Music has been a central force in Anne Stuart’s life. When she was twenty she lived and worked in New York City for the sole purpose of going to concerts, seeing everyone in the late 1960s and early 70s – the Doors in their prime, the Who when the Fillmore caught fire, Ike and Tina Turner when Janis Joplin came out to sing Proud Mary with Tina. She saw the Stooges in a small nightclub, Cat Stevens in a coffee house, Jimi Hendrix when he was Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, and Richard Pryor when he was a young comic trying out material on a rock and roll crowd.
And it was music that made her leave New York and move to her family’s vacation home in Vermont. She was sitting in Central Park listening to the Band sing “Rocking Chair” and it was so beautiful, floating on the summer night air, that she realized it couldn’t get any better than that. So she headed for Vermont to write.
Music has always been intertwined with her books. Sometimes it was simply a matter of a song being popular at a time when she was writing – Fleetwood Mac is synonymous with her first Harlequin Americans. Night of the Phantom was the first time she actually made a soundtrack – she had a cassette tape mix of stuff including “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera, “Beauty and the Beast” by Stevie Nicks, “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” and a dozen others. For Tangled Lies she listened to the Blade Runner soundtrack.
Richard Thompson is one of her all-time favorites. Originally with the British band, Fairport Convention, then with his ex-wife, Linda, and now on his own, Richard is one of the world’s greatest guitarists, a brilliant, scathing songwriter with a great, raw, deep voice. His three disk compilation set is called “Watching the Dark,” which makes him a perfect match for Anne’s edgy talent. Her Signet books, Nightfall, Moonrise and Ritual Sins were written listening to his music. She even gave the hero in Nightfall Richard’s name as one of his aliases.
A supporting character in the long lost Banish Misfortune (whose clunky title came from an old fiddle tune – try to say it three times fast) was based on a Scottish singer named Andy Stewart, who has a deep rich voice and sings beautiful traditional and contemporary songs.
The Widow (set in Italy) had Eros Ramozotti and Andrea Bocelli. Black Ice (set in France) had Pascal Obispo, Florent Pagny, Mark Lavoine, and a solid helping of Richard Thompson for edge.
The title Into the Fire came from a Sarah McLachlan song. Her angry, mournful female music, combined with Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders’ angry, sexual female music flowed through the book, along with her newly discovered love for Japanese rock and roll. “The Night in my Veins” by the Pretenders was a major theme running through the book.
She has a CD burned for writing love scenes, with the usual suspects (“Sexual Healing” and “Let’s Get it On” by Marvin Gaye, “Wicked Games” by Chris Isaak) combined with some odder choices, such as hide (of X-Japan) singing “Honey Blade” and, to her deep and eternal shame, Yanni’s “Music of Passion.”
Her recent discovery of J-rock has been an inspiration. X-Japan, now defunct, was the grandfather of J-rock. They were angry, romantic, sweeping and passionate, and they’re still missed. For hard rock and beautiful boys there’s L’arc-en-ciel, headed by Hyde and Tetsu, possibly the best band now working on any continent. Siam Shade has disbanded, Dir en grey is over the top and disturbing in the best possible way. Both L’arc and X-Japan are available in this country. Other wonderful artists are Utada (Hikaru Utada – her Japanese stuff is better than her US stuff), Asian Kung Fu Generation. Anne channeled all this music while she was writing the Ice books. It’s hard to find, but worth the effort.
And then there’s Gackt, the self-proclaimed 450 year old Norwegian vampire who served as inspiration for The Devil’s Waltz. Beautiful, androgynous, wickedly funny and astonishingly gifted, his music is some of the best coming out of Japan. He seems to have disappeared into semi-retirement, but since he’s ageless he’s bound to return.
Anne channeled Warren Zevon while she wrote Ice Storm. The hero is a mercenary/CIA agent/rogue, and Warren’s bloody, cynical music (“Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”, “Lawyers, Guns and Money”) are perfectly suited for the book, as well as his marginally softer songs. She’s got long playlists for the new FIRE books, the offshoot of the ICE books,
As long as there’s music there are going to be Anne Stuart books. They’re mesmerizing on their own, but with the right soundtrack they’re even better.