The Musical Connection
I consider OneRepublic’s Counting Stars the theme song to my novel Gratification. Though written before Counting Stars hit the airwaves, it captures the soul of the book, almost as if I called OneRepublic and asked them to write it. (I didn’t, and they didn’t, but hmmm…what an idea). As a music lover, I frequently hear songs that remind me of my work in some way. Conversely, I can be writing along, deep inside a character’s head, and find myself humming some tune said character likes and/or identifies with.
When I listen to Counting Stars’ lyrics about feeling so right doing the wrong thing, I think of Gratification’s Rod Skinner, a man completely caught up in his own desires and living them out with gusto. Other lyrics in the song capture the flavor of my book as well. Taking money and watching it burn, and no longer counting dollars, but counting stars, remind me of Gratification’s focus on money; the way people use and abuse it, and the things some people will do to get it. The song’s fast, upbeat tempo is also a good match for Gratification’s fast pace and ambitious characters. When I hear this song, I see various scenes from my book fly by like a novel-driven music video.
Proving they have a real knack for synchronizing their music to my books, OneRepublic also provided me with my theme song for my next book, Gossip. Their song, Secrets is a perfect complement to a book about tabloid publisher Nicholas Beck, who suddenly finds himself the subject of rumors and innuendo, as his personal tragedy is put on display for the world’s consumption. The slower tempo also mirrors the more serious tone of Gossip, which is to Gratification what The Empire Strikes Back is to Star Wars.
While Counting Stars was an after-the-fact theme song, Carolina Liar’s Show Me What I’m Looking For was a during-the-creation inspiration for my third, (still in progress), novel Redemption, the final installment of the Desire Never Dies trilogy. This song’s aching, desperate lyrics about humility and the search for something greater played frequently in the background of my thoughts as I wrote Redemption. I hear them still, as I work on the revisions. In Redemption, much as in Show Me What I’m Looking For, we have characters whom are lost, but not without hope. There are lessons to be learned here about the true strength of humbling one’s self and the courage it takes to admit your mistakes. Redemption’s theme was unmistakably influenced by this song.
Music influences my writing in other ways also. I know, for example, that Preston’s character in Gratification would hear the song If You’re Gone by Matchbox Twenty and think of his lost love, Maggie. While that fact never worked itself conveniently into the novel, I could picture him as I wrote, sitting alone in his apartment, listening to that song and missing Maggie.
Occasionally, the music floating around my brain will make it onto the page, and sometimes, my characters are as aware of the music as I am. Rod liked using music as a tool to keep his female conquests a little off-balance. We see this when he takes Taralynn to the punk rock bar called The Dungeon. In his personal life, however, as shown in Gossip, Rod prefers 80s pop music. His musical tastes make a statement about his character, as well as providing a slight edge of humor to a darker-toned story.
It’s not only what music a character likes, but also what they pretend to like, that reveals something about them. Patrice McKenzie, for example, loves attending the opera and the symphony. Not, however, because she has any real appreciation for the music. With Patrice, it’s all about appearances. In this way, Patrice exemplifies Gratification’s theme of deceiving appearances.
Andy and Taralynn Clarke have no appreciation for music whatsoever. And that tells me as much about their characters as Preston’s fondness for sad love songs tells me about him. With Andy and Taralynn, there’s no room in their hearts for a love of music, because they’re already consumed by their love of money. Cue, Counting Stars. As I said, I consider it Gratification’s theme song.