Today we welcome author Suleikha Snyder to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Suleikha's latest release, Opening Act, is about two friends, a musician hero and a reporter heroine, who eventually discover that they are in rhythm with one another. Suleikha's here to talk about how music informs Opening Act, and her characters' progression. Thanks, Suleikha!
I’m not one of those authors that has a book playlist. In fact, I can’t even listen to music when I write, because I’ll get so occupied singing along to the tracks that I won’t get a lick of work done! Writer fail. I know. However, that doesn’t mean music isn’t a huge part of my stories—especially my latest, Opening Act, about two friends from college who’ve graduated to a whole new relationship. Music is what keeps them tied together—she’s an arts reporter for a small online newspaper, and he plays bass in a grunge band—and it’s also a reflection of who they are as individuals.
When it comes to characterization, music really is the food of love.
My hero and heroine are twentysomethings, working Millenials still figuring themselves out. So songs become shorthand for where they came from and who they want to be. John Cougar Mellencamp is the soundtrack for Adam Harper’s blue-collar childhood. Saroj came to the United States as a kid, fell in love with Nirvana, but keeps the dance beat of Punjabi bhangra on her mp3 player. Even if they don’t know themselves—even if a reader doesn’t know them fully—what they’re listening to gives you an idea of their potential.
Music can be a really valuable tool on multiple levels—not just for character backstory and depth.
In Lauren Oliver’s Delirium, for instance, it’s an expression of the feelings that have been leeched out of a desensitized utopian society. The first time Lena is carried away by a song, it means everything, because she’s never experienced emotion on that transformative level. (I’m no Lauren Oliver — you will not get something that deep out of Adam putting Soundgarden on his band’s playlist). Music, in that world, is rebellion.
A song, a snatch of lyrics, a few bars of a classical piece…they can all just as easily inspire and inform what’s happening inside the text as they can an author sitting down in front of her computer.
Bollywood films use this device in almost every film.
Check out Anjali in 1998’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. You may not understand the language, but you know exactly what she’s experiencing, right? The music, the mournful vocals, Anjali’s sobbing.
Girlfriend just got her heart smashed into pieces because her best friend loves someone else.
Or how about some well-placed saxophone and accordion (yes, accordion!) setting the mood for forbidden sex? 1969’s Aradhana has one of the most famous seduction scenes in Indian cinematic history—in part due to “Roop Tera Mastana,” the song playing behind Sharmila Tagore and Rajesh Khanna.
Whether it’s grief or arousal, a song can both set and underscore what’s happening on the page. (Heck, when I was 15, I played “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx on a loop every time a crush didn’t work out.) So, turn on the radio in the character’s room. Flip on your hero’s iPod. Have your heroine walk past a street musician who’s playing a particularly appropriate melody.
Turn up the volume. Because you never know if your love story may be listening…or if rebellion is just around the corner.
Learn more or pre-order a copy of Opening Act by Suleikha Snyder, available May 27, 2014:
Editor, writer, American desi and lifelong geek Suleikha Snyder published her first romantic short in 2011. Subsequent releases have included Bollywood romances Spice and Secrets and Bollywood and the Beast from Samhain Publishing and a short in Cleis Press’s Suite Encounters. Suleikha lives in New York City, finding inspiration in Bollywood films, daytime and primetime soaps, and anything that involves chocolate or bacon. Visit suleikhasnyder.com, and follow her on Twitter, @suleikhasnyder.