Writers are often asked what inspires their writing or what are the prompts they use to put words on a page. For me, music has always played a big role. Whether I’m writing a motivational piece for a school newsletter or laying down a chapter in a novel, I frequently associate my writing topic with a particular song.
This association was particularly true for MEET THE BOYS OF CASPER. Sometimes, a song popped up as part of the story; other times a certain song reflected the mood with which I wanted to begin or end a chapter. While writing, I mentally visualized the scene taking place as if it were playing on TV—Think of the opening or closing moments in series such as Mad Men or Breaking Bad. In my humble opinion, Breaking Bad’s incorporation of Badfinger’s song, Baby Blue, in the final episode was a stroke of genius. Occasionally, I would hear a song that inspired a story I wanted to tell. In those cases, I actually let some of the song lyrics guide my writing.
Here are the songs associated with each chapter of MEET THE BOYS OF CASPER:
Chapter: PRELUDE / Song: Living in the Past by Jethro Tull – This song perfectly describes the journey on which the novel embarks and does so with sophisticated rhythym and energy.
Chapter: THE SELECTION / Song: Crystal Ball by Styx – Crystal Ball came to mind when I thought about PUUK’s decision to study the boys; he was metaphorically about to look into a crystal ball.
Chapter: BORIAS / Song: Pretzel Logic by Steely Dan – Greg Borias is the class wise guy (smart ass). When I listen to Steely Dan, I come away with the impression that Donald Fagan might have similar traits. For me, the term, pretzel logic, aptly describes the condition of a smart but confused teenage boy. After associating Pretzel Logic with Borias and listening again to the lyrics, the idea of Borias’ affection for Napoleon spawned.
Chapter: TOTEM / Song: Against the Wind by Bob Seger – “Against the wind” are the final words in this chapter. It’s a phrase meaning “tough going” which certainly describes Totem’s current status. It’s also a wind reference, and Wyoming and wind are one and the same.
Chapter: RANDY / Song: The Look of Love by Dusty Springfield (also Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66) – One of the many visions flitting through Randy’s mind during “lights out” time. Dusty Springfield sang the movie version, but I prefer the Sergio Mendes cover. Either way, it’s an excellent musical piece from the late sixties.
Chapter: PUUK / Song: Space Cowboy by The Steve Miller Band – This one was too easy as our alien friend sets out for his wild west adventure. PUUK’s tale is totally absurd, and Steve Miller’s instrumental “wa wa wa wa’s” were the perfect complement.
Chapter: JERRY / Song: Another Park, Another Sunday by the Doobie Brothers – I wanted to include a girlfriend story but was having trouble getting started. Then I heard this song and picked up on its melancholy tone. The song also gave me the idea to end the story in a park on a Sunday. For this chapter, I started at the ending and then worked backwards.
Chapter: JIMBO / Song: Call Me the Breeze by Lynard Skynard – This chapter is the only one where I envision the song opening the story. Action begins as we watch a pair of shapely legs in cutoff jeans round a corner and strut along the sidewalk with wolf whistles in the background. The song is also classic, southern rock, and Jimbo’s a southern boy. Finally, we insert another reference to the wind.
Chapter: RANKIN / Song: Jingle Jangle by The Archies – Rankin’s story ends with an unexpected thought. With the striking of a single, distinct guitar chord, Jingle Jangle’s opening accents this moment. Sit back and enjoy a little bubblegum music from Rankin’s favorite band.
Chapter: THE BOYS / Song: Blown by Bachman Turner Overdrive – Yet another reference to the wind. If you remember your 8-track days, Blown is the opening number on Bachman Turner Overdrive II and is the song that plays as the boys get caught up in their special moment. I actually considered calling the novel, BLOWN.