The three things that make my world spin — books, movies, and music — are strongly intertwined. When I write, I visualize the scene as a movie, with my favorite actors or animation styles, and when I listen to music, it merges with the stories in my head. Everything from Broadway standards to classic jazz to ’70s and ’80s pop is re-purposed (often very illogically) into a soundtrack for whichever story happens to hold my imagination captive at the moment.
I write my stories out long-hand before I word-process them onto my laptop. I’m not sure why, but I can’t compose my best material at the computer keyboard; I think and work much better with a pen in my hand. When I’m typing a chapter I’ve finished drafting long-hand, I play music, specifically movie scores. I draw these scores into my own creative world, imagining the themes accompanying the story that spreads out before my eyes on the computer screen. Here are some of my favorites:
1) Erich Wolfgang Korngold: The Warner Brothers Years, which includes excerpts from Korngold’s classic scores from 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1940’s The Sea Hawk, 1942’s King’s Row, 1943’s The Constant Nymph, and many gorgeous others;
2) Ben Hur: The Essential Miklos Rosza, which features stirring themes from 1956’s Quo Vadis, 1945’s Spellbound, and 1961’s El Cid;
3) Bernard Herrmann’s appropriately haunting, evocative score for 1947’s The Ghost and Mrs. Muir;
4) Various scores by Thomas Newman, including Little Women, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Green Mile, and Cinderella Man;
5) Elmer Bernstein’s To Kill a Mockingbird, quite possibly the finest score in cinema history.
Music like this helps move me into my “creative zone,” no matter the story I’m working on. But each story has its own special songs, with lyrics that come close to what I hope to capture in the characters and their relationships. Each of the major characters in Atterwald, my YA fantasy romance now available from CreateSpace and Amazon.com, has a song I consider his/her own.
Nichtel’s song is “I Stand,” by Idina Menzel from her album of the same name. The sharp, intense optimism in the lyrics might fit many of my heroines, but since Nichtel is a shape-shifter, the first lines of the chorus may be taken literally as well as figuratively. Though the lyrics are hopeful, the melody has an edge to it, which works with Nichtel as well. Hers is the hope of someone convinced she will die young.
Simon and Garfunkel’s classic “I Am a Rock” makes a perfect anthem for Baltasar, the sorcerer who has sought to make himself impervious to pain. This ode to alienation ends on a soft, doubtful note, as if the singer has not quite managed to convince himself of the truth of his words. Likewise, Baltasar is loath to admit that his efforts to shield himself may in fact have failed. (Baltasar may be my favorite character in the book. If he resonates with readers, much of the credit is due to Bill Ritch of the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company, my “book doctor.” The first draft of Atterwald was written almost entirely from Nichtel’s point of view. After Bill read it, I asked him what the story needed, and he told me, “A lot more Baltasar.” He convinced me to develop my villain’s backstory and spend more time in his head. In the end I found myself sympathizing with him as much as with my hero and heroine.)
Meinrad’s song is a Broadway love ballad, “Unusual Way” from the musical Nine, specifically the rendition given by Brian d’Arcy James on The Maury Yeston Songbook. Not all the lyrics fit the situation precisely, of course, but where Meinrad leaps out from the song at me is the bridge, where the singer expresses terror at the love he feels. Meinrad is falling inexorably in love with the girl who is working to heal him, while at the same time believing quite firmly that her efforts will prove vain. He doesn’t know what to do with all these weird feelings and isn’t sure he quite likes them. Nonetheless, by the end of the song, the singer has come to the conclusion that he wouldn’t have it any other way. To see how this might happen to Meinrad, readers must venture into the book.