Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free rein so they can go wild and write about anything they want: their new book, series or career as a whole.

Hello everybody! Today’s I&I guest is Rachel Hartman, author of the fabulous Seraphina, one of Thea’s favorite novels of 2012 thus far. Rachel is here today talking about the musical inspiration for the novel.

Please give it up for Rachel!

Five Albums in Seraphina, and One for the Road Ahead

A lot of music went into Seraphina. I don’t just mean the storyline, although it’s there too. Seraphina is assistant music mistress at the palace, after all; she plays flute and oud and teaches the princess harpsichord. The passages about her musical performances were some of my very favourite to write.

I listened to music almost constantly while writing Seraphina. I’m the sort who puts a single song on infinite repeat, but I also like playing whole albums straight through. The latter imparts a sense of forward motion, as the songs pass in sequence, and that in turn keeps me moving. Here are the five albums I listened to most while I worked, plus the one that has helped me go forward from there.

Fish Out of Water, by Chris Squire

I have a thing for Chris Squire, I admit. He plays bass and sings backup for the prog rock band YES. I like his voice almost as much as his bass playing. I would describe his voice as humane, although I’m not sure what I mean by that. In YES, his voice provides a nice earthy counterpoint to the flutey lead singer, but I like it on its own too, apparently. This solo effort dates from 1975 but feels timelessly baroque in its textures. It’s what I listen to when the blank page intimidates me, when I need something to stave off doubt and keep me grounded. Which is fairly often, alas.

Sol y Sombra, by Chatham Baroque

Baroque music usually brings to mind European masters like Bach, Vivaldi, or Handel, but composers in Latin America wrote music during the same era with a flare all their own. This album is a compilation of their chamber music and songs. It’s the album I turned to when I wanted to write about music – especially dance music – at the Goreddi court. I know it’s not the same period as my fantasy world, but there’s a particularly lively undercurrent to Latin American baroque, and that’s the mood I needed.

Ame, Corps et Desir, by Karen Young

I stumbled upon this album by chance. I was listening to the CBC in my car when some haunting, ethereal polyphony came on. I am not usually patient enough to try to make head or tail of new polyphony while driving, but this was different. This had drums and bass guitar and… ululations? Utterly captivated, I drove several blocks out of my way just to learn the name of the artist: Karen Young. She’d combined fourteenth century polyphony with jazz instrumentation. It shouldn’t have worked, and yet it was transcendent. I hunted down the album, and it’s my go-to music for evoking Medieval grandeur, especially the cathedral.

Images and Words, by Dream Theater

This is prog metal with thought-provoking lyrics; the first song evokes Hamlet, of all things. I listened to Dream Theater at points where the writing was difficult and I had to muscle my way through, or times when my characters – particularly Seraphina – needed to be fierce. But it’s not all raging (but intellectual) metal. The song “Waiting for Sleep” evokes loneliness and sorrow and, in the end, comforting; I had a lot of use for that, too.

Invisible Fields, by Iarla O’Lionaird

If you’ve heard of Iarla O’Lionaird at all, it’s probably as one of the lead singers for Afro-Celt Sound System. I found him from a different direction: my husband is a fan of the traditional Irish singing called sean nós, literally “old style.” It’s sung a capella and solo, with elaborate vocal ornamentation, and the songs are often plaintive, but sometimes humorous. O’Lionaird has been a practitioner of this style since childhood, when he was considered something of a prodigy. In his solo albums, he combines sean nós with atmospheric backgrounds. I’m not religious by any stretch, but this music is church to me. I listened to it whenever my writing required me to tap into the very deepest part of myself, or when I was feeling burned out and needed a balm for my heart.

So those were the albums that saw the most play while I was writing Seraphina. It turns out that being finished with a novel presents its own challenges: anxiety over how it will be received; a strange, lost feeling; excitement alternating with dread. Music can speak to all those states. Here’s the album that’s been speaking to me most recently:

Please Don’t Touch, by Steve Hackett

Hackett was the guitarist for Genesis; he left the band in ‘77 and made this album in ‘78. That’s right, I’ve come full circle, back to prog rock solo albums of the seventies. This one is a strange hodgepodge, but it reflects the many weird moods of waiting for a book to come out. There’s a sunny song called “Narnia” that makes me want to skip along, and then later on Icarus laments, “There are many places I would rather be.” A carnivalesque tune sung by manic gnomes mocks the unrelenting grimness of ater instrumental pieces. “Racing in A” is a song about burnout, of all things, ending with a classical guitar solo that evokes Vivaldi. My favourite song, however – and if you take one thing away from this eccentric list, let it be this – is called “How Can I?” It’s folkier than I usually like, but guest-singer Richie Havens’s voice is warm, deep, and comforting. It’s a calm, obscurely hopeful piece, gently questioning impatience and despair. It’s just the thing to soothe the nervous writer as she waits for her book to come out into the world.

