I’m one of those authors who don’t need complete silence when they write. In fact if there’s no background noise I struggle to concentrate.
It’s one of the reasons I do a lot of my work in coffee shops where voices and soothing muzak help to keep me awake.
At home in my study it’s a different matter. There I have to provide my own soundtrack and I’ve started to take it quite seriously.
I find that music helps to stimulate my imagination while drowning out the real world. If I’m working on an action sequence I like to listen to fast, upbeat songs or tunes. I have the volume quite low so that I can hear it but it’s not a distraction.
While writing my latest book, The Rebel, I took the whole soundtrack thing to a new level. Having worked out the storyline I went through it chapter by chapter and made a note of the various themes and events. Then I searched for songs that I thought would best capture the mood and tempo of the various sections.
For instance, one of the main characters is a female assassin from Mexico named Rosa Lopez. She’s smart and beautiful – as well as being a complete psychopath. We’re introduced to her in a hotel in Acapulco and I wanted her entrance into the story to have considerable impact.
In this case the appropriate song jumped right out at me as soon as I started sifting through my Spotify collection.
‘Going Loco Down in Acapulco’ by the Four Tops captured the essence of both the character and the setting. I even wrote it into the book by saying it was playing as Rosa walked across the hotel lobby.
I returned to the Latin theme later in the story while working up a relationship Rosa enters into with another woman. This time I wanted something slower and more exotic.
It was my partner who suggested the song ‘Havana’ by Camila Cabello. I hadn’t heard it before but as soon as I played it I knew it was the right choice. It perfectly embodied the mood I was trying to capture.
Later in the book another character, this time a female police officer, decides to take the law into her own hands in order to protect her family.
I tried to imagine how the chapter might play out in a movie and what music would go with it. I came up with the classic song ‘Eye of the Tiger’ by the rock band Survivor. I reckoned that if it was able to inspire Sylvester Stallone in Rocky 111 then it could spur me on to create some rousing and believable prose.
I put together a playlist of fifteen songs before I got stuck into writing The Rebel. I played them on a loop in the background whenever I worked at home, and I have to say it made the whole experience far more pleasant than it otherwise would have been.
Having my own soundtrack while I wrote helped me to craft the right atmosphere as I tackled each stage of the novel.
And it’s convinced me that this is how I’ll approach future books because I feel it adds a new and exhilarating dynamic to the whole process.