The Best Vehicle For Writing A Novel Is A Great Soundtrack

Laura Vasilion

Mine includes Dave Matthews, Billy Holiday, and Olafur Arnalds.

Unsplash photo by Austin Distel

Dave Matthews Dirge

When I was writing my Icelandic WWII novel, Maelstrom, I depended on a number of pieces of music to get the juices flowing. For example, this is the song I listened to on repeat when I was writing a tragic scene involving a troopship sinking in the middle of the North Atlantic. The haunting melody and melancholy tone of Dave’s voice put me right there every time. Yes, he is using words but they are so indecipherable, it works.

Thanks, Dave.

Here’s the link to An Another Thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7cp_soCFqY

Billie’s Tragic Anthem

In a very different scene in the book, my main character falls asleep in the ship’s photo lab. Curled up in a corner, he wakes up when he hears the ship’s black musicians practicing in the outer room. Mose, a trumpet player, leads the band. I imagine him to be the second trumpeter in the clip below. Strange Fruit, Billie’s signature song about racism, figures heavily in the novel so listening to the lyrics were okay. In fact, they are written in the book. Both these songs helped anchor me in the moment.

Here’s the link to Strange Fruit: https://youtu.be/Web007rzSOI

Haunting Music from Olafur Arnalds

A subplot in my book revolves around the romance between an Icelandic girl and a charismatic American pilot. To place myself in the stark and beautiful Icelandic landscape, I often turned to Olafur Arnalds, one of my favorite contemporary composers. “For Now I Am Winter,” still gives me chills.

Here’s the link to For Now I Am Winter: https://youtu.be/4cOr7JmcOas

I am such a fan of this talented musician, I dragged my husband and daughter to see him perform in a small venue in Chicago several years ago. When I went to the bathroom, they did the sweetest thing. Seeing Olafur in the lobby, they arranged for me to meet him. Here I am, giddy as a schoolgirl, meeting my music muse, Olafur (to my right) and his equally talented vocalist, Arnor (to my left).

Me with Olafur Arnalds, Arnor Dan, and my husband.

My dream is that Olafur will one day score the soundtrack to the film adaptation of Maelstrom.

Why not dream big?

Two Final Pieces

Lastly, I need to include the soundtracks to two films: Master and Commander and The Perfect Storm. My dear husband heard these on repeat for years. Whenever they were playing he knew I was writing a scene about a storm at sea.

Thanks for your patience, Steve.

Laura Vasilion

Written by

Editor of Talking to the World (https://medium.com/talking-to-the-world). Novelist. Freelance writer. Would rather be living in Iceland.

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