Craft: Research

Music & Writing

I’ve always used music to get me in the mood for writing. I plug in my ear buds and push everything out of my mind — except the scene in my head. Scenes with crater deep emotions, I tend to favor the romantics: Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, & Rachmaninoff. If you’re writing a historical novel, music can tell you how people felt about their rulers (Beethoven’s third symphony), or maybe even how a culture perceived death (Schubert’s “Death & the Maiden”). I use music not just as a mood enhancer, but also as a research tool. Listening to pop music of the 1920-1930s, tells you what was important and what wasn’t all infused in cultural slang. There are lots of places to get 1920s-1940s music. Flea markets. Record shops (78s are harder to come by though, since they’re so fragile). You can buy cds at your local music store or online. If you have an internet connection, a world of music is open to you. Youtube. Itunes. Rhapsody. Internet radio. Websites. When I first started writing Papa’s Bones, I bought a lot of cds. I listened to a lot of internet radio and visited a few websites, until I settled on & Red Hot Jazz Archive. has lots of stations you can choose from. I ended up going with Radio Dismuke, not only do you get original music, but you also get original radio commercials which is pretty cool! Red Hot Jazz Archive is another website that has jazz records from the early 1920s to the 1930s. You have to download RealPlayer to listen to the files, but the download is worth it.

I do listen to contemporary artists to get me in the writing mood too. Right now, I’m focusing on a scene where my heroine is confronting her dying villain. It involves a lot of tension and a bit of sadness. I always find artists like Christina Perri and Sarah McLaughlin a good fit for these types of scenes. Their haunting voices are always infused with a touches of melancholy.

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