Every author writes differently. Whereas some people need total peace and quiet, I do write better, I think, when I’m listening to music. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve created unofficial soundtrack albums of most of the novels I’ve written (The Young City being a notable exception). The music puts me in a proper frame of mind, evoking the atmosphere I’m trying to capture within the story, reminding me of particular beats in the plot, and where I ultimately want things to go.
Finding the soundtrack can take time, however, and is often dependent on pure luck. My friend Cameron Dixon just happened to point me in the direction of Zoe Keating during the early days of my writing Icarus Down, and her music just clicked — the mournful cello pushed in unusual directions suggested a sad and somewhat alien landscape, a tragic backstory, but a determined character pushing their way forward through the plot. With Fathom Five and The Dream King’s Daughter, the Quebec singer and cellist Jorane pointed me the way, creating dream-like (and, in Fathom Five’s case, aquatic) spaces for my story to develop. Tori Amos helped bring some of The Dream King’s Daughter back to Earth.
It took me a while to piece together the soundtrack to The Sun Runners as well, but my friend Andrew Flint pushed me in this direction by recommending the French alternative musician Woodkid. Unlike my previous bouts with the cello, The Sun Runners, with its setting on the planet Mercury, its aging royalty, the somewhat steampunk vibe, seemed to demand more drum and trumpet. Lana Del Rey and MSMR provided etherial yet dynamic vocals, suggesting vast but dark spaces.
The video above is Woodkid’s “Run, Boy, Run”. The instrumental version captures the feel of what I’m hoping to achieve with The Sun Runners, but the vocal version is cool too, as is this video.
There are some drawbacks to putting together unofficial soundtrack albums that you listen to over and over again. I might be able to keep listening to these songs and not get bored, but that certainly does not guarantee that anybody who listens with me (like, say, in the car) doesn’t want to tear my iPhone off of its cord and toss it out the window. The cello of Icarus Down and The Dream King’s Daughter is easier for others to listen to, I find. The heavy drumbeats and blaring trumpets of The Sun Runners are considerably less so.
So, I apologize to my family. And I’m listening to the music mostly in the car, when I drive alone.