Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How Music Influenced my Book

I’ve wanted to write this blog post for quite some time because it is about music and music is what started me on my new journey and what specifically prompted me to write my manuscript, The Mistaken.  I cannot live without music in my life.  It is everything to me.  It brings me joy and makes me reflect on all things, both happy and sad.  My very life has what I would call a soundtrack.  To this day, when I hear a song that was popular on the radio when I was say 13, I am instantly propelled back in time to 1977 and with it comes all the emotion I felt at that time.  It’s very much like a mental time machine. 
A few weeks ago, Nathan Bransford posted a blog asking a question: Do you listen to music when you write?  Well, yes, of course.  I couldn’t write if I didn’t listen to music.  But even more important is the inspiration behind the idea of my novel.  Never before was I ever inspired to write fiction.  I love to read and I enjoy helping my son with his homework when he has to write a paper, but other than that, I never felt compelled to write anything.  That is until I heard a particular song.
My husband bought me a car a few years back, a sexy BMW 330i convertible.  It is what I call my happy place.  I live near Seattle which, as many people know, is gray and rainy eight months out of the year.  So when it’s sunny, I jump in my car, put the top down, hook up my iPod and go for a drive, usually around beautiful Lake Sammamish.  Last spring during one of these rare moments, I heard a song that I’d downloaded for the first time.  It was Hurricane by 30 Seconds to Mars. 
The haunting lyrics and melody really struck a chord in me.  The chorus asks, “Tell me would kill to save a life?  Tell me would you kill to prove you’re right?”  Well, that really got me thinking.  What could possibly make someone kill, someone who always navigated on the straight and narrow path of righteousness?  Could a truly good person be driven to do something against their very nature?  That is the premise behind my novel and where it all started. 
I thought long and hard about that dilemma.  I even dreamed about it.  And when I woke up, it was like a switched had been thrown.  It was as if I woke up possessed by some unknown force who had the answer to that question and needed to write it all down in the form of a novel.  So I went along for the ride.  I started writing an outline for this story that was bursting forth from my brain at light speed.  I could barely keep up with my thoughts.  I had a complete outline in about four weeks.  And then I started writing and had my first draft in an additional six weeks.  I don’t know where it came from or why, but it could not and would not be contained inside me.  It simply had to get out.
During that time, I did listen to a lot of other music, but it was only with half an ear.  I really fell into the musical groove when I began to edit and revise.  I found myself listening to the same fifty songs over and over and that they inspired me in a spiritual way.  Weirder still, when I really paid attention to the lyrics to some of these songs, I realized they acted as an opera of sorts, putting my story into song.  I could literally hear my story in the lyrics to these songs.  It was so strange to hear my characters struggles come to life within the music.  It really freaked me out.
At first, after I realized how strong the connection was, I couldn’t get enough.  I listened to those singled out songs again and again as I revised The Mistaken.  I was driven by the emotion of my story set against the melancholy tunes and lyrics of these fourteen songs.  But then a problem arose.  I got too absorbed into my story, experiencing all the pain of human loss, the burning need of revenge, the relentless sense of guilt, the debilitating fear of violent death, the blinding need for forgiveness, the loss of hope and, ultimately, the joy of renewed love that makes up my book.  The problem with that is that I couldn’t find a way out of all the turmoil of those emotions.  Even when I jumped into my happy place, the music filling my car took me back into that dark, scary place my characters were living.  I began to feel trapped and then depressed.  I didn’t make the connection for a couple of months until I literally started to cry when one of the songs came over the speakers in my car.  I realized I had to break away from that music so I could feel whole and well again. 
So I stopped listening to my playlist as I revised and felt much better for it.  Now that I am finally done, I can sit back and listen to the music and see the story unfold.  I can cry for awhile and laugh at the end when I know my characters are reunited.  I feel a great sense of hope and accomplishment.  I would like to share that playlist and give a little insight to why each song means so much to my story.  I have embedded the music or lyric videos for the songs in the titles.  Just click on the song title to see the video and lyrics and hear the hauntingly beautiful music that inspired me.  (Click on the back button to return to my blog.)

Brother by Dark New Day

This song signifies Skylar’s (my protagonist) sadness at the loss of his parents and young sister in a car accident caused by his younger brother, Nick.

All the Same by Sick Puppies

At this point, Sky finally accepts that Nick, as troubled as he is, is all the family he has left and that he will always be there to help clean up whatever mess Nick gets himself into.

Without You by My Darkest Days

Skylar meets, falls in love with and marries Jillian, the love of his life and they are soon expecting their first child. 

Alibi by 30 Seconds to Mars

After Sky’s wife, Jillian, is killed, he says goodbye to her at her funeral then spirals into alcoholism.

Alone With Nothing by Smile Empty Soul

Despondent and bitter beyond reason, Sky’s soul is eaten away by his need for vengeance.  He and Nick fantasize, planning revenge against the stranger who drew Jill toward her death, a woman named Erin Anderson.

Hunter by 30 Seconds to Mars

Skylar, with the help of Nick’s associates, Alexi and Dmitri of San Francisco’s Russian mafia, misidentifies the wrong woman and stalks Hannah Maguire to her home in Seattle.


The Red by Chevelle

Skylar exacts his revenge during an unspeakable act of violence, but he instantly regrets his behavior and pulls back only to discover he has mistaken the wrong woman for his target.

All Is Numb by 32 Leaves

Realizing he cannot follow through with his sordid plans to turn the woman, Hannah, over to the Russians, Sky convinces her to leave her home and go on the run with him so that he can keep her safe and out of the hands of the Russians and a life of sexual servitude.

Change by Deftones

Nick confesses to Skylar that he purposely got Sky abusing alcohol in retaliation for Sky making Nick feel as if he is solely responsible for the accident that took their parent’s and young sister’s lives.  He uses this confession as an excuse as to why his brother should not attempt to save him from the Russians who have captured him.

Pieces by Red

After the all the guilt of his parent’s and sister’s death, the feeling of helplessness concerning Nick’s captivity by the Russians who are using him as leverage to force Sky to turn over the woman, and the overwhelming remorse and shame of what he has cost Hannah, Skylar experiences an emotional break down.  Hannah is desperate to help him.

Anywhere But Here by Sick Puppies

Sky is kidnapped by the Russian mafia and joins his brother, Nick, in captivity

The Battle Of One by 30 Seconds to Mars

Skylar witnesses the brutal dog-fight style battle that takes his brother's life.  He then finds out that Hannah has also been captured.  Sky himself battles his way out, freeing Hannah and killing one of the Russian bosses who is responsible for Nick’s death and Hannah’s recent assault.

A Modern Myth by 30 Seconds to Mars

Skylar is coerced by the FBI to testify against Dmitri, the last remaining Russian mafia boss.  Because he has to enter witness protection, Skylar must say a tearful goodbye to a heartbroken Hannah, admitting that they will never see each other again.

Breathe by Angels and Airwaves

After Dmitri’s death, Skylar is free to reunite with Hannah, but will she take him back?