Last year I wrote three McSerials and they then came out as a collection. I thought I’d do the same this year. Then I got ‘lost in music.’
The Soundtrack started out as the idea for another wee McSerial, and it kind of grew out of control.
It is being serialised in McStorytellers – those of you who’ve been paying attention may have sung your way through the first Disc.
The second disc of what has become a ‘Double Album in Prose’ will be serialised come the New Year. But for those who can’t wait, the full double album is published tomorrow, December 1st at Unco.scot.
So what is it all about?
As I was writing it, I explored a lot of music that has sat there in the front and back of my mind for most of my life. Some I love, some I hate, but all of it has some kind of significance for memory and identity. That struck me as weird and not a little bit interesting. So I developed a story round it. I had in my mind some real people and some real experiences, but a lot of fiction.
As my mind turned to publication, I wondered how to ‘define’ it. While I’d love to jump on the MurielSpark100 bandwagon and say ‘It’s a Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for the 21st century,’ that’s a) only partly true and b) perhaps not for me to say.
Because what this process has taught me is that music is intensely personal. Reading is similar in some respects. And however much we can ‘communicate’ through our writing, we all bring our own perspectives and experience to the reading/writing exchange. To some extent I think we are culturally mediated by the experience. Beyond that, I think that the way we are ‘created’ culturally has an important impact on our personal identity. I don’t know what that ‘means’, it’s just a discovery I feel I’ve made. You may have already made that connection. I find I’m still floundering to understand the impact of the statement.
There are many stories in ‘The Soundtrack of our lives.’ There are many ‘songs’ being sung. And I’m guessing that there are many ways to relate and experience the story. That’s fascinating to me. Again, I don’t know what it all ‘means’ to say that. I only hope that people will at least enjoy reading the story, listening to some music and think about how music and lyrics impact upon their own lives.
Music seemed vitally important to me in my youth. Less so now. I believe that it becomes vitally important again if one develops dementia. I don’t know how or why any of this works – but writing the ‘Soundtrack’ has surprise (and at times shocked) me by how many songs I ‘know by heart.’ It runs into thousands. Maybe you can compile a ‘top ten’ easily. I can’t. I have lifetime of ‘playlists’ roaming round my head now. They may be stuck away in parts of my brain I rarely access, but they are there – undeleted files amidst the ‘working memory’ of everyday life.
The ‘story’ in soundtrack is not, of course, just about me. It was an exploration of how people ‘connect’ as they ‘grow’ and also a study of people who live on the outside, always looking in. The central ‘character’ Jane, is in that position. She tells us the story is Billy and Rachel’s. But of course the story is hers. And mine. And, while you are reading it – and afterwards – yours. Is music the food of love? Write on!
I’d love to know what people think about Soundtrack – as a story, as a concept, as a way of exploring memory and identity. It’s a funny thing when you get ‘lost in music’ or in words – you come out the other end different somehow, feeling you’ve ‘shared’ something with another person you’ve never met – and then the ‘come undone’ moment kicks in when you realise you may never know what your reader thinks of your work. Which is, of course, a vital part of your identity. You hope they like you of course, and you’d love it if they were whistling the same happy tune.
‘Soundtrack’ the novel weighs in at some 60,000 words. A couple of years ago I never thought I’d be able to achieve that. With the discipline of regular writing and a lot of songs to help me on the way, it was mostly a pleasure rather than a chore. It was an adventure and an exploration into new territory and it’s become something I’m quite proud of. A good personal achievement shall we say. It occurs to me that lots of other people could ‘write their stories’ this way and I’d be fascinated to see how music has influenced and ‘created’ other people’s lives. So please don’t be shy to adopt the ‘Soundtrack’ genre of fictional writing. It’s not my brand or trademark or copyright. But I do think it’s an under-explored and interesting way to frame writing.
There are lots of songs on my personal soundtrack that never made it to the story. Perhaps the most significant one of these is ‘Life on Mars.’ I leave you to ponder on what it means – I don’t think I have the words to explain its relevance to me. I don’t know what Jane would say about it. But it’s a great song, which I never tire of hearing.
And next year? Who knows. I want to keep writing McSerials. But what the next story will be – I have no idea yet.
Freebies and bargains
Family Fictions (link takes you to episode one)
That Long, Hot Summer (link takes you to episode one)
or get all three stories as Boy Meets Girl 3 paperback at Unco for £6.99 (plus p&p)
The Soundtrack of our lives Disc One (link takes you to episode one)
and if you can't wait for Disc Two get The Soundtrack of our Lives in paperback at Unco for £6.99 (plus P&P)