Way back in 2006, I saw Sofia Coppola’s brilliantly filmed Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst as the doomed queen and sporting the musical brilliance of Bow Wow Wow, Adam and the Ants, New Order, Gang of Four and the Strokes, to name a few. I was deeply enmeshed in my own study Henry VIII and his wives at the time, trying to wrestle their characters into something I understood. Into something maybe I could translate to fiction.
And Coppola did it for me. If Marie Antoinette were alive today, why wouldn’t she be listening to The Cure? And doesn’t I Want Candy perfectly illustrate a queen for whom pretty things and the wildest fashions were more important than politics?
So when I came to write GILT and TARNISH, I searched for the kinds of music that defined my characters. Not always the kinds of music by which they would define themselves, perhaps. I see Cat Howard in GILT as the sort of girl who would dance to Katy Perry, but I wrote her as the kind of girl Lily Allen might have been singing about in The Fear.
And Anne Boleyn in TARNISH was heavily influenced by No Doubt’s I’m Just a Girl.
My playlists include everything from Florence and the Machine to Coldplay, Green Day to Mumford and Sons, Of Monsters and Men to yes, Katy Perry. By listening to and learning from modern music, I hope I write characters who may have lived centuries ago, but are relatable to modern readers. I do my historical research, as well, seeking out folk songs like J. Anderson Coats, and having my characters enjoy songs by Christine de Pisan and Henry VIII himself. And like Jillian, I keep the room quiet when I write, so I can hear my characters’ voices.
But in the car and in the kitchen, I keep the radio on, waiting for the next musical inspiration.