Sometimes my imagination needs a jump start. Sometimes it needs some help keeping it “in the zone.” Sometimes it just needs a taste of the historical period I am writing about to keep the juices flowing. At times like these music is my source for inspiration. I know some writers prefer to write in absolute quiet, but not me!
I have managed to find a number of albums from Fife & Drum groups; these are excellent for taking me back to the Eighteenth Century. I find these especially useful during the action scenes, when Gideon Hawke and his mates are trading shots with the British or Hessians. While in the Army I participated in enough ceremonies to understand the power of martial music over a group of soldiers, so when I wrote one of my favorite scenes, the fight on Breed’s Hill (a.k.a. the Battle of Bunker Hill), I had The British Grenadiers playing on a continuous loop. The effect was so profound I included a snatch of the tune into the text, and I got in the habit of including the “rat-tat-tat” of the drums urging the British forward. Of course, when I write scenes in which the Americans have the upper hand, there is no substitute for Yankee Doodle! That song was born as a British insult toward the American “Provincials” but was embraced by the Americans and became a symbol of American resistance. Many a British soldier fell on the battlefield to the accompaniment of Yankee Doodle.
But it’s not all fifes and drums, of course! I also have a couple of go-to contemporary (-ish) groups and artists whom I can rely upon to help me focus. I find that Lord Huron, with their sweeping instrumentals, smooth vocals, and gritty lyrics help me put my world aside focus on Gideon Hawke’s world. (I am listening to them right now, in fact!) What’s more, I can always count on their song She Lit a Fire to help me get in touch with Gideon’s feelings for Ruth. On the other hand, I think Brother brilliantly captures the emotions that men feel toward one another as they face hardship or combat together; that song reminds me of the relationship between Gideon and Andrew Johnston.
When I need to slow things down a bit, or feel especially inspired, Sarah McLachlan never lets me down. If nothing else I find that her incredible talent helps me to de-stress. When I am exploring characters and relationships, Sarah’s music helps me get in touch with a completely different set of emotions. She also throws in a few curveballs; her song Monsters was one of the inspirations behind the character of Kate Scott, who makes quite a splash in my forthcoming novel A Nest of Hornets.
Of course, it was not all fun and games during the Revolution. War takes a toll, and I find that many of the songs on the Dire Straits album Brothers in Arms evokes those feelings of war-weariness and loss. (Yes, I realize I just dated myself, and I’m OK with that!) I feel the title song brilliantly communicates the feelings of brotherly love in extremis.
There are many more, of course. Were someone to browse my musical selections I am sure the term “eclectic” would come to mind (or perhaps something a bit harsher). Whether it’s rock or reggae, Buffet or the Beatles, AC/DC or the Maytals, it all has a place, and I am certain that the flavor of the music comes through on the pages. I hope my readers enjoy the beat!
I am curious to hear what music inspires other authors, or if readers have favorite background music to accompany a good a good book. What say you?
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