Music is one of the most important elements in my writing process. And the music that inspires the stories of my characters differs vastly from one book to the next. I’m not sure why this is so. It just is. While other authors might not experience this, for me, music sets the tone and the pace, making my characters move.
When I began to write my debut time travel romance The Prophecy, the music that enlivened my characters changed throughout the story. In The Prophecy, one of my favorite scenes is where my hero Greylen comes home and is reunited with his love Gwen. The song “You and Me” by Lifehouse is what I listened to while writing it. While of course the lyrics are important, there’s something beside them. The rhythm of that specific music opened up that courtyard reunion scene for me into an entire world. And “Your Body Is a Wonderland” by John Mayer played in my mind while I wrote about the days Greylen and Gwen spend together while Greylen recovers from injuries, and Gwen recovers from the fear of almost losing him. Yes, there too, it was partly about the lyrics—if you know this couple, they’re very intimate—but in this case that song and that music—the tone and beat—created the atmosphere for what Greylen describes as “some of the most incredible days he and Gwen would have together.” That idyllic feeling made the writing come very easily to me.
In my new romance novel, Never Say Goodbye, I had a similar experience with “Such a Simple Thing” by Ray Lamontagne. While my book’s couple Alexander and Amanda never actually break up or disappoint each other as one might think from listening to this song, the song’s haunting beauty mirrors, in my mind, how Alexander feels as he struggles with Amanda’s amnesia and their resulting interrupted love. And “One” by U2 carried Alexander and Amanda through the chapters towards the end of their story. It’s funny, but I just listened to that song again, and with the first notes, it brought me right back to those moments!
I’m working on my third book now, and I can’t tell you how exciting it is to hear a song on the radio that’s ‘it’ for my characters. It’s thrilling as I add it to my new playlist, press play, and my muse comes to life.
Kim Sakwa is the #1 bestselling author of the time travel romances THE PROPHECY and NEVER SAY GOODBYE. Hoping on occasion to fall through time herself, she settled on creating these stories instead. When not writing, you can find her with coffee in hand, walking the hills of her Michigan subdivision, listening to the soundtracks she creates for her novels. She’s a hopeless romantic, hooked on happily ever after.
Amanda Marceau wasn’t prepared to fall back in time and into the arms of Alexander Montgomery, the Royal Navy Admiral who captures her heart. When Amanda’s forced back to present day without any memories of her time in 18th-century England, Alexander must follow her through time, intent on restoring their love—or winning Amanda’s heart anew.
Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.
Thanks for sharing how you use music as a key element in your writing process! I am always curious to hear what works for other writers, especially if their strategies are drastically different from my own.
Personally, I can’t deal with the distraction of music while I’m writing. On rare occasions, I might listen to some instrumental pieces, daydream about a scene that would fit the mood, shut of the music, and write. Then later, I might play the piece as I’m reading through during edits to see if the choreography suits the tempo. Usually, this is only applicable if I’m say, writing a gentle sex scene where the characters had background music playing at the time. But writing an initial draft and listening at the same time? No. It’s just not how I roll. :)
By the way, is the title Never Say Goodbye based on the song “Never Can Say Goodbye?” Because, for the record, I love that song- whether Gloria Gaynor or The Communards cover.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Isn’t that funny, I can hit that repeat button and listen for days to the same song (or a few songs) while writing.
The title actually came to me while writing a scene. BUT, I love Never Can Say Goodbye too (Gloria Gaynor—I’ll have to listen to the other cover you mentioned).