Codename WTZ: The Music

I can’t write without music.  I know, zero surprise.  But I can’t.

The first step in my writing process (after the initial idea, of course) is building a writing playlist.  For those who don’t work this way, it may seem like a diversion.  “Shouldn’t you be outlining?  Developing character studies?  Doing research?”  Yes, yes I should be doing all of these things.  In fact, I am doing them while choosing the playlist.

I write cinematically, for lack of better term.  Every scene plays out in my head like a film.  My morning commutes are often spent with my eyes closed, picturing my characters and letting things unfold–winding them up and watching them go.  Every great film has a perfect score and/or soundtrack.

In building a playlist, I am defining my characters.  What music do they like?  Do they care about music, or is it another distraction in our digital world?  Do they have anthems?  What is the main mood of each one?  Music defines that.  Music also shapes the tone of the story.  Is it dark and gritty?  Brooding with a slow build?  Is it frenetic or playful?  Choosing the music that will accompany me through a lengthy process sets the vibe of the project.

Once the first raw draft is on the virtual page, I then set out to create the soundtrack.  Writing playlists are usually 200+ songs deep–unwieldy beasts meant for a shuffle.  The soundtrack, which I share on a book’s details page,are the songs that are directly referenced by characters or set the particular vibe of each chapter.  They’re the core of the characters and their journey.  Sometimes, my favourite songs to write a project to have no set place in the final soundtrack.  Sometimes, I endlessly repeat them to get that draft done. Either way, the soundtrack is distilled to the critical pieces for the next step:  revisions.

All of this is to say that my new project, codename WTZ, is entering revisions now, and I’m very excited.  Taking a few months away from the story has given me new insights into scenes that felt rough or incomplete on first go.  It’s also given me time to hammer out the soundtrack for the journey.

So, what does a team of security guards groove to while slaying zombies and dealing with demanding corporate lawyers? Take a spin below and find out!

Advertisements

Behind The Book: How One Great Song By Arkells Revealed A Character’s Backstory

Over time, I’ll be sharing the soundtrack for Waiting For A Star To Fall, and how each song inspired or enhanced the creation of the novel.  Impatient? Full Spotify playlist is here.

Star  was the book where Canadian bands somehow knew just what I needed.  While July Talk found a way to kickstart my Muse, another band found the way to answer a niggling character question.

When I began writing Change of Season, the first scene I clearly visualized was Autumn and Andrew’s proper introduction.  Fleeing an unknown stalker beneath ground, Autumn literally runs into Andrew.  Forced to trust him, she is relieved when he helps her to safety.

Just as I immediately knew Autumn was a vibrant redhead, I also knew that Andrew never went anywhere without his leather jacket.  I’m not necessarily a fan of leather, so this wasn’t a matter of personal preference.  Nothing about his personality necessarily spoke to wearing leather.  But Andrew was adamant: if it was cool weather, he wanted that well-worn leather jacket.

Fast-forward to 2014, when I began plotting Waiting For A Star To Fall.  While spinning music on shuffle, the song “Leather Jacket” by Arkells came on.  At first, it struck me as a great track for these two because of Autumn’s personal trauma and Andrew’s desire to help her.  But then, the chorus lodged in my skull and everything made sense:

Of course Andrew refuses to let go of that jacket.  It belonged to his father.

Planting a glossy kiss on his cheek, she smirked. “Cruel would have been making you wear the leather jacket.”

The infamous black leather jacket. She’d learned six months into their relationship—on Andrew’s nineteenth birthday—that it had belonged to his father. When he wore it, Andrew felt like he was still around to guide him through the idiocy teenagers excel at. It made her love its soft creases and glitchy zipper all the more. It had also lent an extra layer of sentiment to their shared love of “Leather Jacket” by Arkells—proof that there really was a song for everything.

“I would, you know.” Autumn startled at the sound of his voice. “If you really wanted me to, I’d wear it in this weather. I’d pass out, obviously, but I’d extract my revenge with some sort of uncomfortable lingerie,” he added playfully.

Her disbelief dripped from her response. “You wouldn’t.”

His hand squeezed her newly bejeweled one. “I would. But I know you wouldn’t ask me to wear leather during a heat wave.”

