Monday, 28 February 2011

Guest Post: Karen Mahoney - The Iron Witch

Hello all you lovely, lovely people. I hope you're well having a brilliant start to the week and a happy Monday wherever you are! I'm here today with a bit of a treat - a guest post with the gorgeous Karen Mahoney, writer of The Iron Witch (but you already knew that).

I reviewed The Iron Witch earlier in the year (in a bit of a cringeworthy vlog) and, like everybody else in the blogosphere, I loved it. If you've ever met or spoken to Karen you know how absolutely lovely she is so I'm really happy to host her here at Writing from the Tub. I asked Karen to tell me about how music influences her as a writer, so, over to the lady herself:

'I know it’s quite popular among writers to have playlists/soundtracks for the books that they write, but I’m one of the non-musical authors. Wow, this could be a pretty short blog post! ;)

Don’t worry, there is some music involved in my process, and the thing that I think is always worth saying is that every book is different. What works for one project may not work for another. I’ve known authors who always listen to music while they’re writing – they are constantly plugged into a playlist that helps them to shape each scene – but then they begin a new book and suddenly… music gets in the way. Gasp! They wonder if they’ve lost their ability to write, because this is the way they’ve always done it before – what could have gone wrong?

And then they decide to try something new. They switch off the music and suddenly – almost as if by magic – the writing flows again, the only background noise a blissful silence and the peaceful sound of fingers on the keyboard.

For me, I think I’m somewhere in the middle. Music can form part of my preparation for writing, but when it comes to the actual writing itself I – generally – prefer silence. Or just the generic café ‘mood music’ that plays in the background of my favourite writing spots in and around London. Yeah, I’m a café writer – I know, it’s a cliché! ;) But that kind of music just sort of forms a background noise that helps keep me focused; a bit like the background murmur of voices and chatter from the other café patrons. Those sounds don’t distract or inspire – they are just… there.

However, something different did happen while writing the sequel to The Iron Witch. I’ve just finished an early draft of The Wood Queen (which should be out around January 2012), and that was the first time in a while that I’ve actually written to music. I didn’t intend to; it sort of happened by accident. During the last year or so I’ve become a bit obsessed with The Pierces – two American sisters with a unique blend of folk/rock/pop, who write their own stuff, play their own instruments, and have a wide variety of styles and a macabre sense of fun that runs through some of their songs and videos. One day I was preparing to settle into a good writing session, with one of their songs playing in the background (‘Secret’), and I suddenly tuned into the words and realised that there was something relevant in them to what I was working on.

I ended up writing a couple of chapters with that one track as the background.

This new musical theme continued when progress on the novel picked up towards the end of last year. I wrote whole chapters to a constant repeat of The Pierces’ ‘How Can I Love You More’ – something about the dark passion and deep bass rhythm stirring up emotional scenes in the middle of the writing.

Kaz meeting Allison Pierce (Feb 2011)

So, am I writer who writes to music? My first answer would be, “no.” And yet I do spend a lot of time writing in cafés (where there is background music) and the music of The Pierces definitely permeates The Wood Queen – to the extent that I’ll be putting them in my Acknowledgements to that book. :)

Maybe I write more to music than I thought! And that’s okay, because I’m nothing if not flexible, and every project is different. Perhaps next time I’ll be back to the silence – but even silence is a ‘sound’ of sorts, and it’s one I often treasure.'


To listen to the songs mentioned:

Love You More


So there we have it! Thanks so much for stopping by, Kaz!

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