Saturday, November 10, 2007

Guest blogger: Karen E. Olson

Today, I'm pleased as punch to be hosting a guest blog by mystery author Karen E. Olson, whose new Annie Seymore mystery, Dead of the Day is just out. This is the third in the Annie Seymour series, which is set in Karen's home city of New Haven, and really give readers a feel for the neighborhoods, the people, and the marvelous food! I've loved these books, which feature a very real and very spunky reporter, since the first, Sacred Cows, and cannot wait to read the new installment. I'll get to hear some of the stories behind it, too: Karen and I will be speaking together at Brookline Booksmith on Dec. 11.

In consideration of my overall theme, Karen wrote today about music:

One thing I’m asked a lot is whether I listen to music when I write. I don’t. I think it’s all those years of working in a big newsroom, with no walls or cubicles, and learning how to shut out the sounds of people talking, phones ringing, keyboards clacking. Sometimes I try to put a CD on while I write, but usually I realize an hour later that the music hasn’t been playing for a while and I just never noticed.

But music does have its place in my books. My reporter protagonist, Annie Seymour, has a real fondness for the Rolling Stones. In every book, she’s listening to their music in her car as she drives around covering stories. I’ve said that if there’s ever a movie made from the series, the Stones have to provide the soundtrack.

I did wrestle with this decision, though. It’s the old Stones vs. Beatles question, and I sit squarely on the Beatles side of that. I’ve always liked the Stones enough, but the Beatles were who I lipsinced to when I was in elementary school with my best friend Alison Prendergast. I wasn’t quite sure just who the Stones were for a few more years (I blame my parents for that; they were quite unhip in the Sixties and for years I thought Jose Feliciano had written “Light My Fire.” I was shocked to find out it was a Doors song.)

But because readers think that Annie is me (writing in first person does lend itself to that, and it doesn’t help that Annie’s a longtime journalist, like I am), I wanted to give her something that really wasn’t me, even if my readers might not know that.

In DEAD OF THE DAY, the third in the series that’s just out this week, I wanted to throw Annie out of her comfort zone a little, in more ways than one. One of those ways was to take away her Stones tapes. She loses them in a unique way and is forced to listen to borrowed CDs. I gave her the White Stripes and Our Lady Peace, in order to expand her horizons a little.

Let’s just say that Annie is a creature of habit and while she listens to the CDs because she doesn’t have any others, she’s back to listening to the Stones in the next book.

As readers, do you notice the music in the books or is it just background noise?

I'm curious, too! Please let us know.


caryn said...

Yes, I notice the music the characters listen to. I think it helps make them more "real" as characters.
My husband took it to a whole new level though. Afew years ago in one of the Sanford "Prey" books, there was a list of Lucus Davenport's top200 road trip songs. Mike spent a couple of months tracking those songs down in order to make 3 CDs for us to listen to whe we traveled.

Caroline said...

This book sounds great!

Caroline said...

Whoops, this cut me off before I ws redy. I always notice music characters listen to, along with the books they read and the movies they see.

Literary Feline said...

Like Caryn and Caroline, I do notice the music the characters listen to. I think the music a person listens to says a lot about him or her and it adds an extra dimension to a character in a book as well. I like the idea of Sanford's character's top 200 list. (And like Caroline, I also notice the movies and television shows the characters watch and most especially the books they read.)

There is a particular fantasy writer my husband turned me on to years ago who actually writes her own music and songs for some of her books--even sells CDs. Nothing you'd hear playing on the radio or even in most people's homes, but I took a liking to it for awhile. That's kind of extreme though.

When I read, I don't often listen to music because, like you said when you are writing, Karen, I tend to forget I'm listening to anything at all. My focus is completely on the book.

Karen Olson said...

One of Michael Connelly's books actually included a CD of the jazz that Harry Bosch listens to, which I think is an interesting idea.

I want to thank Clea for her hospitality in having me over here today!

Clea Simon said...

The pleasure is mine! Very much looking forward to seeing you on Dec. 11 (and hope some of these commenters come by too). - Clea