by Michelle Douglas
Reading: Everything I know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell
Watching: Jam and Jerusalem
Listening to: Kate Fagan
Making Me Smile: my afternoon walks in this gorgeous spring weather
I’ve heard that a lot of authors create a playlist of songs for their stories, and I’d always thought, Good for them. Whatever works, I say. But it was never something I’d tried for myself.
That is, not until The Secretary’s Secret (out now in the UK). I’m not even sure why I did give the playlist thing a whirl. Except, I’d given myself a whole wonderful fortnight to play with the story before getting down to the nuts and bolts of actually writing it, and a playlist seemed like one of those fun, playful kind of things to do.
So I spent a week perfecting my playlist and another week playing it over and over, and it really did help me visualise certain scenes in my book. It helped me find the right tone for the story. What’s more it acted like a form of brainstorming and had new scenes occurring to me too.
Funnily enough I didn’t play it at all once I stared writing the story. But it had already done its job – it had helped me imagine my story world.
The process for every book is different and I didn’t create a playlist for The Man Who Saw Her Beauty (out in the UK in April 2012). I did, however, have a theme song for that book—Jesse by Carly Simon. Now, the book changed quite a bit so the reunion story I had in my mind became something quite different (so plaudits to anyone who can find even a skerrick of the song in that book now). But, again, the song helped me find the right tone and atmosphere for the book, even if the lyrics no longer applied.
For the story my editor has in her hot little hands right now I had three theme songs – Jesse James by Cher (for my heroine’s attitude), Summer Rain by Belinda Carlisle (for that all important tone) and Captain Zero by The Mixtures (for my hero’s realisation of his thick-headed doofusness and accompanying need to make amends).
One of my favourite things in the world is to lie on my sofa and stare up at the canopy of trees that soars over the backyard and listen to music. I quieten all the white noise in my head, and savour the view. Invariably, however, a line of music will catch my attention and suddenly I’ll be off playing the what-if game and creating scenarios in my mind.
And it seems to me that some songs lend themselves more to this than others. Here are three songs that persistently intrigue me:
1. My Girl by Hoodoo Gurus (She’s fallen out of love with him. Can he make her fall back in love with him? Has she really fallen out of love with him? Are his friends trying to cause trouble? If so, why?)
2. Living Next Door To Alice by Smokie (OMG, Alice is leaving! Hmm…but will Sally make the loss bearable? Actually, I play a whole load of scenarios with this song. Exactly how many love-pairings can I make? For a start there’s the narrator/singer and Alice, the narrator and Sally, Alice and the guy who’s sent the limo…and perhaps even Alice and Sally.)
3. Insensitive by Jann Arden (Is this jerk redeemable? And if so, why is he acting like such a jerk?)
Oh, and here’s another two:
The Day You Went Away by Wendy Matthews (The film clip breaks my heart)
Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis (I haven’t worked out exactly what this song is getting at, but I really like it.)
I don’t know if I will ever write a story based around any of these songs, but then again… :)
Songs are a great source of inspiration and I love collecting them. Do you have any favourite songs you think could be turned into great stories?