Bow Wow

I am a dog.

Which is not to say I think I’m ugly; no, I am a specific kind of dog, namely Pavlov’s. Let me explain.

In addition to being a book freak, I’ve also always been a music geek. My dad stuck a radio playing jazz under my crib the first night home from the hospital, and I’ve been hooked on music ever since.

In high school, I was a new waver, sporting a bleached-blonde streak in my hair, buying pricey British imports, and wearing ripped tights. In college, I went downtown to see bands that played at 3 in the morning, then took the subway home. I dyed my hair purple, wore multiple earrings, and spent all my money on records.

After college, I got a job in the music industry. I spent 15 years writing about up-and-coming bands and being the first to know about any new musical trend. After I got laid off from my last job, however, I slacked on my music knowledge. I was burned out.

Now, however, my previous passion has reared its head with a vengeance, and I am compiling playlists to listen to while writing. Now just hearing any of the songs on my respective books’ lists is enough to make me think about the book, which explains the Pavlov’s dog thing.

Lately I’ve been loving Duffy, Adele, Estelle, Santagold, Amos Lee and Kid Sister. I did the playlist for On Bold Adventure/Road To Desire (title yet TBD, as you can see) in about five minutes, and each song echoes one or the other of the hero and heroine’s emotional or physical state. I’ve listed it here:

Little Boy Soldiers The Jam
Wasteland The Jam
Chasing Pavements Adele
Burning Sky The Jam
Back In Black AC/DC
The Real Me The Who
The Eton Rifles The Jam
Wax And Wane Cocteau Twins
Thunder Kiss ’65 White Zombie
I Can’t Quit You Baby Led Zeppelin
The Punk And The Godfather The Who
Ivo Cocteau Twins
Drive Blind Ride
You My Lunar Queen Cousteau
Ladykillers Lush
She Don’t Hear Your Prayer Cousteau
Wayfaring Stranger Jack White
Rag & Bone The White Stripes
You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told) The White Stripes

Do you make playlists for writing? What is your favorite artist or song right now? Does music inspire you? Who’s the most emotional musical artist you can think of?


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kalen Hughes
14 years ago

I too had a purple hair phaze, c. 1986 (it was also a mohawk). Spent a lot of time listening to Black Flag, Flipper, Harsh Reality, X, etc.

Right now I’m pretty high on She Wants Revenge (Bahaus meets Joy Division, esp their first album), Panic and the Disco, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, and Seether (very hard edge group out of South Africa).

Cara King
14 years ago

So far, I haven’t so much linked specific songs with specific books. There are certain songs or pieces, though, that I tend to listen to when writing, because they energize me…

My selections aren’t nearly as cool as yours, Megan — but I don’t care, because I’m a geek and proud of it!

The first I ever used was the soundtrack to Star Trek The Motion Picture. Then uptempo Genesis & Phil Collins music. And then I really liked “You Better Be Good to Me” by Tina Turner. Madness can work, too, and The Bangles, and one particular Nelly Furtado song… 🙂


Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

With the manuscript before the WIP, I made a mix CD that I played constantly. It was about 1/3 folk songs from the period that fit the mood of the story, stuff like “The Girl I Left Behind Me” and “The Trooper and the Maid.” The rest was anything and everything that made me think of my characters. I had a little bit of Broadway–“Tonight, Tonight” from West Side Story and “On My Own” from Les Miz. Quite a bit of Bruce Cockburn–“Lovers in a Dangerous Time” as a sort of overall theme for the book, “Strange Waters” for the section where I nearly kill both protagonists, “All the Diamonds in the World” as one of the songs for the HEA. Oh, and Bryan Adams’ “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman” because I’m a great big sappy sap, and because the style fit my Spanish setting. There were others, but I can’t remember them offhand.

I need to do a mix for the WIP, but right now my iTunes account is pegged to the computer in the basement that has trouble accessing our home network, so I’m holding off till later this summer when I’m getting a new laptop. (At which point we’ll have, um, four computers in a household of three people, one of whom is still in preschool.) Not sure what all I’m going to include yet. Probably a bit of Gladiator and Lord of the Rings for that sweeping war epic feel. Definitely some more period folk music, especially Scottish pieces, as Scotland plays a big role in the story. Maybe some chamber music for strings, as I’m thinking of making my main protagonist an occasional violinist, as soon as I figure out where a wanted fugitive is going to find a spare violin lying around!

