Writer's Workbook: Inspiration from Music

May 7, 2015

It's tough to explain where I get my inspiration.  Anyone who works in a creative field knows that you can direct the process only up to a certain point before a mysterious sort of alchemy takes over.  For example, while writing dialogue, sometimes I experience characters piping up on their own without my thinking about what they should say next.  It's weird...weird and lovely.

That said, there are always jumping-off points and catalysts.  Music is a big source of inspiration for me.  I like to mimic the tone of certain songs, and I go crazy for good lyrics.  Here are a few songs that've influenced my stories.

"Remember," a short story in Cowboy Heat, a collection of shorts from Cleis Press

In this story, a jilted bride ends up sleeping with the cowboy stripper who's sent to dance at her cancelled bachelorette party.  I think I had just gone to see Thunder from Down Under in Las Vegas, so I had male strippers on the brain.  It was fun to imagine the kind of fun-loving, fearless guy who would do this kind of work.  The classic cowboy stripper song is "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" by Big and Rich.  The other song that appears in "Remember" is Jason Aldean's "Crazy Town."  It had been getting lots of radio play and I liked the opening a lot.  You can get "Remember" here.

Cowboy Valentine, upcoming novella from Samhain Publishing

I had intended this story to be pure fun, a midnight ride with a handsome cowboy, nothing more.  As these characters came into the light, the more they resisted being written flat.  They are young and lonely with all the fears, anxieties and optimism of two people who are experiencing real love for the first time.  When Caleb drives his dad's old truck around, Merle Haggard's "Working Man Blues" plays on the busted radio.  Merle Haggard was born in Oildale; Oleander, the setting for all my cowboy stories, is a fictional town in California's Central Valley, not far from there. Caleb's visit to New York was inspired by Simon and Garfunkel's "The Only Living Boy in New York."  I was imagining a young guy in a cowboy hat wandering around Manhattan, so in awe of the city that he doesn't realize that people are staring at him.  You can get Cowboy Valentine here.

Works in Progress

I'm working on Caleb's brothers' stories at the moment.  His oldest brother, Dean MacKinnon, is a rodeo bullfighter, a man of few words who's harboring a broken heart.  His song is John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery," sung by Bonnie Raitt.  The third eldest MacKinnon brother is Clark, a player and a prankster. He's inspired by "The Joker" by the Steve Miller Band.

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