Music’s sweet contribution and inspiration

My ideas arrive unsummoned… a scent in the air might spark a memory of some childhood moment, or a dream prompts a hurried scrawl on a notepad upon waking. I’ve been known to stop in the middle of a supermarket and tap a phrase into my phone, then finish the shopping in a daze of musings.

I am sensitive to atmosphere and emotions, so it is no surprise that music and songs contribute to my creative process. The way that a song evokes feelings surely is a kind of magic. No two people will respond the same way, yet the notes are identical and the words don’t change.

Many years ago, two incredible songs haunted me. They played with my mind, filling it with visions. From one, I saw a windswept beach where a young man pledged to wait for his true love, no matter where she went in the world. From the other, powerful images of the same man, much older, with only his memories and  oil paints.

These songs are Where the River meets the Sea and Man of Colours, both by Icehouse.

When I began writing The Stationmaster’s Cottage, I had those scenes imprinted in my head, along with that of the real cottage nearby, memories of drizzly grey graveyards overlooking wild seas, and the need to include a dog just as my favourite childhood books had.

It was a stop-start process and I put the novel away for years. When I returned, it demanded more clarity and mood. I added Love’s Divine by Seal and most of Coldplay’s Ghost Stories, an album which I recently discovered was themed similarly to Cottage.

Would I have written The Stationmaster’s Cottage without those songs? Yes. It isn’t as simple as relying on any one thing. But I believe it is so beautiful in its connection to its surroundings and so compelling in its narrative, because those songs exist.

One day, I’d love to tell their creators and performers how much they’ve given me. Until then, I hope you will click the links and enjoy the music.


What is Romance?

For me, romance is not a category. On the contrary, it encompasses our lives, from that sweet moment of first love to a longed for trip on the Orient Express, filling our hearts when we least expect it.

Romance and love are not exclusive to each other. One can love deeply without romance. Or feel that delicious flutter of excitement about a person, song, or experience with no expectation of love.

Defining romance is like defining the wind. We feel it. We don’t know when it will touch us or how much it will blow us about. A romantic dinner evokes images of an intimate restaurant, roses, champagne, and holding hands. Yet, romance may be found on the ocean, alone in a yacht with whales and dolphins as our company.

Adding romance to a novel is easy yet ridiculously hard, because all of us respond differently. Some go weak at the knees when the prince sweeps the young woman off her feet. Others love a complicated story with messy endings. Or thrillers that only have a hint of romance, leaving us wondering what happened once the book finishes.

There is a fine line between too much and just right and it always comes down to the characters. For example, Christie is suspicious of expensive gifts and overt displays of affection. That’s what Derek and Gran used in place of real emotion. So, where would that leave a potential suitor if he failed to understand that?

I would love to hear what defines romance from you. Is it a perfect night out? That little, unexpected gift? An adventure with or without a loved one? Or perhaps the first rush of attraction when eyes meet across a room?

Tell me, what is your perfect romance?