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

I haven’t really worked on a playlist for Veiled Beauty, but I might. Right now, my favorite song is Satisfy My Soul by Paul Carrack. I listen to it at least 2 or 3 times a day. I love Duffy, Adele, Amy Winehouse (even though she’s a mess) and my favorite album last year was Shifting Sands by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

In high school, I was the first person to listen to Depeche Mode (after hearing them in London) but my tastes have always been pretty middle of the road, although I’m going through a big 60’s Soul thing right now.

Kalen Hughes
14 years ago

Amy Winehouse (even though she’s a mess)

I must be the only person in the world who thinks that girl CAN’T SING. She’s all nasal (and flat!). It’s like nails on a chalkboard.

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

Uh. Verdi, Mozart, Count Basie, anyone?

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I’m with you, Janet!
I also like Gershwin songs and music from the Regency period.
I had a brief period of being cool about music in high school and college and since then I’ve just been looking even farther back.

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

I had a brief period of being cool about music in high school and college and since then I’ve just been looking even farther back.

I’ve never been that cool about music, but I’ve almost completely lost touch with anything current in pop culture since my daughter was born. Some of that’s deliberate. If I watched any TV after my daughter goes to sleep beyond Stewart and Colbert, I’d never have time to write. But mostly it just kind of happened. We don’t have local family to babysit, and until recently we were on a super-tight budget, so movies, concerts, and the like just haven’t been happening since 2004.

With music, though, if I had to limit myself to just a genre or two, I’d pick Scottish and Irish trad and Appalachian roots music.

Megan Frampton
14 years ago


You West Coast people listened a lot more to Black Flag and Flipper than us East Coasters. And I like all those bands you’re listening to now, except for SWR, which I don’t know.


I think your selections are cool because you’ve thought about them.


I respect your using period music, I just haven’t gotten a special zing out of listening to that stuff yet.


Like Kalen, I just don’t get Amy Winehouse. But she is a trainwreck, that’s for sure. I love Kate Nash, too, have you heard her? I think I sent you her YouTube thing awhile back.

Janet and Diane:

I like Count Basie and Gershwin (Someone To Watch Over Me might be my favorite song), just not for a writing playlist.

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

I respect your using period music, I just haven’t gotten a special zing out of listening to that stuff yet.

I think it works for me because I was already a fan of Celtic folk and roots music before I started writing. The more formal music of the era, the kind of thing my aristocratic characters would’ve listened to in drawing rooms as opposed to what my soldiers would’ve sung around campfires, doesn’t move me the same way, so I don’t listen to it as much even when it fits.

Kalen Hughes
14 years ago

Yea, we had our locals and you had yours . . . my NY friends have a whole different list of acts that they listened to when we were all in our teens.

I’ll have my iPod with me at Nationals. Come find me and I’ll introduce you to She Wants Revenge. V.G. as Bridget Jones would say.

Kalen Hughes
14 years ago

Ooooooo, forgot to mention The Tossers. Great Irish American band out of Chicago. They preform my sister’s “theme song”: Siobhan (and they do a great version of Young Ned of the Hill).

Siobhan is on the whiskey, Siobhan is on the gin,
Siobhan is drinking Red Bull and Vodka and won’t be home again.
I stay up late here every night, although it is no sin,
Siobhan is on the whiskey and she won’t be home again.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

I grew up listening to big bad music, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Ray Charles, and Artie Shaw. I even liked listening to the Andrews Sisters. And then in school, we always did a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta so I got into that too. Not to mention all the italian arias I had to sing in music class.

14 years ago

I’m in awe of people who can listen and write at the same time. If there’s music on I can’t form a sentence. Perhaps it’s brain damage from my seriously nasty punk rock days. I heartily disliked Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, and most of the L.A. scene except for X and Killing Joke. My faves were Stiff Little Fingers, Sisters of Mercy,The Damned, and a SF Bay Area band called The Toiling Midgets. Man, that was a REALLY long time ago.

