I have really enjoyed having Alexander Gordon Smith on the blog. Gordon gives us such insight into his writing! I love this guest post and I hope you guys are as glued to every word as I was. Without further ado, here’s Alexander Gordon Smith…
Hi Jess, thanks so much for welcoming me onto your blog (I love your blog’s name!), it’s awesome to be here! :)
We were speaking about music, and about whether I had a playlist when I was writing The Fury. I definitely did, and it made me think about how important music is for my books.
I don’t often listen to music when I am actually writing. My brain just doesn’t seem able to do two things at once, and if there is anything with lyrics playing in the background then I’ll end up writing things like ‘Brick reached for the door, breathing so hard he thought he was going to cough up a lung, so frightened he’d Nothing I can do, a total eclipse of the heart and scream and scream.’
Not that I listen to Bonnie Tyler, of course… Ahem.
I’m not one of these writers that can handle distractions of any kind. Some authors I know will happily sit in Starbucks, surrounded by people, music blaring through their headphones, and still be able to focus completely on the world they are creating. Not me, I get distracted if a squirrel runs past the window.
Instead, music is part of the whole process I go through when I’m preparing to write a book. I never plan a story. I don’t like to know what’s going to happen before the characters do, aside from a few plot points, maybe. It always feels like cheating, like I’m playing god. And I think it changes the story too (and I’m strictly talking about myself here, I know many writers who plan out every detail and write incredible books). If I know what’s going to happen at the end of the book then so do my characters, and it gives them a kind of safety net (or, conversely, a ‘what’s the point, I’m going to die anyway’ attitude). I much prefer to spend time getting to know the characters, finding out every last scrap of information about them, trying to know them as if they were my best friends. Likewise, I try to put myself into the world of the story, just spending time there – in reality, if possible, but otherwise just daydreaming, one of the best parts of the job!
I listen to a lot of music during this stage of the writing process, because music is an incredible tool for firing up the imagination. I have quite a diverse taste in music, but I find film scores the most evocative things to listen to. I have hundreds of them on my iPod. They are mainly by composers such as Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Danny Elfman and John Powell – huge, dramatic, adrenaline-fuelled action pieces that act like petrol thrown onto the fire of the imagination. Listening to the music from movies like the Bourne series or The Dark Knight or Tron, it’s almost impossible not to start visualizing scenes from your books. The number of times I have stopped dead whilst walking somewhere with my headphones in, or swerved to the side of the road with the car stereo blaring, just to find my notebook. Occasionally I’ll even close my eyes when I’m at the cinema, just listening to the music and thinking about a book I’m writing. They truly are inspiring.
One of the albums I listened to repeatedly whilst planning the world of The Fury was James Newton Howard’s I Am Legend (love the book and the soundtrack, not so much the film). I had one track on a loop for hours at a time, ‘The Jagged Edge’:
It was actually this song that planted the seed for one of the most important scenes in the book, where the characters are running back to the abandoned amusement park whilst being chased by the police (I won’t say any more for fear of spoilers). Even before I started writing I could see this scene playing out in my head, just like I was watching it at the movies. The music made the book feel real, more like a memory than a piece of unwritten fiction. It made me almost desperate to sit down and start writing it.
There were a few more tracks I listened to almost religiously whilst I was immersing myself in the story. A couple were by Hans Zimmer, who seriously is a genius. ‘The Journey to the Line’, from The Thin Red Line, is an incredible piece of music, possessing an astonishing power to move you. Some of the more emotional scenes in The Fury were born with this in the background.
Music is also a brilliant tool if you’re suffering from writer’s block. There were several times when I was writing The Fury that I struggled – it was such a huge story to try to get my brain around, so different to the things I normally write. It would be like banging my head against a brick wall sometimes. On those occasions I would stop writing, jam in the headphones and go out for a long walk. Along the way, without fail, a particular track or album would suddenly free my mind, would clear the blockage. I vividly remember one of those moments being when I discovered the Tron soundtrack, by Daft Punk. It was at a point where I really didn’t know where the story was going, but listening to this suddenly twisted the tale in an unexpected direction. It gave me the Man in the Storm.
Music gave me my characters too, or at least helped build them. Musical taste is such an important part of an individual’s personality, it shapes the kind of person they are. If you know what music your characters enjoy then you’re halfway to knowing them as a person. Like I say, I always spend time getting to know my characters before I start writing – it’s the most important part of the process, I think, because if you know the people in your story better than you know your best friends then they write the book for you, they drive the narrative forwards. I spent days listening to the kinds of music Cal, Brick and Daisy liked, trying to get inside their heads and hearts, trying work out who these guys were. And somewhere in the (not always enjoyable) mix of dubstep, cheesy pop and punk rock (I’m not telling you which was which!) I found them.
This is one of Brick’s favourite songs:
And one of my favourites too, incidentally.
So yes, music is so important when I am writing. In fact, I don’t think there would even be a Fury without it!
Thanks again so much for letting me visit your blog!
Thank you, Gordon! I’m actually the same way when it comes to writing reviews and such, I have to have silence or my mind can’t focus, so I totally understand where you’re coming from. I love movies scores and I get how they would help when writing or brainstorming. Also, I am really loving Daft Punk these days, so I was totally stoked to see it included. :D
How about you guys? Did you enjoy Gordon’s post? How do you feel about music and writing?
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Here’s some details on The Fury
From the creator of the Escape from Furnace series, a ferocious epic of supernatural terror, perfect for Stephen King fans
Imagine if one day, without warning, the entire human race turns against you, if every person you know, every person you meet becomes a bloodthirsty, mindless savage . . . That’s the horrifying reality for Cal, Brick, and Daisy. Friends, family, even moms and dads, are out to get them. Their world has the Fury. It will not rest until they are dead.
In Alexander Gordon Smith’s adrenaline-fueled saga, Cal and the others must uncover the truth about what is happening before it destroys them all. But survival comes at a cost. In their search for answers, what they discover will launch them into battle with an enemy of unimaginable power.
Purchase The Fury
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Check out the rest of the tour!
My Shelf Confessions
Gone With the Words
My Bookish Ways
Jenna Does Books
Tales of a Ravenous Reader
Into the Hall of Books