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.


Steph said...

Heather's comment about Gladiator and Lisa Gerrard is so spot-on. Very much enjoyed reading this!

Julie K. Rose said...

Yay, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Heather makes it easy with such great answers!