Friday, June 13, 2014

The Music Behind the Stories

The wonderful Kate Laity posted something yesterday-- a list on Youtube of songs that had inspired stories from her. I thought that was a terrific idea and immediately decided to steal it.

I don't actually listen to music while writing. I find it distracting, because I tend to want to concentrate on the music, listen to it. It's an activity in and of itself to me. But music still plays an enormous role in my creative life, and there's always a soundtrack playing in my head that fits the story perfectly.

Here are some songs that played roles in various novels and stories of mine.

"Red Right Hand", by Nick Cave. I supposed this one is pretty obvious, if you've read my novel THE BASTARD HAND.

"You don't have no money? He'll get you some
You don't have no car? He'll get you one
You don't have no self-respect, you feel like an insect,
Well, don't you worry buddy, here he comes
He's a god, he's a man, he's a ghost, he's a guru
You're one microscopic cog in his catastrophic plan
Designed and directed by his Red Right Hand."

In fact, the working title of TBH was RED RIGHT HAND. So there you go.

A lot of other music in my head went into that one, as well, a lot of old gospel, some RL Burnside, some Junior Kimbrough.

My short story collection, DIG TEN GRAVES, has a more diverse mental soundtrack, of course, but a lot of the head-music that went into it was more... discordant and disturbing. A lot of Velvet Underground. A lot of Thin White Rope (I've said before that, more than any other band, Thin White Rope captures what the inside of my head sounds like. Two in particular were the Velvet's "Sister Ray" and TWR's "Astronomy".

CITY OF HERETICS? Tom Waits. Especially his release "Alice". That album really captured the seedy, sad desperation I was trying for with my second novel.

And Hawthorne... well, again, Thin White Rope had a big influence. The creepy, discordant lyricism of songs like "Lithium" and "Sack Full of Silver" felt like Hawthorne's world to me. But the primary song that suited Hawthorne, to me, came from the unlikely source of The Pixies. The song "Silver" could be Hawthorne's theme, really, if a film was ever made about him.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Double Date

Frank and Earle were best friends, and one night Earl called Frank up late and said, "Frank, I need your help, bro. There's this girl I've been trying to get to go out with me for weeks, and she finally said yes. But the thing is, she'll only do a double date, with her best friend. Can you help me out?"

Frank said, "No way, man. You want me to be this other girl's date? I don't think so."

"Don't be a dick. Come on. Please? I'll owe you a big one."

So Frank relented. He showered and dressed and met Earle downtown in front of a fancy restaurant. A few minutes later, the girls, Emily and Sophie, showed up.

Both of them were stunning, and Frank's irritation about the situation quickly vanished.

Inside, they ordered the most expensive stuff on the menu. Earle was his usual charming self, but Frank was awkward and shy, which was his usual condition. His "date" was Sophie, and it was painfully apparent she had zero interest in him. She was, however, very attentive to Earle, just as Earle's date Emily was.

Halfway through dinner, while Frank fumbled with the conversational ball, Sophie interrupted him, saying, "You know what? Emily? Let's switch men."

Emily said, "What?"

Sophie said, "This one,"-- gesturing to Frank, "isn't working for me. He's boring as fuck. And not very good-looking. Why should you have the good one?"

"No way," Emily said. "I'm not switching. Why would I do that?"

"Because. You owe me."

Whatever it was Emily owed Sophie, it was obviously big enough to have an impact, because Emily frowned angrily and snapped, "Fine." The two women stood up and traded seats. Sophie gazed adoringly at Earle, who seemed completely okay with this new development. Emily glared at Frank.

Later that night, when Earle and Frank walked the girls to the entrance of their apartment building, Sophie said, "Why don't you come up for a night cap, Earle? I'm sure Emily doesn't mind. Do you, Emily?"

Emily said, "Nope. Not at all."

So without even a glance at Frank, the three of them headed inside and let the door close right in Frank's face.

The next day, Earle called Frank on the phone. "Dude," he said. "That was the best date ever."

Frank said, "Yeah. It was fucking great, man. Time of my fucking life. Drop dead."