Hitting the Gas Pedal with Trumpets Blaring

by syaffolee

Many writers enjoy putting together soundtracks before they start work with a particular story. While this may work for some people, this usually doesn’t do anything for me. I just put on some music that doesn’t disturb me too much and get to writing. For example, when I was writing Winter on a Watch Glass, a dark fantasy set in historical Germany, I ended up listening to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” on infinite repeat as I pounded out the last two or three chapters. The music had nothing to do with the story, but the catchy beat was motivation to write.

With Temperance and the Devil, I started with the same rationale. But in the course of listening to different songs while I was writing, I’ve discovered that there are certain types of music that I kept gravitating toward. Swing. Big Band. Motown. Why? I’ve realized that that type of music catches the essence of the story perfectly. Fun and not particularly serious.

Contrary to all this attention to playlists, however, lots of writers do not read books similar to what they’re writing unless it’s non-fiction that can be classified as “research.” I’m this way, too, but it’s less about being influenced by other people and more about just not having any time to do any reading. However, I am currently in the middle of reading John Updike’s last poetry collection Endpoint (I highly recommend it, by the way). One of the poems in the collection, “Her Coy Lover Sings Out”, is a tribute to Doris Day, one of Updike’s early crushes. The poem reminded me of one of the main characters, Temperance, who is a lot like Day’s characters–good girls who are a bit mischievous. It also reminded me of Day’s romantic comedies which resemble the plot of my current work in spirit. It’s such a shame that they don’t do those sorts of films any more.

So I suppose if I were to compare the story–as it is now–to anything, I’d say picture a modernized Doris Day film with lots of swing, big band, and Motown playing in the background while the characters wield magic and iPhones in the foreground.

* * *

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 7, a tribute to the “I Can Has Cheezburger” meme:

Tem had only gotten a hamburger and a small soda for herself. Luc, however, tore into the rest of the food like the demon that Florence thought he was. She stared at him in astonishment before deliberately turning her head so all she could see was the street outside. When she finished her own burger and sipped the last bit of soda, she dumped the trash into the large sack that had originally contained the food. Only then did she look back at the Devil.

The cat sat back with his paws on his belly and burped loudly. Nothing was left of the cheeseburger or the chicken nuggets except for the wrappings.

“You are such a slob.”

“Mrow.” The Devil didn’t care if he was a slob.

Tem sighed. She gathered up all of the garbage and got out of the car to throw it into a nearby trash can. Then she started her car again. “You’ll never get girls that way if you eat like that all the time.”

The cat blinked his eyes, giving her his cute face. When she didn’t respond, he started purring and butting his head against her side.

“You are such a devious sycophant. I can imagine you doing that to a little old lady. She’d think you were such a cute kitty and she’d take you home to coddle you. And then, when she’s least expecting it, you’d tear her face off.”

He purred louder.

“Right. That’s what cats do anyway. Whoever turned you into one had the right idea. At least in this form, you can’t blow anything up.”

He suddenly stopped purring.

She briefly looked at him and then back out at the traffic. “My God, you did blow up something while I was sleeping. I suppose we’ll hear about it on the news tonight.”

“Mrow.” It was a smug vocalization.

Tem decided to take out her annoyance with Luc’s shenanigans on the gas pedal. They made it to Babel’s parking garage in record time. But just as she opened the driver side door to get out, the cat barreled past her and quickly disappeared into the rows of cars.

“If you blow up this parking garage,” she yelled after him, “I’ll never forgive you!”