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...

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