People often ask me why I became a writer and where I got my inspiration for the Legends of Ansu series. The obvious answers are: books, a warped and rampant imagination, and the stubborn determination to avoid getting another proper job. Been there – done that. A more subliminal response would be a daily consumption of M&M’s: Music and Movies. Both were key to my becoming an author. And song and screen still fuel this dizzy writer’s head with wild and woolly notions.
During my childhood my parents went through a classical music phase. It didn’t last long. The telly was banned, the birds were told to stop tweeting each other in the garden (they caught on to SM long before the rest of us, btw.) All household deliveries were postponed and the dogs were given a large cow bone and told to sit quietly in the corner. I, whilst dutifully honoring the noise curfew, usually claimed a place in the comfy chair, sipped tea, fussed the cat and watched the flames flicker orange inside the badly tiled fireplace. A therapeutic process, enabling my mind wander down dreamy roads under the heady influence of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Holst’s The Planets, or else Rachmaninov, Grieg’s Peer Gynt, et cetera.
Back then the music guided my thought. Sinbad’s voyage saw me sailing through tumultuous seas, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet had me fighting the fiery Tybalt, whilst Juliet (aka that girl I liked up the lane) watched on in swooning adoration. Finlandia’s watery notes had me drifting through distant realms. Whilst visiting these other worlds I would encounter sad-eyed elves, fight goblins, and discover I was a direct descendant of Strider, and therefore legitimate heir to the throne of Gondor.
The roving, unlicensed imagination of a child holds no boundaries. This brief classical period in my own childhood faded like the memory of summer on a february morn. My dad discovered wallpapering whilst mother walked the dogs. I morphed into a surly teen, lurking moody in my bedroom, reading Moorcock and blasting out Zeppelin, Floyd and Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells until I was hollered into surly silence.
As a writer music has always helped me visualize, plot, (unconsciously) and create scenes, whilst absorbing inspiration through the rhythmic dance of crotchet, minim and quaver. But though music creates the mood and frees the mind from virtual traffic, movies capture our imagination in different ways. Their visual impact, whilst demanding our complete attention, allow escapism as we become one with the black box commanding our attention. Classics like Cleopatra, El Cid and Ben Hur enthralled me as a kid, as did Far from the Madding Crowd, (nothing to do with Julie Christie) Waterloo, Zulu, The Great Escape and many many more.
Then every now and then you get a movie with a great score. This is when the magic happens. Whether it’s exciting (633 Squadron,) stirring, Laurence of Arabia, or evocative, Out of Africa, and son on. The right combination of action, drama and music amounts satisfaction overload.
I remember the first time I saw The Last of the Mohicans back in 1992. I was blown away by Daniel Day-Lewis’s Hawkeye charging directly at the camera. A great action movie, shot amongst the stunning backdrop of the Smoky Mountains, and enhanced by the soft haunting tones of Clannad’s Maire Brennan. You can almost smell the passion in that movie when Cora is taken from Hawkeye during the waterfall scene. He tells her to ‘Stay alive’ whilst Maire floats in with: ‘No matter where you go I will find you, if it takes a thousand years…’ Powerful stuff! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CI7Fo4p0v8
Lewis’s brilliant portrayel of Dafoe’s Hawkeye was the inspiration for my character Corin an Fol. I’d just started writing in my truck, had Corin’s image in my head. Then I saw Hawkeye in that movie and something clicked (the same face of the character I’d recently found inside my head.Weird!) Later, Madelene Stowe’s doe-eyed Cora blended into a girl I once knew. The result was fey, headstrong Shallan in Legends of Ansu.
Another example of harmonic balance between movie and music was Howard Shore’s composition througout Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. His music gave so much to those films, as did Enya, Cerys Matthews and (particularly for me) Annie Lennox singing – Into The West. http://youtu.be/zb1ct9BsY8I
I cannot write with music in the background, and would most likes smash the telly with a hammer were someone to switch it on whilst I’m in the zone. That said, when off duty they are (for me) the perfect combination for imagination overload. ‘Ground Control to Major Tom’. Enough said. J.W.W.
Next week it’s Queen Ariane’s turn to vent about staff issues and shed a nonce of light on her ( so annoying) attraction to the idiot mercenary, Corin an Fol.