Thursday, October 16, 2008

How I Write

People have often asked how I write. I tell them I usually use a computer. Although, when I get stuck, I’ve been known to pick up a notebook and write longhand. But that’s not what they meant when they asked. When I thought about it, I realized I use a soundtrack in my writing and my life.

I’ve always been a total music junkie. I have over 10,000 songs on iTunes and am never without my iPod. I’d sooner forget my phone than my iPod. I can live without the phone, but I don’t think I could live without my music.

Music and literature have made more of an impact on my life than anything else. Maybe it’s because I moved around so much as a kid. Music and literature were my only constants. As long as I had my books and my albums with me, I was home. Yeah, I know, I’m showing my age.

Music has given my life a timeline—I can tell you in which of my 30+ childhood homes I lived when a particular song was popular. For instance, I know I lived on Minna Street in Brooklyn when my uncle used to hang out with me and play the 5th Dimension album with “Up, Up, and Away” on it over and over. I was in the Hamptons for the summer with my father when Captain and Tenille came out with “Love Will Keep Us Together” the most annoying song I can remember. Hearing the name alone insures it will be running through my head for hours. I apologize to anyone who has the same problem. I could give you an million more examples, but you get the picture.

My obsession with music grew. In high school I picked up the guitar, wrote depressing songs, and dated musicians. Eventually, I began working in the music industry, managing a singer/songwriter and his band. He’s since written number one songs for several heavy-hitting country singers and has a few platinum records to his name.

Is it any surprise, then, that each of my books has its own soundtrack? It serves as a timeline of sorts. It keeps me in my story. I still listen to the soundtrack of my first book and when I do, I’m pulled back into my story. With each song, I know where in the story it fits. The soundtrack is fabulous. Unfortunately, the book, like most first books, will probably never see the light of day.
Romeo, Romeo has a soundtrack that’s eclectic, to say the least. Death Cab For Cutie’s “Coney Island” rolls into Lou Monte’s “Please Mr. Columbus (turn the ship around).” The Pussycat Dolls’ “Sway,” Kristy MacColl’s “Fairytale of New York,” Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head,” Avi Vinocur’s “L-Train,” The Cranberries, James Taylor, Norah Jones, Landon Pigg, Ben Taylor…the list goes on.

All the songs have one thing in common—they remind me of Brooklyn and Manhattan. They bring me back to my Sicilian grandparent’s dining room table. I listen, and it’s as if I’m magically transported to Park Slope, into my characters’ heads. I can see touch, feel, hear, smell, and absorb the energy of the city. It comes alive. And then I write.

22 comments:

  1. Robin- I know what you mean about music. I played the piano for a long time (and I'm embarrassed that I don't play as much anymore), but there's something about it that can help you in any situation, remind you of the best (and maybe the worst) times, all the while keeping the sanity. I don't know what I'd do without my iPod!

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  2. I'm not surprised to learn about your soundtrack. Your writer's voice has the most wonderful auditory feel. It entrains me and flows me forward in the same way a good song does.

    I wouldn't say I have a soundtrack. It's more, a piece of music becomes a door into the heart of the hero.

    For SEALed With A Kiss it was Rodrigo's concerto for guitar "Aranjuez." Yo Yo Ma's performance of Bach's Suite #1 was the center of SEALed With a Promise.

    I'm searching for Davy's music for the WIP. I wish I had your bred-in-the-bone knowledge to call upon. I'm stuck with "I'll know it when I hear it."

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  3. What an interesting perspective on your writing process. I believe we all have anchoring memories throughout our lives, and these will tend to show in what we write. Interestingly enough, my heroine Carol Frank states in her story that she can always relate what was happening in her life to what she was watching on television at the time (she's a TV junkie). This reminded me a lot of what you said.

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  4. Young and beautiful, someday your looks will be gone! When the others turn you off, who'll be turning you on? I WILL, I WILL, IIIIIIIIIIIIIII WILLLLLLLLLLL!

    Oh sorry... got this damned song stuck in my head...

    Great post Robin! I too love music and my iPOD but don't have 10,000 songs the way you do. I have a love affair with a measly 350 songs that are my all time top No. 1 favorites and they are the only ones that made the iPOD cut. Music also puts me in the mood to write. Van Morrison's song Tupelo Honey inspired a whole book! I can still remember dancing to my dad to Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. I can even still see the shirt he was wearing. The iPOD, IMHO, is the best invention of the late 20th century--even better than the cell phone!

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  5. OMG, Marie! I can't believe you did that to me. It wasn't bad enough that I had that song running around my head yesterday, now I have to live with it again today. You're too cruel.

