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.
4. THE MONSTER IS LOOSE - Meat Loaf.
The battle of Fornham.
5. BEAUTIFUL GIRL - INXS
King Henry sets eyes on Ida de Tosney and her vulnerable innocence is irresistible to him.
6. THE MAN WITH THE CHILD IN HIS EYES - Kate Bush
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!
15. LIGHTNING CRASHES - Live
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
19. JUST LIKE THAT - Monique Brumby
More relationship material
20. FORTRESS AROUND YOUR HEART - Sting
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.'
24. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS - Lucie Silvas
The grand finale from Ida's viewpoint and linking into track 1
25. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS - Metallica
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!