In honor of the official launch date for Death’s Dancer, I’d thought I’d dust off the old blog and share a bit about my writing process and inspiration.
I’m going to date myself, but I used to make mix tapes (and later cds) for everything. I tend to hum and sing along with just about everything I do.
So when it comes to music, I can’t write without it. Music with lyrics doesn’t bother me while I’m drafting, though by the time I get down to the nitty gritty of editing, I’ve usually switched to instrumental music. Sometimes a particular band or artist feels like the voice of a character’s mental or emotional state. Once in a while, I have an idea in mind before I start writing, but sometimes it’s just kismet.
I knew from the beginning, Death’s Dancer wasn’t going to be a traditional romance (little known fact: it wasn’t going to be a romance at all but Azrael and Isela kept boinking each other and that was that). Lana Del Ray’s Born to Die album had the feeling I was trying to evoke. There is an old-school quality to her voice, and combined with the stories of dysfunctional relationships and questionable lifestyle choices the album became a favorite. After all, Isela dances for gods and Azrael commands the dead. The darkness and weird seemed to be ingrained in the story in a way that it was embodied by songs like “Off to the Races,” “Burning Desire,” and “Without You.”
Starting off with an artist or song, I hit up Pandora for things that sound similar. That will get me most of the way through a first draft. After a while, certain songs start popping up as having particular resonance to a scene or a character. The right song can also help me pace a scene, keeping the tempo frantic or slowing it down appropriately.
Florence and the Machine’s “Seven Devils” perfectly summed up the feeling of Isela stepping into the room of Necromancers. “Going Under” by Evanescence came to me as I was writing Isela fighting for her life. Sia’s “Fire meet Gasoline” and PJ Harvey’s “This Mess We’re In,” defined the moment Isela and Azrael surrendered to the attraction between them. The final showdown Eminem’s “Loose Yourself” and “Hope” by Apocalyptica both lyrically and sonically defined the pace and emotional arc of the final showdown.
When it comes to happily ever afters, I think of Sara Bareillis. I think she’s one of the best songwriters in recent memory, capable of capturing emotional nuance without veering into the saccharine. Both “Chasing the Sun” and “I Choose You” gave me the right balance of sentiment and strength.
At that point, I start creating a playlist on Spotify or Amazon Music. When I need to work on a scene, I might replay a few songs over and over until I get it right. That’s also the point more instrumental music comes into play. Zoe Keating’s evocative cello compositions are a favorite. “Escape Artist,” “Coda,” and “Flying and Flocking,” were frequently on repeat. I also listen to a lot of Vitamin String Quartet. Their instrumental compositions of popular music are great for the balance between lyrics music that keeps the right tempo and vibe. Their cover of Moby’s “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters” is even better than the original, IMO.
By the time I reach the end of the second draft, I have a pretty big playlist of music that helps me get through revisions and edits. If your curious about the complete Death’s Dancer “mixtape” you can listen along on Spotify. Speaking of curiosity, I’d love to know if there were any songs that you thought reflected characters or scenes in the book. Share them in the comments!
That’s all for now!
Death’s Dancer was a Kindle Scout pick, and was published by Kindle Press on December 27, 2016. It’s available on Amazon.