Words & Music Monday with Jeri Smith-Ready
I’m so excited!!!!!!!! Today’s Words & Music Monday guest was pretty much tailor-made for this feature. Jeri Smith-Ready’s WVMP Radio series is ALL ABOUT the music, and how the music helps to save the characters lives (in a round about way). I love love love love love (did I mention I love) this series!!! My book club read it together earlier this year, and we’ve been anxiously awaiting the final book in the series, LUST FOR LIFE, to be released. (We even designed our own radio shows and playlists that you can check out here, if you’re interested, lol.) I’m thrilled to have Jeri here to share more about how these books, and their musical counterparts, came together.
The WVMP RADIO series features a cast of vampire disc jockeys, so music is obviously at its heart and soul. Each DJ has his or own musical era, each book has its own playlist/soundtrack, and each chapter shares a title with a song.
But the most obvious musical connections are the book titles themselves: WICKED GAME, BAD TO THE BONE, BRING ON THE NIGHT, LET IT BLEED, and LUST FOR LIFE. I chose titles that would make sense even to readers who weren’t familiar with the songs, and which would hopefully resonate with the stories and characters, as all good book titles should do. The five titles chart the growth of the main character, Ciara Griffin, as her life changes more than she could’ve ever imagined.
Not surprisingly, it was a song title that gave me the whole idea for the series. On May 25, 2005 (a date I later designated as my main character’s 21st birthday), I was driving down the road when “Bad Company” by the group Bad Company came on the radio.
I thought, hey, that would make a great book title. And HEY, each book in the series could be a song starting with the word “Bad,” like “Bad to the Bone,” “Bad Medicine,” “Bad Reputation,” etc.
Fueled by the music, ideas started flowing. By the time I got to work half an hour later, I had come up with the concept for a new series I couldn’t wait to write:
- a radio station where all the DJs are vampires
- vampires are culturally and psychologically “stuck in time” in the era in which they were turned. They speak the slang and wear the fashions of their original “Life Times.”
- the main character would be a recovering con artist
If I hadn’t been in the car at that moment, listening to that station, WVMP RADIO might never have been born!
Of course, after BAD COMPANY sold, my publisher asked me to change the title. I came up with a long list of options, but one clearly stood out from the pack:
“Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak is one of my all-time favorite songs. It’s the classic heartbreak song, with a wailing, soul-slicing guitar riff (and one of the hottest videos ever).
“Wicked Game” the title brings to mind Ciara’s con-artist tricks, which she tends to fall back on at challenging times. Can she ever move past the lies of her past and start having real relationships, or will she forever play games with the people she loves?
This was the easiest of all the titles to come up with. Why?
Two words: vampire dog.
The character of Dexter was based on our foster dog Foots. A Great Dane/black Lab mix, he was big and friendly and loving as could be. The dog on the cover is a much more intimidating version of Dexter (which is understandable, because a big doofy pup on an urban fantasy cover wouldn’t draw in as many readers as a fierce snarly beast).
Obviously the word “bone” is a fun play on the dog aspect, and everyone knows the classic George Thorogood and the Destroyers song, “Bad to the Bone.”
The title also poses the question, faced in this second installment, of whether vampires are truly “bad to the bone”—are they inherently evil, or do they make a choice to be bad or good? BAD TO THE BONE’s main villains are a cult called the Fortress, made up of humans obsessed with hunting and destroying vampires. Ciara compares them to her loving, reasonably stable vampire boyfriend, Shane, and realizes that even though he’s technically a monster, he’s HER monster.
This pivotal, game-changing third book in the WVMP series has a darker tone than the first two (and is also the only one written in past tense, framed by a pair of present-tense chapters). The song “Bring on the Night” by The Police has a jaunty feel, featuring that band’s signature punk-reggae blend. But it has its ominous undertones, shown by the lyrics:
The future is but a question mark
Hangs above my head, there in the dark
Can’t see for the brightness is staring me blind
God bid yesterday good-bye
I love subverting typical notions of good and evil, light and dark. So the title “Bring on the Night” reflects the backward nature of vampires. For them, night is welcome rather than frightening—it’s when they feel at home. In BRING ON THE NIGHT the novel, everything changes and Ciara’s life will never be the same. But Ciara’s not one to mourn the past. “Bring it on!” she says to this strange new future.
“Let It Bleed” the novella (Book 3.5, I call it) it is an essential part of the WVMP RADIO series. You can download it in all major ebook formats on my website including PDF, which can be printed out.
I remember as a pre-teen being scandalized by the decadent lyrics to “Let It Bleed” by the Rolling Stones. There’s a reason it didn’t get a lot of radio play! But at its heart it’s a song about friendship and having someone you can count on at your lowest moments. Some of Ciara’s most reliable relationships are tested in this novella.
“Let It Bleed” is all about blood in several ways: obviously the vampires need blood to survive. But Ciara also meets several cousins, who happen to be criminals like her parents (and like she used to be). She has to decide where her loyalty lies: with her blood relatives or with her family-of-choice at WVMP.
I always knew the final book would be named after the Iggy Pop song “Lust for Life”. Its driving beat and sardonic lyrics encapsulate the tone of the entire series
Vampires obviously have a literal “lust for life,” since they need human blood to survive. Though they have the option of consuming blood-bank blood, most prefer it fresh from the vein of a willing donor, and not just because it has higher nutritional value. They crave it because it’s closest they can come to the one thing they’ll never have again: life.
I can’t even hint at how “Lust for Life” describes the last stage of Ciara’s journey, for fear of spoiling the ending. But I hope that those of you who’ve been along for the whole ride will enjoy her wildest adventure yet.
If you’re new to the series or have started it but haven’t finished, I’m giving away a signed, personalized copy of any book in the WVMP RADIO series (winner’s choice) to one commenter who answers any of the following questions, using the songs on one of the WVMP playlists as their answer:
- If your life story was a book or movie, which song would be its title?
- Which band would you most love to have perform at your next birthday party?
- (For current WVMP readers) Which playlist is your favorite and why?
- (For future WVMP readers) Which playlist intrigues you most about the books and why?
Remember, you only have to answer one question (though feel free to answer more for fun), and your answer must come from one of the playlists on the WVMP music page. This contest is open to international readers, and will run from today (Nov 26th) through midnight pacific on Sunday, Dec 2nd.
As they say in the radio business, thanks for listening!
Jeri loves to hear from readers—follow her on Twitter or Facebook, or visit her website, where she has tons of extras, including WVMP short stories, music, merchandise, and more! She is sad that the series concludes November 27 with LUST FOR LIFE, but thrilled that readers can finally share in Ciara and Shane’s happy ending.