I couldn’t have written my (soon to be released) second novel without Woody Allen. Or rather, his movie soundtracks. On a chilly November morning, I made a gargantuan sized mug of coffee, lit a cosy fire in the hearth and switched on my laptop to begin the roller-coaster month that was NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I had a storyline in my head and conviction in my heart, not to mention lots caffeine in my veins and so I set about writing those first few words… Chapter One.
I had decided to set my novel in France; Compiegne to be precise, a picturesque town north of Paris. While the story is set in the present day, it has its’ roots in wartime Europe and so I wanted to create a kind of timelessness that would permeate through the novel. And that’s when I found my hook – Jazz. Romani Gypsy Jazz, American Big Band Jazz and the more modern incarnations of the genre, like Melody Gardot and Stacy Kent. Like Smellivision, we still haven’t invented books that come with their own soundtrack playing lightly in the background, but if I ever do an audio version of this book, you can be sure that a French accordion will feature in there somewhere! Because for me, the music was of vital importance and continued inspiration. Every morning when I started into my 1,500 word count, I pressed play on my Spotify and allowed myself to be transported to a mystical place where the story lyrically unfolded.
Writers often discuss the use of music when writing, and I have to say I am on the ‘yes’ side. I believe it can really help you to get into the time/place/scene you are writing about and can add that extra little bit of magic. Granted, there are times where I need complete silence to concentrate, but overall, I think it helps to get me in the mood of whatever story I happen to be telling. Music can almost be like another character. Nick Hornby used his passion for music to great effect in his classic novel High Fidelity, as did our own Roddy Doyle in the unforgettable The Commitments. I heard in an interview recently that he almost titled the book, ‘The Partitions’, so note to self – never be afraid of a last-minute name change people!
My new novel positively echoes with jazz giants like Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday, singing songs that my protagonist grew up listening to. Like Woody, I want the music to create a sense of something magical; something you can’t quite put your finger on. So with that in mind, I’ve created an accompanying playlist to get you in the mood. Stay tuned to my blog over the next few weeks, as all will be revealed about the upcoming launch of the jazziest novel in town!