Friday, March 17, 2017

End of an Era

Well, it's time to retire the Writers & Soundtracks podcast. It's a relic of a time gone by, and I'm switching hosting services and no longer have a place for the files to live.

I hope you enjoyed the episodes! It would be fun to do a podcast again someday. In the meantime, visit me at!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A trip down memory lane...

This podcast series was first broadcast in 2008, and it was enormous fun.

A whole lot has changed for me (and the other writers!) in the intervening years, but I'd venture to say  our love for music and writing hasn't.

So, take a trip down memory lane with me: get a glimpse into the creative process of some of your favorite writers and learn about bands/songs/albums you might not have known before.

I'd love to revive this podcast in the future, with actual live interviews next time around. It's unreal how much technology has changed since 2008, so I think it could be much more easily done, and a lot of fun.


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!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Author Interview: C.C. Humphreys

Listen to the interview here!

Tell me a little about yourself and your writing.
I am an actor/writer/fight choreographer - though mainly focusing on novels these days. I began writing plays and had two produced, in London, Calgary, and Vancouver. But I always dreamed of being an historical fiction novelist. I had the idea for French Executioner in a gym when I looked ay my neck and thought how easy a target it would be for the executioner's sword. Six years later I began writing it... and a career was born!

I have written nine novels in eight years: six adult and three young adult. People read my work and say: Ooh, I can see the film! My acting background I suppose - big on visuals and character.

Tell me about the story that you've created a soundtrack/ playlist for.
I used the following playlist as I wrote my latest novel, VLAD: THE LAST CONFESSION. I was at a retreat on the west coast of Vancouver Island, overlooking the pounding Pacific in a remote cabin and these tracks seemed to fit for reasons that are largely unexplainable. Taking me to other places, other times.

What is your playlist?
I call the whole thing after one song: 'Please read the letter.'

Love Her Madly - The Doors. Used to live in LA. Loved it, hated it. Same goes for her. This is love.

New York, New York - Ryan Adams. Ditto NYC

In These Shoes - Kirsty MacColl. Sexy, funny, great horn section.

Sultanas de Merkaillo - Ojos de Brujo. Parents lived in Spain. Wanted to be able to say I was into Acid flamenco. I am.

Nothin' - Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. I love stories in songs. This is tragedy.

I'm Set Free - The Velvet Underground. Theme music that closed my first play. Set free to find a new illusion? Yupp!

Loose Change - Bruce Springsteen. An obscure track from the best storyteller.

Constellations - Jack Johnson. A stargazer/storyteller's song.

Nocturne in C Sharp Minor - Chopin. Heartbreak. And what cello!

Picture This - Blondie. Just because its my favourite ever romantic pop song. 'I would gve you my finest hour/the one I spent, watching you shower'

The Raggle Taggle Gypsy - The Waterboys. Explosive Celtic lust.

Seven Nation Army - White Stripes. One to march to.

Please Read the Letter - Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Heartbreak again. The misunderstandings of love and the difficulties of words.

What does music mean to you? To your writing? What kind of music do you like to write to?
I use music as an escape from writing. I never write to music. That's why, even though I am immersed in 15th century Romania, I can escape to 20th Century LA with The Doors. Or I need to calm after a hectic battle. Chopin works!

If this story was made into a movie, who would you want to do the soundtrack?
The guy who did the music to 'Last of the Mohicans' [Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman]

To learn more about Chris, visit his website.

Next week, I interview author Elizabeth Chadwick

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Author Interview: Alex Dally MacFarlane

Listen to the interview here!

Tell me a little about yourself and your writing.
I’m a 21-year-old British woman, I graduated from King’s College, London last summer with a BA in War Studies and History, and I now work as a Content Editor for Jane’s Information Group.

I’ve been writing for about ten years now, in which time I’ve amassed (and lost, sometimes) a lot of terrible juvenilia and, more recently, a novel (The Bone Queen) that I hope to submit to agents early next year. Two years ago I started writing short fiction. In that time I’ve sold stories to several magazines, including Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Electric Velocipede, Sybil’s Garage and Farrago’s Wainscot. 

I’m currently working on several things: revising The Bone Queen; starting a novel about a war between humans and the so-called “water-people” in an alternate world based on Thailand, told in the form of various texts from the world; and I’m writing some short fiction.
 Most of my writing tends to the fantastical, with some science fiction in the mix. I don’t apply further labels; I find them a waste of time.

