Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Body Talk: the interactive edition

Well, I tried. I really tried. I so wanted to give you an insight into my quite strange (frankly) creative processes by producing a video of a sexy rumba to the tune of Body Talk, but helas, my lack of expertise and the limits of YouTube prevented me. I DID try to find a video of dancing from Istockphotos, but all I could find were people break dancing or a rather sappy couple stumbling round incredibly slowly and not at all sexily against a sunset backdrop.

So what you have instead, is Bodytalk: the Interactive Version.

Thanks to Loulabelle who sent me to these two rumbas, I give you first, Michal and Joanna, who are the real deal. This is an incredibly sexy rumba and EXACTLY the sort of thing I was imagining for Katie and Rob, only they won't be as good as this. In order to get the right mood, bear with me for a moment and scroll down to my prevous entry and turn on the Imagination YouTube video and then watch the dancing to the tune. You won't get it quite in cync (believe me I have tried) but it does fit incredibly well, and makes me realise that I am barking up entirely the right tree here...

When you've done with Michal and Joanna try the same thing with this SCD couple, James and Ola. Only here, do make sure you turn the sound down so you don't get sappy Westlife singing... It doesn't work quite as well, but there is something sublimely surreal about watching Westlife singing in the background with an entirely different song going on...

I've just tried and realised that this video suffers from a surfeit of Westlife and a dearth of dancing, but c'est la vie.

Oh and many thanks to Loulabelle for putting me onto both...

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Body Talk

Following on from my previous post, I suddenly realised I had made a grave error. When I googled Body Talk lyrics I couldn't remember who the band were who sang the version that I remember from my teens (and which was used so effectively in Ashes to Ashes the other week). This was also partly because I always get it mixed up with Diana Ross' Let's Get Physical. At least, I think it's Diana Ross. You see I'm confused. I can't help it...

The weekend I was also busy rewriting Strictly Love I was also frantically googling dancing stuff on You Tube/emailing lawyers of my acquaintance/trying to learn dance steps while sitting at my computer, so my brain did get a tad addled.

I found what I thought were the right lyrics, by a band I couldn't remember called Ratt. And I had Rob whisper some of them to Katie as they danced (thereby handily getting round the need to seek copyright - you can quote lyrics in conversations or rephrase them).

The only trouble is of course, as any fule could have told me by now I had got the wrong sodding band.

There is a song called Body Talk by Ratt, but the one I was after was the one by Imagination.

Had I looked properly on You Tube (which for reasons which desert me now I failed to do), I could have found this. Which would have just been confusing frankly.

Or this, which would have made me realise the error of my ways.

When really it was this, which I was after all along. The perfect accompaniment to a rumba. I think... For the next stage of rewrites, which is the nitpicking phase, I am planning to choreograph the whole dance while listening to this to see if I can make it work. If not, well, I shall just claim dramatic license. Cos it's a dead sexy song. And it's a dead sexy dance. And I think if I were a married woman dancing to it with a bloke I rather fancied I might be in trouble. Which is the general idea...

And if I can manage it to help me out, I may try and find a video of the rumba and put this over it to see if it fits. I've tried it with the SCD version James and Orla did, as recommended by Loulabelle, and if you ignore the fact that Westlife are singing in the background it does kind of work...

Monday, 17 March 2008

Musings on the muse... and music

Ever since I started writing I have found music an essential part of the creative process. In my first book (thankfully consigned where it belongs to the bottom drawer) this musical inspiration mainly took the form of my heroine dancing to I will Survive at key points in the text. I then started a novel which I've never finished which was going to be called Losing My Religion (after the REM song).

For my second novel (also hiding somewhere in the second from bottom drawer), I lost interest in music for a bit and got distracted by poetry. My anti hero was going to be a fan of Restoration poetry which is full of bad boy heroes and seemed to fit him well. The title Coming Full Circle was inspired by one of my favourite poems, John Donne's A Valediction Forbidding Mourning, as I don't really see why just because I write commercial fiction I can't get a little bit intellectual from time to time...

But when it came to writing Pastures New it was music which set me off. One particular song in fact, which is if you like the theme song of the book. I have blogged at length about that on my other blog, but the song in question was Forever Autumn by Justin Hayward, as it summed up my heroine's emotional state at the start of the book - she has lost the love of her life and feels it will always be autumn now for her. The story of course, is about how she comes to terms with her loss, and faces up to the prospect of a new love, in the form of Ben (I hope a sexy enigmatic doctor).

