A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
When I was studying for my finals, I used to be partial to a little bit of The Orb, whose debut album of psychedelic electronica The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld had got me pretty obsessed. I remember listening to it with those headphones from the early nineties; an alice band of metal with two sponges glued onto little speakers that you parked over your ears. One day, my mum lifted one up and listened. She rolled eyes. “More drugs music,” she said.
Writing-playlists serve this same function for me over twenty years later; they’re still ‘drugs music’ in the sense that they help firstly transport you elsewhere, and secondly maintain the fragile sense that your elsewhere is real all around you. At the moment, my writing-music rule of thumb is: if it makes me feel as if I’m in the echoing belly of some industrial beast, it gets my seal of approval.
So I’ve put together a playlist for you to sample; details at the foot of the post. If you’re interested, here’s what to expect…
You’ll find a fair few instrumental hip-hop pieces. Rulez of Engagement, for example, which I first heard booming moodily at an undergraduate art show. Zero Dark Thirty by my current fave hip-hop dude, Aesop Rock. Empty Rule is a stand-up bass repeating the same note over and over again; it stutters along very nicely. When it comes to electronica, anything with sticky clicks and taps works well for me, thus the Nils Frahm remix.
I love soundtracks but I’ve found they work best as writing music if they’re scores for movies I’ve never seen. I’ve often listened to the soundtrack to a film twenty or thirty times before I get to see it; a weird and backwards experience.
The Lady in the Water was a critical and commercial disaster, but James Newton Howard’s soundtrack is great. Alexandre Desplat is a go-to Hollywood composer for a good reason; his theme for The Danish Girl is rich and sweeping, sugary with echoey music-box piano. The Revenant’s score feels like the wide-open spaces in which the film is set. Craig Armstrong’s music for Far From the Madding Crowd (a film I’ve seen! Praise be!) is beautiful, though a touch pastoral for this playlist. I had to put Giacchino’s Super 8 in, since it was the soil from which the character Alice from my second novel, Lifers, grew. And game soundtracks are often almost as good as those for other media; Gustavo Santolalla scores movies as well as games so his pedigree is strong. I love his work for The Last of Us. Brian Tyler’s score for Black Flag is maybe too nautical for this context – lots of slave-ship drums – but since we’ve another sea shanty present, I decided I’d sneak it in.
I thought I’d finish with a different type of music altogether; not stuff I’d write to, but stuff I might listen to between writing sessions; songs that are themselves stories and so fuel for inspiration. Ed Harcourt’s cover of Farewell Nancy gets its ticket in because I was listening to it in the car once and it gave me the idea for a character in my first novel The Poison Boy; a girl dressed as a boy who called herself Luke. And we finish with Richmond Fontaine, a band who always tell great stories. Whitey and Me is a serving of tragic Americana about two desperate guys selling their horses for drugs.
A cheerful end, I think.
You can find my playlist on Spotify. Just stick ‘Author Allsorts’ into your Spotify search bar. Enjoy!
Martin Griffin writes sci-fi and fantasy adventures for young readers. His debut novel, THE POISON BOY, won The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction competition in 2012 and somehow managed to get shortlisted for Staffordshire Young Teen Fiction Award, the North East Book Award, the Leeds Book Award, the Calderdale Children’s Book of the Year, the Kent Themed Book Award and the Branford Boase Award, without winning any of them. A teacher at the time, he wrote using the name Fletcher Moss to keep it secret from his students. He returns to his real name for his second novel, LIFERS, a super-dark contemporary prison-break adventure, his first novel for teen readers. Martin lives in Manchester with his wife and child.