Friday, 26 July 2013

Marcia talks about music and writing

This morning after breakfast, listening to Delius’s ‘Walk to the Paradise Gardens’ on Radio 3, I was immediately reminded of the north coast of Cornwall, St Meriadoc, and the valley that I called The Golden Cup.

Port Quinn was the little harbour that inspired St Meriadoc
It’s odd how each book has a particular type of music attached to it. Often this is to do with one of the characters, even if it is never mentioned on the page; sometimes it is central to the book as Elgar’s ‘Starlight Express’ is to Echoes of the Dance. I listened to that music every day through the long summer before I began to write the book: characters appeared, the story evolved, the familiar process inseparable from Elgar’s music. I listened to the original play, recorded years before for the BBC’s Third Programme, whilst the Organ Grinder, the Laugher, and the children became inextricably entwined with Roly – the great unwumbler – Mim and Daisy.

The ford at Bowithick alongside which the converted barn was set.
Other books have a more general theme. The Chadwick Trilogy was shot through with the piano studies of Chopin and Boccherini’s string quintets, whilst The Courtyard was accompanied by Vaughan William’s Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.

Marcia on the station at Staverton where the Trilogy really began.
In those days this station was part of the rail network.
Kate’s music in Those Who Serve is Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto; Felicity’s in Thea’s Parrot is Sibelius’ Fourth Symphony. 

The village of Meavy on Dartmoor features in both books.
The Old Station House at Brent Tor was one of the models for the one in Thea's Parrot..
As I was writing The Sea Garden I realised that Jess listens to Jamie Cullum when she’s driving in her car. 
The salt marshes beside the Tamar in the evening sun.
The Way We Were is clearly Barbra Streisand’s song of the same name and, in The Christmas Angel, Dossie is haunted by Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”:

I’ve looked at life from both sides now,
From win and lose and still, somehow,
It’s life’s illusions I recall,
I really don’t know life at all.’

The view from the Trescairne's house in TWWW.
The cliffs near the fictional village of Peneglos.
The Bach Goldberg Variations played by the brilliant Angela Hewitt kept me company through The Birdcage, Brahms was there for A Week in Winter and Nina Simone was around whilst I wrote Forgotten Laughter.
The Yarn Market in Dunster.
Clearly thinking of A Week in Winter
Combestone Tor on the opposite side of the valley to Foxhole.
When I began to plan the book to be published this autumn – Postcards from the Past – I realised that Ed St Enedoc was a jazz lover. I checked through my CD’s – Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Bessie Smith, Dinah Washington – and began to get into his skin.
The stream near the old tin mine that became the location for Postcards
I don’t listen to the music while I am actually writing; the rhythm of the words is enough. I might listen to it as I prepare the day’s work, during a coffee break, or driving: I always have the current CD in my car. But during the months of research and planning then it is an integral part of the creative process; as necessary as finding where my characters are living, where they shop and what they wear.

As to what they read . . . now that’s another story.

Jamie: a regal gentleman if ever there was one.
Postscript: Amazon in the UK have just started listing the US edition of "The Christmas Angel" under the title "Christmas in Cornwall" as well as the original published here in the UK. It is always annoying when the titles are changed but please do not be fooled. Luckily the cover is the same so that is unlikely.