Tell me about the story that you've created a soundtrack/playlist for.
I tend to have very few songs for a story, sometimes even one, not a whole soundtrack. Rather than give you the one song that I played a lot while writing The Bone Queen, I’ve compiled various songs that have either been mini-soundtracks or inspirations for three pieces of work.

The Bone Queen is about the deal that Beth, a gunslinger, gets involved in with a story-figure, Kaili, who requests that she steal a necklace from the Bone Queen in return for the information that the Bone Queen can rid Beth of the angry ghosts following her. Meanwhile another gunslinger, Jeckel, pursues a monster that desiccates towns; and Imi, a Professor of Oral History, pursues an old tale about a man with carpets for skin. It has storytelling magic, a monster made of squares and other fun things.

The second piece of work is a short story, “Tattoos of the Sky, Tattoos of the Days,” published in issue 5 of Sybil’s Garage and free to read online. It’s about unhappiness and finding love.

Another short story is “An Orange Tree Framed His Body,” which is about an eighteen-year-old boy doing two things: participating in a violent rebellion against the government that’s killing the semi-sentient plumbing of the city, and facing the pattern of suicides in his family. The story is set in an alternate world with fantasy elements, but with a technology level among the elites of the society that includes cloning. I finished the first draft of it in early August; it was a difficult story to write, it pushed at what I’m able to do as a writer, so the first draft was not very good. I’m hopeful that I can edit it into something strong.

What is your playlist?
DeVotchKa - La Llorona
DeVotchKa - Charlotte Mittnacht (The Fabulous Destiny Of)
DeVotchKa - Tragedy
Cornershop - We’re in Yr Corner
Augie March - The Night is a Blackbird
Patrick Wolf - The Stars
Snow Patrol - You Could Be Happy
Augie March - Bolte and Dunstan Talk Youth
Augie March - The Baron of Sentiment

La Llorrona is the song that I often put on repeat to get into the right mindset for The Bone Queen. Something about it contains deserts, open spaces, a hint of the unusual. When not listening to just that song, I put on all my songs by DeVotchKa. Charlotte Mittnacht and Tragedy are two of my favourites. I also listened to Cornershop through some stretches.
The Night is a Blackbird inspired the opening of “Tattoos…”; it became the line “The night is a blackbird and it lives on Gemma’s arm.” The rest of the song didn’t do anything for the story, just that opening line. Then, a couple of months after I wrote it, the story was accepted for publication by Sybil’s Garage. If you take a look inside an issue of Sybil’s Garage, you’ll see that every story is presented with a song that it can be read ‘to the sound of…’ I spent the next half a year on-and-off thinking about what song I would choose. Though The Night is a Blackbird had inspired the story, it wasn’t a soundtrack for the story. And I hadn’t listened to anything in particular while writing it. I settled eventually on Patrick Wolf’s The Stars, because the words are appropriate -- there are stars on the wings of the blackbird on Gemma’s arm -- and, the more I listened to the song, the more I thought that its sound suited the story.
Snow Patrol’s You Could Be happy -- Now, this isn’t a very deep song. It’s about lost love: nothing remarkable. Except the sound of it, and just some of the lyrics -- You could be happy / I hope you are -- did something in my head, and the song fit with Au’s relationship (not a sexual one) with his father in “An Orange Tree Framed His Body”. The final lines of the song -- More than anything / I want to see you go / Take a glorious bite / Out of the whole world -- inspired how the story ended. I also listened to a lot of Augie March while writing this story; Bolte and Dunstan Talk Youth and The Baron of Sentiment particularly suited it.

What does music mean to you? To your writing?
Music can be an inspiration, an accompaniment. Music can make me stop and listen, think about something new or something in a different way. It’s something I need in my life, like flavoursome food and the countryside.

What kind of music do you like to write to?
Music with the right kind of sound. 

That doesn’t tell you much, does it? It’s hard to explain. I mean how the music feels to me -- something that comes from the notes played, the lyrics sung (if there are any) and how it makes me react in my head. It can be for just one song, or for all of a band’s music. I write to music with a sound that matches the story.

If this story was made into a movie, who would you want to do the soundtrack?
I would love DeVotchKa to perform a soundtrack to The Bone Queen. Their music is very different to usual soundtrack music -- both orchestral compositions and pop music -- and I’d like that. Their music can be jaunty and whimsical, thoughtful and sad; they’d have no trouble capturing the range of moods in a story.

To learn more about Alex, visit her LiveJournal.

Next week, I interview author C.C. Humphreys.