Back in March of this year, I wrote a guest blog for the excellent horror website, THE CROW’S CAW. They ran a big promo for WESTLAKE SOUL, so I figured a guest appearance on their site was the least I could do. Now it’s August, by God, the tail-end of a summer that has been pretty good to me. I’ll be announcing some new stuff soon, but in the meantime—and to keep the homepage smellin’ fresh—I thought I’d revisit the guest blog for The Crow’s Caw, and post it right here. Why not, eh?
So, here it is … SOUL MUSIC:
There’s a time for peace and quiet—on those meandering countryside walks, for instance, at one with your thoughts as the sunlight creeps through the branches and the scent of pine sap fills the air. And first thing in the morning, when you’re waking to a fresh new day and your mind is reluctantly extracting itself from that sluggish yet wonderful dream state. At such moments the only sounds you want are birdsong and the faint creak of the earth’s rotation.
Sometimes—and The Tremeloes will back me up on this—silence really is golden. At other times, what you need—what you really need, my friend—is rock and roll.
Driving down the highway, sun blazing, windows open, AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie” making the stereo bleed. Or how about when you’re getting ready for a night on the town? Putting on your gladrags, getting your hair just right. And the stereo in your room (maybe it’s playing Madonna or Pitbull or Cradle of Filth) makes you feel damn near eternal. Don’t you just love when that happens? When the right song hits you at just the right time … it feels like walking on air.
What I’m getting at here (in my roundabout way) is how music, or silence, can resonate with you, and create an incredible energy. I find this happens when I’m writing. Sometimes I need silence to get me through a certain scene, when even the sound of the kettle boiling, or my wife talking on the phone in another room, distracts me. Other times I depend on music. It elevates me. Pushes me forward. And when the song fits the scene, the words flow beautifully. It’s that walking on air feeling again—or writing on air, I suppose.
I reference music often in my writing, and have written three music-themed stories (Sister Free, Soulfinger, and Quoth the Rockstar). There’s definitely a creative link between melody, rhythm, and prose. I love when the words make a drumbeat sound, or when a sentence is enriched with cadence. Prose is like music, in that it has the ability to reach people, and create incredible energy (providing the timing and rhythm is right, of course). I have an iTunes playlist for most of the stories I have written, filled with the music that helped give the story its flavor and character. These playlists vary from mostly classical compositions (The Ghost of Lillian Bliss) to industrial/grunge (The Happy Bird and Other Tales). There are often songs that I would never listen to in my everyday life, but are right for the story … for helping me find the groove. And that, for me, is what it’s all about.
My new novel is called Westlake Soul. It’s about a twenty-three-year-old former surfing champion who develops the mind of a supergenius after an accident puts him into a permanent vegetative state. For a story like this, finding the groove was not just important, it was essential. Sometimes I found it with silence. Mostly, though, I turned to rock and roll.
I have included a portion of that playlist here—not every song I listened to while writing Westlake Soul, but perhaps the ten most popular. It’s a mellow list, for the most part (no Cradle of Filth here), because Westlake Soul is a mellow novel. Some of these songs are mentioned in the book, and are integral to specific scenes. Others, quite simply, helped me find the groove.
1. Little Bird – Eels
2. Landslide – Fleetwood Mac
3. Fallin’ – Alicia Keys
4. Sonata Pathétique – Beethoven
5. She Loves You – The Gaslight Anthem
6. This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush
7. Famous Blue Raincoat – Leonard Cohen
8. My Hero – Foo Fighters
9. Memphis Guitar Soul – Anders Lewen
10. Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living) – Eels
Would Westlake Soul have been the same novel without these songs driving it forward? Somehow, I don’t think so. They gave me a rhythm, and a cadence, that I brought to the characters, and to every scene. And yeah, I know it’s a pretty mellow soundtrack … but it’s still rock and roll to me.
And sometimes, my friend, that’s all you need.
*Just a little postscript to this blog … the songs listed here aren’t supposed to impress you, or illustrate the diversity of my musical tastes (there are a few tracks here that I would never normally listen to). I list them simply to indicate my (bizarre, yet dulcet) mindset while writing WESTLAKE SOUL.