Music Inspiring Writing: Selah Janel
by Emerian Rich
Welcome to my blog series all about how ♫ Music Inspires Writing ♫
Today my guest is Selah Janel a writer and music lover.
If Music be the Food of Love, Play On
By Selah Janel
“If music be the food of love, play on,” says the bard, but I think sometimes we forget how much music influences our daily lives, and our personal art. As a writer, it cocoons my workspace, puts me in that ‘ready to enter my inner universe’ mode, gets me comfortable feeling the emotions I need to feel to write whatever I’m working on. It validates, encourages, in a uniquely personal way that not much else can.
My personal tastes are all over the map. Growing up, I studied classical voice, and I still like to listen to Benjamin Britten, Purcell, Samuel Barber, Mozart, and on and on from time to time. I love musical theatre and did my time in that world, too, so soundtracks aren’t out of the question. I’m a die-hard classic rock fan, so that’s always going to happen. Still, writing music doesn’t necessarily pull directly from those catalogues. It’s obviously music I write, but I want things that will transport my mind to where it needs to go.
I love instrumental albums. David Lanz, Brian Eno, David Garrett, David Bowie’s instrumental work – I’ve had them all on repeat at different times, because they let my thoughts take the foreground while keeping my emotions on a steady simmer. I love moody artists like Delerium, Tina Malia’s Shores of Avalon, and Emily Autumn for similar reasons. If I need to just sit down and go, I’ll tap one of those, or sometimes pull up artists I’m super familiar with, like Led Zeppelin or Bowie’s massive catalogue, because it’s like having a friend sitting with me, egging me on, but not distracting me. I’ll edit to things like this or to big band, stuff that’s more background and not likely to have me falling too into the story or wanting to rehash things unless they objectively need it.
I don’t know how other people work, but I also have albums and artists that I don’t necessarily write to, but I character build or zone out to. G Tom Mac is my go to example – I love the emotions and textures in his music, and the narratives are open enough that I can apply them to a lot of my manuscripts and characters. If I’m having a problem with a sequence, I’ll play certain songs that remind me of those characters on repeat and let my mind go. Sixx: AM is another great group for this. I may not write with them playing, but their three albums give me loads of ammunition for my characters to work out their issues.
Sometimes it depends on the book. For an urban fantasy rock themed book, I wrote mainly to Zeppelin, Motley Crue, and AC/DC. The name of a short story collection I co-authored, Lost in the Shadows, is from a song title. While none of my pieces were written around songs, to me and S.H. Roddey, the title embodied our philosophy for the book and for ideas and genre in general, that it’s okay to go off the beaten path and delve into a place that others may not get or view as mysterious or apprehensive. That was in definite tribute to the sheer amount of time I’ve at least spent blasting that song during study sessions in college and later during late-night show builds for different places I’ve worked. For other manuscripts, I name file titles/sequences by the song titles that either inspired them or that remind me of them. I just never know when a lyric or a bit of melody or something is going to catch fire and keep driving a scene into something more. I love that. I love having that support, that momentum, that inspiration from other artists, whether they know they’re giving it or not.
Music is a gateway for me, a spell to the lands that are in my head but not accessible in the real world. I find it fascinating that songs that may have been written with one intent can mean something entirely different when they’re in my ears, and inspire something that I make that is also totally different. That’s magical to me. It’s amazing that a few pitches and sounds and lyrics can mean so much to people as it is, but in a closed room when I’m focused on a manuscript or scratching at a notebook, it means so much more. It’s not always easy to keep working on manuscripts that feel endless, and although people mean well and try to be encouraging, there’s something about writing to music that screams ‘you are not alone, you have all these others with you, just get it out.’ I don’t know if it’s some semblance of permission or just the fact that I like the insulation and don’t want to be bothered when I write, but if I’m having trouble, music is definitely a huge step in overcoming block and getting words on paper.
Selah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination since she was little and convinced that fairies lived in the nearby state park or vampires hid in the abandoned barns outside of town. The many people around her that supported her love of reading and curiosity probably made it worse. Her e-books The Other Man, Holly and Ivy, and Mooner are published through Mocha Memoirs Press. Lost in the Shadows, a collection of short stories celebrating the edges of ideas and the spaces between genres was co-written with S.H. Roddey. Her work has also been included in The MacGuffin, The Realm Beyond, Stories for Children Magazine, The Big Bad: an Anthology of Evil, The Big Bad 2, The Grotesquerie, and Thunder on the Battlefield: Sorcery. Olde School is the first book in her series, The Kingdom City Chronicles, published through Seventh Star Press. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to hold their own. Catch up with Selah at http://www.selahjanel.wordpress.com, http://www.facebook.com/authorSJ, or @SelahJanel on Twitter.
Thank you Selah for sharing your thoughts!
So what music inspires you to write? Share yours in the comments below and tune in here next time when one of my friends shares their music inspirations.