Wednesday, November 07, 2007

ANNE STUART on SOUNDTRACKS AND THE WOMAN

Riders, she's here! Anne Stuart, diva of divas! Anne has written some of the darkest and most delectable heroes imaginable. ICE STORM, her third "Ice" book, hit the ground running last week. Take the link to Amazon for an excerpt. Hard-edged and mysterious Serafin can take a ride in our back seat anytime. But first, make room for the amazing Anne Stuart....

I love music. It’s always been a part of my life – my father was a jazz drummer when he wasn’t trying to be responsible, my bedtime lullaby was “Pennies from Heaven,” and music infuses my every moment.
So of course I need soundtracks. Every book has a different one, and I gotta say iTunes certainly makes life easier. Back in the old days I’d haul out the LPs and tape different cuts onto a cassette tape, play the tape over and over again until it died. (I wish to god I could still find the tape I made for Night of the Phantom – it was a killer). Nowadays I can just make an iTunes playlist to upload to my iPod or play right off my computer while I work.

Just one danger with that. If you’re writing a powerful scene and you’ve got Richard Thompson howling in your ear you can think it’s your words that are causing that emotional effect, not Richard Thompson’s. But in general soundtracks can get you right where you need to go, fast, like one of those magic words when you get hypnotized. Say “lightbulb” and you’ll squawk like a chicken. Listen to Chrissie Hynde and you’ll immediately be inside the head of your angry heroine.


My first contemporary (CHAIN OF LOVE, God help me) was written to Fleetwood Mac, and every time I hear “Say You Love Me” I think of my characters (whose names are long forgotten). NIGHT OF THE PHANTOM had Phantom of the Opera, of course, but also Stevie Nicks singing “Beauty and the Beast” (“where is my beast?”) and some other over-the- top, emotional songs.

I wrote PRINCE OF MAGIC (one of my lost Zebra historicals) to “INTO THE WOODS” (the Sondheim cast album) and the George Winston FOREST cd. LADY FORTUNE, a medieval, to Loreena McKinnett.
number one best soundtrack for writing is Last of the Mohicans, but then, I’m prejudiced. For writing medievals I have the soundtracks for Lion in Winter,The two best sources for soundtracks are new age music and, literally, soundtracks. I listen to a lot of Pacific Moon cds (Samurai, Healing Garden, etc.) plus George Winston, Celtic new age with penny whistles and fiddles. The Robin of Sherwood (Clannad --- sigh), First Knight (yeah, I know it’s ridiculous cheese but I love it) etc.
Sometimes one song can sum up an entire book, give you the key to what’s going on with your characters. Sometimes it’s a certain musician (the aforementioned Richard Thompson, cynic, brilliant guitarist, former member of Fairport Convention almost always does it for me).

And sometimes I just listen to whoosh-whoosh music which either affects my brain waves or, at the very least, provides white noise. (My favorite is Kelly Howell – HIGH FOCUS – I’ve written thousands and thousands of pages very quickly with that in my head). But the best books of all are the ones with the clear soundtracks.

ICE STORM was a piece of cake – my heroine was a gypsy flower child in her young womanhood (and the book has parallel stories – when the main characters first met and when they meet up again). For the past we had Stevie Nicks – the ultimate gypsy child. In the present we had a cross between the Pretenders – Chrissie Hynde full of rage and passion, and Sarah MacLachlan with grief and regret (“Fallen”). For Killian the mercenary we had Warren Zevon – Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner, Lawyers Guns and Money, Mutineer, Desperadoes under the Eaves. Plus the scenes with Reno had J-rock and Dragon Ash singing “Life Goes On.”

