Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Writers and Their Soundtracks: Wrap Up

Well, thanks for coming along with me on this fun journey! I lied, I'm not doing a podcast for this final entry - time just got away from me, thanks to doing NaNoWriMo this month.

We had 19 participants (myself included) in this series, and I'm grateful to them all for their time and their insights, and for sharing their music.

So, because I'm a geek for analysis, here's a wee bit:

  • 37% use the soundtracks/playlists they noted to actually write their stories to

  • 63% use their soundtracks/playlists to get inspired, but can only write in silence, or to some other kind of music

The most common bands across the soundtracks were:
  • Bruce Springsteen (3)

  • Nine Inch Nails (3)

  • Sigur Ros (3)

  • The Clash (2)

  • Apocalyptica (2)

  • Radiohead (2)

  • Tori Amos (2)

  • Jeff Buckley (2)

I hope those of you who have been following along have had as much fun as I have. It's been fantastic to be exposed to so many new bands, and I'm very grateful to all of the authors who participated!

If you haven't had a chance, do take a few minutes to peruse the websites of the authors who have participated in this series; their websites are all listed off to the right.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My own playlist

Update 11/23/10: this podcast series was broadcast in 2008; please check out all of the soundtracks of the fantastic writers listed over to the right -->

So, first, thanks everyone for indulging me with my own playlist for this penultimate Writers & Soundtracks podcast.

This playlist is for my first novel, THE PILGRIM GLASS. It’s the story of an artist (Jonas), a priest (Dubay), and a photographer (Meredith), and the restoration of a stained glass one summer in V├ęzelay, France. This is no ordinary glass, however; it has a strange, almost hypnotic effect on them, changing them in positive and destructive ways.

The first half of the playlist is really for Jonas, the second for Meredith.

London Calling - The Clash
Jonas listens to this on his way down to Burgundy to start the restoration job. It’s an image that’s really emblematic of the dichotomy of his character – listening to this harsh song about hopelessness and anarchy while driving through beautiful countryside on his way to complete a delicate, artistic restoration of stained glass.

Swamp Thing - The Chameleons
Jonas has a strong vein of anger and frustration just under the surface; this song captures those feelings really well.

Around the World - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Jonas has a thing for the Chili Peppers. I think the funk and drive of the music taps into the sensual, erotic side of his personality that he usually accesses only through working with color and glass.

Fibre de Verre - Paris Combo
The nature of glass. I couldn’t find a more ideal song for Jonas. I mean, come on: it’s about glass, and it’s in French. Doy.

The Lark Ascending - Ralph Vaughan Williams
See, the thing about Jonas is he’s prickly, but he really wants to soar. He just doesn’t trust himself.

Warning Sign – Coldplay
Jonas ought to be seeing what’s beginning to happen with Meredith, that she’s being really rather strange and frightening, but he ignores the warning sign because, shit, here’s someone he actually likes and doesn’t annoy the crap out of him – and who puts up with him.

Out of the Woods - Nickel Creek
I think this is a song for all three of them – Jonas, Meredith, and Dubay. Even the pilgrim. It’s all about emerging from isolation, which is appropriate for them all.

Theft, and Wandering Around Lost - Cocteau Twins
Again, in a lot of ways, the idea behind this song can apply to all three of them.

Taking the Veil - David Sylvian
Another song for Meredith, and for the pilgrim. The feel of this song is just right for the story overall as well.

Mercy - Prefab Sprout
A poignant song for the climax of the plot. Paddy McAloon’s voice is so beautiful and yearning, this song gives me shivers every time I listen to it.

First and Last Waltz - Nickel Creek
The tone of this song is just perfectly evocative of the feeling of the story overall – slightly off, ethereal and earthy, wistful, ultimately hopeful.

Over the Hillside - The Blue Nile
Just because I love The Blue Nile so much. Paul Buchanan’s voice is like an aural representation of Jonas’ personality – angsty, rough, soulful, hopeful.

