Your Favorite Author and Her Favorite Songs

I was just preparing my review of Ann Aguirre‘s Grimspace, and in one of her interviews, I came across a comment she made about the songs she was listening to when she wrote that book:

Ms. Aguirre writes (over at the Bradford Bunch) that she was listening to the following when writing Grimspace:

I wrote Grimspace over a year ago, was finishing up summer of ‘06. Let me look at my playlist and see what I was listening to back then. Looks like Placebo and Blue October. Here are some songs that influenced Jax and March:

Hate Me – Blue October
Sound of Pulling Heaven Down

Because I Want You – Placebo
Song to Say Goodbye

Music has always been important to me, but it had never occurred to me that writers can use music to enhance their muse (I know. Duh.). This past spring, I was having a slightly difficult time. I can’t complain, because I was choosing between two good things, but one of them would have meant cataclysmic change, and let’s just say not everyone was happy for me. Luckily, I had my husband and other folks to help me process it all.  But I couldn’t have gotten through it without music, and I had three songs in particular on a constant loop: Annie Lennox’s A Thousand Beautiful Things, The Flaming Lips’ Love The World You Find, and, when I felt like saying a big “fuck you” to everyone, the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army.

So, I thought I would look around and see what some authors I like have to say about the music that inspired them. Here’s what I found:

A couple of years ago, Sarah Wendell wrote something for Romancing the Blog about music, and several authors chimed in to talk about the songs they listen to write writing. Alison Kent, for example, wrote: “Adore by the Pumpkins is one I always listen to, and Bruce’s The Rising”.

Lauren Dane, whose Giving Chase I recently read and liked, says that music is a “huge part of her creative life” here. Hmm, I wonder if the Chase brothers are Pearl Jam fans.

Meljean Brook makes a playlist for her WIPs, and Bree Sharp was on it in 2007. Ms. Brook recently blogged about this, saying that she listened to CCR’s Fortunate Son for Demon Bound.

Another author I really like, Megan Hart, said in an interview the following:

“I usually have a list of current favorites that might not fit the book, but are on the playlist, but I always have a certain few special songs picked out. They can be older, or current songs that just “hit” me. For Broken it was ‘What if You’ by Joshua Radin. For Tempted it was ‘Everything Changes’ by Staind. For Second Verse I have a few including the more recent ‘Stolen’ by Dashboard Confessional and ‘Ocean Size Love’ by Leigh Nash.”

Here’s a long thread at Fangs, Fur and Fey where authors write in to suggest songs to go with their writing. Jocelynn Drake, for example, likes a lot of Nine Inch Nails, Foo Fighters, and Linkin Park.

These are all contemporary authors. How about those who write historicals? Can they be inspired by music, and must it be the music of the period?

Well, I found this essay at by Duke of Shadows author Meredith Duran, another book I really liked, where she talks about the songs that inspired her. She has a different playlist for the parts of her book that take place in India and England, but songs are modern on both of them, including Sarah Maclachlan, Coldplay, and Nickelback. Here’s what she says about the MacLachlan song: “When I lost track of the isolation and melancholy enveloping Emma, ‘Fear’ by Sarah MacLachlan put me right back in her head.”

I admit, I haven’t had the time to reread any of these with the music playing, but it might be a neat experiment!

Published in: on September 14, 2008 at 8:42 pm  Comments (7)  
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  1. I love this concept! I’m a writer of sorts (unpublished), and generally I can’t have music on while I’m writing since I’ll get so caught up in the music that I’ll forget to write. But I’ve noticed the number of authors posting playlists and the like, and I decided that I’d set out to make a specific set of music to “enhance” the writing – songs that evoked a time or a place for me, or an emotion. I can’t say if it’s been successful but I’ve now got two great playlists on my iPod if nothing else 🙂

    I’ve got both playlists under the “About Kate” tag on my blog, and I’m always up for suggestions! I love looking at other playlists and getting inspiration.

  2. I need music to help me create the characters. Here’s my playlist:

    The Proviso soundtrack

  3. I make playlists all the time, but oddly, I don’t make them for my novels. Mostly it’s because a novel takes so long to write, there’s no way I would listen to the same few songs every single time I worked on it. (Of course, the people with novel playlists might not do that, either.)

    Mostly, the music I listen to is there to isolate me from what’s going on outside my head, as in blocking out conversations or sirens or other random noises. So I might be writing a tender dialogue scene, and listening to Rob Zombie or Rammstein at full blast. Or I might have had a rough, busy day and am trying to calm myself down by listening to Santana or Norah Jones. Or be having a hard time concentrating, so I put on Renaissance polyphony. I also use Goth music a lot to aid concentration, because it frequently has long, trancelike melodic lines.

    I suppose if I ever do a playlist, it will be after the fact.

  4. Kate — I am more like you. when I work, I find it hard to have music playing. Transient/ambient music sometimes works, or classical, because I don’t understand it well enough to find it lyrical.

    Moriah — thanks for sharing your list. Madonna’s Deeper and Deeper is one of my favorite dance songs evah! It helped that she came out with that song at the same time I was getting into French psychoanalytic feminist theory.

    Victoria — It’s amazing isn’t it, the effect music can have on your mood? Athletes know this. Lovers know this.

    I agree a short playlist seems like it would get repetitive for a long novel. Some authors say a certain song went with a certain scene. Like Megan Hart said somewhere that the song “What if you” was in her mind when she wrote the love scene I list as one of the best ever, from Broken. And Meredith Duran has a specific song for the scene when her lovers reconcile.

  5. Having a playlist doesn’t just work for authors while writing – it can also work for readers while reading *g* The best example is listening to the soundtrack of Last of the Mohicans while reading Pamela Clare’s historicals. I did this with both Ride the Fire and Surrender and it really did help in putting me in the setting!! Listening to classical music while reading historicals is also quite the experience. And a while ago I was listening to Loreena McKennitt Live from the Alhambra CD while reading one of Bonnie Vanak’s Egyptian historicals and the music fit PERFECTLY

  6. Madonna’s Deeper and Deeper is one of my favorite dance songs evah! It helped that she came out with that song at the same time I was getting into French psychoanalytic feminist theory.

    Hey, you made me spew milk all over my keyboard.

    I adore Madonna and for all the wrong reasons. Even when she does stupid stuff I love her.

  7. Kristie — I love the idea of listening to music while reading. Unfortunately, DH had Warren Zevon on last night while my reading of Gaffney was competing with his Sharpe’s Rifles fiction. I lost!

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