Music and My Writing Process

A question I’m frequently asked by interviewers is whether or not I listen to music when I write. My answer is always, “No, I don’t.” The reason is that when I listen to music, I’m drawn into it completely; I’m incapable of listening to music as background noise. I find that inattention disrespectful to the artist. Also, if I have music playing while I’m writing, the lyrics and melody continually distract my attention out of the story I’m trying to craft. Therefore, I prefer silence or the white noise produced by a little machine I use, called a Sleep Mate (J.C. Penney’s catalog), that drowns out all the noises laying siege to my fragile focus. I’ve often confessed that writing is always work for me, and I can be easily convinced to pursue other interests; therefore, for me to be productive, I have to guard against all temptations.

This does not mean, however, that music plays no role in my writing process. I’m constantly inspired by the music to which I listen. I sometimes listen to music as part of my prewriting that is reflective of and helps me to set the mood in my own headspace that I hope to create in the portion of the story on which I’m working. Songs that I hear when driving or running also inspire ideas pertaining to plot, characters, and especially themes, when my mind is nowhere near my writing,

I also tend to prefer singer/songwriters who write with a narrative bent rather than those that focus strictly on emotional expression – artists such as, Bruce Springsteen, Better Than Ezra, The Counting Crows, and Ray LaMontaigne and genres such as country, Celtic folk music, and Broadway musicals. Many of the songs by these artists and in these genres are a sort of mini-novel. One of my all-time favorite singers/songwriters/storytellers is Dan May, whose current album Dying Breed is on heavy rotation on my MP3 player. (

With technology advances such as the Apple iPad, there’s little question that the future of e-books is limitless. E-book readers will demand more than black words on a field of white or gray. They will want  allusions in the texts they read to be hyperlinked to web pages that explain and expound on those allusions, especially any mentions made to songs/artists, whose music could then be immediately played as an enhancement to the narrative and purchased if desired.

I’ve often said that my goal is to write a novel that catches and maintains the vibe of a great pop song or, even better, an entire pop album. I think that young adult literature is especially conducive to making this link between literature and music because music is so central and speaks so loudly to teenagers and their larger-than-life emotions and dreams. The blending of literature and music is a natural fusion that I will continue to explore and attempt to implement in my writing because in the final analysis, I’d rather be a rock star.

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