I’ve been going through an Oscar Wilde phase, which has led me to some intriguing primary sources, all of them fierce Victorian debates about interior design. What with Ruskin and Morris et al convinced that beautiful architecture and interiors made for serene and beautiful minds, designing and furnishing one’s home was A Very Serious Business in the 1880s and 1890s. I am instructed by said texts that it is crucial to have a central focal point for a room — a painting or an object d’art (preferably Japanesque) to orient one’s attention and soothe one’s aggrieved sensibilities and draw the whole room into perfect accord.
With this in mind, I must admit that this blog post is officially Aesthetically Unsound. There is no unitary theme or accord to it; it is drawn from the drawer in my brain filled with random, rattling shiny bits. I suggest you gird yourself for the five-and-dime experience by spending a moment gazing upon this authentically Aesthetic objet.
All right, on to the glitter: awesome sisters, book trailers, and bad music.
1) Awesome sisters and book trailers. I find the relationship between sisters fascinating. Mine is talented, compassionate, supportive, and very, very funny; we would go to the wall for each other, but that does not mean that we didn’t fight like cats and dogs as kids. Sisters know exactly how to get under each other’s skin. There’s a good bit of sisterly discord in Bound by Your Touch, but also a great deal of sisterly devotion: Lydia will do almost anything to safeguard her younger sister’s future. I find it lovely and fitting, then, that my younger sister made a fan video for the book! This was such a gorgeous gift. Thank you, Shel. 🙂
2) Bad music. The Lovely Man with whom I live (LM for short) is an unabashed music snob; he despairs of my taste in music, but never more so than when I’m writing a book. Like Sherry, I am more of a daydreamer than a plotter, but my writerly daydreams are fed by Top 40 songs. That is, at the beginning of a new book, the first thing I do is go on a pop binge, collecting the most dramatic tunes I can find (swelling orchestras always appreciated). And then I listen to them over and over, and scenes coalesce in my head. I can’t actually write while music is playing — that prevents me from hearing the words in my head — but I can’t brainstorm without it.
LM finds my musical binges odd, not least because if I am not writing a book, I’ll probably be listening to Hindi film music, not western pop. All I can say is that it’s an incredibly effective brainstorming technique for me. Listening to the songs helps me to gauge how deeply I’m feeling the story. I know I’ve really hit my stride when I start wondering, only half-jokingly, if the song was actually written for my book. (This is also when I know it’s time to stop writing and go to sleep, stat.) It’s also a great diagnostic of which character’s journey is going to be the “heart” of the book (all the songs on my Bound by Your Touch soundtrack speak in some way to the hero, while the songs on my Written on Your Skin playlist speak to me of the heroine).
This process has its quirks. The songs become so inextricably associated with the character arcs that I can’t listen to them ever again after finishing the story. “Breathe Me,” by Sia, is forever going to put me in a headspace of utter depression — because it was the soundtrack for the third quarter of Emma’s journey in The Duke of Shadows. “Run,” by Snow Patrol (which I initially thought was about the relationship between James and Lydia, the heroine and hero of Bound by Your Touch, but then realized was about James and his sister) now conjures the taste of self-recrimination and terrible regret. On the other hand, “Elephant Gun,” by Beirut, still makes me smile, because I think it captures the feeling of James’s maniacal charm, which made him so much fun to write. But if it comes on when I’m driving, I have to turn it off, because it distracts me terribly — I start writing James in my head again.
All this by way of a confession: my current work in progress, tentatively entitled Wicked Becomes You, was inspired by a song I’m not even sure I like. On a random drive to the store, I was flipping through radio stations and came across “So What,” by Pink, which begins with the immortal line, “Guess I just lost my husband, I don’t know where he went… I got a brand new attitude and I’m gonna wear it tonight; I’m gonna get in trouble, I want to start a fight. So, so what? I’m still a rock star!”
Something about the lyrics, or the singer’s attitude, caught my fancy. A character popped into my head: a very lovely girl, the nicest girl imaginable. She’s just been jilted. Again. But is she going to sit around crying about it? Oh, no. She’s got too much going for her to weep. And if nice isn’t working for her any more, then she’ll try something different. She’ll figure out how to be naughty.
“Where do you get your ideas?” people like to ask.
My answer? The radio.
Not so glamorous, I guess. But hey, if you’ve got recommendations for nice dramatic pop, soaring violins or thundering choruses, I am always game to hear them.