Ye odds and ye ends

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.

Beautiful, no?

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. 🙂

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CDEMX1rV0k[/youtube]

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.

22 thoughts on “Ye odds and ye ends

  1. Awesome. A new post! I just read your interview at AAR and was sooooooooooo happy to see all the buzz for BBYT.

    But I thought we as a blog might have to go on hiatus since you have a deadline coming up and so do I. Good to know you are still blogging. 🙂

    And yes, I was surprised to see that you listened to top 40 since I thought you listened mostly to filmi songs.

    • Yep, too true about the deadlines — I may go silent soon. This is a powerfully tempting form of procrastination, though!

      And yes, I was surprised to see that you listened to top 40 since I thought you listened mostly to filmi songs.

      Well, the first half of my DoS soundtrack was full of songs from Mangal Pandey… pretty predictable, that. 😉

      Now, if I were writing comic romantica, I’d say “Dard-e-disco” from Om Shanti Om would serve, from about 2:25 onward. (I took a bunch of friends who don’t watch Hindi films to see OSO in the theater, and we were laughing so hard during this song we choked on our popcorn.)

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wp7iTtlOTMA

      • OMG! I too would have choked on my popcorn when they poured a bucket of water on SRK!

        I actually have this Om Shanti Om on DVD at home. Had it since last summer’s trip to India. But Hindi movies are such time commitments that we still haven’t watched it yet. But I have opened it up and looked over the poster of SRK that came with it.

        And I remember thinking to myself I didn’t know SRK had such good mantitty, with scarily pointy nipples and all!

        Do you know whether his six pack was painted on?

        • Ah, the six pack was totally real. One of my fave bits about the promotion of the movie was the particular manner in which the six pack became this huge deal. Whereas in Hollywood we would have heard the details of the death-defying workout SRK embraced in order to reshape his body, the OSO folks were mostly into talking about how damned long it took for him to develop it. The director said at one point (and I paraphrase), “We were all very anxious, putting shooting on hold to wait for his six pack to appear. It seemed for a while that we were destined to remain with a four pack, which would never do.” LOL!

          The movie is very good fun, riddled with in-jokes about films from the 70s and late 90s… and it has a fantastic faux-Phantom of the Opera number which I loved.

  2. Meredith, try Burt Bacharach – Hal David songs. The Dionne Warwick Collection: Her All-Time Greatest Hits has everything you need to be angsty (A House Is Not A Home), forlorn (Walk On By), lonely (Trains And Boats And Planes), defiant (Promises, Promises) or forever hopeful (I Say A Little Pray). I can’t listen to those last two without cranking up the volume and listening a second time.

    And Sherry, I just read NQOH and now have to go back and read it again S-L-O-W-L-Y to savor everything I missed the first time.

    I’ll return now to my regular life and stop cruising romance blogs for the day.

  3. When I hit the Publish button I saw that my email address was missing a numeral. I’ve fixed it. Good luck with those deadlines, ladies.

  4. I enjoyed the AAR interview with Meredith and the recent A reviews at AAR for both Not Quite a Husband and <a href=”http://www.likesbooks.com/cgi-bin/bookReview.pl?BookReviewId=7337″Bound by Your Touch. Also, one lucky commenter at Book Binge can win an ARC of Bound by Your Touch.

    Hope I got all my HTML right, since there’s no fixing it here.

    Re. brainstorming to music, I also do it, but the problem is that my tastes in music to brainstorm to really limit the selections. I require atmospheric songs. I mainly brainstorm to Sarah McLachlan (the Surfacing and Afterglow CDs) and Dido (No Angel CD), with a little bit of Sting (I especially love his relatively unknown song, “The Pirate’s Bride”) and one song by Crowded House (“Don’t Dream It’s Over”) thrown in. If anyone has suggestions of songs along similar lines, I would be ever so grateful. If my choice of music dates me, it’s because where music is concerned, I live under a rock.

      • Yes. I don’t know why but I need that kind of music. It’s such a shame that Sarah McLachlan only comes out with new material once a decade these days, if that.

      • I get it wrong in some of my Dear Author reviews too, but there I can preview and edit. It’s so much more embarrassing when it can’t be fixed. Like having a bit of food stuck between your teeth.

  5. Wow. Bollywood sure has changed.
    I read somewhere that Meredith is considering a round-the-world story. Cool! I’m writing one (though it’s contemporary) and so far I’ve got Greenland, Rarotonga, Brazil, Botswana, and Antarctica. Where are Meredith’s protagonists headed?

    • Nowhere right now! Well, not quite true — just nowhere outside Europe. But Paris, Cannes, and Monte Carlo are all on the itinerary.

      Your contemp sounds like a quite a ride. Are they chasing someone? Or something? I’m intrigued.

  6. Music is bad for me. I end up ignoring what I’m supposed to be doing in order to sing along with the track. Otherwise, I jam to a lot of jazzy trip-hop (Esthero, Morcheeba), with a bit of mellow indie rock (Metric, Stars, Broken Social Scene) added to the mix.

    • Yeah, I can’t actually write when there’s music on, either. It just gets me in the mood to do so.

      I’d forgotten about Morcheeba!! That’s fantastic mood music. Off to rifle through my collection…

  7. Very interesting blog post thank you for sharing I have added your website to my bookmarks and will be back 🙂 By the way this is a little off topic but I really like your sites layout.

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