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The Song Remains The same

by on October 21, 2012

I’ve always had a suspicion that I was, well not quite on the same wavelength as many of my fellow men – or women, for that matter.  For that reason it has come as a great relief to find that this may not be the case after all.  And that i may indeed be normal.  All right, Gingerlily, for a given value of normal, then!  I haven’t posted here for a couple of weeks because I’ve been so busy promoting, and trying to finish my fourth book for its imminent submission date.  So I’ve cheated.  I’ve managed to swing a guest piece from a very, very accomplished writer I met on Authonomy.  She’s in the process of finishing a work which will be a huge seller, if there is any justice in the world.  let me introduce fellow fantasy author, A F E Smith.  Her website, needs a visit from anyone who looks for quality.


Life is a Long Song

When Will agreed to this blog swap, I asked him what I should write about. Anything you like, he replied. Despite the broad remit, it took me mere seconds to come up with the perfect topic. For a man who writes comic fantasy about a band of rock’n’roll dwarves, there could be only one possibility. Yep, you guessed it: I’m going to talk about music.


Now the thing is, I suspect that Will and I don’t exactly have the same taste when it comes to music. For instance, take this snippet from The Amulet of Kings:


The fire troll was less impressed, particularly by the repartee.

“You will wish your bones to ash!”

“Didn’t like them,” Ben answered.

“Who?” asked Erald, confused.

“Wishbone Ash. All that synthetic stuff.”

“You mean synthesizer.”

“Do I?”


“Wasn’t keen on them, either.”

“Do not jest with me,” put in the fire troll, who also was not keen on progressive rock.


This made me laugh, and not just because of the jokes. For unlike Ben and the fire troll, I love prog rock. I go to Wishbone Ash concerts on a regular basis.* I prefer early Genesis to late (you know, the albums where they sing about wolves** and giant hogweed*** and genetic engineering****). I went to see Roger Waters perform The Wall two nights in a row. All this despite the fact that when these bands – and prog rock itself – were at their height, I wasn’t even born. Blame my parents. It’s their fault I’m going to end up like GG.


The dwarf’s clothes hung off him in rags: he was very, very thin and looked ill.

“Help me,” he breathed.

“Take a good look at him,” said Lakin, not without some sympathy for the wretched plight of the dwarf. “Anyone else into progressive music?”


Yet although Will and I may differ in our opinions of what should happen to someone who plays Genesis records to the Dwarf King under the Mountain, we have one very important thing in common: music as inspiration, in writing and in life. Though few people weave music through their writing as Will does, many of us turn to our favourite bands and tracks in order to evoke a mood, overcome a mental block or simply as motivation, in much the same way as joggers use pounding dance music***** to set their pace. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone to an author’s website and found the playlist they were listening to while they wrote their book, or the song they imagined as the background to a particular scene. Music shapes our lives, and it also shapes our writing.


So what is it about music that has this effect on us? Why is it so important? Well, I’ve written before about the instant emotional connection music gives us to events or experiences in our lives: more than any other form of art, music speaks to our hearts rather than our heads. And often it’s the music we grew up with that we love the most, both because hearing it again brings with it layers of memory and nostalgia, and because it’s our childhood loves (whether music or books or anything else) that shape who we are today. When we write, we draw on everything we are. And what we are is partly built on music.


For me, my love of fantasy and my love of prog rock are inextricably linked. Sometimes I wonder how I’d be different if I’d grown up listening to country’n’western or acid house or (gulp) nothing at all. Would I be a different writer, a different reader? Would I prefer horror, romance, literary fiction? Maybe, or maybe not – but in the end it doesn’t matter. Because whatever kind of music we like, it’s the fundamental pleasure we get from it that unites us. We may not agree on what makes Good Music, but we all agree that music is a Good Thing. In the same way, though we may enjoy different genres, all of us love books. And that’s what matters.


Now, a prize for the first person to name the band who provided my title …




* Or at least, I did before I became a parent. Apparently, parenthood and rock’n’roll are fundamentally incompatible.


** ‘White Mountain’. (Which, coincidentally, is also the name of the new book by Will’s fellow author Sophie E Tallis. Small world, huh?)


*** ‘Return of the Giant Hogweed’, obviously.


**** ‘Supper’s Ready’. At least, that’s what I’ve always assumed it’s about, though who can really tell?


***** Now that’s a genre that deserves banishment. Along with the joggers themselves.




A.F.E. Smith is currently working on several fantasy novels, all of which read better with a twenty-minute epic prog rock track playing in the background. She used to be able to pick out the guitar solo from ‘Comfortably Numb’, but these days can only just manage a few basic chords. (A bit like Status Quo, then.)


Again, her website:


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  1. ***** I definitely agree with banishment here!! Very funny! 😀

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