Take Note – Anne Barwell

Hi, it’s Anne Barwell back for my monthly blog on Authors Speak. Thanks again, Lou, for hosting me.

Last week a few of us at work took a Myers-Briggs personality test. I can’t remember exactly what four letters I came out with, but the end results were spot on: Reader, writer, and musician. I’m very much a reader, and work in a library, am a writer, and a musician. I taught music for ten years, it’s my minor in my BA, and one of the subjects in my BTeach. I played piano for church for many years, and also play violin for a local orchestra.

I usually write with music playing in the background, and often I’ll look up from what I’m doing and think that a particular song or piece of music reminds me of either a character or a story I’m writing. When that happens, I’ll jot the title down. The music I listen to isn’t usually a soundtrack to what I’m working on, but sometimes it’s more the feel of it to get in the right mood. For example I like listening to Michael Bublé when I write my WWII Echoes Rising series. Although he’s not a singer from the 1940s, he sings a lot of older songs, and it puts me in that mindset. Every time I hear ‘I See Fire’ by Ed Sheeran I think of dragons and A Knight to Remember, and Dancing in the Moonlight reminds me of Simon and Ben of The Sleepless City.

Music also tends to be a reoccurring theme in my writing. Several of my characters are musicians, and it’s played a part in a few of my books too.

I’m about to start the final copy edit for the 2nd edition of Winter Duet book 2 of my WII series Echoes Rising from DSPP Publications. Both Kit and Michel in that series are musicians, and I used quotes from Schubert’s Winterreise as part of the code phrases exchanged between members of the Resistance. I also love the idea of code in music, and played with that in the story too. Reese Dante did a wonderful cover for Winter Duet with the outline of a violin against a winter forest backdrop, and sheet music in the background.

Music also features quite extensively in On Wings of Song which begins with the Christmas truce in 1914 during WII, and then continues through to 1920. One of the main characters, Aiden, is a singer, and his music is an integral part of the plot. TL Bland caught the feel of the story perfectly with the sepia cover, and music in the background.

Here’s an excerpt from the story when Aiden sings during the Christmas Service during the Truce:

“I’ve seen it,” Aiden said quietly. “I wish to God I hadn’t.” He looked directly at Jochen. Jochen met Aiden’s gaze. He’d seen an echo of Conrad’s fire in Aiden when he’d talked about his music earlier that afternoon.

“Don’t die on the wire, Aiden.”

“I’ll try not to.” Aiden’s words were an empty promise. They both knew it, but what else was he going to say?

The red-haired man Aiden had spoken to about arranging the burials walked over to him. He too held a shovel, and he wiped perspiration from his brow despite the cold. “There’s going to be a combined service for the dead,” he told them. “In about ten minutes in no man’s land in front of the French trenches.”

As they made their way over, men were already beginning to gather, soldiers from opposite sides sitting together, conversation dwindling to a respectful silence. A British chaplain stood in front of them, a Bible in his hand, a German beside him. Jochen recognized him, although he didn’t know his name. The young man was only a few years older than Jochen and was studying for the ministry—would he ever get the chance to complete those studies?

Jochen and Aiden found somewhere to sit a few rows back from the front and joined the company of men. The German spoke first. “Vater unser, der du bist im Himmel. Geheiligt werde dein Name.

The British chaplain repeated the words in English. “Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.”

They then spoke a few words each, some from the Bible, the rest from their hearts. Their congregation was silent apart from a few quiet “amens.” Jochen saw a couple of men wipe tears away. He was close to it himself.

Finally the chaplain bowed his head in prayer. When he’d finished, he spoke quietly to the man who had come to stand next to him. It was Captain Williams. He nodded and looked over the crowd, his gaze fixing on Aiden.

Aiden must have guessed what Williams wanted. He inclined his head in response and then stood. Jochen glanced between the two men, confused. What did Williams expect Aiden to do?

“Aiden?” Jochen asked softly.

Aiden smiled at him and began to sing. “O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining….” He lifted his head, his voice strong and clear, each note building on the last to create something truly beautiful, something angelic. Aiden’s eyes shone; his body swayed slightly in time with the music. He was the music.

His audience sat in awe. Jochen could feel the emotion rippling through the men around him, tangible, as though he could reach out and touch it. He felt something inside himself reach out, wanting to be a part of it, to be carried along the wave of pure music, to grab it and never let go.

Although music isn’t reflected on the cover of Slow Dreaming the song of that name drives the storyline of my New Zealand set time travel novella. Jason, a time traveller, is haunted by a song almost remembered from a dream, but finds the truth behind it almost too late, when he meets Sean, a musician and songwriter who quickly becomes far more than just an assignment.

Finishing this post with an excerpt from that story:

“You’re a musician?” A familiar not-quite tune whispered to him. He ignored it.

“Yeah, although more of a songwriter than a performer.” Sean shrugged. “I doubt you’ve heard of me, although a couple of local bands are willing to play my stuff. I play keyboards for them on the occasional gig, too, when the usual guy is off sick or whatever.” He glanced toward his pile of papers, his mouth twisting into a half grimace, half-shy smile. “I’m working on a new one but having trouble getting it quite right. That happens sometimes, then when it’s the right time, it all falls into place. It drives me crazy until it does, though. I swear I eat, drink, and sleep the thing.”

“I’d love to hear what you’ve got so far.” Jason could have kicked himself for not taking the time to listen to the sound files attached to Sean’s dossier. However, it was Sean’s role at the café that was the focus of the assignment, not his music.

“That settles it.” Sean grinned. “I knew you were crazy with all your talk of hotness. Now you want to hear music composed by a guy you’ve only just met.” He schooled his face into a solemn expression. “I think that’s about the fourth sign of madness isn’t it? After all, for all you know my music could be really bad. How do you know you won’t lose your hearing and good taste for the rest of eternity?”

“And here I was thinking the fourth sign was being a true believer of the sanctity and healing properties of coffee,” Jason deadpanned.

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.

Blog: http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com/
Website: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115084832208481414034/posts
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4862410.Anne_Barwell
Dreamspinner Press Author Page:
DSP Publications Author Page:

5 thoughts on “Take Note – Anne Barwell”

  1. Anne, wonderful post. You know I’m all about the music. But I’m like Sarah–rarely listen when I’m writing, although the other day I got in the mood for something unusual, took my laptop outside to write (took some doing to combat the sun), and pulled up Deep Breakfast, bringing back memories from—what was it, the early 90s? I ended up taking my writing somewhere unplanned, but I like the result. Probably should do it more often! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Lou. Maybe that is a sign you should do it more often. I love it when my writing goes somewhere I didn’t plan – and often it’s better than what I did have planned. 🙂

  2. These excerpts are great–very powerful! “O Holy Night” is one of my favorite hymns too–the kind you can really get swept away in.

    I tend not to listen to music when I’m actually writing (that tends to be more my brainstorming phase) because I find it distracting, but I love hearing how other people incorporate it into their writing practices. Very cool. I love stories that weave music into their themes–music is so important!

    1. Thanks, Sarah. I love “O Holy Night’ and figured it was the perfect hymn for the scene.

      I don’t always hear the music I have playing in the background so don’t find it distracting. I tend to zone into what I’m doing and then ‘surface’ here and there and catch bits and pieces of it. I couldn’t imagine a world without music – it’s a scary thought.

Hi! Welcome to Authors Speak, where readers are welcome to speak back--comment if the spirit moves you. ;) No spams, no slams--them's the rules.