I’m always in two minds about music when I’m writing. Some days, when my focus isn’t where it needs to be, I have to have as near to absolute silence as I can get in order to zero in on what I want to get down on the page. Other times, a little musical accompaniment is exactly what I need to prime the pump and get me writing.
I tend not to listen to songs when I’m writing scenes, because I find myself paying too much attention to the lyrics, and sometimes subconsciously assimilating the words into my own work. Orchestral and thematic stuff works a lot better. I have a massive collection of classical music and soundtracks that I will queue up into five-hour-long playlists. For example, working on my new thriller novel NOMAD, my working score included Salt (James Newton Howard), Inception (Hans Zimmer), Tron Legacy (Daft Punk), The Sweeney (Lorne Balfe), Watch Dogs (Brian Reitzell), Bangkok Dangerous (Brian Tyler) and The International (Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek & Reinhold Heil).
But writing a book isn’t just the writing of the book; there’s also the time spent wrangling ideas or thinking stuff up. I find pacing out the kilometres on the runner at the gym is a great place for this, usually with a loud and driving playlist in my earbuds to propel me along. After a while, I realized I was coming back to the same songs over and over – I’d inadvertently created the soundtrack for NOMAD’s characters, themes and locations, which I’ve shared below…
Track 1: “NOMAD Anthem” — Seven Nation Army [Glitch Mob Remix] – The White Stripes
Track 2: “Marc & Sam/Camden Town Flashback” — Beginning To End – Nona Hendryx
Track 3: “Lucy’s Theme” — Voodoo Child (Slight Return) – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Track 4: “Estate Shoot-Out” — Target Practice – Asian Dub Foundation
Track 5: “On the Run” — Signs – Badmarsh and Shri
Track 6: “Green for Go” — Tick of the Clock – Chromatics
Track 7: “Attack” — Club Foot – Kasabian
Track 8: “Escape” — I’m Alive – Shinedown
Track 9: “Payback” — Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin
Track 10: “Outro” — Short Change Hero [No Intro Edit] – The Heavy
Track 11: “End Credits” — Free [The Stratos Spaced Out Remix] – Twin Atlantic