This week I'm kicking off a new series of guest posts. At the moment, we're going with a geographical theme: The Virtual Writing Scene, Everywhere and Nowhere. Our first guest is Katherine Gilraine. (Off camera applause. Some whistles.)
A New York City-based writer, Gilraine finds inspiration in the city streets, its jazz music and entrepreneurial buzz. Aside from writing, she also heads KG Creative Enterprises, a boutique company that encompasses her various creative skills, from writing and editing to graphic design and photography.
Influence in the City
It seems almost cliché when people find out that I’m a writer living in New York City. I must be published through a big house! (I’m not) I must have a caffeine habit! (Guilty as charged) I must be so inspired living there!
You know, that last one is right. I am very much inspired by the city; living in it on a day-to-day basis is an adventure. It’s a challenge. And sometimes, you have those “Only in New York!” moments that you can’t help but write into your story.
When I first started writing my series, I was in college, working night shift, and I would sometimes fill the gaps between school, homework, and working by walking all through Manhattan, without being picky as to which hours I would go walking in. I’ve walked up Broadway at midnight, and on those walks, with the lights of my city wrapping me up, I would start imagining different scenes. How would a character from my story feel about being caught in this “bright lights, big city” environment? What other, similar cities could I grow out of my words?
I won’t lie; I have a lot of New York City in my past 4 books. The major place on Earth that the storyline always comes back to is New York, both in its current and futuristic incarnations. The places that my characters go to are all places that I love and adore, down to the subway tunnels that most people either nap through on the train or simply accept as a Part of Life. It’s the sort of place that gets under your skin and it does so in such a way that no matter where you go or how long, you will have a hard time getting it out. You may’ve heard of people not being able to sleep without the usual street noise of NYC, and I will be the first to corroborate the fact. The subway, with all its dirt and rattling, is one of the oldest landmarks of the city, and the abandoned subway stations in the system are the finest of time capsules. The food. The lights. It seeps into your skin.
But the best inspiration, and this I will make no bones of, is the music, and I speak of jazz on this one. New York City loves its jazz music, and contemporary jazz is my lifeblood.
Yes, contemporary. For all my love of Miles, Coltrane, Brubeck, Ellington, and Sarah Vaughan, you would need few things short of a miracle to get me to glance away from Special EFX, the Rippingtons, Boney James, Chris Botti, and the other mainstays of that genre.
Considering that the genre I’m writing is urban fantasy with adventure and sci-fi elements, the absolute last bit of music that you’d expect as an inspiration/soundtrack would be contemporary jazz. It just doesn’t seem to compute, does it? But I tell you, you would be surprised. What better music for a space flight than The Rippingtons’ searing rock-guitar on Road Warriors? Don’t discount the unexpected. Even right now, as Craig Chaquico and Russ Freeman join two guitars on Riders of the Ancient Winds (gotta love Pandora!), I’m thinking of the next couple of manuscripts, and I think of a new character going out for a walk and some perspective.
As writers, we can agree that there’s a soundtrack to our books. There’s always that something that we hear that could match to a scene. Sometimes we write to music, or it just creeps up on us and has us scribbling down an idea on a napkin in a restaurant, leaving us to later wonder what, exactly, brought on the idea to begin with.
But hearing that music in a city like New York…well, that’s an inspirational recipe that defies any rules of logic. No one said that Special EFX’s Cruise Control is genre-specific, after all. : -)
With a cup o’ joe in hand, as ever,
Photo credit: Christop W. Sensen