Like many writers, I often find my books accruing playlists. As I go through the process of writing a story, I pick up songs that capture a particular character or a particular moment. I might not listen to them while I’m writing, but I’ll often put a set of songs on repeat while I’m mentally nailing down a scene. It’s a way of getting my brain into the right zone. By the end of the process, one song usually surfaces as the emotional keystone for the book, something that captures the heroine’s journey.
I have a thing for songs in minor key, probably for the same reason I have a thing for dark books. Give me a story with a slew of difficult choices on the way to a hard-fought happy ending, and I’ll be happy for hours. Give me bunch of minor key love songs full of longing, and I’ll be happy for hours more. No surprise, I guess, that I find myself listening to one while I’m writing the other.
When I started writing Dangerous Calling, the second book in my dark urban fantasy series The Shadowminds, I knew I was going to be listening to Myshkin. She’s a folk singer who was based in New Orleans for a long time, and she has a way of capturing the underside of the city. Actually, she has a way of capturing the underside of everything, and like any good folk singer, she does it with the sincere empathy of a true storyteller.
I first heard Myshkin play in a dive bar in Baton Rouge. It was one of those live music experiences you remember for the rest of your life. The tiny place was packed, and even though the crowd didn’t amount to much in numbers, we made up for it in enthusiasm. The music felt alive. I came away with a copy of the album she was promoting—Blue Gold. It’s still one of my favorites.
One of the songs on that CD, Sweet Coffee, turned out to be the keystone song for Dangerous Calling. You can listen to it here if you’re in the mood for something “elegantly skewed” (as Time Out UK calls Myshkin’s music). It’s a song about being a musician, about being complicated and conflicted and full of equal parts hope and fear. As I took my heroine Cass through a journey full of grief and struggle and redemption, I listened to Sweet Coffee on repeat for hours. Something about it captured her state of mind for me in a way I couldn’t quite articulate.
I think this is what good songs do, just like good stories. They capture something complicated that we don’t quite have the language for. It’s the same reason listening to Sarah McLachlan’s Surfacing brings me right back to my sophomore year of college, angst, heartbreak and all. What songs speak to you?
More about Dangerous Calling:
After years of denial, Cass Weatherfield has finally accepted her telekinetic gifts. Living with her boyfriend, Shane, has given her the confidence to be herself, but the fear of losing control and harming those around her is always present.
Knowing firsthand the hell of growing up without a mentor, she agrees to meet and help Diana, a young Shadowmind. But when Cass shows up, the terrified woman changes her mind and flees. Cass and Shane track her across New Orleans, and soon discover that Diana is being held against her will by an illicit organization that’s selling her rare clairvoyant skills to the highest bidder. In charge is an ancient creature more powerful than any they’ve ever encountered. And apparently she wants Shane dead.
Cass and Shane work to free Diana. But as Cass uses more and more power, drawing it from her friends in the fight against evil, she feels an addictive pull that challenges her control. And, in the end, Cass may be the greatest threat to those she loves the most.
Read the first chapter here.
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See where the series started! Find out more about Twisted Miracles (The Shadowminds, Book 1) here.
About A.J. Larrieu:
A.J. Larrieu was born and raised in small-town Louisiana, and yes, she did have an alligator in her back yard growing up. It was a small one. She spent most of her summers knee deep in the mud exploring the swamps or nose-deep in a book exploring other worlds, so it’s no surprise she grew up to write paranormal romance and urban fantasy set in the South. These days, she lives in San Francisco with her husband and son, and even though she’s been in the Bay Area for over a decade, she still misses those pounding Gulf Coast thunderstorms. Find out more about A.J. on her website, follow her on twitter, or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.