When I’m writing, I have to listen to music instrumental music, or lyrics in languages I don’t understand. Otherwise, I get pulled in and very distracted. I love listening to soundtrack music while I’m writing; my friend Chris made the best soundtrack mix CD, and as depressing as the movie’s theme is, the soundtrack from World Trade Center is fantastic. I also listen to medieval chant and I’ve been listening to a lot of west African music lately as well.

Who would I want to do the soundtrack if THE PILGRIM GLASS were ever made into a movie? I don’t know. I’d really like to just have the songs noted above, but if I were forced to have an actual soundtrack…hrm.

I really like Patrick Doyle’s soundtracks – his work reminds me of Vaughn Williams and Elgar – but I don’t think it’s right for this story. Robin Guthrie would be perfect, however. A former member of the Cocteau Twins, he has some really amazing solo albums and worked with Harold Budd on the eerie, beautiful, evocative soundtrack for the movie Mysterious Skin. He would be really ideal. A gorgeous, representative song from Guthrie, I think, is Fountain. Incidentally, Robin Guthrie, along with Gregorian Chant, was pretty much all I could listen to while writing my third novel.

Next week? The final podcast in the Writers & Soundtracks series.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Author Interview: Elizabeth Chadwick

Listen to the interview here!

Tell me a little about yourself and your writing.
I'm an award-winning writer of historical fiction set in the Middle Ages and just about to have my seventeenth novel, THE TIME OF SINGING, published in the UK. In the USA I have recently agreed a deal to have two of my novels published – THE GREATEST KNIGHT and LORDS OF THE WHITE CASTLE.

I began by writing near the historical romance end of the genre and have gradually moved along the line to mainstream historical fiction, telling the life stories of people who actually lived in the Middle Ages. I guess I'd be on the same author page list as Sharon Kay Penman, Philippa Gregory, and Anya Seton.

As far as my personal writer's journey goes, I have been telling stories since I was old enough to talk. My earliest memory is of being three years old and making up a story one light summer evening when I'd been put to bed. I wasn't sleepy, so I opened out my handkerchief and I made up a story about the fairies printed on it. It's quite a vivid memory. I loved adventure stories as a child, both the historical kind and the ones that covered myth and legend. I loved folk tales from around the world and the ancient stories such as the Illiad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid. If I hadn't taken to writing historical fiction (after falling in love with a tall, dark handsome knight on a TV programme when I was fifteen), then I'd probably have taken to fantasy writing instead. Indeed, I still have a slight yen to rework some of the Scottish Border Ballads into new branches!

Tell me about the story for which you’ve created a soundtrack.
I create soundtracks for all my stories; it's an integral part of the writing process, so I guess I'll go with my most recently completed novel, THE TIME OF SINGING. This is about a twelfth-century lord called Roger Bigod whose father, through treachery, lost the trust of King Henry II. The latter razed the family castle at Framlingham and took away many of their lands. After his father died, Roger had to work his way back up fortune's ladder. While at court doing this, he met Ida de Tosney. She was King Henry's young mistress (reluctantly so) and had borne him a son. She and Roger got together after a few hiccups and married, but that didn't mean they left their problems behind. Far from it. Roger was still struggling to regain his inheritance and Ida was grief stricken over some things in her past (not to give the plot away). Her sorrow, combined with Roger's long absences on business for the Crown meant that their relationship was in danger of foundering. Both had to fight battles on several fronts - physical, political, emotional. The history of England at this period is woven into the story of Roger's and Ida's struggle.

What is your playlist?

1. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS - Apocalyptica
This is an instrumental that runs as a general theme throughout the novel. The bittersweetness of the tune and arrangement are perfect for starting out Roger and Ida's story.

2. THE PROMISED LAND - Bruce Springsteen.
This is the hero's viewpoint as he faces up to his father. His feelings of desperation and anger. His grit to do something about the situation, especially the last verse. 'Gonna be a twister to blow everything down, that ain't got the faith to stand its ground.'

3. PRAYER OF THE REFUGEE - Rise Against.
Roger burns his bridges on the eve of a battle.

The battle of Fornham.

King Henry sets eyes on Ida de Tosney and her vulnerable innocence is irresistible to him.