    Hugs....Robin :)

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  6. Why is this no surprise? I can empathize. Between voice and several instruments, music is a constant. The power it wields is, to some, fundamental, an echo of emotions, a companion reflecting life's journey. Of course, I once wrote a love scene to the 1812 Overture. Explosive is a mild description. I don't recommend it and won't do that again. LOL

    Counting down until 1 November here. {{{Hugs}}}

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  7. Totally get what you're saying. I always write with music playing. The only difference is, I start with Paul Potts and from there it usually ends up with rock.

    For someone reason Paul Potts music settles me and takes me into my story, the daily distractions fade and I'm in my characters heads.

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  8. Okay, everyone THROW THINGS at Marie for putting that song into our heads! ARGH!!!

    A piece of music also inspired me to write my first romantic suspense story. Like MM, I lean more toward the classical and keep the classical station on my car radio... radio? What a concept! Anyway, one day I heard this piece of music I wasn't familiar with and when it was over the announcer said, "That was the incidental music to Wolf-Ferrari's Jewels of the Madonna." I thought, "What a cool title." Went home and googled Jewels of the Madonna and voila! My first romantic suspense was born.

    AC
    who can NOT get rid of "Love Will Keep Us Together!"

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  9. Sorry...head hung in shame....kind of....

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  10. AC~

    I guess it could be worse. We could have been subjected to Muskrat Love, which is right up there in my top ten list of annoying songs. I think it's the synthesized Muskrat orgasms that finally put me over the edge.

    Robin :)

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  11. Robin, don't ever let me near your Ipdod; it will go missing :) Dean Martin's Ain't that a kick in the Head. It doesn't get anymore Italian than that! Great post!

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  12. I have to write to music, but mainly to block out other sound. I've found the best thing to write to (and appropriate, too, I might add) is my CD of the ocean. Roar of the waves, call of seagulls, the occasional foghorn - it transports me right there in the waves.

    And you might be showing your age with the "albums" Robin, but I'll show mine when I say I've heard of very few of those songs you named!

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  13. I find that I can't write with music playing. I can hear a song and be inspired, but when I'm writing AND listening, the music wins out every time!

    'Specially if it's something like:

    You know I can't smile without you
    Can't smile without you
    I can't laugh, and I can't sing, I'm finding it hard to do anything...

    That's my contribution to Songs That Stay In Your Head Forever!

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  14. This topic is fascinating to me! I admit, like Cheryl, to writing in silence. Mainly this is just because I do not have a great stereo and have, over the years, gotten out of listening to music all that often. When I do it tends to be classic rock of the 70s and 80s, so I am not sure how beneficial Led Zeppelin or Fleetwood Mac would be to writing Regency! At times I do turn on the P&P movie soundtrack that I have on iTunes. That gets me in the mood! Perhaps I should do it more often just to see how it goes. Thanks Robin!

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  15. Robin,

    Like Judi, I can only play music that is either nature sounds or something really, really old (like Elizabethan dance tunes) that I can't possibly sing along to, or my concentration is completely broken.

    Note to Cheryl: I love Barry Manilow!!

    Christine Trent

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  16. I always studied calculus to classical music, because I couldn't sing along. I hated studying. But with writing, I think the music occupies one side of my brain so the creative part is set free. But it could be because I get bored doing just one thing at a time.

    Thanks for all the comments.

    Robin :)

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  17. Dropping in late, its been a busy day, and another one tomorrow, as I am signing the Lady Flees Her Lord with Eloisa James and Claire Delacroix, no less.

    On the music side, I like utter silence when I'm writing. I can put up with background noise, but I rarely have music on when I'm creating.

    I love how quiet it is in my house when everyone goes to work. Me and the dog.

    Bliss.

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  18. Christine,
    I know it's not cool, but I've always liked his music. It just makes me feel good.

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  19. Love. Love will keep us together. Think of me, babe, whenever... Darnit, now you've got me doing it too! (And I'm ashamed to admit, I recently downloaded C&T's "Come in From the Rain" to push myself through a walking-in-the-rain scene. The Melissa Manchester version was even better.)

    You and me both, Robin. I have iPod playlists for every MS and every WIP. Even a song on the radio can bring me right back to how the scene felt as I wrote it. Since I haven't published (yet), it's pretty neat when I turn on the radio and hear one of the songs that inspired me to write. It's like fate's way of telling me, "Don't give up. Listen to your heart." :-)

    ::sigh:: I wish I could listen to my iPod at work, but then I'd probably do more writing and less of my day job.

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  20. Oh Robin,
    I am so like you. Each of my WIP have a playlist attached to them (a strange mix with a lot of Nine Inch Nails and Loreena McKennit) and every time I go back to that story to edit, the music gets me back into the deep of the story...
    I also need music to brainstorm a new story.....What would we be without music :)

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  21. I agree on the music. I listen to New Age, Celtic, and movie themes like the Bourne Identity, Alexander, just a bunch of different movies that have action and suspense. :)

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