Music to Make the Book Sing
I always try to involve music in my books: my heroes and heroines have theme songs, I listen to music while I write, and I try to weave music into each book’s scenes whenever possible.
Okay, that’s easier in some books than others. Rodrigo, my medieval Spanish knight in BOND OF BLOOD, is an accomplished musician. But Morgan and Rosalind, THE SOUTHERN DEVIL's hero and heroine, traveled through the high Rockies of 1870's Colorado, a beautiful place but hardly overflowing with orchestras, opera houses, and street musicians.
This does give an extra zing! to the research. Tracking down sources of music or what historical music sounded like is both challenging and fun. I bounced for joy when Milladoiro, a band I already liked, recorded some 13th Spanish songs – which Rodrigo would have considered contemporary pop tunes. Nineteenth century Mississippi riverboats hired topnotch singers to perform Negro spirituals and work songs, especially as advertisements when they entered ports. Their owners actually competed for the finest singers, since antebellum passengers flocked to these ships.
KISSES LIKE A DEVIL is set in 1900 Europe, a time of rapidly changing music and dance tastes. Some royal courts displayed their liberal tendencies by allowing modern dances like the turkey trot, while others emphasized their conservatism by enforcing more traditional dances, like Strauss waltzes. Ragtime’s syncopated rhythms mixed African-American rhythms with classical melodies and became wildly popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Jazz, its child, is still powerful today. I had so much fun researching the music for this book that I was glad I patterned its setting after Prague, a centuries-old mecca for artists and musicians – and especially the home of Dvorak. How could I forget his New World Symphony or Slavonic Dances?
Then there’s music used for characterization. William Donovan, THE IRISH DEVIL’s hero, is Irish and quite romantic so, yes he does serenade his beloved. Figuring out which Stephen Foster song to turn to was intriguing! The heroine definitely does not speak Gaelic so I needed 1870’s American popular songs to express his sentiments. (Oh it’s lovely dealing with lyrics from the pre-copyright era!)
Of course, there’s a place for cacophony, too. Viola, the heroine of THE IRISH DEVIL, was born and raised a Southern belle but suffered a life of privations in Arizona Territory during the Apache Wars. Her goal at the book’s beginning is to become a piano teacher in San Francisco and spend the rest of her life listening to small girls massacre Beethoven and Chopin on the piano.
Do you like to include music in your books? What do you find the hardest part to research? What’s your favorite scene in a book or movie that involves music?