Guest: Anne Barwell Talks about her Soundtracks

Welcome, Anne. It’s so lovely to have you visiting me today!

Thanks, Posy, for hosting me here today.

My upcoming release Shades of Sepia is the first book in The Sleepless City, a M/M urban fantasy series co-authored with Elizabeth Noble.  It’s one of those stories that collected a fair-sized ‘soundtrack’ along the way.


When I write I like to have music playing in the background.  It’s part of my writing routine. Make a cuppa, put on music.  Sometimes it is just background music, but often I find myself gravitating to a certain sound of music depending on what I’m writing. Many, if not all, of my stories/series/characters/ end up with their own ‘soundtracks’ because of it.  Often it’s the lyrics, or just the feel of the song. Or it’s because that particular piece of music is referred to in the story.

I’m a musician – I play piano and violin – so I do tend to sneak musical references into my stories or write characters who are musicians.  They’re usually not professional musicians but they do play for relaxation, or music has a special place in their lives.

Some stories tend to have more soundtracks than others. It depends on the characters, and often I’ll listen to a song and think ‘oh that’s so and so.’  With Shades of Sepia, a couple of pieces of music found their way into the story itself.  When Simon’s trying to sort through his feelings for Ben he sits down at his piano and plays Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”  I have the sheet music for that one, love the piece and have played it. It just worked for the scene so well with the feel of it.  There are also references to Bach fugues and some Chopin nocturnes although I haven’t mentioned which ones in the story. I have the music books that are sitting on Simon’s piano.

“Slice of Heaven” is also referred to directly in the story. It’s a very well known New Zealand song by Dave Dobbyn and Herbs and is the soundtrack to the movie Footrot Flats, which is very much a reflection of rural New Zealand. It’s the ringtone on Ben’s phone when his friend calls him from New Zealand. A joke on her part, and on mine, considering he’s a Kiwi in the US.

Although those were the ones which made it into the story, there were others I listen to that will now always remind me of these guys. “Dancing in the Moonlight” by Toploader brings with it a visual of Simon and Ben dancing, a slow waltz under the moonlight.  It’s romantic and I must admit I do love that kind of stuff.  “Kiss Me” by Ed Sheeran works with their relationship and everything going on. “Demons” by Imagine Dragons is Simon and the fact he’s a vampire, as is “If Everyone Cared” by Nickelback with where he’s at now in Flint, and how he tries to make a difference with those he works with to keep Flint a safe place to live. It works for Ben too as does “Photograph” by Nickelback, as his passion is photography but it also hints at his relationship with Simon, with vampires not being able to be photographed. The song talks about the past and memories, and the ‘feel’ of it just works for these guys.

Do you listen to songs and think about characters or stories you’ve written or read?

Shades 200x300

A serial killer stalks the streets of Flint, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.

Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years, and he has never seen anything like it. Neither have the other supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans.

One meeting with Simon finds Ben Leyton falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can’t ignore the growing attraction between them. A recent arrival in Flint, Ben finds it very different from his native New Zealand, but something about Simon makes Ben feel as though he’s found a new home.

After a close friend falls victim to the killer, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away to avoid the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent, either, or both of them, could be the killer’s next target.

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“Cool. I knew you guys were like the Justice League or something.”

Lucas laughed. “I was going more for the Legion of Super Heroes, actually.”

“Yeah, but the League has Batman in it,” Blair began, “and the Legion is—” Luckily, whatever he was going to say was interrupted by the sound of a telephone ringing. Once he and Lucas started on one of their comics conversations, they’d go for what seemed forever.

“Aren’t you going to answer that?” Forge asked Simon.

“What?” Simon glanced around for the source of the ringing. He didn’t get telephone calls and had presumed the noise was coming from wherever Blair was.

“You’re the only one around here who insists on that horrible ringtone,” Forge pointed out, “so it’s obviously your phone.” He’d complained about it ever since Simon had explained—quite logically he’d thought—that if he was to carry a telephone, it made sense for it to at least sound like one.

“Try your pockets?” said Lucas helpfully.

“Oh, right.” Simon fished his telephone out of his pocket. Its screen was flashing with the name of the caller. Simon stared at it.

“You’re supposed to answer it, not stare at it,” Forge said. “Or have you forgotten how to again?”

“I know how to answer it.” Simon poked at the appropriate button, then held the telephone up to his ear. “Simon speaking. How can I help you?”

Forge snickered. Simon glared at him, thought for a moment about retreating to somewhere more private, then realized it would be a waste of time. Damn vampire hearing. Not that werewolves and ghosts were much better.

“Hey, Simon. It’s Ben.”

Perhaps he was calling to say he’d thought twice about meeting for coffee. But why would he take the time to do that? Surely if that were the case, he’d just not contact Simon again at all?

“Hello, Ben.” Simon took a couple of steps toward the door, half turning his back on the other occupants of the room.

“I rang to apologize,” Ben said, his words tumbling out over each other.

“Apologize?” Simon frowned. “Why?” If anyone should be apologizing for the way in which their conversation had ended, it should be him.

“I obviously upset you, and I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t,” Simon reassured him. “I overreacted. I do that sometimes.” He reached for his glass of milk and took a long drink. Feeling a little calmer, he collected his thoughts before breaking the silence. “Would you still like to meet for coffee?”

Lucas and Forge high fiving was something best ignored, as was the smug expression on both their faces.

“Yeah, sure, that would be great,” Ben answered very quickly. “When and where? I’m working a long shift tomorrow so that won’t work, but I don’t start until eleven on Thursday.”

After mentally consulting his calendar, Simon nodded. “That would be fine. I don’t have lectures on Thursday mornings. Do you know Hunter’s on West Thirteenth Street? We could meet there at nine.”

“I haven’t been there, but I’ll find it,” Ben said. “See you at nine then on Thursday?”

“Yes. Good-bye, Ben.”

“Bye, Ben,” called out Lucas.

“Bye….” Ben trailed off. “Hey, who is that?” His voice took on a rather suspicious tone. “Simon, is there someone listening in on us?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Simon said. “I share my… building… with some friends who don’t understand the concept of privacy. That was Lucas. I’ll explain on Thursday.”

“Okay. Bye.”

“Good-bye,” Simon said again, this time to a darkened telephone. He shoved it back in his pocket.

“He sounds cute,” said Lucas. “I like the accent.” He grinned. “Can I come too? I want to hear how you explain me.”

divider-300x72Anne 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.


Leave a comment

  1. annebarwell
    January 28, 2014 / 2:55 pm

    Thanks again for hosting, Posy :)

    • Posy
      January 28, 2014 / 2:58 pm

      Thanks for stopping by!


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