#MusicTherapyThursday

I’ll be taking part in the Big Green Bookshop’s Not the Booker discussion event in London this evening, so today, in need of a little relaxation, I thought I’d turn to the music of Kate Bush. I’ve chosen ‘Moments of Pleasure’.

This is the song I played when I wanted to get into the mood for writing as Tomos. I don’t really know why this song came to epitomise Tomos for me – the lyrics don’t relate to the theme of Not Thomas at all – but something in the tone of the music just worked. I think the music has a sadness but also hope. 

And the vulnerability of Kate’s voice never failed to trigger the right emotions in me. Now I only need to hear the opening couple of notes to be right back there with Tomos, in that decrepit house, in the dark, up on his high sleeper bed, under the jumpers and towels, with Mammy’s pink tee shirt…

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider voting for Not Thomas on the Guardian’s online Not the Booker prize page – voting closes on Sunday night and the winner will be announced on Monday, 16th October. Thank you!

Sara’s debut novel ‘Not Thomas’ – a story of child neglect, love and hope, shown through the eyes of five-year-old Tomos – is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher, from Amazon and from bookshops.

Ruth Rowland on Creating the Cover for Not Thomas

Lettering artist, Ruth Rowland, explains the thinking behind her emotive design for the cover of Not Thomas on her website today.

As well as designing book covers, Ruth creates logos and designs lettering for TV & film. She also creates lettering for album covers too, and she’s worked with musicians such as – to name just a handful – Bill Wyman, Simple Minds, James Blunt and most thrilling of all for me, Kate Bush.

I absolutely love the cover Ruth has created for ‘Not Thomas’, and the feedback Honno Press and I have had about it has been wonderful.

I’m very grateful to Ruth for capturing the feeling of the book so perfectly. And that connection to Kate Bush –  a singer I listened to on a loop for all those years as I wrote about little Tomos – that’s just the icing on the cake!

Ruth’s website: Ruth Rowland Lettering Artist

Sara’s debut novel ‘Not Thomas’ – a story of child neglect, love and hope, shown through the eyes of a five-year-old boy – is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher, from Amazon and from all good bookshops.

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Music to Make Me Cry – My Not Thomas Playlist

I love listening to music when I write.

I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’ve met quite a few authors who prefer to write with no distractions, but music works for me. I find it creates a background emotion.

There are some songs I return to, time & time again, when my creativity needs a boost. These are songs I play to remind myself that ordinary people can transform themselves into songwriters and create something fantastically beautiful out of thin air –and lots musical talent, of course. When those songs come on the radio, they make me want to drop everything and write.

Songs like Hozier’s ‘Take Me to Church’ and Stereophonics’ ‘Graffiti on a Train’ make me turn up the radio to full volume and surrender to their inspiring brilliance.

There are other songs, though, that remind me of something I’m already working on. They help ease me back into that piece of writing, and keep me in the mood I’m trying to create. They’re the ones I play quietly in the background while I tap away on my laptop.

I had a playlist when I was writing ‘Not Thomas’.

The most-played song on that list was Kate Bush’s ‘Moments of Pleasure’. In a previous post, What Wuthering Heights did for me – the confessions of a Kate Bush fan, I wrote about how playing that song helped me evoke the feelings of Tomos, the little boy who’s the central character in my book. I’d hear the music and feel the emotion, even if I hadn’t written about Tomos for months. But there were other songs that helped too. Here’s a few of them, thanks to YouTube.

Calon Lân, a well-loved Welsh hymn, was one of my starting points for ‘Not Thomas’.

In fact, for quite some time the working title of ‘Not Thomas’ was ‘A Pure Heart’ – the English meaning of ‘calon lân’. The title eventually (and thankfully) got changed, after I listened to the advice of my writing group. (More about the failure of ‘A Pure Heart’ as a title in What’s in a Name?)

Tomos sings Calon Lân near the start of the book. He’s been taught the words by Nanno – his beloved ‘foster gran’. This version, by Cerys Matthews, is my favourite on YouTube.

It’s the childlike quality of her voice that gets me every time.

In the case of Calon Lân, the lyrics loosely suited the theme of the book, particularly – and rather sadly – the opening line ‘I don’t ask for a life of luxury’, as Tomos is living in terrible poverty.

But most of the songs I listened to didn’t have lyrics that connected to the subject matter. Instead I chose them for the way the music or the tone of the singer’s voice affected me.

It was the emotion the singer conveyed that was important.

Like this one:

I only have to hear the opening chords of ‘Talk to Me of Mendocino’ by Kate & Anna McGarrigle for my eyes to fill with tears. The music and their voices manage to convey, so beautifully, that sense of longing to be somewhere else.

It’s perfect for Tomos, as he constantly longs to be back in the love and safety of his foster parents’ home.

