Have some music with your mystery

By Sally Carpenter

Music is an important part of my creative process. No, I don’t listen to music while I actually write-that’s too distracting. I either want to listen to the songs or concentrate on what I’m writing but I can’t do both at once (I don’t multitask well).

But I listen to music before I sit down to write. Something about music triggers the creative juices in my brain (or to be more scientifically accurate, the electrical impulses). I put on a favorite record or CD and just listen. Soon I start to daydream and think about the story I’m working on. I “see” the actors acting out the story in my mind. When I’m ready, I turn off the stereo and start writing. The music helps jumpstart my brain if I’m unclear what I want to do in the next scene or if I’m trying to work out some plot details.

What do I listen to? I admit my music tastes are a limited. My collection (more than 300 records, 50 or so CDs and a bunch of cassette tapes) is most 1960s and ’70s pop music. Every Beatles record, of course, all of George Harrison and a smattering of the other three Fabs. The Monkees too and most of their solo efforts. From there it’s Eric Clapton, Donovan, Bob Dylan and a bunch of other groups and singers. The “hardest rock” I have is Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead. And disco!

But I’m not stuck in a rut. On my commute to work, I listen to the classical music radio station. It’s the only place on the dial that doesn’t play endless DJ chatter, obnoxious commercials and the same annoying songs over and over. I’m beginning to dig the music and I like broadening my horizons.

Sometimes the music itself generates idea. The idea for my first mystery series, about a former teen idol making a comeback, was inspired by The Monkees and the other teen idols in my collection (Bobby Sherman is my second fave).

As for my proposed new series, I got that idea while attending a concert of veteran (old) folk rockers who performed with The Byrds, Mamas and Papas and other groups of that ilk. I admit just sitting for an hour or two listening to other people play music bore me (the only way I really enjoy a concert is if I’m up and dancing). During the show my mind wandered and I thought, setting a cozy series in the 1960s would be a groovy idea, something that hasn’t been done before.

And of course, one can’t set a story in the 1960s without a big dose of classic rock and roll!

Do you listen to music as you write or read? What are you favorite stories in which music plays an important part?

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