The opening salvo in my novel, Caught in Cross Seas, is a hit by Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, “Somethin’ Bad.” If there isn’t something bad about to happen in a romance novel, there is no story.
Ask most authors and they will tell you music has an important place in their writing process. Stephen King famously mentions in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft how AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, and Metallica play a part in the creation of his novels. Music is also an important element in my writing but in a different way. There isn’t a stereo on while I work, but a book soundtrack runs through my head while I’m crafting scenes and it’s almost always country.
My love of country music blossomed in the 80s with the rise of George Strait. When I decided to write a romance novel, the idea of using country music as a backdrop grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. The way women respond to male stars added credence to my choice to fashion a country music superstar for my hero, and Clay Masterson—Montana cowboy, singer, songwriter, and guitar genius—was created to star in my contemporary romance/mystery Caught in Cross Seas.
In the process of writing the novel, I watched and listened to interviews with the stars on GAC and Kix Brooks’s American Country Countdown and discovered I could do just about anything to Clay and someone in the music industry could say, “Something like that happened to me.” It’s been said that writers must be mean to their characters—put them through horrible situations, threaten their lives, and play with their hearts—so we can offer our readers a satisfying read with a happily-ever-after ending. Country music offered me an abundance of ideas and validated my own.
I listened to song lyrics too. Country music is all about stories and nearly every facet of the human condition has been expressed in a country song. The lyrics make you laugh, cry, want to take a drink, throw a punch, or stand and salute the flag. They made me want to write.
The book soundtrack mostly runs through my head, but I do mention artists in the story on occasion, and I’ll admit to blatant use of Trace Adkins’s “Ladies Love Country Boys” in the background of the bakery fan-attack scene. I couldn’t resist.
What songs make up the Caught in Cross Seas soundtrack? Here are a few of the most influential. Some are hits; some are album cuts. I’ve avoided spoilers.
Alan Jackson’s “Country Boy” hits the mark with his offer to help a damsel in distress mixed with some fun double entendre. In my story, Harlie Cates needs help and Clay is just the guy to offer it, as well as his heart.
After some missteps, altercations, and insecurities exposed, love begins, and Lady Antebellum’s “Can’t Take My Eyes off You” is a perfect mood setter for romance.
And where love begins, a black moment must try to end it. Lady Antebellum again offers the ideal vehicle for heartbreak with “As you Turn Away.” If this heart-wrenching breakup song doesn’t inspire an author to quickly write a make-up scene to stop the suffering, nothing will.
When it’s over and the bodies are buried, the bad guys are caught, and the wounded hearts are healing, our tortured heroes are ready to start life together. How about a little Louie Armstrong to send them on their way? He isn’t country but a legend transcending time and genre. I think his “What a Wonderful World” is a perfect way to say, The End.
But let’s not stop there. I have a bonus track. The second book in the Caught series, Caught in the Spin stars Clay’s best friend, former bull rider Tom Black, and single mom Tallie Peters. And what song opens this book’s soundtrack? Trace Adkins’s powerful performance of “I Can’t Outrun You,” because Tom doesn’t know if he’s being haunted by the memory of a former love or by her ghost. Stay tuned!
re-posted from September 2014