When I was writing PN initially, I had six parts to the book, and each part had it's theme tune as it were, but once my editor got hold of it, she quite rightly got me to restructure it into four parts, which retain the same theme tunes, but the other two (California Dreamin' by the Mamas & Papas, and Sing by Travis were still heavy influences).

For Strictly Love, I've gone a bit further. I started out again, with four theme tunes for each part, which are:

The First Cut is the Deepest - Cat Stevens
The Weakness in Me - Joan Armatrading
Can't Get You Out of my Head - Kylie
The Miracle of Love - Eurythmics.

But this time I took it a stage further, and also gave my characters theme tunes/and used music to try and inspire particular emotions as I wrote.

One of the difficulties in novel writing, I realise, is that unlike in a film say, where you can put in the script, he looks at her and an actor can convey powerful emotions in his/her movements, they way they look etc, often helped by a musical score (my favourite film for this is Last of the Mohicans, which contains my favourite romantic line in a film ever, "Just stay alive, and I will find you", accompanied by fabulous shots of Daniel Day Lewis running, against a wonderful musical score sums this up sublimely), the poor novelist has to get all that emotion out by themselves, with no help whatsoever from any other bugger - just the precious words the muse might choose to bestow at that minute.

Which is where, for me the music comes in.

Like I said, this time, I did things slightly differently.

I have two couples whose stories are intertwined. I don't want to give too much away, but Mark is a divorced dentist, who gets sued by a zedlebrity patient (I love that word, and have Danuta Kean to thank for it), while Emily is a media lawyer who is increasingly finding her life banal and soulless. Her best friend Katie, a married mother of three, persuades Emily to go to dancing classes, where they meet Mark, who has been dragged along by his best friend Rob, a serial commitment freak.

In the end I gave them all a theme tune.

Mark has the Cat Stevens song, as he cannot get over his wife leaving him. He also has a tricky relationship with his thirteen year old daughter for which I used Abba's Slipping Through My Fingers.

Rob started out as a bit of a jokey figure, but the more I got to know him, the more I realise he has hidden depths, so his tune is Feel by Robbie Williams: I've got so much life running through my veins going to waste... Those lines send shivers up my spine, and became almost a motif for me to finding a way in to Rob's character.

Both the girls get Joan Armatrading's The Weakness in Me - both of them at different points have choices to make about who is right and who is wrong for them.

And while according to Rob, the boys' theme tune should be The Boys are Back in Town, actually it's more like Fifteen Years by the Levellers. My husband and I have been drinking in our local for longer then that, and there are people we know for whom this song could have been written: The laughs in the late night lock in/Faded away when he gets in/The girl from fifteen years ago has packed and gone away... I love that song. It's so bloody tragic, and it's so easy for people's lives to go awry like that - which is something that Mark and Rob are becoming horribly aware of.

Additionally I gave Katie Body Talk - ok, actually I nicked that from an episode of Ashes to Ashes, but it was soooo perfect for a rumba scene, where she's being tempted in all the wrong directions.

Writing sex scenes for an author is never easy - there is apart from anything else the ever present fear of ending up nominated for the Bad Sex Awards - but I felt at one point Emily and Mark needed to go to bed together. I really really wanted to replicate the most fabulously tender sex scene I've ever read by my writing buddy Elizabeth Chadwick. It takes place between Hawise and Bruin in Shadows and Strongholds, and it is a wonderful bit of writing. I know from brief and funny forays into trying my hand at erotica it isn't really my thing, so I have (you'll probably be pleased to know) kept it brief. But The Miracle of Love was the song that inspired me as it so perfectly encapsulates that joyous almost unbelieving feeling that new love brings.

Later in the book, Emily and Mark are forced apart and I used Sting's Fields of Gold for a scene where they are brought briefly together which only makes them realise what they've lost.

Finally for all of them I used Richard Ashcroft's A Song for Lovers which makes me feel, I dunno, all emotional and churned up the way you do when you're in love.

And I listened to Shape of my Heart by Sting alot cos, I think that's really romantic too.

