Words & Music Monday with Deborah Cooke

I’m so thrilled to have the author of one of my favorite series sharing today. Deborah Cooke (who also writes as Claire Delecroix) writes the Dragonfire paranormal romance series, and the YA companion series, The Dragon Diaries. I can’t tell you how much I love the characters in these series. They’re intense, and passionate, and witty, and completely dedicated to each other and their lovers. Book 7 in the Dragonfire series, FLASHFIRE, was just released on January 3rd. Here’s Deborah’s offering about music in her work…

Writing and Music

by Deborah Cooke (http://wwwdeborahcooke.com)

 When Jennifer invited me to write a post about music and my work, I was very excited to accept. Music a huge part of my writing process. I listen to music while I write, and I play it very loudly. Besides the sheer volume – which drives out any distractions and helps me to focus – the music itself helps me to tell my stories.

I type more quickly and more consistently when I have music playing. I don’t falter for words or lose track of the story thread. I have to think that’s because the music puts me in closer touch to my stories. The music keeps me focussed and in the world of the book. This is pure magic.

I do choose different kinds of music – or different bands – depending upon what I’m writing. One of my favourite bands to listen to while I write is Queen. I’ve loved Freddie Mercury’s voice for decades, and I love the variety of their music. The change in tempo mirrors the changes in pacing that are necessary in a good book – you can’t have all action or all introspection. A well-told story changes mood as it progresses, gradually building toward the climax but giving the reader a chance to catch a breath every once in a while. Queen’s music, with its variety, helps me to instinctively manage that.

Different “soundtracks” for different book projects also help when I have to work on two stories simultaneously. If each project has its own soundtrack, then switching the music can help my imagination move from one story and world to the other. I’m not sure how or why that works, but it does, and it’s useful. Associating a specific song with a specific character or scene – which is something I do less often – can also create a kind of shortcut in the imagination, taking you directly to where you need to be to work on that scene, or that character’s dialogue. I deliberately do this with sticky scenes or troublesome characters, but some writers use this tool much more. The strongest association I ever had with a project and a particular album was between my fallen angel series (http://www.delacroix.net/angels.html) and Arcade Fire’s NEON BIBLE. I think I drove everyone in the house nuts with that one on repeat play for weeks on end!

I will also deliberately choose a song or an album to echo the mood of a book or of a scene. When I was writing FLYING BLIND, the first book in my paranormal YA trilogy The Dragon Diaries (http://www.thedragondiaries) I wanted a lot of youthful energy. I wanted that feel of raw hormonal power, as that seemed appropriate to me for teenage dragon shifters learning to control their abilities. I listened to Queen’s first album because it’s more raw (it’s called QUEEN) and soon associated their first hit, “Keep Yourself Alive” with Zoë and her particular challenges. I also watched a lot of movies while writing that book, and seem to have chosen a number with rap soundtracks. I don’t know much about rap music or artists, but that pounding rhythm stuck with me and infected the books. I find that when I watch television shows or movies as research for any project, the music from that production will stick with me and often affect my writing.

The pacing of both Dragonfire (http://www.deborahcooke.com) and the Dragon Diaries (http://www.thedragondiaries.com) is very important. These books are action-packed, with a lot of fight scenes. (That only makes sense since they feature dragon shifters!) I listen to a lot of fast music and music with a pounding beat when I write these books. I’ll actually skip ballads and slower songs on an album to keep that pacing. Recently, I’ve had a lot of 80’s pop in rotation – Simple Minds, Heart, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Pat Benatar, Blondie, the Cars, the Pretenders, etc. plus some classics like the Rolling Stones. In contrast, when I write historical romance, I’m more interested in evoking a specific mood and feeling of the times. I listen to slower music while writing medievals, traditional music, religious music and poetic music. Loreena McKennitt is a favourite for those books, as is Gregorian chant, Enigma, Spirit of the West, Jesse Cook, LAGQ, and Mae Moore.

The only problem with having such a strong link between my writing and my music is that I tend not to listen to much new stuff any more. The music becomes a resource, and it’s harder to sit and just listen to something new. I miss hearing new music, though, so one of my resolutions for 2012 is to hunt down some new bands and new music, maybe to add to my rotation when I’m working and maybe to just enjoy.

Talk about a wide range of inspiration!! Although, I suppose that’s to be expected, considering the range of writing. Ok… so… my lovely readers… I ask YOU… what new music should Deborah check out? You’ve seen what she likes and what works for her… who’s got a suggestion for a new musician/band/song she should listen to?

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