I love music. It is a very big part of who I am. Sadly, I can’t sing or play an instrument. But, I can play a radio, cd player, and ipod very proficiently. Music is something that is always either playing or warbling along in my head. For as long as I can remember music has been the one thing defining moments of my life. My family has always been lovers of music all kinds, and I guess it has rolled over to me and the generation who came after me. Okay, good for me, but what has this to do with being a writer? I’m getting there, so give me a few minutes to work up to my point.
Feeling more than a little under the weather, I woke up and watched HBO’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony presentation. It’s an annual habit with me, but this year was especially awesome because not one but three of my favorite bands of all time were inducted. Out of all the bands I love, these three had the most impact on me and represent something weird, they represent a big part of my inner soundtrack.
Creativity is very much a product of osmosis. Creative people absorb input from a number of places, but chief among them is other creative people. My road to becoming a writer and artist owes a lot to the music I listen to. So, allow me to give you a musical trip through the photo album of my life.
The first band I can truly remember just making me stop and go wow was KISS. I was about seven or eight. My cousin was in his bedroom playing a record. That’s record, not cassette tape or CD but a real life 33 1/3 record. Yeah, I’m that old. The sound assaulted my ears, but it was the album cover that just changed my life. The album was Destroyer. I had just started down the path to comic book geekdom. Here I stood looking at super heroes playing music. I was hooked. It was real life magic, and what I saw and heard moved me. For a kid from a small town in the Deep South, magic was something I’d hadn’t begun to recognize in everyday life, so found it where I could.
KISS opened my eyes to the idea, I could become something other than myself. I could be a superhero, a cowboy, and yeah, even a rock god. Of course it took me nearly thirty years to become something close to a superhero, a published author. Even got a cool secret identity that more people know than what’s safe for me. But, to the kid I was at the time, seeing and listening to KISS sparked my imagination to create new worlds in my head. I had adventures where heroes wore strange and wonderful masks and rock n rolled all night and partied every day.
Hall and Oates had an opposite affect on me. My mom loved them, so I can remember listening to She’s Gone, Rich Girl and Sara Smile about the same time my cousin introduced me to KISS. You probably think it’s funny that those two different ends of the musical spectrum should have influenced me, but where KISS was all about bigger than life, Hall and Oates made me touch an emotional side a boy rarely would have thought about. Girls? They had cooties. Still, Hall and Oates planted the seed that love was much more powerful than cool make up and super powers. Again, took me awhile to believe it, the whole cooties thing. In some small part, they might have been the first step toward me becoming a Romance author. Their simple words like I said touched my heart. They also introduced me to Rhythm and Blues. Not Disco, let me make that point very clear. No, no, can’t go for that.
In my books, there are equal sides to those two bands at play. My characters are all bigger than life but contain the normalcy we can all relate to. See, a delicate balance at play. To survive, they all wear masks to hide their true selves. But, it is love that ultimately makes them complete and truly bigger than life. See how something most people discount as background noise can change a person from the inside out. Humbling isn’t it? Or, cruel subliminal programming. I’ll let you decide.
The last band came into my life just as I was preparing to graduate from college. I had been sitting in my friend Damon’s place and this band came on MTV. He turned up the sound and said I had to see this. And, I did. From the first blast of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, my life was forever altered. Nirvana gave voice to the angst I’d been struggling to find words to describe. I’d always been an outsider, at least to myself. I never felt like I fit in. Here was a band that didn’t want you to deny who you were. No, they screamed…
Come as you are.
Come as you were,
As I want you to be
As a friend, as a friend,
As an old enemy.
Somehow in my head, I found the strength to say to myself, it’s alright to be who you are. Who I was! Of course, I still hadn’t figured out who that was, but it was okay. Finding the fact out was part of the journey. Later on it would ingrain itself into my writing.
My characters, my vampires, my werewolves, my witches, even my regular old humans all have one thing in common. They either don’t try to make up for their differences by being something they’re not or come to the realization through the course of the story. No, they relish their uniqueness and say this is who I am. You can either like me for me, or not. I don’t care. Or, they don’t care rather.
Like KISS, we all wear marks to hide who we are. Protect us from the rush of the world around us, but sometimes we have to let that mask down. Otherwise, no one gets close to us. The music of Hall and Oates teaches us to open our hearts to love. It shows us to let down those masks for the one thing that truly matters, a person who can not only love us, but complete us on levels being bigger than life can never compete with. Lastly, Nirvana let’s us know it’s okay to be you, even if that you hurts sometimes and doesn’t know why. And, when we combine the lessons of all three, well, I can’t say for you, but for me, you get a romance novel.
There are more bands that have marked my life, but today these three are the only ones that matter in the context of this blog. As I trot off to either play on Facebook or write, I ask you to examine the soundtrack to your life and see if there’s anything you need to learn. You might surprise yourself. Unless you’re like me, and you have more Weird Al floating around than you thought. Then you might truly be unique and more interesting than you give yourself credit for being.
Either way, have a great week and happy reading!