About the author: Rachel was born in Kentucky, but has lived a variety of places including Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, England, and Japan. She has a BA in Comparative Literature, although she insists it should have been a BS because her undergraduate thesis was called “Paradox and Parody in Don Quixote and the satires of Lucian.” She eschewed graduate school in favour of drawing comic books. She now lives in Vancouver, BC, with her family, their whippet, and a talking frog and salamander (who fight zombies)(really. There are a lot of zombies in the Pacific Northwest).YOu can read more about Rachel at her website.

Thanks, Rachel! And now for…

The Giveaway:

We have a copy of Seraphina up for grabs! The contest is open to ALL and will run until Saturday July 14 at 12:01am EST. In order to enter, leave a comment using the form below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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63 Responses to Guest Author & Giveaway: Rachel Hartman on Inspirations & Influences

  1. [...] at The Book Smugglers goes up today too. I’ll update with the linky when I get it. Update: Here it is! Come see which nerdy albums I listened to most while writing [...]

  2. Wow, this is a great list! I actually haven’t heard of many of these albums, but I’ll definitely be checking them out after I read Seraphina which I am so excited for! :D

    ~Keertana
    Ivy Book Bindings

  3. I’ve heard so many good things about this book! It looks awesome :)

  4. Stephanie says:

    I am so excited about this book. I hear such good things. Tamora Pierce talking up a book always gets me excited. I read The Audition and got even more frenzied! Listening to music always helps me focus on writing I need to make a good playlist for it, I’ll have to look into these.

  5. MarieC says:

    Not to sound shallow, but I love the cover of Seraphina!

  6. kara-karina says:

    Bloody hell, I don’t know any of these albums. Have to check it all out now! :)

  7. Katie says:

    I’ve had this book n my radar forever. Can’t wait to read it!

  8. RT says:

    Sounds like a fabulous book!

  9. Keri L. says:

    This book looks great!

  10. Paige says:

    I can’t wait till tomorrow!

  11. Gerd D. says:

    Quite an interesting soundtrack you’ve got there.
    And have to agree wit Marie, that cover is striking.

  12. jpetroroy says:

    I’ve heard great things!

  13. Lesley D says:

    Great post! I’m really interested in reading this book.

  14. Rebecca says:

    Seraphina sounds excellent! I can’t wait to read it. :)

  15. carol says:

    Sounds like a wonderful book, but now I have this list albums to check out too. It’s been ages since I’ve listened to Dream Theater.

  16. Marie-Claude says:

    Can’t wait to get my hands on it….it look soooo good!!!

  17. Dina says:

    Aw man, I’ve been circling this book for a while. Now I really, really, really want to read it.

  18. Suz Glo says:

    Really looking forward to this book! Thanks for the giveaway.

  19. Mel S says:

    I love how unique this soundtrack behind the book is – it’s even introduced me to a couple of new artists! Plus I gotta say I love the sound of the book! :-)

  20. Emily says:

    This book looks excellent- thanks for offering the giveaway!

  21. Seraphina is awesome! I love it when we get to know a little bit about influences, and with this post we learned a lot about music – I didn’t know anyone on this playlist:)

    Thanks so much:)

  22. elena says:

    Learning about all these artists and why is amazing! I can’t wait for this book, good thing it comes out soon.

  23. Michael says:

    Great List of Albums!! I’ll Have to Check Out the 2 I Haven’t Heard. Thanks!!

  24. Gem says:

    Nice to know others listen to Dream Theater! I really like the premise of the book. I can’t wait to read it!

  25. YvonneJ says:

    What a beautiful book! It is #1 on my must-have list.

  26. Amy C says:

    Unfortunately, none of this looks really like the type of music I’d listen to. ;___; I see how the earthy tones relate to the book though.

  27. JenM says:

    I loved the review and the prequel story. Looking forward to reading the book.

  28. sarac says:

    This sounds great!

