Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Author Interview: Heather Domin

Listen to the interview here!

Added 8/4/09: The book for which this playlist was created, The Soldier of Raetia, is now available for purchase! Congratulations, Heather!

Tell me a little about yourself and your writing.
I've been writing ever since I can remember. I was a solitary kid, and stories filled my head pretty much all the time. I kept it a hidden hobby for most of my life, as I was taught that books were for lazy free time and real life was for "practical skills." It wasn't until my late 20s that I realized what you do to earn a paycheck does not define what you are as a person, and now I feel somewhat comfortable calling myself a writer. Plus I don't have any practical skills.

As for my writing, I'm not sure how to describe it. I like the adventurous side of things, the epic side, but also how everyday people fit into that. I like the little stories within the big, but I still want the big. I love historical period pieces, and love stories, and sci-fi and fantasy and horror. I love the supernatural; even when I'm writing something realistic, I try to inject a bit of the spiritual into it. But mostly I love creating characters. I want to write characters that people cheer for or fall in love with or wish death upon. I don't want anyone to read something I wrote and say, "What a lyrical evaluation of postmodern existentialism" – I want them to read it and say, "Damn, that was a good story." I want to scare you, excite you, make you laugh or cry. I want to fill someone else's hours the way all those books filled mine.

Tell me about the story that you've created a soundtrack/playlist for.
This list is for the historical novel I’m finishing, currently titled THE SILVER LINE. [Ed. note 3/13/09: The novel is now called Valerian's Legion: The Soldier of Raetia and can be accessed online here] It's the story of a young Roman soldier sent to learn from a general and the effect the relationship has on both their lives. There are several themes swirling around in the plot – coming-of-age, family, loss, belonging, militarism, violence, sex – and I needed songs for each of them. This is what evolved over time, and I'm sure it will evolve some more before it's all done.

What is your playlist? Please briefly explain why you chose the songs you did.

1. Evanescence - Bring Me to Life
I have a not-so-secret weakness for the first Evanescence album. Whenever I'm getting ready to write something emo, angsty, self-pitying and/or petulant, it sets up the mood perfectly. And it sounds great in headphones.

2. Björk - Foot Soldier
The lyrics are so fitting, and the sound is very dreamy and kind of otherworldly. Her voice is amazing. It's a short song, but it really expresses the limbo my protagonist is in at the start of the story.

3. Sting - The Book of My Life
It's kind of creepy how perfect this song is for my general; it's melancholy but not emo, introspective but not whiny. It's a very private song for a very private man -- quiet, not flashy, but still beautiful with just a hint of exotic.

4. Queen - Save Me
And if the last one is perfect for my general, this one is perfect for my soldier. It borders on desperation, but it has enough intrinsic grace never to fully succumb. I love Freddie Mercury so much, and his voice was perfect for this combination of plaintiveness and determination.

5. The Who - Behind Blue Eyes
They say you always fall in love with your villain, and boy did I fall in love with mine. Inside every sociopath is a misunderstood woobie who just wants a hug, even if it's to get a better grip on you for the knife.

6. Garbage - Nobody Loves You
I chose this one for its angsty tone. It's a pretty hopeless, jaded song, good for several points in the story. It kind of unravels in the end with Shirley's wailing, and I like that.

7. A Perfect Circle - 3 Libras
Maynard Keenan, patron saint of angst. The lyrics aren't as blatant as, say, Evanescence -- they express the same emotions, but with a darker, frightening feel. There's no candy here. When he howls "You don't see me at all", he's not whining – he's warning. It's creepy and awesome.

8. Dead Can Dance - The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove
I had to have a DCD song on the official list, so I chose this one for its frustrated lyrics and raw rhythm. Everything on Toward the Within is fair game, too. The mix of elements and cultures in their sound is amazing.

9. Sting - I Burn for You
I chose this one for its general mood than the specific lyrics, though the image of burning for someone else is used several times. Sometimes I'm not sure which one of my characters is singing this.

10. Enigma - Gravity of Love
aka The Sex Scene Song. Ambient techno that samples Carmina Burana? How can you not have sex to that? :D

11. Moby – Everlasting
I was listening to this album one day, and when this track came on I had a clear vision of a particular moment in the story, all slo-mo and dramatic like the climax of a movie. I'm laughing as I type this. I'm either a child of my generation, or I've seen one too many Ridley Scott movies.

12. Live - Lakini's Juice
This song has always struck me as very guttural, kind of tattered and dirty, kind of a mix between begging and declaring. It fits well with the battle scenes.

13. Sister Hazel - Sword and Shield
If my book were a movie, this song would be the end credits. I can't help it; I'm just a softie at heart.

There are a few more tracks and some background music, but that's the core list. And whenever I feel like I’m taking myself too seriously -- a frequent flaw -- I listen to "Don't Stand So Close To Me" by The Police. Always does the trick.

What does music mean to you? To your writing?
I don’t think I could say here what music means to me. I don't even know if I could articulate it. But in terms of my writing, music has always been entwined with my characters and stories. I've made soundtracks for just about every story I've ever written, or at least one theme song. I know I’m not unique in that. Nothing else can get me into the headspace I'm looking for like the perfect song.

What kind of music do you like to write to?
I usually use my playlists to get in the mood or to pass the time at work, that kind of thing. When actually writing, I need something with either no lyrics or lyrics I can't sing along with. For this novel that means stuff like Enya, Enigma, Adiemus, and especially Dead Can Dance. Parts of Moby's "Play" are really good, too. I don't generally use movie scores, because I end up daydreaming the movie instead of writing my story.

