Music has always been a major part of my daily existence. Call it a soundtrack for my life but I listen to music in the car, while writing, while relaxing, and sometimes in between everything else. I grew up listening to the radio and playing records, first those my parents had collected and later, those I chose myself. I spent some years in broadcast radio where music was constant and often I utilized music in an advertisement to create a mood or a theme. Since I often listen to music when I’m writing, music is often important in my fiction. Music can mark a time period or evoke an emotion for the characters or the readers. One recent reviewer – who enjoyed Slattery’s Sin overall – did comment she found what she considered some unnecessary detail including what she termed “the author’s personal playlist of favorite tunes and food.”
Everyone and each reader has different tastes. I personally embrace detail when I’m reading because to me it enhances the story and enriches it. Since my heroine in Slattery’s Sin works in radio and moonlights as a singer, music seemed vital to the story I wanted to tell. I’m known for my use of food in my fiction, so much I’m considering putting together a cookbook titled Cooking With Characters. I’ve had a lot of interest so it probably will happen in the future, using recipes not only from my novels but from those written by friends. Like me, my good friend Paul Herd who writes mystery as Thomas S. Mulvaugh, often tries new recipes for the character to cook or eat.
I laughed when I read the part about a personal playlist because I’m guilty as charged. The music I listen to while writing changes with each project. When I’m writing historical fiction or anything set in an earlier decade, the music reflects that. I listened to Civil War era music during the writing of Dearest Love: Do You Remember under my pen name of Patrice Wayne and the title comes from a popular song of the time. While writing Bette’s Soldier, set during the World War II era in Neosho, I listened to a lot of 1940’s tunes including Glenn Miller and the Andrews Sisters.
I first heard Grace Potter and the Nocturnals when one of their songs was used to promote the short lived military drama, Last Resort, on ABC a few years ago. The song showed up in Pink Neon Dreams and is also reflected in my current work in progress. My love of Irish music came into play when I wrote Quinn’s Deirdre. Many of the songs performed in Quinn’s Kansas City Irish pub come from my own favorites. My planned next project will probably focus on some traditional country music but also on some of the newer ballad type songs.
Like many, I still love the music of my early years and youth. That’s why I still have Jim Croce, The Eagles, Billy Joel, Credence Clearwater Revival, and many others still playing in my car and home. I’ll always listen to Johnny Horton, one of my favorites, mixed with a little Cash and Hank Williams.
But I’m open to new music too. I’m not alone in the use of music to create a mood or image. Movies and television programs often do the same. Since I’m a fan of both Craig Johnson’s Longmire books as well as the series now on Netflix, I’ve found some new singers to appreciate. Vespers and Wye Oak are both groups focusing on a folksy type ballad sound but with some 21st century influences. So they’ve been added to my personal playlist and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if down the road, their music didn’t show up in some of my novels.
For me, music is all part of the creative process.