Words & Music Monday with Dina James

Today’s guest author, Dina James, is one of my favorite people to chat with. She’s snarky and a bit scary when she’s weilding pointy objects, but she’s also funny, kind (even though she denies it), and is a fantastic storyteller. She’s also got a new collection of novellas coming out this week, Light in a Dark World: Legends of the Destrati, that I can’t WAIT to get a hold of. Dina took a few minutes away from her release prep, and writing her next Stranger Things book, TIME HEALS, to share some of her musical favorites.

Thank you, Jennifer, for having me today on Words & Music Monday!

I’m very much a “mood” writer. Depending on the scene or genre I’m writing, my taste in music changes, but there’s one thing that remains constant: I’m a soundtrack girl.

There are very few songs I write to that have words. Vocals are completely different. For instance, Steve Jablonsky’s “Infinite White” from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has some of the most gorgeous, haunting vocals that are just beautiful no matter what scene I’m writing. I’ve never seen the film (nor do I intend to). I was introduced to this beautiful score by my Pandora station designed around music like this.

My favorite composer is James Horner (Aliens, Cocoon, Casper, Apollo 13, Avatar, Titanic), followed by Brian Tyler (Children of Dune) and Trevor Jones (Labyrinth [with David Bowie], Cliffhanger, Last of the Mohicans). My husband and I love many more composers and have a vast library of soundtracks.

I don’t necessarily watch films I enjoy the scores to. Carter Burwell did a fantastic score to Rob Roy, but it’s not a film I’ve seen more than once or twice. (Yes, I know he did the score to That Film, and I have heard it. It is indeed gorgeous, as all Carter Burwell’s work is. We are not going to discuss it.) I own most of James Horner’s scores, even if I’ve never seen the films. This particular piece of music by Brian Tyler introduced me to this fantastic composer and is one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. It’s called “Dune Messiah.”

For me, music sets the scene. There have been more than a few times where I’m not able to write a scene because the music is evoking a feeling different to what the scene calls for, so I’ll change it until it matches. Certain characters also have their theme music (this happens a lot in film scores as well). One character prominent in my upcoming release Light in a Dark World: Legends of the Destrati is a great patron of classical music. He favors Beethoven, but is also a fan of Mozart, Chopin and Chubert.

Another music platform that helps me with scenes is Radio Rivendell (donate to them, they RULE!). I am a self-admitted, unapologetic gamer geek, and Radio Rivendell showcases some of the very best, most epic score music of all time. For a writer like me, it’s wonderful to just have on in the background.

Thanks to another writer, I’ve recently discovered an orchestral and trailer music band called Two Steps from Hell. They’ve recently released their first album and I immediately bought it after listening to the preview video they linked on YouTube. Beautiful, beautiful music with haunting vocals and gorgeous instrumentals.

There is one more artist I wish to draw attention to. This one took me by surprise, as I was first introduced to his work by complete accident. Those who know me know I’m pretty much a sociopath, so for me to be out and about at any time of year, let alone tourist season/summer is a rarity. This particular Sunday was no exception. I was working in my office when my husband came home from our local farmer’s market with a CD in his hand. He smiled and said, “I found writing music for you. This guy was playing at the Market. You’ll love it!”

Well, I was skeptical. A street musician? Music I like? Those two don’t go together. Unless the guy was playing – oh. Oh, yes.

The musician was Adam Hurst. Adam lives in Portland and was down here for the weekend and happened to be performing at the Sunday Market. As a result of that day, I now own almost everything he’s ever composed, and his work is what I put on most often when editing or trying to sort out a scene. His music runs the gamut of emotion, and no matter what I’m trying to write, Adam usually has something that fits the bill.

As for other music I write to, well…I’m dark and eclectic. Bands like ES Posthumus, Within Temptation, and the upcoming Silent Wings (I admit to a personal bias with this one – it’s my friend’s band. They have a Facebook page HERE.) are what I listen to both when writing and when not. For more contemporary music I enjoy Toto, Kansas, Journey, Europe, Asia, Billy Joel, and Evanescence. I love cheesy big hair bands (Def Leppard, Poison, Whitesnake, Cheap Trick) as well as Guns ‘N Roses, Aerosmith, and Bon Jovi.

I create writing playlists by both character and project in Windows Media Player. I’m not fancy and don’t even own an iPod (though I’m sure I will before the year is out – the pressure from all sides is too great). Each book has its own feel for a reason, and I choose music to write to accordingly.

There are times when what I’m doing requires absolute silence, but those times are the exception rather than the rule.

I hope I’ve introduced you to some great music today, and that you enjoy listening to their work as much as I do!

Wow!!! That is a LOT of new music to check out!!! I’m with Dina, I can’t read or write to music with lyrics, so I’ve now got a whole list of artists to check out!!

How about all of YOU? What’s your take on instrumentals/scores for reading/writing? I’d love to hear what you think of any of the suggestions Dina made. Have you listened to any of these? Click a link and then come tell us what you think 🙂 (haha, that rhymed, lol… *ahem*, sorry… couldn’t help it, lol.)


  1. Comment by dinajames:

    I also love Voltaire, but he’s not really writing music. He’s awesome music!


  2. Comment by Jennifer:

    My favorite from your post is the Dune piece. But then, I’m a fan of most everything Dune related 🙂 I’m surprised I didn’t remember the score/soundtrack from watching the mini-series, but today was a nice reminder. Thank you!

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