Today I’m talking about my journey to make that happen at The Alliterative Allomorph, bloggish home of author, singer, poet and songwriter Jessica Bell.
Her name might be familiar to you as a recent guest on The Undercover Soundtrack, where she made a big impression by revealing she wrote her own unique soundtrack for her debut novel String Bridge. Yes, that Jessica Bell, I knew you’d remember her… Come over and see where this very cool lady hangs out.
”He hummed Cole Porter – so anachronistic in those days of psychedelic rock’n’roll’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Anne R Allen
My guest this week is another writer who usually keeps music well away from her workspace. But when she unearthed a note written to her by an enigmatic friend from her college days, she found herself drawn to the music that reminded her of him – Ella Fitzgerald’s legendary recording of the Cole Porter songbook on the Verve label. The novel that resulted is The Gatsby Game, and its author, Anne R Allen, talks about its undercover soundtrack today on the red blog.
‘I wanted the words to sound like music’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Jessica Bell
I am seriously envious of my Undercover Soundtrack guest this week. As she developed her characters and their world, she found it natural to write the songs of the story too – and then headed into the studio to record them. The result? Her novel has its very own original soundtrack on iTunes. She is Jessica Bell, a poet and songwriter as well as a wielder of the literary art, and her novel is String Bridge. Join me at the red blog to hear more.
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‘I needed the plangent, plaintive music of the 12th century to understand Hugo’s pain’ – Katherine Langrish on The Undercover Soundtrack
We’re getting medieval this week on The Undercover Soundtrack. My guest is Katherine Langrish, the acclaimed author of several fantasy novels for children and young adults, including the Troll Fell trilogy. She says she usually has to write in silence – but her latest novel, Dark Angels (The Shadow Hunt in the US), didn’t come alive until she found her way to the 12th-century troubadour songs of southern France. Pull up a chair to the red blog and let her spin you a magic, medieval tale.
Put through my paces by Guys Can Read: literary writing, storytelling and the brave new world of indie books
Today I’m back at Guys Can Read, the weekly podcast books discussion hosted by Luke Navarro and Kevin McGill. Luke and Kevin adore fiction, period. They review everything from Jonathan Franzen to Star Wars novels, with equal expectations of great storytelling, strong characterisation and robust themes. They’re not afraid to pick apart what doesn’t work, regardless of how hallowed it might be, to venture into genres outside their usual tastes (which are pretty wide anyway) and to celebrate a darn good book even if it’s in a genre that’s normally sneered at. Kevin’s also just released his own rip-roaring fantasy adventure, Nikolas and Company: A Creature Most Foul, now available on Amazon.
I’ve been on their show a few times and was thrilled they wanted me along now that I’ve released My Memories of a Future Life. We started by talking about the novel but soon ventured into wider discussion. We nattered about aspects of literary writing that can get in the way of the story and characters. We talked about indie publishing – as a choice to connect more closely with readers, whether it’s risky for writers with an established career, and how readers and writers will in future be setting the publishing agenda just as much as commercial publishers. Oh, and whether I get away with opening my novel with a whinge scene. Come on over.
The undercover soundtrack for your novel – at the red blog
Do you write to music? Many authors do – as background, as a character’s favourite or bittersweet tune – or maybe just a way to erase the traffic rumbling by in the street. I’ve found over the years that the right music can do more than immerse me in a scene – it can also collide with it to actively create unexpected twists and nuances. As though the piece is speaking to the novel at a subconscious level.
I call it the undercover soundtrack and I’m talking about it today at the red blog – as it’s about music. And also because I got this terrific review for My Memories of a Future Life today so I figured its blog deserved a little attention of its own. Do come over.
A not-very-serious post – what’s the soundtrack for your novel?
In my post below on starting a new novel, I briefly discussed using soundtracks while writing, and Sally, in one of her comments, asked what the soundtrack was for Life Form 3. As so many of you have said you use soundtracks, I thought it might be fun for us to share them!
Here goes. Soundtrack for Life Form 3
Fireflies by Owl City
Music has the Right to Children by Boards of Canada (whole album)
Martes by Murcof (whole album)
Passion by Peter Gabriel (album)
The Sensual World by Kate Bush (just that song)
The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughn Williams
Okay, guys – your turn on the decks.