Music is an integral part of the way that I write; especially novels.
Not only do each of my novels have a playlist created for them (tweaked and revised and honed as the writing process goes on) but often individual characters will end up with a playlist or, at least, a theme song of their own as well.
It always seems that I come across the perfect song just about the exact time I need it. Either when I’m stuck at a point in the story and trying to delve deeper into the character and their motivation, or when the manuscript is reaching a climactic point and I need an anthem to bring the scene into clear focus in my mind.
In the case of my novel Wishing Cross Station, I needed to dive deep into the heart and mind of my less than perfect hero, Keigan Wainwright. Keigan isn’t exactly your average, muscle-bound and tattooed romance novel hero. He’s not rich, he isn’t a hot-shot (he is, in fact, still a college student working in the library as a page.)
He has asthma and allergies, and these issues are mentioned early on in the story. This came up because I happen to have these issues myself, and when he found himself in a dusty attic retrieving boxes of books at the beginning of the novel, I found my nose twitching as if I were there too, and I suddenly imagined the reaction that I’d have to the dust and other allergens. I was so deeply immersed in the story I found myself looking for my inhaler before I was done writing the passage, feeling as if my lungs were tightening up and I needed it to open them back up again!
But back on the topic of a hero’s anthem, Keigan needed one, and it needed to be epic.
I’m not the top-of-the-charts-songs sort, I rarely (okay, never) listen to mainstream radio. I stumble across songs while looking for other songs on iTunes mostly, or I’ll hear them when I’m in a store or waiting in the doctor’s office and I’ll think that’s interesting, that would make for a great character anthem.
Keigan’s anthem came to mind pretty quickly, unlike others that often take a long time to show themselves and help me along on my way.
I had not long before discovered that one of my favorite artists of all time, Jeff Lynne of ELO fame, had released a solo album of classic songs a few years ago. I don’t know how I missed it for so long, but somehow it slipped by under the radar.
I couldn’t have found it at a more perfect moment; because Jeff Lynne’s rendition of the classic “She” became Keigan’s anthem.
The heartfelt vocals, the lyrics themselves, the whole atmosphere of the song drove my entire understanding of Keigan; that smart, handsome (as I see him, anyway) and sensitive young man faced with an impossible choice and left with a lifetime of memories gained during a stay in a place he was never meant to see.
Wishing Cross Station begins this way:
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
The wail and cry of the whistle. The puff of the engine. The clang of the bell and grinding screech of the brakes… all combined with the roar of a biting winter wind.
No matter how old I live to be, I will never forget that particular cacophony, an orchestra tuning up in preparation for a command performance. When I heard her approach, I knew the journey I was about to take would change me— no matter where I ended up when it was over.
She was beautiful, dark, and strong, with powerful legs beneath her as she rode the rails into the station. Plumes of white and grey rose around her as she moved, fluttering like angel’s wings. The smell of the smoke was a singular aroma. Coal, fire, and heat all combined to intoxicate a man, to loosen the ideas in his head from solid form into threads meant to be spun into the foolishness of dreams.
She was a vixen, a siren, a savior, and damnation all in one. All things that beckon men to follow her anywhere, do anything to finally reach ecstasy before demise.
She was one of a kind, this engine, and her name was Aurelia Belle.
She’s silent; the echoes of her glory only replay in my head. How clear, how deafening, how devastating, still.
She is restored now, sleeping in the roundhouse because the Historical Park is closed for the season. What happened to the version of the engine that took me on the voyage of a lifetime, I may never know.
I know just this: writing it down is the only way for me to even begin to come to terms with the fact it happened.
It did really happen, of this I am certain, because damn it, I was there.
It doesn’t matter now if anyone else knows, or believes.
I know, I believe, and I will always remember.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Only a song as musically beautiful and, dare I say perfect, as Jeff Lynne’s rendition of “She” could capture in my mind the way that Keigan felt as he meets and falls in love with a girl he was never meant to know, and all of the events that follow.
I will always be grateful for the role that music and painting play in my writing (the heroine in this book, in fact the whole book itself, started with a painting I created) and I love hearing about the music that influences other writers. I’d love to hear about your favorite hero anthems in the comments, if you care to share what inspires you in your own writing. Or, if you’re a reader, what songs remind you of books you’ve read.
Thank you so much to Lifestyle and Literature for hosting me today!