October 14, 2013

Music Be the Food of Love…and Writing


Every author has her/his own environmental needs when she/he writes. I need music. I absorb it like I inhale air. It is always around me in one form or another, even if I have to make it myself. I really am that annoying person singing behind you in the grocery store line. Hey, at least I’m in tune. Sometimes even harmonizing.music image

What type of music I favor ebbs and flows through a given season. Sometimes life requires low down dirty rock and roll. Sometimes folk rock. Sometimes a pop overdose. Sometimes music of the 40s with lush torch songs or rockabilly. (It is [almost] never hip hop or rap.) Recently, I’ve pinged back onto country music, with a noble assist from the show Nashville (which I love), and the return of a country music station to the tri-state NYC area with Nash FM.

My last country music phase was in the late 90s when I was doing my graduate work, so it’s been a while. I don’t like traditional country with the twanging and the slide guitar overuse, but I love the more folk rock and rock country that’s developed over the last twenty years or so. One of the biggest draws for me are the musicality of the songs, especially the harmonies, and how so many of them tell stories. And the powerhouse women, both those singing and those featured in the songs. Someday I want to live a fun, romantic, sexy country song.

The first time I heard of creating a themed playlist for a book was via Jennifer Crusie. Crusie tailors her playlists and, like her infamous collages, adapts and adjusts them as the story unfolds to fit the actions and intentions of her characters. A lot of writers I know do this. Erotic romance writer, Lauren Dane includes the list of songs she chose on the back pages of her novels. I’ve certainly improved my song library thanks to  music tweets from Victoria Dahl, Helen Kay Dimon, and Liza Palmer to name a few.

Theoretically , this playlist idea for writing should work for me. Music=air. Writing=need. It’s a no brainer. So in one of my many attempts to make someone else’s process my own, I compiled a playlist for my romantic suspense novel Catch Me. Turns out, if you take several years to finish your novel, your ability to listen to and be inspired by that playlist will fade. Trust me on this.

I am absolutely inspired by music and songs have repeatedly been a source of story ideas for many years. That long ago playlist for Catch Me still stands holds up thematically no matter how the book itself as evolved in the interim. Last year, I crafted an entire vignette in my head for both Pink’s Glitter and Count On Me by Default during my commute to and from the day job. Those scenarios have turned out to be major turning points for my in-process contemporary romance novel, All In. But, like in all things, it’s a matter of adapting the idea to what works for me individually. Sometimes it’s just a matter of having a generalized list of artists that help me keep clacking away.

My go to is David Gray, just the entire playlist of his songs in my iPod, On repeat. Ryan Adams’ Gold album (“I’ll always love you now, New York”). Pretty much anything by Ray LaMontagne. Ditto Van Morrison because Van *is* The Man. Passenger is an artist newly breaking through to the mainstream whose tenor voice, lyrical poetry, and folk rock guitar pickings hit my melodic music hot spots. And if you’re not listening to The Civil Wars eponymous new album, go forth and do so. Now.

But I also have songs in my “untitled” playlist that are there specifically to evoke a mood. Three More Days by Ray LaMontagne. Oh man, that groove. Madness by Muse with its pulse beat of need. Drive by Melissa Ferrick is one of the sexiest songs I’ve heard in a long time:

Your mouth waters
stretched out on my bed
your fingers are trembling
your heart is heavy and red
your head is bent back
your back is arched
my hand is under there
holding you up


Bring on the Men from the Jekyll and Hyde soundtrack is cheeky, naughty fun. Bad Boyfriend is a hot grind of sexy promise. Red Dress by TV on the Radio is a raw electric and full of power and presence. And Stay by Rihanna makes my heart weep. These tunes may not be specifically applicable to the book I’m working on at any given moment, but holy hell do they set the mood.

What music inspires you to create? If you’re a writer, do you have thematic playlists for your books while you’re writing them?

Oh, and follow LadySmut! Come on. You know you want it…

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  • Post authorcpmandara

    I write the same way, my ears are always plugged into my iPod and I need a track to suit the scene I am tackling. I’m loving your music list by the way… Muse and Mr Van Morrison are some of my particular favourites 😉

    Reply to cpmandara
    • Post authorKiersten Hallie Krum

      Thanks! Feel free to data mine the list.

      Van is *so* The Man. If you haven’t yet listened to Ray LaMontagne, he’d be my first recommendation to align with the Van love. Seriously, he could croon my panties right off.

      Reply to Kiersten Hallie Krum
  • Post authorLizEverly

    I tailor my music listening to what I’m writing. For my romances, I tend to listen to sexy “world” music and Vas, Morcheeba, and so on. When I’m writing my traditional mysteries, which are set in Virginia, I listern to modern bluegrass, like Allison Kraus, the Civil Wars, and Mumford and Sons. Great post!

    Reply to LizEverly
    • Post authorKiersten Hallie Krum

      I’ve tried to tailor my music that way but inevitably I spend more time figuring out what that is or searching for tunes to fill that need then I do actually writing. In the end, I just want what I like to play behind me while I clack away. Besides, if the music is too new or too interesting or, worse, both, I’ll be distracted listening to the great music!

      I love bluegrass a lot and have a strong library of Celtic music too.

      Reply to Kiersten Hallie Krum
  • Post authorAuthor Charmaine Gordon

    Songs come into my head in the quiet small office where I write. Old songs with great lyrics and full orchestras behind the vocalist because that’s the way it was when I was young. Frank SInatra crooning, bobby soxers fainting and huge musicals on Broadway. Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end. In my Mature Romance series,The Beginning. . .Not The End, the heroine enters an airport singing, “Straighten Up and Fly Right-cool down momma don’t you blow your top”, a great song from the ’40’s recorded over and over by everyone and made famous first by Nat King Cole. Music play list? Never thought about it. Thanks for an eye-opening post.

    Reply to Author Charmaine Gordon
    • Post authorKiersten Hallie Krum

      I *love* 40s music, and “Straighten Up and Flight Right” is *such* a fun song.

      I know many writers find movie soundtracks to be a great writing background. Peter Gabriel wrote the soundtrack to the movie The Last Temptation of Christ and it’s full of lush world music themes and melodies. Even today, it remains one of my favorites a good 20 years after I heard it for the first time.

      Reply to Kiersten Hallie Krum

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