Soundtrack to a Novel
Music is a big part of my process in writing. It evokes moods in which the imagination can find more out of a situation, a character, or a place. Lyrics can also carry ideas or prompts. Sometimes the effect is slight or even whimsical, but there are times when it is significant, with the music almost driving the creative process. So, when I begin a project, I’m exploring new music for inspiration all the time. This is moreso for the novel I’m currently researching because music is a key element to the story, whereas in I Am Not Gog, any reference to music was incidental. Music was still important to the creation of it, though, and here I’ll give some insights as to what soundtrack was playing for some of the scenes during the writing of I Am Not Gog, with links to the songs on YouTube (click on the song names). For the opening scene, with Lydia taking a bath the night before the day of doing, I had two songs very firmly lodged in my mind from the get-go. So much so, they became integral to it. Because I didn’t want to risk any chance of being sued, I decided not to give any indication as to the identity of the real songs or artist. On this blog, though, there are no grounds to sue me, so I can reveal what they were. They were both by the same artist, David Essex. The happy one was "Hold Me Close" and the gloomy one she didn’t like was "Rock On". I think it turned out better, creatively, by concealing them, and it enabled me to use a good anagram indicator for Leif Asterlay’s meaning in the allegory (discussed here). There were two other pivotal scenes where songs were so inspirational to me they almost drove their development. They, too, were by one band, Antony and the Johnsons. Both are hauntingly beautiful. The first was "The Lake", which helped to inspire the writing of the scene where Alex traumatised young Lydia on the recreation ground at night, particularly the time after he has left the scene, leaving her alone, looking up at the stars. The second was the exquisite "Mysteries of Love", and that profoundly inspired the writing of the scene where she hides at a distance in the car park, observing Joshua in the back yard of the pub on her birthday. It still makes me a little emotional when I hear either of the songs. Prior to the recreation ground scene above, the chip-shop scene had a soundtrack of "Dreamboat" by Limmie and Family Cookin’, which got to 31 in the UK charts the year in which the scene was set (1973). In another romantic moment, the cafe scene where Lydia first meets Joshua, her dramatic entrance into the cafe was directly inspired by the opening line of "The Mighty Sparrow" by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: ‘When the café doors exploded…’ Whenever I worked on the scene where Lydia does her little dance in the Hinckley churchyard before she goes to the supermarket to do her doings, I always played Telemann’s "Flute Concerto in D Major – IV. Allegro" (pictured above) to get me in the mood. The Jimi Hendrix song playing in the climax, where some fire is involved, was an obscure tune by him called "House Burning Down". I found it as a result of a search I did for the name of the street, New Redlord Row, to make sure the name didn’t already exist. Some of the lyrics resonated with the name of the road, what was happening in the scene, and the allegory – and the music fitted the climactic nature of the scene perfectly. There were plenty of other songs that inspired me, but I think these were the most important. I’ll end with a list of some minor ones: Lydia sitting at the bus stop, watching the supermarket car park: The Clash’s "Lost in the Supermarket". Crossing the supermarket car park: Remo Conscious’s "Land of the Robots". Young Lydia getting bullied by Madie and Tates: Helen Reddy’s "Leave me Alone" ("Ruby Red Dress"). Lydia returning to Wheelsby Woods to retrieve the gun: Helen Reddy’s "Delta Dawn" (a very poignant combination). Lydia and Maggie doing their dares in Lincoln: The Manhattan Transfer's "A Tisket, a Tasket". Joshua nervously waiting outside Willow Brook fish and chip restaurant, for his second chance to date Lydia: Matt Pond PA's "Several Arrows Later". Whenever Lydia recalls her family and when she is on the mini-train with Joshua on her birthday: Future Loop Foundation’s "The Sea and the Sky". After the trolley collector is shot: Jonny Cash’s "Hurt".
Coincidentally, as I'm finishing writing this blog, I'm anticipating going to a nightclub in an hour (for the first time in a very long time) to research a particular genre of music for the next novel. Research doesn't always have to be a chore.