  29. Victoria Zumbrum says:

    I would love to read this book. It sounds very good. Tore923@aol.com

  30. Breanne says:

    I can’t wait to read this. Thanks for the giveaway!

  31. Laurina says:

    I’ve been hearing and reading so much about this book; I’m determined to read it. (even if I don’t win the giveaway.)

  32. Sandy says:

    This post was fantastic! It didn’t even occur to me that Baroque music was being composed in Latin America–I’m so used to pairing the term Baroque music with Europe… I’m intigued now to listen to Sol y Sombra.

  33. Bethie says:

    This one looks so good. I have been hearing so much about this one.

  34. Nicole says:

    The amount I want this book knows NO BOUNDS.

  35. erinf1 says:

    congrats on the new release! I’ve been reading such positive buzz for this book :)

    It’s fun to hear what helped you to write. I’m definitely going to have to check out your playlist!

  36. Liz says:

    This one looks so good! It’s definitely on the list.

  37. Dovile says:

    Looking forward to reading this one!

  38. Justine says:

    As soon as I read that this book involves music, I climbed on board.

  39. Na says:

    I find the premise interesting. It’s different from my usual reads.

  40. Sofija says:

    I am salivating for this book! I’d be so happy to win it.

  41. Katrina T. says:

    I’m really looking forward to reading this book. Lovely cover!

  42. Maureen says:

    It looks like an interesting story.

  43. Rachel Chan says:

    I already ordered this book through my public library, but I would love to own a copy for myself :D

  44. msaggie says:

    Thanks for the review on Seraphina and sharing the music. I am looking forward to reading it, and would love my own copy!

  45. jo says:

    tis supposed to be about dragons with a library (if i remember correctly) set in high fantasy story. i want to finally win in booksmugglers. game on! :)

  46. Shanelle says:

    I have been so excited for this book to come out. Can’t wait to read it!

  47. draconismoi says:

    This is an interesting idea…..I used to pick up a book a skim a few pages before deciding whether or not to buy it. Now that I am isolated away from all known bookstores (Walmart does NOT exist in my world. So it doesn’t count), I can’t really do that.

    But listening to a book-playlist. That would give me a feel for the type of book in advance. I like this plan. More authors should do this!

    Not that it matters here. DRAGONS! Instant win.

  48. Andrea says:

    Wow, what a great mix of music! I admit, I was expecting more classical, given the setting and instruments in the book. Now I’m even more intrigued than ever! Can’t wait to get my hands on this book!

  49. Molly Frenzel says:

    This book sounds awesome and I’m really excited to read it. Thanks for the great post and giveaway!

  50. Lindsay Elizabeth says:

    I’ve been studying music since I was two years old! This looks really cool.

  51. Keksi says:

    The fact that she’s a prog fan warms my heart. <3 Really interested in reading this now.

  52. jenmitch says:

    this book looks awesome; can’t wait to read!

  53. Elizabeth says:

    I have heard this book described as “high fantasy” which I’m always interested in reading!

  54. Kate & Zena says:

    That’s weird? It only asked for my name!

  55. Barbara Elness says:

    I love the cover for Seraphina, and the story sounds fantastic. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  56. Mary Preston says:

    What a fabulous post. I’m loving the music choices. SERAPHINA looks incredible.

  57. Francene L. says:

    I loved Rachel’s comic, Amy Unbounded, and I’m sure her book set in the same world is just as exuberant and wonderful as her comics were. I’d love to win a copy. Thanks for the giveaway.

  58. Kaethe says:

    Everyone who has read this has raved. I’m very eager.

  59. Kindree Knoepfle says:

    My local library hasn’t ordered this yet, and I’m definitely putting in a request that they do! Plus, I’m absolutely ordering it for the teen collection at the library I work at…unless I get the giveaway, in which case the teens can have it after I read it! It sounds fantastic.

  60. Samantha R. says:

    This book sounds wonderful. Definitely on my TBR list.

  61. Stephanie O. says:

    I love the idea of music being inspiration for a book. What I love about reading is the world I escape to and feeling what the characters feel. Music can do the same thing for me. I can imagine that the music can make a story go places the author doesn’t expect.

    I’ve heard great things about this one. Thanks for the giveaway!

  62. Oh I think I need to check out each of these. What a great combo! Books and Music!!

  63. Erica says:

    Huггah, that’s what I was seeking for, what a data! present here at this webpage, thanks admin of this web site.

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