The Soundtracks of your Stories

by Leanna Renee Hieber

I don't know about you, but I cannot write without music in the background. That being said I’m very particular about what I can listen to while actually writing as opposed to the type of music that simply inspires me. And what inspires me versus what I can write to is often very different things.

My favourites come down to the following artists (Most of my Strangely Beautiful series thus far has been written and will be edited with these in the background): Philip Glass (Particularly his symphonies and soundtracks like The Hours, The Illusionist, Dracula)

Linford Detweiler. One half of one of my favourite bands, Over the Rhine, Linford has created three albums of achingly beautiful piano music that is perfect to create by.

Outside of sitting down to write, for me, music has inspired specific scenes, words, characters, dialogue and more in my books. A great deal of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker had influences from the band picture to the left: VNV Nation, a Goth-Electronica band out of England. While they don't sound a thing like the 19th century, they have crafted such energizing club music and such wonderful atmospheric music. The lyrics of my favourite song “Beloved” proved very inspirational.

While I cannot have music with lyrics playing while I’m actually writing, listening to music that accesses that sweeping sense of a movie trailer, music that allows me to play the movie of my book in images as the song washes over me, is really important for my engagement in the project. This is the music I listen to on the subway, to keep me connected to my faraway and fantastical worlds, ready for me to open them up again when I sit down to write, this music having primed me to dive back in again to that private world and forge the next adventure.

What about you? Do you have a writing soundtrack? What's it like?


Leanna Renee Hieber is an occasional actress, award-winning playwright and author of THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER, the debut of her Strangely Beautiful series of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels from Leisure Books / Dorchester Publishing 8/25/09. Her novella Dark Nest is a finalist in the 2009 Prism Awards for excellence in fantasy, futuristic and paranormal romance.


  1. I always have music on when I'm writing, I'm a fan of anything with a Latin influence.
    The beats are lively, the guitar pops, and keeps me cooking along.
    and since its in another language, I don't get too distracted.
    Pandora introduced me to tons of fantastic musicians I'd never know about!

  2. December,

    Pandora is an AWESOME tool, everyone should check it out:
    It's a godsend of a virtual DJ!

    I agree with the other language factor, however I'm trying to learn Spanish so that's not exactly my go-to music to write to, though I love it! :) Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Ha! Well lookie there...I mostly write in perfect silence. Which occurs to me is a little sad sometimes, but I can concentrate SO much better.

    However, I do have Daft Punk and Tangerine Dream stations on Pandora for when I'm writing at Starbucks and sitting next to the couple interviewing the DJ for their wedding and extolling the virtues of the Macarena..

  4. Cool post!

    It's hard for me to write with music playing unless I put it on a loop. With repeat play, I kind of hypnotize myself with the beat, I think. LOL

    I usually go for techno or dance, something fast and punchy with minimal lyrics to help keep the flow going. If I'm working on a mood piece, I often pick piano music. And a box of tissues to go with it, because piano music makes me cry. :P

  5. My first Project I listened to a lot of Interpol... lots of really sultry, sexy stuff. With this new one, I'm listening to a lot more industrial/ebm: harder stuff with a driving beat. I most definitely have to have music in the background.

  6. Great post! I love your pics! I like movie soundtracks too because they inspire me on multiple levels- they really put me in a certain mood. If I want to feel nostalgia/emotion- it's the soundtrack to Cinema Paradiso. If I want fun it's the soundtrack to Bossa Nova. Other music - I also love Dead Can Dance, Enya, Clannad, anything Celtic. I love world beat/fusion also electronica. Coldplay's most recent album Viva La Vida is great for inspiration if you're working on an historical so is Leonard Cohen and Loreena McKennit. Also for that emotional inspiration - Kate Bush, Adele, Sia, Norah Jones, Sarah Bareilles, Sarah McLachlan, Serena Ryder, Duffy, Corinne Bailey Rae. I could go on and on...gotta have music!

  7. Alethea *blink* Well I guess we have to have a few divergences lest it get too spooky. "Extolling the virtues of the Macarena" LOL

    Cora, thanks! If I'm working on anything remotely contemporary, I bust out the techno too! I adore Piano music for my period pieces, and yes, some of it just makes me weep. Get one of those Linford Detweiler CD's, they're worth EVERY PENNY- pure piano magic.

    Cheeky, a) love sultry/sexy AND industrial/ebm b)You rock.

    Oh you mention so many great names!!! You and I are definately on similar evocation trains :)

  8. Oh Joanna, I gotta have music, too. But I compartmentalize, and my brain gets overloaded if I put on music while writing. Either I block it out, or the music draws me away. Weird, I know. But when not writing, music inspires my stories, strangely. A soundtrack seems to go along with the actors I imagine playing the roles. A ready-made movie, if only I could download it from my head!

  9. OH I got distracted and missed the VnV reference!! Beloved has always been one of my faves.I have a VNV station on pandora. That about sums it up. lol

  10. Cate, I love the idea of downloading the movie from your head! I could really use that. My books would be a lot easier to write. :)

    Cheeky, see, I told you you rocked! I'm going to see them in NYC next weekend, I'm SO excited. Last time they played in NYC, when they played Beloved we all FREAKED out and complete strangers hugged one another, it was awesome. Cheers!!

  11. LOL Thanks! And that's awesome - VnV puts on such a great show. I'm jealous... My Dh and really met at one of their shows about 7 years ago here in Atlanta. :D They hold a special place for us.

  12. I've got music on, this very minute. In fact, I always pull my headphones on when I sit down at the computer. Like a pilot climbing into the cockpit.

    I go on obsessive music binges which generally have nothing to do with the time period I'm writing but corresponds to the mood I'm creating. I love, love, love my YouTube playlists - I have a whole bunch of them with different moods. Then I have CD's which get played over and over until I switch rather abruptly to something else - which then gets played over and over!

    Currently I listen to Muse's Absolution CD, and a new playlist that I'm still in the infatuation stage with - it includes Black Eyed Peas, Emilie Simon, Sneaker Pimps, Fisher, Coldplay, Beck, Gwen Stefani, Moby, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Garbage, The Clash, Alicia Keys/Jack White and Lady Gaga.

  13. Cheeky, THAT IS SO COOL

    Julia, thanks for stopping by with your own soundtrack! I also love MUSE and several others on your list.

    No matter what we're each drawn to, that relationship between our type of art and another type of art that feeds us is really precious.

  14. Ah, you lucky music-listening writers! Unfortunately, I must have silence to write. Ironic, being a musician and all. Or not. Maybe it's because I want to listen. *grin*

    After reading the comments though, I'm wondering if it might be different with instrumentals. Hmmm...

    Interesting stuff here! I love the idea of 'soundtracks' to the book. Fab!

    --Chiron O'Keefe
    The Write Soul:


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