Good morning everyone! Come in, today I am organised and have real coffee and Pain au chocolat...oh wait. Had pain of chocolat, the eight year old found then first. Still, please do sit down while I pour you a cup.
Long ago I was the manager of a lovely little bookshop in London Bridge. There were two good things about that job, the big launch parties the publishers used to throw before money got tight - going to those parties was the only way I didn't starve to death living in London on slave wages - and getting to see proofs of new book long before they were published, which always made me feel ever special.
One morning I got something rather different, It was a novel by Isabelle Allende. I'll be honest I can't remember the title anymore, but what was different about it was that it had a CD inside the cover. Music was a central theme in the book and Isabelle had decided that a CD of the relevant pieces of classic and operatic music should be included so that the reader could listen as they read. Sort of early multimedia if you like.
A few years later when I was studying for an MA in creative writing, our tutor Sue Gee brought in a writer friend of hers to talk to us. Now I am ashamed to say I can't remember his name either, remembering things is not my best thing you will have gathered by now. He was a man who love musicals, and he had written his book in the form of a musical, complete with brass bands and dance numbers, hoping to create a score in his readers head. If you know the name of this book and author you get ten bonus points. He liked, I seem to remember, the idea that each reader would create a different musical.
And when I was eighteen I remember reading Howard's End for the first time and that wonderful passage where Foster describes the images and visions inspired by Beethoven's fifth and the profound effect it has on the impulsive and impressionable character of Helen. Panic and Emptiness, Panic and Emptiness! I think that was the first time I understood that a book be about more than simply telling a story.
And of course there a book like Nick Hornby's brilliant High Fidelity which make music an integral part of the prose.
For me, music is often present in my writing, all though often in a much more oblique way. The most obvious example I can think if is at the end of my first novel Growing Up Twice, the main character takes to the stage to sing 'Aretha Franklin's Respect! Sometimes I will find myself writing song lyrics into dialogue which on the whole is not really allowed, most notably there is a line from a Gershwin tune, set deep in the prose of my fourth novel, The Baby Group which simply would not go away, it was the perfect description for that particular moment and I couldn't bring myself to take it out. I like the fact that I know its there and wonder how many other people, if any, have ever spotted it. For my Ruby Parker books I created a whole fictional musical called 'Spotlight!' and wrote and recorded two songs from it which can still be heard on MySpace if you look very carefully! Often as I write I hear a sound track in my head - music that influences what I'm writing but in no way makes an appearance on the page.
So my question to you, dear racers is in two parts. Do you have a favourite 'musical' novel? And do you write music into your prose?