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Sharing her thoughts about how music inspires her writing process
Inspirational Playlist: rock and opera
Inspirational Playlist: rock and opera
Music is a key part of my writing process. I prefer to listen to classical music while writing as I find anything with lyrics interferes with my thought process. But music is a key inspiration when I’m at the early ideas stage, when I’m inventing and clarifying a character; assigning music, bands, singers, to my protagonist helps me to firm up a personality and backstory. I take my time to get it right, selecting according to the period in which the story is set and choosing something I think fits my character. For Justine Tree in Connectedness, this eventually meant a combination of rock and opera.
I made an early decision that the young Justine would be a fan of Joan Jett and The Runaways, particularly their 1976 hit single ‘Cherry Bomb’. Inadvertently, in my head I began to think of Justine as physically resembling Jett too. Once I recognized this, I stuck two photographs on the wall above my computer: Joan Jett as she is now, in her fifties, the age Justine is when she starts to search for her birth daughter; and Kristin Stewart playing Jett in the 2010 film The Runaways, around the age of Justine when, as a student, she falls in love and falls pregnant. Jett played rhythm guitar, seen standing left of lead singer Cherie Currie in the official music video. Quiet Justine, like many teenagers, admired the singers’ outgoing vibrant personalities, the opposite of what she was like herself but what she longed to be.
The sea is particularly important in Justine’s life. She spent her childhood in a clifftop cottage on the East Yorkshire coast, waking up and falling asleep to the sound of waves breaking on the shore below. As an adult artist, she lives in London but is still drawn to her homeland. I show this connection, this innate sense of belonging, by the music she plays and particularly Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes. Britten’s first opera, it is about a fisherman in Aldeburgh on England’s eastern coast, a misanthropic loner who is hounded to self-destruction by the townspeople after the mysterious, but accidental, deaths of two of his apprentices. When Justine is troubled, she listens to the Four Sea Interludes that both remind her of home and reflect her emotional turmoil.
|The Royal Opera|
Photo Clive Bardo ROH 2011
It was important to me to show joy in Justine’s life, though her story is a difficult one. Interviewed on the radio programme ‘Desert Island Discs’, one of the tracks she chooses is ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen. This was a hit in 1976, staying at number one in the charts for nine weeks. Justine confides to the radio audience how she and her mother loved this song, dancing around the kitchen table to the bemusement of her father. This scene was cut from the novel at the final edit stage but you can read it in Connectedness/cuttings, a small collection of three free stories; perhaps they are better-named ‘extracts’, never previously published.
Finally, I couldn’t set the novel in Spain and not include flamenco. When Justine first arrives in Malaga in 1982, she goes to a flamenco club with her two flatmates. When I wrote the scene, I was hearing in my head ‘Canta con la Voz del Corazón’ sung by Carmen Linares, one of the finest flamenco singers in Spain. Although the song is dated slightly later than the period I was writing about, it stuck in my head. I have a pile of flamenco CDs and this is the one I found myself humming. It mans ‘sing with the voice of your heart’.
Photo Javi Martinez_elmundo
TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING
Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.
Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?
This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain.
A family mystery for fans of Maggie O’Farrell, Lucinda Riley, Tracy Rees and Rachel Hore.
About the ‘Identity Detective’ series
Rose Haldane reunites the people lost through adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother and her longing to see her baby again. Sweet Joy, the third novel, will tell the story of a baby abandoned during The Blitz.
Read an extract from Connectedness by clicking here
Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted.
‘Connectedness’ at Amazon
‘Ignoring Gravity’ at Amazon
Huge thanks to Sandra for sharing her inspirational music with us today