10.36 Writing to Music
I never realized until working on a third book how important music is to me when I write something long and involved. This time around, I noticed that I seem to lock into one artist and just play them on repeat when I’m getting towards the end of the book. Sometimes it was just the rhythm of the music, and sometimes it was the themes behind the lyrics. Whatever it might have been, here are the soundtracks to the three books I’ve written or been a part of.
For my first book, The Walking Man, it was Coldplay. And not just any Coldplay, specifically the album Viva la Vida. And even more specially, the song ‘Death and All His Friends.’ I don’t know why, the album is somewhat nonsensical for the most part. I guess perhaps because there is a bit of a sense of wandering through the album. I mean, just look at the song titles - Life in Technicolour, Cemeteries of London, Lost!, Lovers in Japan.
All I know if that when I’d be writing and fired up that album, it helped me get to where I needed to go. As the album progressed, my fingers moved faster along the keyboards, and my brain was laying down thoughts and constructing sentences faster. It was like seeing the book in three dimensions.
For my second book, Dreams of Being a Kiwi, it was Pink Floyd all the way. And not just any Pick Floyd, specifically The Wall and The Final Cut. This book was tricky and required me to go pretty far over into the dark side of the soul. Funny that I largely skipped Dark Side of the Moon, it wasn’t dark enough. No, The Wall and The Final Cut were just the right amounts.
They’re good for this type of work because they are definitely fucked up, but there is some kind of redemption at the end of them. And this was exactly what I was hoping to accomplish with this book. The point of it was to bring the story and character right to the edge of sanity, stand on that edge, and then with everything I had written up to the point, make a choice of what direction they wanted to go: step over the line into the abyss, or pull yourself back.
What better music to write this to other than these Pink Floyd albums? Musically they’re all over the map - crazy melodies, weird instrumentation, lyrics that discuss everything from suicide to violence to mommy issues to breakdowns to EVERYTHING. I couldn’t have asked for a better companion to daily dive into the dark side of my psyche.
The third book has been a different experience. For the fifth anniversary of the live show, Stories We Don’t Tell, we decided to publish an anthology of stories from the event. So, my role has been more on the technical side - designing the layout of the book and helping to bring an overall consistency to the feel of it.
I’ve come to really enjoy the technical side of putting a book together, but it is time consuming and precision work. The first time I started on this, I immediately put on the band Stars, and once the first song played - The Beginning After the End - I was again locked in and that was it. It would be Stars playing in the background whenever I was editing or laying out this book.
Stars have been a constant ever since I first heard them many years ago, but when I lock in during the writing or editing process, it takes on an entirely new meaning. For this, I’m thinking that I was dealing with material that was about many different things and covered many different tones. Stars can lean towards the melodramatic at times, but that’s precisely why I love them so much. So many of their songs are about love, or almost love, or lost love, or love that got away. They’re heartbreaking and inspiring, sometimes within one song.
But when I’d hit this particular song, it got me every time. It’s got something that always hits me right in the chest - it’s going along fine, and the bottom just drops out, and stops me right in my tracks:
What’s your middle name? How do you play the game?
I’ll be the first to leave.
When did I grow up? I don’t want to say too much.
I’ll be the first to leave.
As I am preparing to move on to my fourth book, I wonder what music will catch my ear and my heart?
Oh, and by the way, if you’d like to purchase a ticket to the Stories We Don’t Tell Book Launch, click below: