(In which I talk about the playlist I used to write Hild. You'll also find a link to most of the list on Spotify.)
Finding a way into a novel is like wandering in the wood late at night; sometimes what feels like a path is just a gap in the trees. Music is an emotional signpost. But it has to be pointing the right way, otherwise you end up in a bog, at the edge of precipice or floating backwards down the river.
When I write I can play only music as familiar as my heartbeat--stuff I can harmonise with, pound out the beat to, soar upon without fully engaging. Otherwise I listen with the word-making part of my brain and I'm distracted. So these are all old songs. Some are older than me. I always played them in the same order, so my subconscious mind always knew what was coming next. But I started the playlist in different places, depending on what the writing required that day. Hild begins from the perspective of a frightened toddler, goes on to the glory of childhood certainty, then the tension and laugh-out-loud brilliance of first sex, the restless risk-taking of young-adulthood, the exhilaration of political power.
Music is a thing of the whole body, not just the ears. So when I write I can't bear to listen to music through headphones or earbuds. I need real speakers, complete with enormous sub woofer. (Probably also for that reason, I insist on WAV files, not MP3s.) When I think there's no one around I crank it until the house trembles, feel the bass pushing my belly like a hand, the hum of cello like a bottle of bees in my long bones.
I built three playlists: WeirdHild, OtherHild, and MainHild. I swapped from one to the other with Hild's mood. But as I moved into the last third of the first draft, and throughout subsequent rewrites, MainHild vanquished the others utterly.
It's selections from MainHild I'll talk about today..."
(An essay in which I address the question lots of people keep asking.)
More than one review of Hild has characterised me as an sf/f writer who has left the fold to try my hand at this historical fiction thing. I’m not convinced I’ve left anything. If I have, I haven’t stepped very far.
When I first started reading I found no essential difference between Greek mythology and the Iliad, Beowulf and the Icelandic sagas. The Lord of the Rings,The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Eagle of the Ninth all spoke to me with the same voice: the long ago, wreathed in mist and magic. My first attempt at fiction (I was eight or nine) was a tale of a hero with no name—though naturally his sword has a name, and his horse, and dog. I’ve no idea if there would have been any fantastic element or not because I abandoned it after the first page. A brooding atmosphere, it turned out, wasn’t enough to sustain a story...
WhateverJust before I started work on Hild, I wrote “You’ve been warned,” a blog post in which I vowed that with my next novel I would run my software on your hardware. “I will control what you think and feel, put you right there, right then…give you a life you’ve never had, change the one you live. For a while, when you’re lost in my book, you will be somewhere, somewhen, someone else.” It was my dagger in the table, a public challenge—to myself. You see, I’d been aiming for Hild for a long time, and I was terrified...
Work in Progress(In which I talk about how I used language, and Hild used various tongues--Old English, British, Irish, Latin--to achieve her aims.)Words matter. They’re like icebergs; nine-tenths of their meaning lies beneath the surface. But that hidden meaning has mass, it has momentum. A single word can crush your pretty sentence, or paragraph or even scene, like tin.
This blog has moved. My blog now lives here: http://nicolagriffith.com/blog/