Finding a soundtrack for your life can also be handy. As you can probably tell I have a weakness for Celtic influenced music (along with J-rock). The problem with Celtic music is that it can be quite mournful. Many years ago I was dealing with infertility (we eventually adopted two fabulous children) and my doctor was 70 miles. Twice a month I would drive that long distance, listening to Celtic music and sobbing. Finally I decided this was not productive, and sat down a made a happy tape. Starting with the Beach Boys and “Wouldn’t it Be Nice?” and filling it with other songs that made me sing along and smile, and I played it over and over again during those long drives. Occasionally I’d still cry, but mostly I soothed myself with the power of music.

Those of you who are writers – what have you used for soundtracks? And for those of you who don’t write – do you have a song that can immediately put you in a certain mood? (Give me Marvin Gaye singing “Sexual Healing” and my husband is toast).

13 comments:

Michele Hauf said...

I love knowing what writers have playing in the background as they are writing! I've never been one who can write a first draft with any sort of noise, but after that, the soundtracks come out!

I so have to agree that Last of the Mohicans is one of the best for romantic stuff. THe song they play when Nathaniel goes to find (heroine, can't remember her name) while the dance is going on in the background? "What are you looking at, sir?" "Why you, miss." Sigh...

And Clannad! Together We.... I hear that song and see Robin and Marian kissing in the forest.

Loved Prince of Magic. And did you have a Prince of Swords, as well? I'm seeing a foil silver cover in my brain, and know it's on my keeper shelf. I love your dark heroes, Anne!

Thanks for riding with us today.
M

Helen Brenna said...

Hi, Anne, fun to have you here!

I can only listen to instrumentals while I'm writing, so that limits the list. Last of the Mohicans is great. I've also got some instrumental guitar cds that I love. Helps keep me focused more than anything.

I've got a question of my own. As I was reading your post I couldn't help but imagine you singing these songs ala karaoke. Ever done that?

Cindy Gerard said...

Hi Anne
Great to have you in the convertible. Hope the new ICE book sells like hotcakes - um or something.
I'm a music lover too but I've never thought about writing to specific music. I just turn it on - have XM radio on my PC and listen to whatever I'm in the mood for on a given day - be it 70's or 80's or rock or country or blues. Sounds like I need to get more focused!!

Kathleen Eagle said...

I have a question that has nothing to do with music. (Or maybe it does. Maybe you harmonized.) I loved THE UNFORTUNATE MISS FORTUNES and wonder how three of my favorite writers--Anne Stuart, Eileen Dreyer and Jennifer Crusie--managed to weave three distinctive voices together into one novel.

flchen1 said...

Not a writer, but very neat to hear how you writers sync your work to different soundtracks :)

In our house we're listening a lot right now to Laurie Berkner's Under a Shady Tree, and it's such a fun and happy CD--we all find it rather cheering (well, except my older son, who pleads with me to stop singing along with it... or maybe that's just my singing voice... ;))

Christie Ridgway said...

Anne!!! Thanks for being here today. I so, so love the ICE books. To me, they really take me back to the first "romantic" reading that I was introduced to by my mom. After I left the stack of the children's section at the library, she took me to romantic suspense. You do it so damn well.

I also do soundtracks for books and thank you for reminding me about High Focus. Haven't used that in a while.

Hey, did you guys know it was Daniel Defoe that advised parents to "Spare the rod, spoil the child"? I just learned that from my kid's history textbook. Doesn't take away from how much I loooove Last of the Mohicans.

Anonymous said...

Anne - first I have to GUSH and say "I LOVE your stories", and I love your blogs. I'm a CB and follow Jenny and Bob, wherever. And, because of them I linked to your stuff.

I don't make my living as a writer, but I firmly believe that Music can motivate - no matter what the context or task at hand, music can help.

I studied my way through college and dorm living to the tunes of the Eagles. Every big test and paper had music (and bubblegum to chew). I carried that into my work life. I listen to classic rock at work (keeps a steady beat), and when I clean at home, I listen to country (upbeat, but slower beats), and driving in the car - well endless possibilities there.

Betina Krahn said...

