Guest Post: 'The Music Behind the Written Word' by Lenore Skomal

Today we have a guest post from Lenore Skomal, whose bio and new novel excerpt can be found at the bottom of this post. Take it away Lenore!

'Words can do exactly what music can: inspire, torture, and bend the human soul. But for me, the written word is often a product of the musical stimulation. And for all of the books I’ve written, I have listened to music while writing them.
In fact, I listen to music when I write just about anything on my computer. Just ask my son, who always pokes fun at me since I’ve developed what he considers the blaspheme of listening to the same old songs in my computer, ad nauseam, never changing them up or adding new work. He is fairly annoyed at me, too, because he’s a talented music major in college and has made recordings with several of his bands, but I continue to listen to his old high school District Chorus performances. They are my go-to musical inspiration when I’m working on smaller projects, like now. I’m listening to him sing Tenor 1 in a piece by Greg Jasperse called “Voice Dance 1.”

Romance in F minor, Opus 11 by Dvorak is the piece I listened to continually—as in over and over and over again—while writing “Keeper of Lime Rock” (re-released in 2010 as “Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter,” Globe Pequot). This piece is so well suited for the story of Ida Lewis, the Rhode Island lighthouse keeper who was catapulted to fame by her heroic rescues and then completely forgotten later in life, not just by her peers but by history. Dvorak writes the score with such heart. There is a striking melancholia that runs through the orchestral background movements, while the violin takes centre stage. Ida seems to reach out through the notes of the delicate violin and, every time I hear it, my heart is rendered helpless.

This piece actually picked me when I was searching for something to keep me company as I wrote the final draft of the chapters. I was recently divorced and spending the weekend at my brother’s house on Martha’s Vineyard to do a complete write-through of the book. He kept my 9-year-old son busy while I wrote and listened to this piece, having brought along the cassette tape my ex had given me when we were first married. This piece was the first on the tape.

“Bluff” (my first novel to be released late summer) because of its intense themes, was inspired by two unrelated pieces by two separate composers: Howard Hanson and Samuel Barber. You might recall Barber’s Adagio for Strings from the movie, “Platoon.” This powerfully moving score really helped me plumb the depths of the protagonist: Jude, the complicated. If you listen to it, you will feel the sorrow and implicit darkness that surrounded her and left her bereft. To counter that, Rhythmic Variations on Two Ancient Hymns by Hanson is just delightful to listen to. It nicely offsets the heaviness of the overlying themes in my book. It motivates the celestial feel I wanted to achieve in snippets throughout the book and essentially at the end. In it I hear the voice of Aidan and Jude’s young baby. I feel spring and the essential cycle of life and death when I hear this piece.

“Third Willow,” my yet-to-be released upcoming novel, was woven together by the melodic, playful, heart-stirring and sometimes haunting themes of Elmer Bernstein who wrote the score for the movie version of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Since my novel is written as a tribute to and with the same feel as Harper Lee in her classic novel, it only felt right and appropriate to use it as my audio muse. There are eight movements to the score. In particular, Boo Who?, otherwise known as Boo Radley’s theme, reached into my heart and unravelled the words needed to capture the essence of my Peter Pan protagonist, Hap Pritchard. Every time I hear it, I can see Hap swaying in the highest branch of the third willow. I have always said, if I could write only one novel that could impact the world as that book has, I would die supremely happy, fully content and surely understood.

*     *     *

Information about Lenore Skomal:

Lenore Skomal wants you to eat her books. She wants you to chew them in your teeth, savour them on your tongue, breathe them in, and feel her words in your skin. Her passionate desire is to touch your heart, inspire you, and luxuriate in the world of the written word. She finds ecstasy in constructing a perfect sentence and responds willingly to the nagging ache in her heart to create an authentic experience for the reader. Lenore is an award-winning author with the single goal of being heard.

Winner of multiple awards for blogging, literature, biography and humour, Lenore Skomal's catalogue spans many genres. With 30 years of writing experience, over 17 books published and a daily blog, the consistent themes in her work are the big issues the human experience and adding depth and voice to the intricacies involved in living a multi-dimensional existence. Skomal has won several Society of Professional Journalist Awards, Whidbey Island Writer's Conference honourable mention for best fiction, Writer's Digest 73rd Annual Fiction Contest, New York Public Library's Best Books for Teens 2003, and the Next Generation Indie Book Award for humour. From journalism, to literary fiction, to humour and biography, Skomal's writing is consistent, if not in genre, then in message.

As a member of the world community, Skomal is excited by the opportunities presented in today's publishing climate. Now, not only can she spend her time travelling internationally and experiencing cultural events like a Lakota Sweat Lodge, she shares these experiences directly with her readers in hopes of resonating with them and underscoring that no one is alone.

In addition to writing, Lenore is an engaging public speaker with over 1000 public engagements, book tours and writing seminars. She has taught college journalism, has one son, and when not off gallivanting from Egypt to Mongolia she resides with her husband in Erie, Pa.

You can find Lenore Skomal at her Website at http://lenoreskomal.com/ or Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lenore-...

EXCERPT #1 from 'Bluff'
 I was born a weakling. An infection set in after my mother’s water broke and somehow that translated into pneumonia, which settled into my hours-old lungs. It was touch-and-go for several days. As the story goes, my mother Gay found religion, went into hiding in the hospital chapel and prayed like a mad woman. She sought the help of St. Jude.
"Most holy apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, I am so helpless and alone. I promise, O blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you."
She made a deal with the saint. If I lived, and oh she prayed and prayed I would, she would name me after this mighty and powerful patron saint, the court of spiritual last resort for those with hopeless causes.
And I lived. And she kept her word. The name, while meant to be a blessing, has felt like a curse. The miracle of my recovery has been solely attributed to the saint alone—a constant reminder throughout my life. Apparently, my own little body, spirit and strength had nothing to do with it. I was a miracle. A true hopeless cause whom St. Jude took pity on. There’s a lot of expectation that comes along with being a miracle. And of course with that, the inevitable—crushing disappointment.
Yes, Gay kept her word and named me after the saint who saved my life. I never thought of asking her what she would have named me if I had died.
I think a birth name can predestine you for life. I am Jude, the hopeless cause.


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