And since I’ve already blogged about how important ‘Moments of Pleasure’ by Kate Bush was to me when I was writing ‘Not Thomas’, I ought to include another song of Kate’s which I played a lot too.

‘This Woman’s Work’ is an obvious choice, I suppose, when you think of songs that conjure up vulnerability – it was used by the NSPCC in one of their TV adverts.

Again, the opening notes get me every time.

And finally:

This last song, ‘Lost Boy’ by Ruth B, is a cheat.

It came out in 2016 and I’d long finished writing ‘Not Thomas’ by then. I was in a dress shop in lovely Llandeilo when I first heard it playing on the shop’s radio. It stopped me in my tracks.

I knew by this time that my book would be published and that Tomos’s story would see the light of day, something I’d thought for so many years would never happen. And the realisation that my novel was actually going to be published hit me.

I grabbed the nearest frock and hid in the changing room until the moment of realisation – and the tears – had passed.

Had Ruth B’s ‘Lost Boy’ come out ten years before, I’d have been playing it as I wrote. It’s Tomos to a tee. I think it’s beautiful.

All these songs have something in common – lots of emotion. One comment from an early reader of ‘Not Thomas’ said it should be printed on plastic to save the paper from tears.

Maybe my playlist explains why.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Sara x

If you’re a writer, do you ever listen to music while you’re working or do you prefer silence?

If you’ve read Not Thomas, can you see any influence from the songs above in the novel? 

Do you have a single piece of music or a song which you always find inspirational?

Sara’s debut novel Not Thomas –  a story of child neglect and hope – is published by Honno Press and is available in paperback and on Kindle directly through the publisher and also from Amazon.

The lady’s here. The lady with the big bag. She’s knocking on the front door. She’s knocking and knocking. I’m not opening the door. I’m not letting her in. I’m behind the black chair. I’m waiting for her to go away.

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What Wuthering Heights did for me – the confessions of a Kate Bush fan

kate-bushI love Kate Bush’s music. I’ve been a fan ever since I first heard those jingling notes of Wuthering Heights’ opening bars. I’d just fallen in love with the novel – having had to read it for my English Lit O’Level – and so Cathy and Heathcliff were already occupying a lot of my headspace when Kate started singing about their ‘wiley, windy moor’. Perfect timing, as far as I was concerned.

Kate was unlike anything else Top of the Pops was offering back in the late seventies. Her unique voice and style certainly made me sit up and take notice. I loved her hair. At 16, I saved all my Saturday job money to pay for a Kate Bush perm, and I absolutely adored it. When I got back from the hairdressers, my dad was shocked at how my long dark hair had doubled in size. He called what I considered my gorgeous new style ‘punk’. I’m not sure he’d actually seen any punks at that point and, as I angrily informed him through the bathroom door, he’d got off lightly if all he had to worry about was my wavy hairstyle – I could have come home with a safety pin through my nose. Thankfully, no photos still exist of my Wuthering Heights phase – all safely burnt.

Kate’s hair wasn’t the only thing I copied. Bizarrely, I loved the way she danced. It was a style even I could copy – me, who couldn’t actually dance at all, who had never had even one ballet or tap lesson. I’d throw myself around the bedroom, mimicking her moves, while her iconic first album, ‘The Kick Inside’, blared out. I never took my new found ability to any discos though – no one except Kate actually danced like that in public.

But the main thing I loved was her vocal style. She has a Marmite voice, I know, and I fell into the ‘adore’ camp. I still do. And, along with her hair and dance moves, I discovered I could copy her singing too. Back in ’78, I would wail the opening lines of Wuthering Heights at full volume in our newly installed shower, much to my family’s despair. To be fair to them, they were already putting up with me clomping about my bedroom every evening with the record player at full blast. Even now I’m tempted to launch into a bar or two of the song when the urge takes me – my poor husband!

I’ve found Kate’s singing quite inspirational over the years. While I was writing my novel, I played her music on a loop and found that I only needed to hear a particular song to tap into the emotions of my five-year-old protagonist, Tomos. While I guess ‘This Woman’s Work’ should have been the obvious choice to conjure up the feelings of a small child, it was actually ‘Moments of Pleasure’ that worked best. The lyrics bear no relation to the subject I was writing about, but there’s such vulnerability in Kate’s voice, a sadness mixed with optimism. It summed up Tomos perfectly, all his unhappiness and hope.

And in a curious twist, my novel has another connection with the singer. Ruth Rowland, the lettering artist who designed the wonderful cover for ‘Not Thomas’, has also designed the script for Kate’s latest album, ‘Before the Dawn’. I smile every time I think of that fact. At last I have something that connects me, however tenuously, to my icon. Apart, that is, from my avant-garde dance moves and a long grown out perm…

Here’s a link to that song