Yes, I know it’s almost Halloween, but it seems more like Christmas at my house lately. I’m working on a story for a 2009 Harlequin NASCAR Christmas anthology, and my husband, a gifted woodturner, has been making Christmas ornaments. I keep forgetting what month it really is! By the time Christmas actually arrives, I’ll have moved on. My next book, the first of a new Silhouette Special Edition series about a group of harried medical students, begins in the fall, so I’ll be moving back a season. Is it any wonder I sometimes lose track of time?
Getting lost in a story is an occupational hazard for writers. I could be working on a Thanksgiving story in June, or a steamy summer tale in February. To set the mood for my writing, I use music … for example, I’ve been listening to Christmas songs while working on this story. All I have to do is slip on my headphones and let Bing Crosby start crooning in my ear, and it isn’t October anymore. It’s December, and my racecar driver hero is wearing a Santa suit while he tries to charm a skittish single mom.
Music has always been an integral part of my life, and my writing process. Though I only dream of having a beautiful singing voice or a talent for playing an instrument, there is almost never a time when I don’t have music playing around me. When I recently bought an external hard drive to make sure I didn’t lose anything of importance on my computer, I actually backed up my extensive music library before I backed up my works in progress!
I spend way too much time (and money, 99 cents at a time) at iTunes, downloading songs for my book “soundtracks.” When I wrote a couple of ghost stories for Temptation several years ago, I played the soundtrack to the movie “Somewhere in Time” over and over. It just seemed to fit. Another book featured a couple who enjoyed ballroom dancing, so I played the Reader’s Digest CDs of standard piano tunes while I wrote their dance scenes. Each book has a playlist that evokes a mood for me, and most of those lists would make no sense at all to anyone else. I might have Rod Stewart’s standards and some tunes from the ’80s mixed in with Linkin Park and Death Cab for Cutie, all on one playlist. The juxtaposition of those particular songs have meaning to me within the story I’m writing. Strange, I know — but then writers tend to be a little … let’s just say “quirky.”
The writing process is different for almost every writer. I know a few who can write only in total silence. Others who can’t listen to anything with lyrics while they write. Still others who listen only to classical or period pieces. But whenever the subject comes up among my writing friends, as it often does, it seems that most use music in some way or another to set a specific mood for their writing, as I do. I’ve had lots of musical recommendations from writer friends (necessitating even more 99 cent shopping sprees).
Now, it’s time for me to slip on my headphones again. Frank Sinatra is waiting to wish me a “merry little Christmas” while I find out exactly how this dashing racecar driver can convince a wary single mom that he is just what she wants to find beneath her Christmas tree. When this story is finished, I’ll start assembling a soundtrack for my next book (I already suspect The Fray’s “How to Save a Life” will be on the list).