Thursday, January 26, 2017

Back to The Simpler Things

Back to the Simpler Things
by Angel Smits

         This week I’m on vacation from my day job, mainly because my next book is due next week, and as seems to be usual anymore, I’m rushing to meet my deadline.  I’m close.  Really close.  Thank goodness!
         Every time I write a book I think, I’ll figured out a “system.”  I am a rather scattered writer.  Scenes appear to me, and not in order.  Not at all.  I end up with this collection of pieces, and then spend ages putting the puzzle together.  That’s where I’m at now.  The book is done, it’s just scattered all over the table.  I’ve got the easy, straight edge of the outside put together, and part of the middle.  But there’s still this stack of unattached pieces staring back at me.  I’ll get it.  I always do.
         Years ago, I found that writing to music helped the pieces flow together.  I’ve had lengthy discussions with other writers who also use music, and I’m weird in this sense, too.  There has to be words in the music I listen to.  If it’s classical or instrumental, my brain wastes energy trying to put words to the music.  It’s quite frustrating because while I’d love to be talented enough to write lyrics...I’m definitely not.  I’ve accepted that. 
          So, my first few books were written almost exclusively to the music of Keith Urban.  I don’t know how I even discovered that his music made the words flow, but it does.  I put his music on a loop and play it over...and over...and over.  Thank God someone invented headphones, because I’d probably be divorced otherwise.  My husband enjoys the music--he’s actually taken me to several Keith Urban concerts--but he’s not trying to write a book. 
           But a couple of books ago, I found that Keith’s music wasn’t doing the trick anymore.  (Sorry, Keith!)  Oh, I can still put it on and words will flow, but it was new ideas, new stories that will have a place later.
But I’m contracted for more books in my CHAIR AT THE HAWKINS TABLE series.  I needed something more in tune with the series, and the characters I’d already developed.  For COWBOY DADDY, I heard a song by Christian Kane and bam, had a dozen scenes appear in my head.  I got his album and put it on the loop.  My hero in that book was rougher, edgier and the new music helped me create the feel I wanted for that book.
So, then came THE BALLERINA’S STAND.  Hardest book I’ve ever written, and I honestly think it was because I never found music to fit my ballerina or my hero.  Keith and Christian were helpful, but not quite what I needed.  Oddly enough, their music was too edgy.  I love the newer sounds...but apparently, Julia, did not.
When it came time to work on the youngest sister in the family, Tara’s book, I knew I was doomed if I didn’t find the right sound.  I was determined.  And it took a while.
Tara is younger than my other heroines and while I’m not old (really, I’m not!)  I’m a long way from being in my twenties.  Let’s face it, my kids are there--barely.
I needed to “feel” that age again.  I tried to get into current music, thinking that would help.  Nope.  All it did was confuse me because I didn’t have the connection.  What to do? 
Then a used music store opened near our house.  Yes...with vinyl and everything.  (Yeah, I’m gonna date myself here.  It is what it is.)  My husband and I have over 200 vinyl albums, and he hooked up the turntable that had been sitting there collecting dust.  We bought some new/old albums and started to listen to the oldies we’d fallen in love to. 

Part of our collection

I knew how my characters feel!  I started to get scenes.  Pawing through the piles, sorting, and playing (complete with flipping the album over at halfway through) I found my story. 
The emotions I felt as a teen and young adult when I was finding and learning about love, came back.  I could remember what that first, real love felt like. 
That’s what I wanted in this story, and there is was for the taking. 
This week I’ve been sitting in the living room (not on the floor cross-legged like I did back in the day--I’d never get up!) listening to The Bay City Rollers, The Osmonds, Rick Springfield, ABBA, Captain and Tennille, Dan Fogelberg--and remembering being young.  My apologies, but I’m singing along, too. 
My daughter just walks through and rolls her eyes.  My husband laughs, and sometimes joins in.  My son hasn’t come home much lately...  And the dog?  She keeps wanting to check out all those pops and clicks.  
But the words are on the page, and the puzzle pieces are fitting together nicely.  The music takes me back to a happier, simpler time, and that’s what my characters want. And maybe I need that a little right now, too.  

Back to the Simpler Times
Is there music, a song, an album, a singer that can just grab you and take you back to a special moment?  Make you feel that alive, on the edge of the world feeling that sometimes is wasted when it's actually here? 

Is it any surprise that my critique group bought me Keith Urban on vinyl for Christmas?  


Laney4 said...

I listened to all those albums back in the day too.

I remember being allowed to take LPs out of the library overnight, so I would take Helen Reddy's Biggest Hits album home to play repeatedly. I owned several Carpenters albums. I bought my first Olivia Newton-John album when our Canadian class took a bus to New York City and I discovered a HUGE record store near our hotel. I own George Carlin's album with Seven Dirty Words. I stupidly sold my Batman album years ago. Ah, the regrets, LOL, but I DO still have my 45s here and occasionally play them (skips and all).

Angel Smits said...

Skips and it!! I have Helen Reddy' s Greatest Hits! I think I'll play it tomorrow. :)

Mary Preston said...

When I was a child my mother would put classical music/operas/operettas on the record player for us to listen to as we had Sunday lunch. Just Sunday. To this day I hear this music and I'm lost in my childhood.

Angel Smits said...

What a special memory!! Thanks for sharing.

Claire McEwen said...

Angel, I love your post. I wrote my entire Sierra Legacy series (the last book comes out this May) to Keith Urban. I listened to other music too, but almost exclusively country music, and mostly Keith. But each book really requires its own songs. And I agree, I can't write to instrumental music. It's distracting for some reason. Thanks for sharing your music with us. I'm plotting a new series now and it doesn't feel very 'Keith Urban' to me. So I wonder what the playlist will be?

dstoutholcomb said...

I still have my vinyl and a turntable


LynnB said...

I wrote this post, and then it disappeared, so I'm hoping it's not going to show up twice! :)

My Mom taught me a great appreciation of good ol' classic country music when I was a kid, and even though I've enjoyed plenty of rock and current country in my days as well, it's still the sad country ballads of the good old days that I revert to when I want to relax and just let my mind wander ... or when I'm feeling nostalgic and missing my Mom. :) There's just nothing quite like the whining of a steel guitar!

George Jones, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, etc., etc.

Kaelee said...

I love Keith Urban. I'm a little older than you and songs from the late fifties and sixties take me back. The songs that really make me remember the good old days are the ones my parents listened to. We did not have a television but my grandmother did. Ed Sullivan and Lawrence Welk were go to grandma's shows.

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