If this story was made into a movie, who would you want to do the soundtrack?
Oh man. See, if my story were made into a movie today, being set in Ancient Rome, it would automatically get a patented Wailing Woman Soundtrack. But you know, there's a reason why everybody and their brother copied Gladiator. It was an amazing score, and Lisa Gerard's voice worked perfectly with the story and setting. I don't think I have enough knowledge to choose a composer. I'm greedy – I want a mix of everything. It worked for 300, right?

Anything else you'd like to say about music and writing/creating?
I'm a creature of habit. Like most writers I know, I have my own rituals, my ceremonies, my way of getting my head to the words and the words on the paper. Without music, it would be a hell of a lot harder to sit down in that chair.

To learn more about Heather, visit her website!

Next week, a soundtrack from author Lauren Dane.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Author Interview: Darin Bradley

Listen to the interview here!

Tell me a little about yourself and your writing.
I wear a number of different hats. I'm the founding fiction editor of Farrago's Wainscot and Behind the Wainscot (Paul Jessup now edits BtW for us). I also edit poetry and literary fiction for Drollerie Press.

I'm also an active critical scholar (I have an M.A. in Literature and Literary Criticism and a Ph.D. in English Literature and Theory)— my critical work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Internet Review of Science Fiction, The Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, and Membra Disjecta. I work predominantly on the confluence of contemporary cognitive theory and experimental speculative fiction.

I'm also a designer—I've done cover work for both Wheatland Press and Drollerie Press, and I do all of the Farrago design.

Primarily, though, I'm a writer. I prefer novels to short fiction, though I do both. My work typically addresses the "weird" as an operating metaphor for alienation, but I sometimes work with more straightforward, mythic themes. I'm fascinated by dissolution, decay, and the unstable nature of "self." My short fiction has appeared in or is forthcoming from Electric Velocipede, Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy, 3:AM Magazine, Diet Soap, Bewildering Stories, Polyphony 6, and The Porch. My novels are unpublished.

Tell me about the story that you've created a soundtrack/playlist for.
AMARANTH, a novel, takes place in the very near future, when the international economic society collapses. When it does, an underground movement of Citizens' Television Band broadcasters is ready. Hackers, taggers, modders, and anarchists have all authored the rules for a new society in the gaps between establishment media. As people take new names and new identities to make their way to their own promised lands, to try to survive, the past becomes the present, and everything sane becomes everything macabre.

What is your playlist?
Because this "playlist" was designed to sustain the drafting of an entire novel, and not just a story, it's actually a list of albums rather than songs. My player shuffled them randomly while I was working.

[Note: most of these albums can be ordered from Malignant Records and/or Ad Noiseam.]

The albums (and artists) are

Ágætis Byrjun - Sigur Rós
Summer Make Good - Mum
Layering Buddha - Robert Henke
Kid A - Radiohead
Hail to the Thief - Radiohead
Simulations 2.0 - L'ombre
Aquifère - Iszoloscope
Distant Lights - Burial
Dummy - Portishead
Gun Aramaic - Muslimgauze
Gun Aramaic, Pt. 2 - Muslimgauze
Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble
Inquisition Symphony - Apocalyptica
Rock Action - Mogwai
Young Team - Mogwai
Happy Songs for Happy People - Mogwai
The Madlands Trilogy - Mad EP
Out from Out Where - Amon Tobin
Pure Language - Keef Baker
Strength in Numbers - Calla
Symbol - Susuma Yokota
Life Itself - Gooding
3X - Gooding
Trace - Gridlock

I chose these particular artists and albums because the novel I was working on is very bleak. There is only one arguably "happy" scene in the entire story (which is really more of a textual artifact than a story), and I wanted a writing environment that reflected the ambient solitude expressed in the text. Some of these albums are experimental "noise music," and others are simply wild audio recordings of vast, bleak places. I found writing some of the material both challenging and disturbing, and this playlist helped me echo that . . . troublesome nature of the project. It made for some somber writing periods, but they were all ultimately rewarding.

What does music mean to you? To your writing?
Honestly, music doesn't have a particular meaning for me. I enjoy it a great deal, and it's usually playing around me most of the time, sort of accompanying my misadventures, but I've never been the type to sit and only listen to music. I have a dilettante's appreciation and not an aficionado's.

That said, though, I have as much respect for the musical endeavor as I do the literary, or the artistic. A few years ago, I filmed and edited a documentary about a startup literary magazine called The Porch. A large portion of that story involved local musicians, who lent their talents to helping promote the magazine, and I came to see how very universal general artistic struggle can be.

As for my writing, music gets (perhaps unfairly) background shelving while I'm working. I play it while I'm writing, as I find that if I Hermetically seal myself in a silent, distraction-free writing environment, I tend to do more thinking and less writing. The literary endeavor is isolating enough as it is—music helps . . . vent that silent laboratory-feel for me.

What kind of music do you like to write to?
It varies from project to project, and it can surprise me every time, so I'm not sure I can formulate an answer to this one. Sometimes it's one-man-band banjo music, sometimes it's a cello suite, sometimes it's industrial. We'll see what happens on the next project . . .

If this story was made into a movie, who would you want to do the soundtrack?
Actually, if someone suffered the dereliction of sanity it would require to option and then produce a film version of Amaranth, I would hope it went un-scored. The resonant silence would go a long way toward conveying the narrative texture that would be absent in a film version.

Anything else you'd like to say about music and writing/creating?
Yes—I owe a great debt of gratitude to Mark Teppo, who introduced me to most of the artists who comprise the playlist above.

To learn more about Darin, check out his website!

Next week, we've got a great soundtrack from up and coming author Heather Domin. See you then!