Anne, Welcome to the convertible! Here in Florida it's PERFECT ragtop weather. . . 75 and not a cloud anywhere.

How cool to learn your dad was a musician. My dad played guitar, but somehow I never caught that bug. Wish now that I had. But I'm a music fiend when I'm writing. I love music and for years have searched for background and soundtracks to compliment my work in progress.

"Mohicans" was one of my first acquisitions. Then came David Arkenstone en masse. And Secret Garden and "Voyage" by Brad White and Pierre Grill. Then came Cusco, Mars Lasar, and Shahin&Sepehr, Terry Oldfield, Jonn Serie, Kevin Braheny, and Boney James. Then came Pink for energy. Wow. And I found Klaus Badelt who wrote the score for "Pirates of the Caribbean." Great score and soundtrack. Then came James Newton with the "King Kong" soundtrack. Another wow. Very evocative. Now I listen to a ton of stuff. . . Bond, Vanessa Mae, Anne Marie Mutter, and newer composers like Alan Hovhaness and Henryk Gorecki (who can make violins weep). I also like visual landscapes that have birds and waterfalls and rainstorms. One of my sons gave me a Celtic Women CD for last Christmas. I also love American Indian flutes like those played by R. Carlos Nakai.

And don't get me started on guitars. . . Billy McLaughlin, Jesse Cook, Strunk and Farrah.

Okay, I'll shut up now. But, Anne, you've got me looking at my shelves and discovering things I haven't heard in ages. . . like the Righteous Brothers. I'm gonna go get me some of "that lovin' feelin'."

Yeah. The power of music strips the veil of sensation from us and puts us into touch with a deeper reality. Resonance. It's all about resonance.

Debra Dixon said...

Anne ! Hey, babe! We're glad you're riding with us today and that you brought great music for the trip!

I've heard you talk off and on about the various books and their music, but it's really fabulous walking through a bit of a publishing history and seeing the differences in what drives the music and the muse.

I'm a Mary Chapin Carpenter fan. Also have a ton of Celtic on my shelf. Old and new.

I tend to write to classical and to these "NatureQuest" CDs. Thunderstorms, the sea, forests, etc. with instrumental stuff laid in over the sounds or beneath the sounds. And I've got a lot of guitar instrumental stuff as well.

Words tend to make me forget what I'm doing. LOL! I'll sing along and look out the window. So, that's why I've found the music-only option works better for me. Soothing, driving, emotional but doesn't require me to play along.

Kathleen Eagle said...

When I'm writing, I don't do vocals. I love classical music, Hawaiian slack key guitar, "New Age" soundscape stuff, American Indian music. Like Betina, I love that Lakota flute. But human voices distract me from the writing. Don't know why. Could it have something to do with the fact lyrics stick with me--I know all the words but can't get them out unless I'm alone, like in the car or something. Then I belt it out. One note, pretty much. I do sing to the grandchildren. Hope I'm not turning them tone deaf.

Susan Kay Law said...

Ah! One of my very favorite people. Thanks for visiting.

I used to try and write with music on, but I never really noticed when the track finished. I don't think I can listen and write at the same time.

Usually now, though, I have the tv on, to something mindless like FoodTv or golf.

I think I feel less like I'm working if the tv is on.

Susie

Anne Stuart said...

How odd. I posted earlier, answering questions, and it hasn't showed up. Maybe Blogger knows my reputation.
Fabulous suggestions. I love Carlos Nakai (and Alice Gomez) Terry Oldfield ("all shall be well" is necessary for my mental health.
I wish it was good ragtop weather here -- we got our first snow.

I'm going to hope my missing comment shows up. And for that matter, that this one does as well.

Christie Ridgway said...

About music again...

When I'm writing a synopsis (an outline of the story for those non-writers with us) I cannot listen to music with words. When I'm actually writing the story, love the words.

Weird, huh? Must be some right brain-left brain thing, but it's counter-intuitive.