Songs About Dead People by Stephen Blackmoore
A lot of writers find their inspiration in music. Songs that speak to them, songs that help them tell their stories.
I’m no different. Like a lot of writers I put together a playlist for whatever book I’m working on. The songs help me keep the thread of the story when I’m not actively writing. The downside is that I’ll put together this list, add to it throughout the duration of the project, and that will be pretty much the only thing I listen to for months on end.
I did this when I wrote DEAD THINGS, an urban fantasy about a necromancer, Eric Carter, who’s forced to come back to Los Angeles after fifteen years to find his sister’s murderer. There’s a lot of death in the story. The guy’s a necromancer. He sees ghosts, talks to them, makes them dance. But the core of the story is about dealing with change. Fifteen years is a long time and when Carter comes back to a home he thought he’d never see again, he’s forced to deal with the fallout of his leaving.
So when I picked out songs I chose ones that spoke to me about the characters, specific story points or the themes I was working with. A lot of them deal with death, or change or making bad decisions. Themes that DEAD THINGS is about. And then I listened to them. A LOT.
- Pepper – Butthole Surfers -
Haunted – Poe
My Boy Builds Coffins – Florence + The Machine
She Cries Your Name – Beth Orton
Inertia Creeps – Massive Attack
Bones – Little Big Town
No More Room – The Scarring Party
O Death – Jen Titus
Sister – She Wants Revenge
If you read the book you might be able to pick out where my head was at by looking at this list. I think some of these could easily fit into a film if ever anybody were to make one.
Now I’m in the process of doing it again for the next book in the series, BROKEN SOULS, which continues on from the events in DEAD THINGS. The list is growing and changing. As I write the story and find there are elements or themes that I choose to expand on or discard completely, the list changes. Right now it looks like this. In a couple of months it might be longer or shorter depending on what happens.
Artificial Nocturne – Metric
Shadows & Dust – Legba & Sons
They Came In – Butthole Surfers
Blood Like Lemonade – Morcheeba
After Dark – Tito & Tarantula
The Dope Show – Marilyn Manson
Good Morning Aztlan – Los Lobos
Desperados Under The Eaves – Warren Zevon
Got Up This Morning – Sage Francis
Devil Inside – INXS
I’m still not sure what all that speaks to. Some of it’s obvious to me. Artificial Nocturne and They Came In are about the protagonist, Eric Carter. Some of these songs are about Los Angeles; Good Morning Aztlan, Desperados Under The Eaves. Some I don’t know where they fit in, like Devil Inside, or Got Up This Morning, but I know they’re in the story somewhere.
I’m still muddling through what exactly this book is about. I think it’s about dealing with unforeseen consequences, but I know there’s more to it that that. It’s the music sometimes more than the writing that helps me figure that out.