If you couldn’t already tell, I love music just as much as I love books. It’s even better when both are paired together! Finding a soundtrack to a book is super exciting, and creating one is even better. So when I learned about author, Lauren Speeth, and the role music played in writing her novel Thread for Pearls, I knew I had to highlight her work on Saturday Nite Reader.
Speeth will also make a guest appearance on Saturday Nite Reader‘s Instagram stories with her own Top 5 Saturday Nite Jams edition.
Check out Speeth’s article: Spinning a Story with a Soundtrack to learn about her music inspired writing journey. [click Read More below]
Spinning a Story with a Soundtrack
Have you ever had a tune come on the radio and have it take you right back to where you were five, ten, or fifteen years ago, or longer? Music is the soundtrack to our lives, and storytellers often use it to help set the stage.
I grew up listening to Tale Spinners records. These were wonderfully acted novels, fairy tales, and classics, on vinyl LP records, set to beautiful music that always matched the mood perfectly. Because of Tale Spinners, the connection between storytelling and music was very clear in my mind. As I grew up and became a film buff, I saw that same association, and noticed how the best writers went beyond the obvious to reach for the wonderful. In the end credits to the film Devil’s Advocate, you might expect to hear “Sympathy for the Devil,” but instead the filmmaker chose “Paint it Black,” another song by The Rolling Stones. It’s just as intense, just as dark, and it avoids slipping into cliché. What better choice, for Apocalypse Now, than “The End” by The Doors? Or Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” in Easy Rider?
A lot of thought went into these filmmakers’ selections, and I have always paid close attention to my musical choices in my own works, as well. In my new novel, Thread for Pearls, A Story of Resilient Hope, I tell a tale set in the 1960s and 1970s, a time that was as much defined by the music as any other aspect. The book refers to so much music that we decided to create a couple of Spotify® playlists, just for fun, and include them on the ThreadforPearls.com website. Scanning through the book to create the list netted over 50 oldies, from America to Yes! and lots in between, plus a decent-sized classical playlist, as well as a couple of odds and ends that just defied categorization.
The book itself starts and ends on two different coasts, with two very different songs that have an ocean in their lyrics. It opens with a car crash, and the only thing we hear is the radio, which is playing the 1962 hit tune “The End of the World.” It’s sung by Skeeter Davis, who may well be echoing the sentiments of the woman who is driving the car. She’s lost her lover, and her daughter has been hurt in the accident. Skeeter is wondering why the sun is still shining and the sea is rushing to shore, asking, “don’t they know it’s the end of the world?”
At the book’s end, we find ourselves on the opposite shore, in California, and the baby who’d been injured is now a young woman, facing a full life ahead, about to graduate college. At the ocean with her best friends, she plays a tune by The Cyrkle entitled “Red Rubber Ball.” The lyrics are almost an answer to Skeeter’s question on page one: that lost love isn’t the only starfish in the sea. As they sing about how “the mornin’ sun is shinin’ like a red rubber ball,” we agree with them that, yes, the worst is over, it truly is going to be all right. So, the end of a journey can be a bookend to the beginning, in a musical call-and-response, if you choose to make it so.
There are many other musical choices hidden like Easter eggs throughout the book. Not many ears will notice the import of each of the selections, because to catch the full meaning you’d have to know the song lyrics before you read the passage and recall them to your mind as you’re reading. Not wanting the story to take too long in the telling nor to be pedantic, I didn’t explain the relevance of each song as it came along. Instead, I chose to refer to the music swiftly and in passing, but in a way that is easily unlocked. Especially with a Spotify playlist.
The next time you’re at the movies or reading your favorite novel, you might want to take a moment to spot the musical choices. What was the storyteller trying to convey with the music? It’s an enriching thing to do, like starting to notice the architecture when traveling in foreign lands. [the end]
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