Guest Post: The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins

November 8, 2012 Uncategorized 9

Hi everyone!  Today I have Lee Collins here to talk about music and his book The Dead of Winter.  I will also have a review of the book for you very soon! 
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Title: The Dead of Winter
Author: Lee Collins
Published: October 30, 2012
Publisher: Angry Robots

Cora and her husband hunt things – things that shouldn’t exist. When the marshal of Leadville, Colorado, comes across a pair of mysterious deaths, he turns to Cora to find the creature responsible, but if Cora is to overcome the unnatural tide threatening to consume the small town, she must first confront her own tragic past as well as her present.

True Grit meets True Blood

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Music has always been a driving force in my life. As a young child, I found I slept much better if allowed to listen to a cassette tape when going to bed (much to my brother’s annoyance, as we shared bunk beds). This habit continued well into college, although the music selection progressed from Psalty the Singing Songbook through Metallica to Final Fantasy soundtracks. I’ve been a drummer for 15 years, a guitarist for 10, a pianist for 6, and a vocalist for 26. True, my skill with all of the above instruments ranges from poor to mediocre, but the trend is apparent enough: I love music.

It follows, then, that I listened to a lot of music while writing The Dead of Winter. I frequently employ music’s ability to enhance (and in some cases create) moods when writing scenes, whether its dialog or description. Soundtracks tend to be quite helpful in this regard, as they exist primarily to influence an audience’s emotional response, but other forms of music can be just as effective. Here are some of the selections that featured prominently during my drafting:

Forever Broke/Felt Tip Pen – Seatbelts: perhaps unsurprisingly, I used certain selections from the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack that have a distinctive Western feel about them. Both of these particular tracks evoke more of a “lonely campfire in the desert” image, which doesn’t suit the setting of The Dead of Winter all that well. However, they worked splendidly as atmosphere for the scenes in the saloon and marshal’s station. They also helped me wrap the talking heads in period-appropriate garb during heavy dialog scenes.

Sacred Ground Esto Gaza – Uematsu Nobuo: to contrast the Southwestern feel of the above songs, I needed something chilly and desolate. Originally composed as a theme for a remote Arctic monastery, Sacred Ground Esto Gaza from the original Final Fantasy IX soundtrack blends a sparse, simple melody with airy background vocals. Although not evoking as dark a mood as some of the outdoor winter scenes demanded, it was still an excellent choice for bringing the memory of marrow-seeking cold to my fingertips.

Children of the Elder God – Old Gods of Asgard: courtesy of the Alan Wake soundtrack, this was my go-to track for action scenes. It’s cinematic, energetic, and leaves little to the imagination in terms of theme. Lyrics extolling “warriors and torchbearers” as the “scourge of light upon the dark” are well-suited to providing background music for Cora’s battles, even if her motives are somewhat less than lawful good.

As It Fades – VNV Nation: for every battle, there must be an aftermath. A time for survivors to rebuild themselves, to reflect on events, and to honor the fallen. For me, the perfect mood-setter for such occasions is this selection from VNV Nation. There were only a few times this track was needed, but hearing it really helped me mentally transition from a keyed-up action sequence to the silence that inevitably followed. The haunting, almost chilly aura that radiates from the speakers when it plays certainly fit the book’s theme well.

So there you have it: a small glimpse into how my musical taste amplifies my creative process. I’m tempted to share the character themes I selected for Cora, Ben, and the other main characters, but that might give away too much. Choosing a character theme is an important part of my formulation process, as it helps me get an initial understanding of the character (although the selection may change by the time a novel is finished). This is actually a practice I learned in my theatre classes in college, and it translates well into the writing world.

If the multiverse theory is correct, there is a version of me somewhere that stayed with an instrument until I gained concert-worthy proficiency. Until I find my way into that universe and convince him to write my soundtracks, I have no choice but to rely on the compositions of others to grease the machinery that makes the writerly wheels turn.

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Thanks for sharing, Lee!  Very true about soundtracks.  Try watching a scary movie with the volume muted, and it doesn’t have the same impact.


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9 Responses to “Guest Post: The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins”

  1. Jaime

    I haven’t heard of this book until now. It sounds really good. I don’t usually read westerns, but this sounds different.

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