Music in Books
Firstly, let me thank Renee for hosting me here today. I’m very pleased to be here, less than two weeks from the release of “Town Man, Country Man”, my fourth title with Dreamspinner Press.
One question frequently put to writers is whether they listen to music while writing or if they listen to certain types of music while writing certain scenes. I don’t. I prefer my writing environment to be as quiet and distraction-free as possible (which is probably why I rarely get as much of it done as I’d like!)
But I am a lover of all sorts of music, always listening to whatever fits my mood at the moment. Music does often play a part in my writing by way of offering significant insight into my characters’ personalities and helping to enrich the backdrops.
The music in “Town Man, Country Man” starts offering clues about the characters straight away when Josh and Ben meet at a friend’s wedding and Ben asks Josh to dance by saying that he “kind of really” likes the song playing at the moment. Josh’s best friend displays his characteristic snark, mouthing “Edge of Glory?” as Josh moves to join Ben on the dancefloor.
Later, though, Ben back-peddles a bit, saying he’d probably never attend a Lady Gaga concert or buy her music, but he does find it fun for dancing. Overall, Ben is a more of a classic rock and 80’s music kinda guy, though he likes to work-out to his “RuPaul” Pandora radio station and has a few dance hits CDs in his glovebox. Typically over-analytical Josh reads this as Ben being “safe” in his choices of personal expression. Josh and Ben have a lot of musical taste in common, though. Both can easily enjoy “fun” pop stuff, while also having an appreciation for old jazz music.
Josh gets a bit of a surprise when he takes Ben out to one of his regular gay clubs for their second date. For one thing, Ben isn’t afraid of being the only ones dancing because it’s not even 11:00 PM yet. For another, when the DJ plays a Marc Anthony song, Ben asks Josh if he knows how to dance salsa. Josh, in fact, does and the two of them are a big hit, showing off more moves than the usual twerking and grinding. The DJ even decides to play a few more Latin songs to let Josh and Ben show off and the bartender says it’s like watching “Dancing with the Stars”. (And here I must fully disclose that ever since I started salsa dancing myself a few years I’ve wanted to write characters who dance, too. Just a little of art imitating life, and after all, as Josh says, “who doesn’t like an excuse for thinking about Ricky Martin?”)
The next morning, Ben and Josh return to Pittsburgh’s Strip District to experience the phenomenon that is Saturday morning marketing on Penn Avenue. This is an example of music describing a scene as few other things can, with various shops piping music onto the sidewalks, ranging from pop hits like Katy Perry to Pittsburgh Steelers fight songs. Like the mix of goods and foods on offer, it is a unique representation of the city.
Josh also finds his thoughts about Ben and their deepening relationship echoed perfectly when Ben’s Pandora station offers them “I Got Rhythm” on their way home from a double-date golf outing. Of course, when it comes to the logistics of a long-term relationship, sometimes those ‘daisies in green pastures’ aren’t quite enough to bridge a 50-mile lifestyle gap.
Music can often reveal so much about a person or place that aside from being its own language of notes and rhythms and harmonies, it becomes such an important part of understanding another person’s individual “language”. While Josh does have a habit of reading rather a lot into every aspect of his time together with Ben, there is something to be said for cluing into someone’s “language” to help firmly establish a connection early on.
Town Man, Country Man
“Town man” Josh Douglass meets “country man” Ben Bauer at a mutual friend’s wedding, and passion kindles immediately. As urbanite wedding planner Josh and closeted contractor Ben spend more time together, they develop a deep, comfortable romance despite the fifty miles between their homes—and despite the drastic differences in their lifestyles. But as they grow closer, it becomes apparent that Josh and Ben have been enjoying the first flush of love without giving much thought to longer-term logistics.
A crisis leads Josh to ask himself serious questions about how his relationship with Ben can realistically work. But just as Josh is feeling ready to talk about the next step with Ben, a misunderstanding threatens to put an end to their love affair. Compromise is the key to any relationship, but it isn’t always easy to balance careers, friendships, and family expectations. Josh and Ben just need to see that bringing together the best of both their worlds is well worth the sacrifices they’ll have to make to remain in each other’s lives.
Jessica Skye Davies