Friday, 14 October 2011

Music and Lyrics

Someone Else's Life author Katie Dale asks: What's your favourite book playlist?

Paula's blog about ebooks with soundtracks got me thinking about the relationship between words and music. They go together like, well, music and lyrics, don't they? Or is music disruptive to the reading process? Do you like to listen to music while you read or write? Does the muse like music? If so what kind of music? Is it whatever happens to randomly come onto your radio or mp3 player? Or do you have particular music you like to listen to whilst reading/writing particular books? Do you have play-lists for specific books, even? After all, film soundtracks have long proven effective, practically essential, tools in capturing and enhancing the atmosphere of a story, so why can't songs/music do the same for books?

Some books feature music heavily in the narrative itself. Nick Hornby's High Fidelity is centred around the playlists of its protagonist, and how the songs reflect different moments in his life. And likewise, many songs are based on novels - Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush; Moon Over Bourbon Street (Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles) by Sting; Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits, Love Story (also Romeo and Juliet) by Taylor Swift.
But while music can enhance and inspire our books, and likewise many lyrics are inspired by novels, you'll notice that lyrics themselves rarely feature in novels. Writers beware! There is a reason for this. It's because record companies impose hefty fees for inclusion of their lyrics - a fact I was totally unaware of till my fellow Edgars gave me a heads up - thank you! I had wanted to include four words from "It's Raining Men" in my debut novel, Someone Else's Life, for which the record company were going to charge me over £600! Song titles, however, are fair game, so I'll stick to those in future!
Stephanie Meyer says she can't write without music, and has compiled a playlist of "music I hear in my head while I read the book", consisting of:
1. "Why Does it Always Rain on Me?" — Travis
2. "Creep" [radio edit] — Radiohead
3. "In My Place" — Coldplay
4. "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" [video edit] — My Chemical Romance
5. "With You" [reanimation remix] — Linkin Park
6. "By Myself" — Linkin Park
7. "Dreaming" — OMD
8. "Please Forgive Me" — David Gray
9. "Here With Me" — Dido
10. "Time is Running Out" — Muse
11. "Tremble for My Beloved" — Collective Soul
12. "Dreams" — The Cranberries
13. "Lullaby (Goodnight, My Angel)" — Billy Joel

I wonder if her readers would all agree? Or come up with any alternatives?
What playlists would you choose for your favourite book? It would be interesting to compare what different people choose for the same book, so I'd love to hear your suggestions, either for your own favourite book or (to compare) how about Twilight? Romeo & Juliet? The Hunger Games?
I'd love to hear what you come up with.

Someone Else's Life will be published by Simon & Schuster in the UK and Delacorte Press in the US & Canada in February 2012.


  1. I honestly don't know how writers can write with music on. I have to be in my character's heads with them, hearing what they're hearing, smelling what they're smelling etc. Music in the background, or any noise really, total wrecks my 'zone'. I've been known to work with ear-plugs! That said I have a retrospective play-list for Angel's Fury that I used during my launch party. Love all those angel songs ...

  2. I'm a huge music fan and I do sometimes compile playlists for my characters, just to get a feel for what could be inside their heads – but I can't listen to these while I'm actually writing.

    I envy writers like Stephen King who can write with rock music on. Having said that, I did compile an 8 hour playlist of instrumental music when I was working on the revisions for 15 Days Without a Head. It was all quite moody and sparse and some of it would provide a brilliant soundtrack should anybody wish to make a movie of the story! But on occasions even that became distracting and I had to revert back to silence.

    In terms of soundtracks for books. I'm not sure I'd like to have music on while I'm reading, but to have a soundtrack to go with a book would be interesting.

  3. My music has morphed back into a huge collection of vinyl we have collected over the last couple of years. We missed the contact with music, the feel of the records, the beautiful album covers, the sleeve notes. The music sounds different on vinyl too. We buy our records in charity shops and we never listen to anything through earphones. Our daughter bought us a brand new album by Amy Winehouse ( 2 years before her death.)So, can vinyl challenge the Ipod? Maybe....