Books start in different ways, for me at least. Sometimes it’s a single situation or scene, and I have to build both up to it and down after it. Sometimes it’s an exchange of dialogue that pops into my head and I have to know who these people are and how they came to the point where this exchange happens. Sometimes it’s an image, a still or in video, that sparks something. Sometimes it’s hearing something said; I once got an entire book out of a conversation between a mother and her young son in the produce aisle of a grocery store.
But the one thing all of them have in common is music. Songs had always inspired stories, but it was somewhat belatedly in my career that I discovered that a “soundtrack” helped my mind set. And when I began writing more than one book at a time, that soundtrack became essential; it was the main thing that could shift my mind from one world to another. In the case of Whiskey River Rockstar, I already knew my heroine, Zee Mahan, from the previous books. But Jamie Templeton was a bit more elusive, and took some searching.
My actual writing music has to be instrumental, otherwise I end up tangled in the words of the lyrics instead of my own words. But the other songs set the mood, or define the character, or convey the whole feeling of the story I’m trying to tell, and I spend a lot of time with those songs until the book is done. In Whiskey River Rockstar, obviously given the title, music played an even more important part. Fortunately for me, I’ve long had a fondness for Texas Blues music before I even knew it was A Thing. But Jamie kept throwing a little more country rock into the mix, and when all was said and done I had a very interesting playlist for this book, which I’d like to share with you.
When I started thinking about this particular story, the first song that came to mind was one written by the inimitable and much missed Texan (Turner) Stephen Bruton, and performed here by someone who’s walked that road, my friend Hal Ketchum. If “Too Many Memories” doesn’t reach you, you need a break. From the opening that could be words spoken by my hero to the couplet “What makes you grow old, is replacing hope with regret,” that sums up life in ten words, this song personifies this story of a guy who chased one dream, but lost another.
Also, you can’t talk about this kind of music without mentioning the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Edgar Winter and others. But for me, my first taste of it was Delbert McClinton, and his joyous “Every Time I Roll the Dice.”
Once I had that set in my mind, I needed Jamie himself. I knew his mind, his heart, but what did he look like? How did he move, on stage and off? Did he talk to the audience? Joke with them? Flirt? I found those answers in, perhaps oddly, in a guy born halfway around the world from Texas: Keith Urban. The moment I hit this first video, I knew I had my rockstar. But I kept going through the others because one after the other, in my mind’s eye they were Jamie Templeton in look and voice. I confess it took me a while to narrow it to songs that represented the story in some way; Keith is so much fun to watch. And so here’s the rest of the playlist:
And for fun a live one:
Now that you know the genesis of the book, I hope you’ll enjoy the return to Whiskey River and Jamie and Zee’s story!
Author of more than 70 books, (she sold her first ten in less than two years) Justine Davis is a five time winner of the coveted RWA RITA Award, including for being inducted into the RWA Hall of Fame. A fifteen time nominee for RT Book Review awards, she has won four times, received three of their lifetime achievement awards, and had four titles on the magazine’s 200 Best of all Time list. Her books have appeared on national best seller lists, including USA Today. She has been featured on CNN, taught at several national and international conferences, and at the UCLA writer’s program.
After years of working in law enforcement, and more years doing both, Justine now writes full time. She lives near beautiful Puget Sound in Washington State, peacefully coexisting with deer, bears, a pair of bald eagles, a tailless raccoon, and her beloved ’67 Corvette roadster. When she’s not writing, taking photographs, or driving said roadster (and yes, it goes very fast) she tends to her knitting. Literally.