Ida encounters Roger at court for the first time.

7. A GOOD HEART - Feargal Sharkey
Roger is attracted to Ida but wary because she is the King's mistress

8. SWEET SIXTEEN - Billy Idol
King Henry's relationship with Ida and having to let her go

9. LOVE IS ONLY A FEELING - The Darkness
Roger's feelings towards Ida in the long term

10. ETERNAL FLAME - The Bangles
Ida falls heavily for Roger

11. SWETE SONE - Mediaeval Baebes
Ida's grief at a certain particular leave-taking

12. INEVITABLE - Anberlin
Roger and Ida's wedding night. 'I want to be your last first kiss' is so romantic. A wonderful, poignant song.

13. SLOW HAND - The Pointer Sisters
Ida's feelings towards Roger in the first days of their marriage

14. YOU BURN FIRST - Alexisonfire
A jousting scene with vicious family conflict. I love the building angry menace in this. In a very warped way it kind of reminds me of Ravel's Bolero!

The birth of Roger and Ida's first son - Hugh. The mingling of angst, sorrow and over-arcing joy.

16. JEALOUS GUY - Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music
Roger's jealousy over Ida's past

17. TURN, TURN, TURN - The Byrds
Roger rebuilding his life and his family's prestige.

18. CHINA - Tori Amos
Relationship troubles

19. JUST LIKE THAT - Monique Brumby
More relationship material

The attempt at conciliation. This also ties in to the building of the new castle at Framlingham and the strains it has put on Roger and Ida.

21. SNOW - Grey Eye Glances
Ida in sad and thoughtful mood but with a glimmer of hope.

22. PLAY IT AS IT LAYS - Patti Scialfa
Life goes on and one has to make compromises.

23. KEEP THE FAITH - Bon Jovi
Roger trying to work a deal with his brothers. It's the slower version I'm using from the album 'This Left Feels Right.'

The grand finale from Ida's viewpoint and linking into track 1

The grand finale from Roger's viewpoint.

What does music mean to you? To your writing?
Music has always exerted a strong pull for me. Right from the moment I wrote my first novel as a 15-year-old, I have used songs as a way of understanding my characters and for getting into and developing their emotional lives. Songs in themselves tell stories - frequently of deeply or strongly held feelings and I harness the resonances in lyrics and music as part of my creative process. I had popular music soundtracks to my novels long before film makers started using them regularly in blockbusters or on TV to sell cars and insurance!

People are often surprised to know that I use modern hard rock music (among others) to inspire my novels, but it's my opinion that society changes, not people. The lyrics in a song such as Cat Stevens' Father and Son are as relevant to the Middle Ages as they are today, juxtaposing as they do the impatience and fire of youth with the tolerance and knowing of maturity.

What kind of music do you like to write to?
I don't actually write to music. I listen to the music away from my PC screen and I know when I get an adrenalin surge in the gut that it's right for the novel. I will gradually lay down a soundtrack during the first draft of writing and I will listen to it over and over again around the house or at the gym - basically while doing mundane stuff. The above mentioned resonances will come into play and enter my subconscious where they join the general melange of ideas and creativity. When I come to actually write, they'll have been processed ready to take their part in the writing. My favourite music is melodic but hard rock - Anberlin, Seether, Fair to Midland, The Used, Springsteen, Counting Crows, AFI. However, my tastes are eclectic. At the softer end I love traditional folk with a modern edge such as practised by Show of Hands. The only things you won't find me listening to are opera and hip-hop/rap. Having said that I do like operatic rock. Meat Loaf's a favourite and everyone should listen to the album Oceanborn by Nightwish.

If THE TIME OF SINGING was made into a movie, who would you want to do the soundtrack?
Loreena McKennit would be good. I love The Mummer's Dance and I'd be happy with a background track like that. Although rock works well for me as a creative medium, I think a movie would need something a bit more fluid with a wistful historical feel.

To learn more about Elizabeth, visit her website.

Next week, I offer my own soundtrack and some thoughts on what I've learned during this series!