I first met Jeff when I interviewed him for Kobold Quarterly a few years ago. I had greatly enjoyed his novel, as well as his gaming materials. After the interview, Jeff and I kept in touch and often had strange e-mail exchanges in which he talked about the band Rush and I talked about the Grateful Dead and neither of us every listened to the other’s favorite band but we pretended to in order to be polite.
Last spring, Jeff invited me to participate in a project that has grown into Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero. The official blurb describes the project as a “a 19-story anthology of dark science fiction intertwined with a 19-track album of songs and soundtrack music, created collaboratively by a veritable shadow gallery of speculative fiction authors and musicians, under the banner of the Very Us Artists, to be published by Blindsided Books.”
I’ll post more about Foreshadows in the future, but for now I’d like to point out that the Foreshadows project has been a collaboration among fiction writers, musicians, visual artists, game designers, and business types. At the heart of Foreshadows is the desire of a lot of creative people to make good music and tell exciting stories in new ways. (There’s a Kickstarter page if you want to help support the project and grab up some pretty interesting swag.)
Below, Jeff talks about the relationship between music and writing.
In what ways do you or have you used music to enhance your writing and creativity?
Jeff LaSala: For me, the answer is simple: Music induces mood, which enhances creativity. Like a drug, I guess, but not as disgusting or scarily mind-altering. The right music places me firmly and temporarily into a mindset I wasn’t in moments before. Its effect can be primal and powerful, and can often trump whatever mood had been previously prevalent. And in that new mood I can more easily imagine the story I’m after.
Beyond that, sometimes it takes music to help set the stage for me, because I find the writing environment to be messy. Mine sure is. Writing isn’t done in a vacuum, and where I live, silence—the closest thing there is to a vacuum—is hard to come by. Therefore music can drown out the unwanted disturbances or at least provide more desirable ones. At its best, music inspires me and can actually fuel a story; at its worst, it’s a lesser evil sort of white noise. But that’s just me.
Soundtracks to movies I’ve never seen or don’t care to see usually work best. That way my story gets a temporary score of its own. Of course, it’s a one-time application; readers won’t be listening to the same thing when they read what I wrote.
And/or what has music — listening to it, seeing it live, playing it, writing it, whichever — taught you about writing fiction?
Jeff LaSala: Good music teaches me that even good writing is only one method of storytelling, and one that doesn’t paint the full picture of anything. Music provides a whole other approach, and it’s an approach that I, as a non-musician, can’t really go down. But I sure can appreciate it. I suppose movies, if they reach that perfect formula of cinematography, music, and acting can sometimes come close to the ideal. Even the best of films, especially those based on a book, might be missing the perfect narrative voice that only a writer can provide. But books don’t have a soundtrack.
The bottom line is, there are a lot of ways to tell a good piece of fiction (intentionally or not!). Music is one of those ways, and I envy those who can create it. In the end, it makes me appreciate writing more, has me striving to improve my skills so I can make it the best it can be.
Jeremy L. C. Jones is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher. He is the Staff Interviewer for Clarkesworld Magazine and a frequent contributor to Kobold Quarterly. He teaches at Wofford College and Montessori Academy in Spartanburg, SC. He is also the director of Shared Worlds, a creative writing and world-building camp for teenagers that he and Jeff VanderMeer designed in 2006.