When I was growing up, we spent a lot of time in the car. My dad was in the Army, and then he was with a company that moved us around quite a bit–and beyond that, we loved to travel, so we drove across the country, east to west and north to south. I loved it.
One of my favorite parts was listening to music with my parents. Both my mom and dad had a passion for popular music that they’ve passed on to their children and grandchildren. I enjoyed the music, of course, but I especially liked the stories that my dad told about the lyrics, the artists or even about how he and my mom had discovered this song or what it meant to them.
Stagger Lee was the song my dad sang at the ninth grade lip synching contest at school.
When he first heard Herman’s Hermits singing I’m Into Something Good, he made an unprecedented mid-week call from West Point to my mom in New Jersey, to play it for her.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight came out my dad’s first year at West Point, when he wasn’t allowed to listen to radios or records. He heard bits and pieces of it from the rooms of upperclassmen and was mystified by the weem-o-wep.
Today it’s me telling my kids the stories, both from their grandparents and from my own history. Someday, they’ll tell their own children. It’s our own personal form of oral tradition.
And sometimes, those stories spark an idea that leads to a book. Those are good days.
Next week we’ll talk about songs that tell a story all their own.
I’m just about to start on a new book, and I need musical inspiration. Most of the time, I have one or two songs that let me know what genre the playlist will be, but it doesn’t always fall out easily.
There’s a few ways that I find new songs. One is just random listening. I’ll start writing, or even just working on promotions or other business fun, with music in the background. The catch is that it can’t be music I’ve selected. I’ll toss on the music channel on my television, or I’ll click on Pandora or Spotify and just randomize the music. Usually, it becomes background noise until suddenly a phrase or lyric will jump out at me . . . at which point I scribble down the name and artist, add it to a list of potentials (and usually look up the lyrics, too).
I’ve discovered not only new songs, but new bands that way, too.
Another great source of new muse comes from my kids. When I drive my daughter to work, she’s always playing brand-new, cutting-edge music. I frequently say, “Who is that? Send me the name!”
I’m in that stage now as I write The Plan. I know a little about Emmy’s taste–she loves her some country–and I just discovered that Cooper is still wrapped up in the hard-rock of the ’80s . . . so I’m listening to an odd mix of both right now.
How do you find new music?
I’m writing The Plan at the moment. It’s the second book in The Crystal Cove series, coming after The Posse, and the main story revolves around Emmy Carter and Cooper Davis, both of whom we met in The Posse.
Careful readers of The Posse will remember that Jude and Emmy differed on their musical preferences. Jude loves her 80’s tunes, and Emmy favors country. As it happens Cooper likes rock, so he and Emmy are reconciling that difference, too . . .
Their working playlist includes songs from Florida-Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, Billy Joel and others. I’m excited to share their story–both musical and otherwise!–with you in June.
(Placeholder cover–reveal coming soon)
Over the last few months, I’ve shared with you all the playlists for my books and why each one is the way it is. I hope you’ve gotten some insight into how music affects my process.
But how does a playlist come about? This is a question we discussed at Coastal Magic February at the panel on the same topic. I was fascinated that so many of us who write so differently come upon our musical muses in the same way.
For me, the type of music a character enjoys is part of his or her definition. In The King Series, Tasmyn enjoyed alt rock while Michael liked oldies. Rafe’s musical taste was closer to Tasmyn’s; it was one of many things the two had in common, which frustrated Rafe to no end. He felt that their similarities should’ve given him an edge over Michael. Sadly for him, he was wrong.
In The Posse, Jude adores her 80’s tunes. In The One Trilogy, Sam uses sweet country music to woo Meghan, who is decidedly not a fan before her time in Burton. In Just Desserts, Frank Sinatra is the theme of the day.
So that’s where the playlists begin. One character and one style of music. I usually start off a new book with a huge list of songs, and I listen to it almost constantly while writing–and even while not actively writing. I also try to tune in to stations on Spotify or iTunes radio that dovetail with the same genre, so that I can possibly find new songs that fit the storyline.
As the plot develops and refines, I’ll nix some songs and add others. And the ones that are particularly compelling or poignant end up on replay. A lot.
In this way, the music not only inspires me; it also gives me insight into characters and situation I might not be able to quite wrap my mind around until I hear a lyric or a stanza. And in the years that follow, hearing that lyric takes me right back to that story. . .and those characters.
Tomorrow is release day for The Only One! I’m so excited to share Rilla and Mason with you. Today you get a sneak peek in the form of the book’s playlist.
Of course, this is a country playlist, because it’s part of The One Trilogy. And of course, Brad Paisley is featured more than once, because I <3 him big time. I especially wanted two of his songs on here because they speak to a delicate topic: Christianity. It’s something that plays a fairly big role in The Only One; Rilla’s been raised in a strict church, and part of her journey is discovering what faith means to her and how much her upbringing should influence the rest of her life. I liked Brad’s songs Those Crazy Christians and Me and Jesus because they deal with that struggle in a real way.
Colin Raye’s On The Verge has always been to me the musical epitome of a man just about to fall in love. I went a little old school with Hal Ketchum’s Stay Forever; I just happened to hear it, and it captured their dance scene perfectly.
There are two Suzy Bogguss songs. One is a little older, her cover of Chicago’s If You Leave Me Now, and the other is from her latest album, a cover of Merle Haggard standards. Both are haunting and beautiful.
It was while listening to Suzy’s musical that I came across another cover, this one by the late Mindy McCready. She’d remade Long, Long Time which had been one of my very favorite bittersweet songs when I was a teenager. I love how Mindy re-did it.
I love this playlist, just as I love this story. Go check out the playlist here and get ready for Rilla and Mason tomorrow!