Music, Maestro

Music inspires my writing, takes my mind off household chores and accompanies me in my car every day. It’s an important part of my life. So, no surprise, I make music part of the lives of the characters in my books. It can set a scene, illustrate who the character is and, I hope, connect emotionally with the reader.

Each book in my Second Chances series has a playlist I’ve used for inspiration or atmosphere while I write the story. Sometimes the music is specifically mentioned in the book or reflects the mood of a scene. Often it is by a local or regional group or artist I think my character would like.

Occasionally, a piece becomes so attached to a character that long afterward, when I hear the music, it’s that character’s experience I remember before my own association with the song surfaces. In my first book, “Beginning Again,” for example, the playlist contained mostly the golden oldies Liz Fairchild, the heroine, loved. I have a couple of the songs from her playlist on the one I listen to when I’m working on my art glass and, I swear, every time Linda Ronstadt sings, “When Will I Be Loved,” Liz joins me in my workshop.

The playlist for the second book in the series is more evenly split between the man and woman. “Loving Again,” which will be released by Crimson Romance on November 12th, (we have now reached the marketing part of the blog entry) is the story of a glass artist and a police detective. For artist Amanda St. Claire I combined the classic cello music and Nora Jones she plays at home with the Jimmy Buffett her studio mate loves to play in their shared work space. And I also included her local favorites Tom Grant and Pink Martini.

But it was with the hero I had the most fun. Sam Richardson was born and raised on a ranch in Eastern Oregon and moved to the city, where he joined the Portland Police Bureau. Sounds like a Tim McGraw/Taylor Swift/Kenny Chesney kinda guy, right? Wrong. Sam grew up with classical music, thanks to his mother, a classically trained pianist, and he has season tickets to the Oregon symphony. When he visits Amanda in Seattle to convince her to return to Portland, he puts a Chopin nocturne CD on for her. (If you’re a classical music geek, you’ll recognize that the theme from his selection was turned into a popular song that contains a variation of the book title.)

But also on the playlist is an indie rock piece “Tell Me Why,” written by the very real Portland Chief of Police Mike Reese and performed by The Usual Suspects, a group made up of current and former Portland Police Bureau members, including Chief Reese. I figured even fictional police officers would want to keep on the good side of the actual Chief of Police.

Take a look at Sam and Amanda’s playlist from “Loving Again.” And in the comment section, tell me what role music plays in your life.

Bach Cello Concerto #1–Yo Yo Ma

Boats to Build– Jimmy Buffett

Caramel–Suzanne Vega

Chopin Nocturne #2–Ivan Moravec

Chopin Nocturne #4–Ivan Moravec

Everywhere–Pink Martini

Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue–Leonard Bernstein

Gold– Tom Grant

He Heals Me–India.Arie

I Don’t Know–Lisa Hannigan

In the Morning–Nora Jones

Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love–Pink Martini

Lonestar–Nora Jones

Never Say Never– Tom Grant

Splendor in the Grass–Pink Martini

Talk to Me Nice–Tom Grant

Trip Around the Sun–Jimmy Buffett

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16 Comments

  1. I am a big fan of all types of music! The biggest impact it had was while I wrote my 3rd novel. The characters knew each other in high school (star crossed lovers) so as I wrote I listened heavily to the songs I loved in high school. The music isn’t in the book, and there aren’t any flashbacks, but for some reason writing about high school sweethearts was easier with my “old school” music playing.

    • It really works, doesn’t it? I did the same thing for my third book which is about reconnecting at a high school reunion. I think music from those years gets ingrained somehow in our souls. Must be all that teen-age angst.

  2. Any playlist that includes Norah Jones is bound to be a winner! I enjoyed this post very much — Thanks!

    • Always glad to find another Norah fan. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I love music, but I can’t have it on when I’m working.

    • You know, there are times when I can’t have singing on when I’m working–trying to find my words when all I hear are theirs is rough, I admit.

  4. You’re so right! Music can add a visceral, emotional element to both the writing and the reading of a story if chosen with care.

    In Forest Fires, I sought permission to use lyrics from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song, ‘Breaking the Girl,’ because it captured so much of my story and the alarm Charley felt at falling for Drake.

    The song that so beautifully expresses a hopeful reunion in my upcoming release of Friends and Lovers is, ‘Especially for You,” by the Smithereens. The irony is, I stumbled upon the lyrics after both stories were finished. It’s funny when that happens,

    • I thought about using lyrics of a song in book #4 but chickened out because I thought it would be too much of a hassle to get the permission. But it works so well when you do it!

  5. I have to admit I rarely use music as a part of my writing toolkit, but that’s mostly a factor of me being able to compartmentalize what I’m writing from what I’m listening to (I end up typing the song lyrics instead of the story in my head. Every now and then, though, when I’m trying to force a mood change–perhaps I’m writing a fight scene or something gory–I’ll pluck some rock songs out of my library and blast them loud.

    • Yup, hard rock for action, Andrea Boccelli for love scenes (I don’t know Italian so his words don’t distract me) and classical for getting me calm enough to get through tough edits. That’s my formula.

  6. I love mixing expectations for characters. But I’ve never made a song list for my characters. I’ll have to try this… Thanks.

    • If you try, let me know how it works out!

  7. Yes music can really outline a scene. I love hearing that you use music to inspire and focus your writing, Peggy.
    All the senses are our worldly gifts. I remember a couple who said when I cooked for them they had the greatest evening together after. It’s what you put into it that influences what others get out of it, no? A little cayenne, a little saffron…..

    • Exactly. Each of us has a way to express our creative side and I love how you describe it, Lois. Sounds like something Ginny would say!

  8. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites really nice, keep it up!
    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back later on. Many thanks

    • Thanks for dropping by. Come back again. We’re a pretty diverse group of writers–I think you’ll enjoy what we have to say.


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