Part 2: iTunes and the pen



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Publisher Philip Morledge, has the same sort of fear of the quiet as I do. Morledge says, “I find silence terribly loud when trying to write so [I] will always have something on in the background.” He uses music as a motivational technique. “I also find music very inspirational when casting about the ether for ideas so the music has to be in some way related to what I am working on,” he says. However, he also admits that it can lead to problems sometimes “I end up thinking about different ideas than the one before me, which is never a good way to work.”

Gordon Highland, whose debut Major Inversions, is now available, says his background as a musician can be a problem for him, “music always exists in the foreground for me, and I have difficulty relegating it to the subconscious.” It would have to be instrumental, he believes, and more often than not, new to him. “It cannot be overly familiar, either, and I have to constantly feed on new material after just a few listens once I start picking up on the patterns and charting chord progressions and time signatures instead of auditioning the perfect verb,” he explains. Highland normally goes for something more abstract, like the post-rock genre, “stuff like Sigur Ros and God is an Astronaut.” Further, he uses music “where the rhythm isn't so clearly defined, like string music or film scores. Sunshine, Mysterious Skin, and I Heart Huckabees are excellent.”

But, not everyone requires their music to be completely instrumental. Richard Thomas wrote his novel Disintegration to the album In Rainbows by Radiohead, and for a vampire short, Transmogrify, he used a song by The Cure as the starting point. Still, though, he uses instrumental music for the most part, saying, “I have a hard time with words, usually moody music, with no words, or music I know so well that I don't even hear words anymore.”

The need for music so familiar it’s like second nature goes as well for Stephen Graham Jones, author of Ledfeather. He needs the “standbyes, they're the singers and albums and bands and songs I know so inside-out that I don't have to listen to them anymore, really, so that they can just keep the top surface of my brain distracted,” he explains. For Jones, that entails the “Footloose soundtrack, old Prince, Bonnie Tyler, Danzig, Kid Rock, select Ween, anything Steel Panther would make fun of, especially Quiet Riot and Guns N' Roses, Whitesnake and Def Leppard.”

Award-winning poet Shaindel Beers has experienced lots of praise for her debut collection, A Brief History of Time, and she says that her writing is very influenced by music. “A lot of my work deals with rural interests and social class, so I think it's probably a chicken and the egg sort of question as far as if the music is bleeding into my work. I think I probably choose that music and write the work I do because it's who I am.” Her poem, “Rewind”, won the 2007 Dylan Days Poetry Competition, for a poem inspired by the spirit of Bob Dylan’s work, but, ironically, she says, “I think that Lucinda Williams' song "World Without Tears" inspired it in a way. Her song is about if we lived in a world without something, and my poem is about if we could rewind bad things that happen.” Beers also listens to a lot of Americana and alt-country, including Neko Case, Lucinda Williams, The Jayhawks, and Emmylou Harris, as well as band’s like The Heartless Bastards, The White Stripes, and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Gavin Pate is the kind of writer who needs, he says “music on, absolutely and totally always, if I'm writing (or really, doing anything). It's the only way to keep the voices from taking over.” Of Radiohead, he says "they can push me through a whole bunch of pages. “ The same goes for Sigor Ros. He has a special place for bands from Birmingham, Alabama. “Kids I either grew up with or got to know over the years, like Verbena, AA Bondy, Duquette Johnson, Stateside, Through the Sparks, Wiseblood," he continues. "I think they keep me linked with the past somehow, childhood and the South, which helps the imagination stay true to its self.” But, he has his standbys too. These include groups like Rolling Stones, Pavement, Wilco, Beck, Belle and Sebastian, Stereolab, Liz Phair's Exile, Old 97s, Bright Eyes, Gorillaz, Arcade Fire, and Band of Horses. He adds, “Sometimes I can dig the local classical channel, but then all of a sudden they're playing opera, and I have to rush to turn it off.” Pates' debut novel, The Way to Get Here, was released by Bootstrap Productions.

To be continued.

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