“Oh? You think you have me all figured out, then?”

“Not quite,” Andrew admitted with a smile…

The mystery was solved, and these two found a new song for their personal playlist.  It became a staple track of the writing process, and led to a few sweet exchanges between the characters as a bonus, including the one above.  Take a listen below!

She always looked tired but dazzled as a drunk
She even pulled off that stupid haircut
She said, “I don’t need a sponsor or the best lover
Some man that sees me as some fixer-upper.
The last few years, I’ve been running for cover
Trying to sleep so I can visit my mother.”

You called me up from a pay phone
I said hang tight, I can drive you home
I pulled on up and with a southern accent
I offered you my dad’s leather jacket…

Waiting For A Star To Fall is now available on Amazon.

Behind The Book: How An Uncompromising Rock Band From Toronto Revived A Comatose Muse

Over time, I’ll be sharing the soundtrack for Waiting For A Star To Fall, and how each song inspired or enhanced the creation of the novel.  Impatient? Full Spotify playlist is here.

2013 was the year of emptiness.

Every writer will tell you that Writer’s Block is a very real phenomenon, one that often strikes with the absolute worst timing possible.  Every artist will tell you that they’ve hit the proverbial wall now and again, that the well runs dry.  I’ve endured a few periods of creative stagnancy.  When they strike, my solution is one that applies to most forms of creation: go out and be inspired.  Fill up the well, so to speak.

2013 was different.  For the first time, my passion for all art had died out.

Music didn’t resonate with me, which is striking, since I began attending concerts in utero and credit music with literally saving my life.  Everything I picked up to read just fell a little flat somehow.  I lost interest in films.  The list goes on.  It wasn’t depression (been there, done that).  It was a complete disconnect, and neither my longstanding musical loves nor the latest crop of releases could cure it.

And then, July Talk happened, just as 2014 arrived.

I’m often slow to the party on new music, which may seem weird, given my music blogger background.  It’s this quirk of mine that extends to books and movies:  if a lot of people are talking about something, I avoid it out of fear of disliking it coupled with reflexive annoyance via overkill.  For example, I didn’t read the Harry Potter books until the 7th movie came out.  So I hesitated on July Talk, despite being fascinated with their black and white aesthetic and the vocal contrasts described in the media.  I didn’t want to dislike them.  And given my “everything is blah” funk, I was afraid of just that.

One day, I had a random “Fuck it!” sort of moment.  I happened upon their video for “The Garden” and hit play.  When it stopped, I hit play again.  And then, I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole for a good hour.  When I surfaced, I bought their album.

Their passion was contagious.  I blasted their music frequently at work.  I blasted it in the car, and was grateful my metal-loving spouse enjoyed them as much as I did.  We went to a show of theirs and realized that seeing July Talk live was even better.  Another show happened soon after.  And yeah, I fangirled.  But how could I not?

Suddenly, art came alive again.  I came alive again.

Nine months after this awakening, I looked at the upcoming NaNoWriMo and remembered how participating previously had conquered a bad case of Writer’s Block (the product was my novel Collide).  I found notes made some time ago for a “possible Change of Season sequel”.  I looked at a writer friend, felt her passion for her project and thought, “Damn, I miss creation!”

I went for it, and finished that first draft in November.

Make no mistake:  Waiting For A Star To Fall would not exist without the music of July Talk.  Their clear appreciation of how critical the audience-artist energy exchange is only fuels their growing success.  It also informs me as an artist.  I looked to those asking for more of Autumn, Andrew, Veronica and Evan and decided that as long as the audience brings their energy, I cannot help but bring mine as the creator.

In Star, Veronica is featured in a show that puts a feminist spin on the Bible.  When looking for a name for this fictional Broadway production, the answer was obvious:  it was waiting in a song of dangerous, unhealthy attraction.  The song that began the journey that brought the book to life.

(Peter, Leah, Ian, Josh, Danny:  thank you.)

I went walking in the garden
I was tripping on snakes
And I ain’t asking for your lovin’
I’m just asking what your love is gonna take…

Waiting For A Star To Fall is now available on Amazon.