I don’t write to music. I prefer quiet (or rather, my dogs’ snores).
But for every book I write I create a playlist that I listen to while busy with other tasks—driving, running, gardening. This music keeps me in the story, where I most love to be.
Each playlist is unique to each couple, each love story. The songs reflect the characters’ personalities, or the tone of a scene or a whole book. Sometimes the lyrics draw me, at other times a musical phrase, and often a singer’s voice. Mostly it’s the intensity of emotion that grabs me. So I think of the songwriters and singers on my playlists as ghostwriters, inspiration that speaks to the soul of each book.
I draw from many different types of music for my playlists. First and foremost, music particular to the culture or period that I’m writing about is essential. When I was writing Swept Away by a Kiss, I lingered over symphonies and concerti written by the “Mozart Noir”, Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a Frenchman born in the Caribbean to a white plantation owner and a former slave, who became a celebrated composer, master fencer, and dashing ladies’ man in Paris before the Revolution.
To help you place Boulogne, he was a contemporary of Alexandre Dumas Sr., father of the Alexandre Dumas who wrote The Three Musketeers. (Who else is excited to see the new movie?!)
Because of the different nature of the characters and story, Captured by a Rogue Lord got quite another sort of musical treatment. While writing that book I learned sea chanteys like “My Son John” and “Haul Away Joe”, and sang them to friends and strangers alike whenever anybody would listen. (I actually sang one of these sailor songs at a book signing once. If any of you lovelies are ever crazy enough to ask, I will be happy to sing one for you too.)
For my research trip to Scotland while writing When a Scot Loves a Lady, I stuffed my iPod with Scottish folk songs. I plugged them into the stereo of my 6-cylinder black Mercedes Benz while I drove through the green, rolling hills of the Lothians, filling my head and heart with the music of that land while I explored.
(I’d rented a compact car, by the way, but the Mercedes was the only automatic transmission available at the rental car agency. I’m intrepid, but not enough to drive a stick with my left hand, and I’m so glad. It was like Christmas on top of Christmas!)
My playlists have plenty of today’s popular music in them too. The rough male vocals, rich guitar, and heart-pounding rhythms of a few testosterone laden super bands—Nickelback, Breaking Benjamin, Linkin Park—often reflect my heroes on my playlists, driving all that tortured-soul-with-unswerving-purpose I like to write. The moment I first heard Eddie Vedder’s “Hard Sun”, it gave me chills and I knew it was Steven Ashford’s song. The emotion and lyrics are so powerful and aching, heartbreak and injustice mounting to a haunting pitch, it put me in Steven’s head and heart every time I listened to it. (I love this YouTube version. The banner of Steven’s ship is a black hawk on a yellow backing.)
Of course it’s not all torture and pain! While Alex Savege’s first song is Radiohead’s darkly aggressive “Talk Show Host”, Alex’s heroine Serena turned that right around and the next song on that playlist is Faith Hill’s “This Kiss”. I adore sweet, joyful girl bands, like Rosi Golan and her “Shine”, which anchored my playlist for In the Arms of a Marquess. All-out sexy fun works for me too, like Hey Monday’s “Obvious” that perfectly describes Lady Kitty Savege’s need to get very close very quickly to a certain Scottish lord in my next book.
My heroines also often call for the sensual tones of slightly more mature women singers. When Serena first climbed aboard Alex’s ship, Norah Jones’s “Turn Me On” accompanied her. And at one moment in Octavia Pierce’s reunion with Ben Doreé, Sarah McLachlan’s “Fear” said everything.
It’s all about the deep emotion.
And so last but far from least… the love songs. I consider all the songs on my playlists love songs, even if they’re not technically defined as such. But some songs are unquestionably about lovers. I listen to these delicious, heart-rendingly romantic songs again and again when I’m writing a story.
Want to know the core songs for the lovers in my Rogues of the Sea trilogy?
Steven and Valerie – Des’ree’s “Kissing You”
Alex and Serena – Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”
Ben and Tavy – Lifehouse’s “You and Me”
What is your favorite love song of all time? If that’s too hard to choose, how about your top three? If enough of you lovelies tell me yours, I’ll tell you mine, and it might not be what you’d expect!