I'm just getting going on book no 3 and the songs shaping up so far are:

This is Where I Came In - Bee Gees - Never going to find someone like you/girl with a brain and body too.. Time has gone/but I'll go anywhere with you...

Your Love is Not Enough - Manic Street Preachers - Your love alone is not enough, not enough not enough. When times get tough, they get tough , they get tough...

The Other Side of the World to Me - KT Tunstall - But its too hard to say/I wish it were simple, but we give up easily/you're closer now to see that, you're the other side of the world to me....

Put the Sun Back - Coral we've got to put the sun back in our hearts.

As you might be getting the idea, there are alot of confused relationships at the beginning of this book...

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Flavia and Vincent doing the Argentinian Tango.

If that's not dirty dancing, I don't know what is....

Two to Tango...

Was at one point going to be the name of this book, but I'm definitely going with my ed here, when she feels we should adopt a Strictly theme, so Strictly Love is where we're at currently...

I mention the tango because I tried to make my husband learn it with me last week. To be honest, my timing wasn't great. It was late, we'd had rather a lot of red, and the tango is a slightly odd dance. In a way you don't dance at all. You walk. Sideways. With your faces stuck together like glue. And when you start off, according to Izobela you have to lean your head backwards in most awkward fashion, keeping it over your left hip. So we didn't make a terribly good fist of the tango, it has to be said.

However two can tango in quite other ways too, especially when you have four children and one of you gets given an urgent deadline on a book, as happened to us the other week.

It was my fault really. I'd had the comments from my ed sitting on my desk for several weeks, but other work had got in the way, then half term, then my husband took time off over his birthday, and suddenly, I was slightly up against it. Slightly up against it? I was pressed flat against a brick wall with my nose squashed more like.

So, I had an utterly surreal weekend at the computer. Normally Saturday morning is spent ferrying children to their various activities, and as there is one point during the morning when three of them have to be in different places at the SAME time, we both have to take part in this parental servitude. However, thank the lord, on this particular occasion, one was ill, one hurt her foot and the other couldn't face going so we left them to watch tv, while I slaved away.

I was painfully aware when I was writing the first draft that lack of time had left me to skimp on the research. And I knew there were two main areas where I needed to show a bit more proper depth. The first was in the area of legal expertise. I am not a lawyer, but one of my heroines is. Luckily a writing friend had answered my early questions about stuff, but I was horribly conscious I had written some court room scenes that were more Judge John Deeds then anything else. I sent them to her, and to my good blogging friend Political Umpire (also a lawyer) and they both sent me word that on more then one point I had gone horribly awry. Most of the points they raised were eminently fixable, but a couple gave me a huge headache as they were crucial to the plot and I had a fiendish time trying to work out what the hell I could get my characters to do instead. I think I solved both problems, I hope the legal bits now work better, and if they don't well, I fess up here and now that that is entirely my fault...

The second area slightly lacking was the dancing. In fact for a book about dancing, there wasn't nearly enough in it. We need more dancing, said my ed. Yes, of course, so we do, said I. Thinking, help........ Most of the dancing bits had been written cribbing from Marie Phillips' fantastically funny reviews of the last series of Strictly Come Dancing on her blog. I found myself frantically reviewing them again, plus bombarding her with questions about the sexiest dance I could watch to draw inspiration from (Flavia and Vincent dancing the Argentinian tango, if you want to know. I will try and post it here, but You Tube seems to send my videos to the other blog for some reason). I also trawled the web for online dance classes, dance clothing sites, and even tapped out the dance moves on my own. Actually if anyone had been noticing when I took the children to their tennis class the previous Thursday, I was actually sitting there, with my laptop and a dancing book, tracing steps out under the table. Honestly, this writing malarkey makes madmen of us all. Sometimes I think I'm seriously bonkers.

Even more bonkers was the realisation at one point I had actually CRIED as I wrote a tearjerky scene (yes, well probably the prose was that dire too), but with any luck if it made me cry it might possibly have the same effect on readers. Or alternatively they can always cry with laughter.

Anyway, I did it, eventually. And my other half manfully coped with cooking and laundry and children for the weekend.

So, like I say, it takes two to tango.

Although, his method of getting the children to sort out the laundry (go and find your own things and put them away, without supervision) does leave something to be desired...

But if only I could get him to dance the way he does domesticity, my cup of happiness would be complete...