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Decided to take a break from doing final edits on Between the Shadows (my soon-to-be-released Historical Gothic Thriller), to officially thank someone who helped me during the lonely, often grueling writing (and editing) process.  Not that we’ve ever met, or he’ll read this, but thank you to the brilliant composer Dario Marianelli.  And since tomorrow, June 21st, is his birthday…Happy Birthday, too!


If you take a moment to think about it, how often one life can touch and impact another life without realizing it. A kind word, a smile when you feel as if your life sucks, an outstretched hand when you have fallen…again. But even beyond a physical presence, the work of an artist can touch your heart, or inspire you as well.

Music plays an important part of our lives and our memories. Think about the impact it has on your favorite films. Steven Spielberg is a genius when it comes to directing, producing, editing, and understanding the impact of music on film. There is a reason why he chose the amazing John Williams to score his films. From the stirring march that connected us to Indiana Jones, to the powerful yet emotional theme to Schindler’s List, the music and film became one and helped tell an unforgettable story. And let’s not forget the terror that accompanied the shark in Jaws.

For certain, music has been center stage in my life, largely due to the influence of my mother, a professional musician and singer. And so it is that I can honestly say that music has enhanced every aspect of my life. There is a soundtrack to my life. I am sure there is one to your life as well.  My soundtrack consists of songs my mother sang to me, school concerts, Broadway musicals I attended, movies I watched, rock groups and symphonies that I love. Don’t believe me? There are 3,108 songs on my phone right now.

Music brings comfort, happiness, a connection to your spirituality and faith, and also helped me endure some soul-searching moments of darkness and despair. Music (at least for me), also triggers the imagination and can take you on an adventure just like a book. All you have to do is close your eyes and listen.

As a kid, I would listen to music doing homework. So, not surprisingly, I find that I not only write better listening to music — but it helps the editing process, too. I make a playlist of music for the time period of a particular book, or listen to a motion picture soundtrack (nothing with lyrics) that fit the mood, scene, etc. And that leads me to composer Dario Marianelli.

Jane Eyre Soundtrack

Right now, I am listening to the motion picture soundtrack from Jane Eyre composed by Dario Marianelli. Hauntingly beautiful, this score inspired me whilst writing this particular book. It also helped me to navigate the journey of its heroine, Patience Sinclair, and capture her emotions and essence.

I’m halfway through with line edits. When a writer gets to this final lap in the creation of their book, you scrutinize every word, every line. Does the scene convey what I want the reader to feel and visualize? Does the narrative enrich or weigh down the book? Is it too wordy? Not enough description? Does the dialogue sound natural as well as accurate for the time period? Will the character connect with the reader emotionally? Will her situation resonate with the reader, whether they are female, male, young, old, etc. Or, will they just not care and toss the book aside?

I have even been reading scenes aloud to hear the pacing and flow of narrative and dialogue, with music from this score playing in the background. As I listen to this soundtrack for the umpteeth time, whilst reading my finished book, I am filled with such emotion. It has indeed been a journey, and there were times I found a new direction because of something music inspired.

Image - Bjorn Ewers

A novelist begins their journey of crafting a book with this glimmer of a story inside them. Very much like making a tapestry, each thread is important as one weaves the tale. You must have balance. There must be both light with dark, good and evil. Above all, for me, there must be a plot that keeps the reader emotionally invested and interested. [Image by Bjorn Ewers]

This particular book, the first in a series, has been a struggle. The waters were choppy at times. I’ll be honest, more than once I thought maybe I should just forget it.  As a historical novel set in the Regency period, research is involved that must be accurate yet not distance a reader. The plot of this book is very dark, frightening. The emotional, as well as physical, journey of the heroine is such that nothing can be rushed. Without giving too much away, she is somewhat of a tortured soul who must learn to embrace who she is, what she is, and find strength on her own. She must learn to not care what others think about her, but be true to herself.

Without question, having others to encourage and support you are important, but what if you don’t have someone? What if all you have is yourself?  Do you just run away from life? Give up, give in, and hide? Never prove to yourself (and anyone else who doubts you) that you deserve to live and be happy? 

Much as we all want to be loved and find love, you cannot be happy until you are happy with yourself. Whatever time period you live in, there are challenges that must be faced and conquered if one is to survive. Patience Sinclair in Between the Shadows is a young woman, just 19 years old. Her story evolves as she evolves. Although there is a romantic element, her journey is more a historical thriller than a ‘happily ever after’ formula romance. You don’t know if Patience will find love or even survive.

It is that unpredictable, unexpected suspense that I hope will keep readers involved, and that will also attract young adult and new adult readers as well. Readers who expect sensuous love scenes in this book might be disappointed, but readers who want an exciting plot with a developing love interest will (I hope) embrace the book.  

Ultimately, a writer must listen to the character — very much as  you might listen to your child. You have to stop worrying about whether or not anyone will read the book. Scary thought, but true nonetheless.  Still, I have never been one to write ‘formula’. Even writing romance, I like plots, and sub-plots. For example, I once pitched a book to an editor from a big NY publishing house. She sat there, gripping the sides of her chair and said, “It sounds really scary”. She wanted a typical romance, a formula romance. No twists. No turns. Oh, they might have to face some difficulty, but the reader always knows everything will be okay. Only the setting or names of the characters are changed, etc.

Ironically, other publishers didn’t know how to market the book either. Is it a romance novel, or a mystery-suspense? It had too much plot for them. Another editor asked, “Can you get rid of the smuggling?” Um, no — especially since it played an important part of the plot.

The_Sense_of_Honor_1_copy (1)

One editor said, “I had to think while reading this book.”  I restrained myself from saying, “And that’s a bad thing????”  By the way, that book [pictured] went on to win critical acclaim, numerous awards including the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Romantic Mystery and Suspense, and is an international best-seller, self-published by yours truly.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to read a book where I know what will happen. I don’t want to watch a movie where I know what will happen either.  It’s the twists and turns in life that are exciting. The stumbling blocks we all face, (often by whatever cards fate dealt us as children) that can make us weak or strong. A victim or a survivor. Anything can be a learning experience. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? But if you can be true to yourself; if you can face those challenges and press on, you invariably will realize there was a reason for those challenges. There IS a reason for you!

You will grow from that setback, that illness, or whatever life tossed at you. You will NOT let others define you. And you will be stronger for having had the journey. This is what Patience Sinclair has to share with those who will read her story.

Now, as I work on final tweaks and edits, and I listen to the score from the Jane Eyre motion picture, composed by Dario Marianelli, I realize how much this music–his music–helped guide me to write Between the Shadows.

Dario Marionelli - Academy Award for 'Best Original Score' - Atonement (2007)

For those not familiar with his work, Dario Marianelli also composed the music for “Pride & Prejudice” (2005) and Anna Karenina (2012) both of which earned him Academy Award nominations. He WON the Oscar for “Best Original Score” for Atonement (2007).

The next time you watch a film, take a moment to truly listen to the score and how it strengthens a scene and enriches the overall experience of the film. If you are a writer, I strongly recommend making a playlist of music to write by, too. If it is a historical work of fiction, find music of the period.  Unless you like to tap your feet and sing along when you write, stick to instrumental music.

Anyway, just wanted to share my experience writing Between the Shadows with you, and my gratitude for the music of Dario Marianelli.  

Have a wonderful day, and stay in touch for the release date of Between the Shadows.

Now, back to edits. :)))  ~ AKB