Do they still make Love’s Fresh Lemon? Because sometimes I think I get a whiff of it—and bam, I’m back in my pale blue Dittos, the hot sun on my head, and a tube of strawberry Lip Smackers in my hand. Scents are like that, though. They take you back to a vivid moment in time.
Music, for me, is even more evocative than smell. A simple melody has the power to alter my mood—engraving its memory on me so that every time I hear it I return to that emotional place. I love that—the power of a song.
I first felt the impact when I was ten years old. The movie Friends by Lewis Gilbert came out, and the moment Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s title track came on, I got slammed. That soundtrack unearthed all the nascent feelings of yearning and want, the fierce craving for romantic connection I couldn’t even begin to understand at that age. And the funny thing is I don’t remember the movie at all. I don’t remember the actors or the story. It’s the music that stayed with me.
Music informs every book I write. No matter how well I map out the plot and character arcs, I can’t catch my groove until I figure out the tone of the story. And it’s almost always music that reveals it to me.
Years ago, I was several revisions into a book I couldn’t quite feel. I had all the details worked out, as I always do, but I was only skimming the surface—couldn’t quite pierce the skin and get inside the story. Until I heard the soundtrack for Elizabethtown by Cameron Crowe. 60B (Etown theme) plunged me into the reflective and nostalgic mood of my story world.
I’m not a fan of pop music, but A Thousand Years captured the tone for my new release YOU REALLY GOT ME. Sure, Christina Perri wrote it about Twilight. And, no, you won’t find vampires in my contemporary romance books—although, hey, vampire rockers? That could totally be a thing. But it wasn’t the lyrics that fit my book; it was the tune itself. The yearning, the want, the passion. Even now, two years later, hearing that song whisks me right back into the world of that book, with Slater and Emmie and the guys. Which, you know, isn’t a bad place to be.
While I always have music playing when I write, I can’t listen to anything with lyrics. First, I can’t stop myself from singing along with it. But, also, lyrics tell stories, and I’m a reader. I have to pull up a chair and listen.
I envy the way lyricists can tell a story in a few stanzas, deliver an emotional punch in a line or two. The song You Love Me by Kimya Dawson does exactly that. Personally, though, I seem to need more elbow room—like a whole stadium to accommodate my one hundred thousand words—to tell my own stories. Hey, it’s an emotional journey—it takes time to make it authentic!
So, basically, for as much as I love music, I’m locked out of the process of making it. I can’t sing, I can’t play an instrument, and I can’t write lyrics. But the artists who can? They rock. I wish I could do it.
If I could, I would’ve written these three songs that pack the emotional wallop of the best romantic fiction. Tell Her This by Del Amitri is filled with regret and longing. It’s about a man who can’t get past his own demons (STAND BACK—romance writer coming through—I can fix him!). And You Just Forgot by Mindy Smith kills me every time I hear it. This girl is hanging onto a love long past its end date. I can totally fix her problem! Just give me a hundred thousand words and access to the man she loves. And then Wicked Game by Chris Isaak. Is this guy not the classic bad boy hero? Do NOT make me fall in love with you because you are going to tear my heart out…just like my mother who left me/ex who cheated on me/babysitter who abused me. I got this—just let me at him!
Now, of course music isn’t just about connecting with deep emotion and creating a compelling mood. It moves me in other ways. Ways that make me get up and shake my booty. Can you sit still when Jump Around by House of Pain is playing? Yeah, didn’t think so. How about Insane in the Brain by Cypress Hill?
And sometimes songs serve no other purpose than to turn your frown upside down. Like Be Okay by Oh Honey. I won’t believe you if you say your heart didn’t soar just a teeny bit with that one. And Thunder Clatter by Wild Cub. You’re smiling right now, right?
I can’t carry a tune, and I can’t play an instrument, but music has had a profound impact on my life and my work. I’ll bet you feel the same way.
What songs move you? Do any in particular stick with you, reminding you of an important time in your life?
From the award-winning author of the Rock Star Romance books comes a sizzling new series about the O’Donnell siblings. The pull of wild love is irresistible.
She’s had enough drama in her life.
Nicole O’Donnell is more than ready for the fresh start college offers. After a lifetime of trying to help her alcoholic mom and ex-boyfriend get sober, she’s finally learned her lesson: people don’t change. They certainly don’t change for her.
He can never leave his drama behind.
Thanks to his mom’s substance abuse issues, Dylan McCaffrey’s persona non grata in his hometown of Gun Powder, Colorado. So when he scores a free ride to the top university in the country, he’s determined to make something of this fresh start. But his mom has always relied on him, and she’s not handling his absence well at all. If he can just keep up his grades, pay her bills, and come home every break, he might be able to pull off this opportunity.
True love won’t be denied.
No matter how determined they are to steer clear of each other, their combustible connection explodes, especially when Nicole offers Dylan the one thing he can’t bear—hope. Once he has a taste of it—and the irresistible force of her—there’s no going back.
But when he falls too deeply, when he loses sight of his priorities, he might just lose it all.
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