I’m still grieving over the loss of our Hippy Dippy Weatherman. My husband gets mistaken for Carlin constantly. Now people will scream, “Carlin’s ghost!”

Current popular music I like is The Raconteurs (Jack White’s new project)and My Morning Jacket. And I heard an incredible piano piece by contemporary composer Ludovico Einaudi this morning on the classical station. Wow.

Kalen, my teen son loves Franz Ferdinand too. It’s good stuff and their graphics are excellent.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

I’m another one who’s never been very cool. I had a pretty sheltered childhood, then fell in with Deadheads in college (though I like the music I lack the true fanaticism). Now I’m mostly into classical though I’d love to drink some wine with Megan and listen to her collections.

I’m kind of like Jane in that I can’t write and listen to vocal music. It’s hard enough to come up with my own words without someone else’s playing in the background! But I usually have instrumental (usually classical) music playing in the background. It helps screen out background noises and set the mood. Right now I’m using some Debussy and Ravel (Le Tombeau de Couperin is one of my favorites) and piano and violin music by a somewhat obscure English composer, Herbert Howells. How’s that for geeky?

I’m also getting into more traditional folk and celtic music. My kid who plays the violin (classical up to now) has just joined a fiddle group. The music is so infectious! Those who don’t fiddle are welcome to join in on pennywhistles so I’m going to buy a few for the rest of us.

And Susan, where did you get the period folk songs? I would love to explore that more, especially songs with military connotations.

Louisa Cornell
14 years ago

THANK GOD, you said it Kalen! With all due respect to anyone who likes her singing, Amy Winehouse makes this classical trained singer run screaming from the room.

And put me in the ultra geek squad or even better in the same company as Janet and O Divine One!

The family story is that my Nana Bolton played Maria Callas records as my lullabies – this the early and undying love of opera. And her entire family belonged to the Welsh Congregational Church in Wilkes-Barre, PA. I have no memory of it, but apparently I heard many Sunday services in which the singing was done entirely in Welsh.

The older of my two younger brothers and I share a love of Celtic music. Jim is also a big fan of the Tossers.

For me when I write it is Mozart, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Beethoven, Grieg, Chopin, Wagner, Strauss, etc.

My current WIP The Raven’s Heart was started with Mozart’s Requiem playing in the background.

I do have a number of CDs of English folk music of the Regency period. I also love the music of John Dowland. Lovely, lovely stuff.

Soundtracks include Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility and actually Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (the music was quite good!) Soundtrack to all of the Lord of the Rings films.

I am afraid the only current music I might use are CD’s by Il Divo, Josh Groban, and a zydeco album – Adieu False Heart by Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy – achingly beautiful and romantic. You can almost see the Spanish moss hung in the trees like an abandoned woman’s hair. Magnifique!

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

And Susan, where did you get the period folk songs? I would love to explore that more, especially songs with military connotations.

I stumbled across this website, which has an extensive list of songs and lyrics, along with tinny-sounding MIDIs of the tunes. Then I looked for ones I liked or that fit my story on iTunes so I could get a version actually played and/or sung by humans.

14 years ago

Coming in with a late addition for lovers of Celtic music.

These guys are awesome:


14 years ago

My hair has always been approximately the same color, sorry, which my reflect my lifelong lack of cool. And my musical tastes are pretty eclectic. I used (in my 20s) to listen mostly to classical music, but now I listen mostly to popular music. Not sure why the change.

I discovered a long time ago that instrumental music worked better for me while reading or writing: when there are lyrics, I tend to get distracted listening to the singer’s words rather than the ones I should be paying attention to. But rock or jazz work well for doing math or programming computers.

I listen to lots of different groups and singers, but my favorites among recent performers (as opposed to those I’ve listened to since I was in my teens) are mostly female vocalists–not sure why.


Elena Greene
14 years ago

I stumbled across this website, which has an extensive list of songs and lyrics, along with tinny-sounding MIDIs of the tunes. Then I looked for ones I liked or that fit my story on iTunes so I could get a version actually played and/or sung by humans.

Thanks, Susan! I’ve visited that folk music website before but didn’t know iTunes had such things. Wow, a whole new way to procrastinate and call it research! 🙂

Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x