Every writer has more than one passion. Just looking around my group of lovelies, I have one awesome writer who takes great joy in showing off her beautiful Saluki darlings, another loves creating culinary delights (and then quality testing them), still another finds solace in sketching images, another indulges in discovering new places and people, another feeds his soul by capturing images in digital format, and so the list goes on. 

For me, it’s all about the music.

I did the band thing in middle school, choosing the flute (yeah, yeah, I know all about band camp), and since those notes weren’t high enough to shred eardrums, I added the piccolo. Not satisfied with those, I added the violin a year later. Then I decided to tackle the piano all on my own. (If I didn’t have my writing, I would have gone on to try out the bass guitar, but luckily my youngest has decided to do that, so I may get that opportunity soon.)  Whether it was the stone-age Walkman to today’s iTunes via phone, my ears have always been filled with music–created by me or by others.

When I initially picked up my pen and began bringing stories to life, I drowned the outside world to my personally chosen soundtrack. I would match my musical choices to the mood of the scene I was creating. This continues to this day. The only difference now is that my musical choices tend to be heavy on instrumentals versus vocals. I’ve recently discovered I have a difficult time getting into my characters’ heads if other voices (no matter how beautiful the harmony) are already there. 

Now, every time I sit down to begin a new book, one of my first projects is to create a specific play list. Each list is titled with the working book’s title. As a worshipper of iTunes who suffers from OCD, I’m very much in love with my iTunes playlists. In fact, my Knight and the Prankster Duo all have favorites from my lists. I think they look forward to me starting a new project more than I do, just to find out what the musical score will be. 

And that’s pretty much what my lists are–musical scores for my writing. What goes into these lists is the book’s setting, who my characters are and what motivates them. So lyrics that hit home for me, find their way into my lists. In fact, on my Pinterest account you’ll find most of my characters have a theme song or songs.

If we look back to my first book, SHADOW’S EDGE, which follows Raine McCord and brings you the world of the Kyn, where all the fabled monsters live along side the humans. Here you’ll find a combination of 30 Second to Mars, Nine Inch Nails, Seether, Apocalyptica, Linkin Park, Breaking Benjamin, 3 Days Grace, Staind, Rhianna, Pink, and Nickelback (I don’t want to hear it, it’s my list peeps!).

Compare that to my latest list for Vex’s book, BAITING VEX, with the post-apocalyptic world of Fate’s Vultures. It still has my go-to’s like Nine Inch Nails, Seether, 30 Seconds to Mars, Marilyn Manson, Linkin Park, and more. However, it’s interspersed with Rag n’ Bone Man, ZZ Ward, Ruelle, Lorde, Indila (my French is rusty, but doable), Kongos, Halsey, and multiple game/movie soundtrack picks from Clint Mansell, Hans Zimmer, Nathan Lanier, and Jack Trammell.

My choices are heavily influenced by the main characters. For example, Raine’s song is Nine Inch Nails Right Where It Belongs. Here’s why: Raine’s initial struggle is with who she is and how she fits into the Kyn world. There are parts of her that scare the crap out of her (not that she’ll admit it) and make her wonder just how far she would willingly go to get what she wants, if she dropped the cage she’s put herself in.  Which makes these lyrics resonate.

What if everything around you
Isn’t quite as it seems?
What if all the world you think you know
Is an elaborate dream?
And if you look at your reflection
Is it all you want it to be?
What if you could look right through the cracks?
Would you find yourself
Find yourself afraid to see?

What if all the world’s inside of your head
Just creations of your own?
Your devils and your gods
All the living and the dead
And you’re really all alone?
You can live in this illusion
You can choose to believe
You keep looking but you can’t find the woods
While you’re hiding in the trees.

–Nine Inch Nails, Right Where It Belongs

Then there’s Vex. I choose two songs for her because (without giving too much away) Vex is standing at an emotional crossroads and she’s not sure which turn she’s going to make. It isn’t easy and it doesn’t help she’s carrying a crapton of guilt for something not her truly her fault.  So I picked up Seether’s Let You Down to help capture that sense of self disgust…

So say something beautiful
Say what you’re keeping inside
This anticipation
I will only let you down
Say something meaningful
Say what you’re trying to hide
This anticipation
I will only let you down

If I could breed I’d show you all my infantile obsessions
If I could sleep I’d hold you in my head
If I was strong I’d keep you close and render you defenseless
If I was gone I’d hope you’d take my place

–Seether, Let You Down

And because it’s hard to narrow a person down to one song, especially in the beginning of their story, there was also ZZ Ward’s Let It Burn to help paint the image of Vex’s reality.

I know you feel it because it’s getting so hot
Out of control, see? I’m gonna blow up your spark
You lit the spark, now you ain’t stopping these flames
You rolled the dice, now I’m gonna murder this game

Please, just let go, ’cause I’m on the edge
The sky, it is turning a crimson red (ah-woo)
Flick on the lighter, pull it ’til it hurts
You started the fire, baby, I’mma let it burn

–ZZ Ward, Let It Burn

I’m a writer and story crafting is my passion, but music is a close second. Nothing in life says you can’t have more than one passion, so embrace yours and revel in it!

At one point I consider putting up the playlists for each book somewhere on my website. I choose not to, when I realized when we sit down to read, the words an author shares sketches the world we see, but we put our individual touches it on ourselves, and I didn’t want to take that away from my readers. So instead, I decided this is what I’d use Pinterest for–a collection place where I can share what inspired my characters or what my characters inspired in me. So if you’re interested in more musical choices and visual stimuli for my books, check it out.

I’m curious, what are some of your passions?

  1. Thank you for the mention!! My playlists are so outdated. I’ve spent so much of my life wrapped up in dogs and horses, or working three jobs to support said creatures. I ‘discover’ music new to me long after it has ridden the wave of popularity into obscurity. So my favorites are Dan Hill, the 60s protest singers, and an obscure Australian singer I discovered when I was in High School in Japan…Robie Porter. Hmmm I wonder if I need to expand????

    • But your fur babies are just beeeauuutiful, Mona! I find when I’m procrastinating about digging into my writing, I’ll start trolling for new music. Especially before each project starts. Best way ever to find new tracks.

  2. I too use music to block out the world and inspire my writing. I just pick songs from my library to suit my current mood. Maybe you could make me a playlist. Oh please oh please oh please. Always enjoy your posts. Hey Mona, old doesn’t mean less than. I have a huge collection of music from the sixties. Unlike Jami’s playlists, much of what I listen too understands that things are bad, but it offers hope that it will get better. Not a lot of hope offered in Nine Inch Nails or Nickleback.

    • You, sir, will have to wait for another writing retreat and I’ll let you copy my lists through our shared magic of the apple. I have other stuff than NIN or Nickelback. Dude, you have to check out ZZ Ward, Rag-N-Bone Man, and Elle King, especially after your Southern Roads trip.

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