I love music. It’s one of my favourite things. So I count myself lucky that music actually helps my creative flow when I’m writing.
I also realised some time ago that writing playlists – linked to the themes or feelings in what I’m writing – can really inform my work and mould the world I’m creating.
To this end I thought it would be cool to write a short piece about the soundtracks behind my novels to date. And what I’m listening to now.
I actually wrote the first draft of this novel about fifteen years ago. It was very different to the novel that was finally published, but the main thread was the same. The themes of urban and philosophical decay with the same. So my playlist was made up of bands that were dark, moody with a sense of deep introspection. I listened to a lot of Suede, with their lyrical themes of gasoline nights and metallic dreams. I listened to the punk abrasiveness and spray-painted neon politics of early Manic Street Preachers. And I listened to the clanging tectonic rumble of Joy Division. All these I think helped form a novel that, despite being about homelessness, is claustrophobic and tense. Whilst also being darkly-comic and with an eye on an optimistic future.
For Cookies I was looking for a mood more than themes I think. Whilst the narrator is under a spell of his own creation, looking to fortune cookies to guide his (often very bad) decisions, he is also a believer in the power of love to conquer all. For this I listened to a lot of early-90s grunge and indie-rock: The Pixies, Nirvana, Therapy?, Pearl Jam. I think to better understand and write the truth of Miles I wanted to get back in touch with the angsty and more neurotic elements inside of me which were very much at the forefront of my personality when I was 13-16 when I was listening to these bands. And they’re still amazing bands.
This was more straight-forward. I wanted Mikey to have an obsession with just one band that would point to his (never mentioned) Aspergers. I felt showing repetitive patterns of behavior and obsessive interests was a useful tool in showing his personality without it being overt. So what band? I initially toyed with a few: Boney M, The Smiths – but I landed on U2 for a couple of reasons. One was that I’ve never been into U2 so it wouldn’t hark me back to any moment whilst listening. But also Mikey is an innocent, full of goodness. Him loving U2 and having zero knowledge of the sneeriness that a lot of people have about them was another little nod to his qualities. I must say I was guilty of having a little bit of sneerines about them myself prior to writing the novel, but since then I’ve actually become a big fan. The album WAR is actually amazing.
I’m still making final tweaks to my final (I hope) draft of Acid Vanilla Book 1. So this is pretty much my writing playlist as of today. For this I wanted some high-energy stuff and some darker stuff and also some introspective stuff. Acid is an enigmatic, highly trained killer, but she also suffers with depression. So I needed a writing playlist that covered both these bases. In the end I came up with an amazing playlist that consists of Black Sabbath, David Bowie, Velvet Underground and Ludovico Einaudi. These all get name-checked in the book too as (low and behold) they’re Acid Vanilla’s musical choices as well. You’ll just have to see how well the playlist informed the novel when it’s released in the summer!
For now why don’t you let us know what your favourite music is to write/create/work to in the comments below. I’d love to hear about it. And let me know what you think of my choices so far….