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HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM HAYDEN THORNE
I always listen to music when I write. Though art and literature both inspire me on so many levels, neither does so as though it were eating into me the way music does. Art and literature make me think; music makes me feel. I suppose that’d be the simplest way of putting things.
Most of the time, my CDs serve as background music when I write. However, there are times when a specific piece raises itself up above the rest for odd – but very welcome! – reasons. That special composition ends up shaping my plots, scenes, or characters in that elusive way that only music can. I’ve tried to identify these unique characteristics and how they’ve helped me in writing.
1. The Soundtrack - This is the piece of music that, to me, somehow “tells” the story in five minutes or so. When I wrote Icarus in Flight, I listened to Chopin’s waltzes over and over again. Light, poetic, and romantic, they helped me stick to the novel’s mood, and they also “reminded” me to keep the romance understated and quiet. The Grand Valse Brillante, out of the entire CD, turned into that special piece of music that I felt captured James and Daniel’s coming-of-age and blooming romance quite nicely. Call me a sentimental old sap, but I tend to picture them both walking quietly down footpaths in the more isolated parts of Wiltshire or enjoying tea together now that I listen to this song well after the novel’s been released.
Chopin – Grand Valse Brillante
in E flat Major, Op. 18
2. The Scene-Maker - One of my favorite scenes to write in Banshee was the ballroom scene in Chapter 6. It’s Natty’s first time outside his cozy little village, and it’s also his first time in fashionable company, in the middle of a ball. Smetana’s polka from The Bartered Bride is one of those ballroom pieces that’s brilliant, breathless, and, I suppose if I were actually in a 19th century ballroom watching a polka (in the case of Banshee, it’s a waltz), magical. As I’d never written a ballroom scene before, I turned to my “dance” classical CDs for help in conjuring up the marvelous alien quality of the scene, when viewed by a wide-eyed 17-year-old rustic.
Smetana – The Bartered Bride: Polka
3. The Character Designer - One of the qualities that I want my young main characters to have is spunk, which reveals itself in one way or another, depending on the story. Norris Woodhead is my most spirited historical character so far. Though at first somewhat passive (he’s learned to be nothing else), he eventually finds that little spark in himself that helps him make a life-changing decision in the end of the book. Because so many forces acted against him through his journey of self-discovery, I did find it a little difficult to keep myself on track in his development. I turned to some Baroque pieces for inspiration, and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 proved to be an exceptional ally. The music is exuberant and energetic. It lifts my spirits all the time, evoking hope, which I ensured that Norris would represent, as a boy who’s pretty much on his own during a very difficult part of his young life.
Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
4. The Story-Weaver - Then there’s the song that started it all. Once in a rare while, I’ll listen to a piece of music and then get hit pretty hard with images of characters or scenes or a vague sense of a story’s emotions. It’s happened with Offenbach’s “Barcarolle,” which gave birth to a still-in-stasis novel, Baroque, as one example. The most significant inspiration along these lines for me is a traditional Christmas carol: “In Dulci Jubilo.” When I listened to Chanticleer’s 1996 recording of the song, I felt one of those deeply emotional stirrings that came with random images of snow, a solitary old man in his workshop, and oddly, a glass ornament. What pervaded the moment, though, was the strong, strong feeling of melancholy due to loss. I’ve no idea why that association was made, but it happened, and I never questioned it. From there, I wrote a short story that was a Christmas folktale called “The Glass Minstrel,” which I eventually developed into a novel. And I’m pleased to say that all the images and all the feelings of sadness were retained, though everything coalesces into hope at the end. Just like a Christmas carol.
In Dulci Jubilo – The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge
Advent Calendar Giveaway!
Do you have a song that moved you deeply for any reason? It can be something that’s inspired you artistically or one that simply touched you in a way that no other song has. Share the song and its effect on you in the comments, and a winner will be chosen from the responses.
The winner will receive an e-book of one of the following: Icarus in Flight (Victorian romance), Banshee (Victorian ghost story), or The Twilight Gods (Victorian fantasy, also a retelling of a folktale).
Or, in the case of The Twilight Gods, the winner can also choose a print copy instead of an e-book.