Friday, April 18, 2008

Thursday Talk-Time :: Every Book Needs a Soundtrack

Today PHS ed Ally Blake talks about how important she finds music in helping her set the mood...for writing ;).

I'm of the writing school of 'do whatever it takes to get you in the right frame of mind to write'. Especially so now that I have a little one at home and my writing time is at a premium. When I sit at the computer my hope is that I can open my Word document, slide my fingers atop the keyboard keys and start writing. In order to do that I like to set the mood...

Some writers need utter silence. Some close the door to their office so that nothing but the rattle of keys and the hum of the computer ruin their train of thought. Some listen to classical music finding the lack of words helpful. While I need music. Real music. Let their be music in the air! A cacophony of sounds even. The sounds of family life trickling along in the background like white noise while music pours from the dodgy speakers beside my monitor or through the headphones of my MP3 player.

For I find that within the noise I go further inside my head than if the world were quiet.

The idea for my very first book came to me from listening to a song. My Best Friend's Wedding was playing on TV, and that gorgeous opening scene when the credits roll with the sweet young thing singing 'Wishin' and Hopin' came on. Inspiration struck and there was my book. I listened to that song over and over again while writing the book to make sure I kept that same sweetness, and that same enthusiasm I felt when I first heard it. It grounded me. It put me deep into my heroine's head. The book sold!

Therefore for every book since I've had a CD, a mixed tape, or at the very least a theme song that I listen to over and over while writing and revising the novel.

Why does it help? Just the same way a collage, a picture of the hero, a working title, or even a particular scent can help you leap straight into a story after you've been away from it for a day, a week, or even a year. It gives you a sense memory that takes you to that particular place. For me that happens with the very first note of my soundtrack or signature song.

And it's not always just about the background sound either. A song with the right lyrics can truly inspire. Can lead you down narrative paths you never expected. Can tell you so much about your hero's past, or your heroine's conflict. The song I have used more often than any other is George Michael's Kissing a Fool. It's moody, romantic, hopeful, hopeless, and very easy to listen to. And it tells a beautiful love story that you are quite sure can never be resolved. It's heaven for a romance writer!

For my last book, A NIGHT WITH THE SOCIETY PLAYBOY I had a different song for almost every chapter which was a first for me. But the songs came to me so easily and they fit the chapters so perfectly.

Kissing a Fool it made an appearance here as a track wafting up into a bedroom window from a wedding marquee down below. Billy Idol's fabulous, rockin', loud, anthem Hot in the City was the theme song for a particularly raunchy - if I do say so myself ;) - sex scene. And the final chapter was written to Jeff Buckley's resonant, sad, beautiful The Last Goodbye. At the beginning of each chapter I had the theme song written in the header and even gave these details to my editor for help with the artwork of the cover.

Pick a song that sets the right mood, and has resonant lyrcis and you'll be laughing! And as Shakespeare wrote, If music be the food of love, play on.

Ally's latest Sweet Romance, FALLING FOR THE REBEL HEIR is out now in Australia and New Zealand as part of the bestselling Mothers Day Gift Selection.

And next month her third, and sexiest yet, Modern Heat novel THE MAGNATE'S INDECENT PROPOSAL is out in the UK. Or if you simply can't wait it's available online now through Amazon and Mills and Boon UK.

Check out more about the books at her website...


  1. Ally, given a choice I will usually put a CD on over watching the telly... and I sometimes wonder, 'Hmm, how could I turn that song into a story.' But I have never consciously tried to create a sound track or theme song for a wip. You have inspired me to try it.

  2. I have to admit I can't listen to music while I'm writing. I find it hard enough to stay on task and if I listen to a song, then I listen to the song and don't write.

    That said, while I'm working on a wip I do tend to have one song that I listen to in-between times. For The Mile High Club it was James Morrison's Wonderful World - and I used to imagine it was my hero singing it to me, cos it's all about a guy who's on the outside looking in at other people's happiness. Bless. And until I read this post, I never even figured that out. Fascinating.

  3. If I listen to a song with words I end up singing them. Not so helpful. I'm definitely a silence girl. Bit unfortunate really in a house full of children. vbg

  4. Oh, yes, Ally, I know exactly what you mean. I only discovered two books ago that I like to write with music playing, but now I wouldn't be without my MP3 player.

    I'm not a visual writer at all. I can't collage and don't use casting pictures. Music does it for me instead.


  5. I have songs that are a theme for a certain book. I blogged about it only this week funnily enough.