You all know how much I love the places where words and music intersect. Today’s post is all about an author who not only brings the two together, she actually creates them both!
Linda Robertson is the author of the Persephone Alcmedi and Immanence series, in addition to being a member of both ASCAP and the International Screenwriters Association. (She can also rock your face off, if you hand her a guitar!) Linda recently entered, and subsequently WON for Best Score in the 2020 Miami International Sci-Fi Film Festival. Here’s a bit more from her about her writing, her music, and that win.
Stories. My mom was an avid reader and kept little me supplied with books. I would fold notebook paper in half, staple it and write and illustrate little ‘books’ for her to read. They were of course very deep (laughs). The heroine preferred jeans to skirts, liked to ride horses, and had a space ship that took her and her friends to the nearest space pizza parlor. My first story of length was at 13, novel at 17. Neither were any good style wise, of course, but the story seeds were interesting.
That said, music wasn’t too far behind. I was sent to piano lessons at age six and promptly kicked out. I returned at eight and stayed until fourteen when the teacher again said she couldn’t teach me anymore. That time, though, it wasn’t because I was too fidgety to sit still on the piano bench. It wasn’t because she had passed all her vast knowledge on to me and it certainly wasn’t because I’d turned into some prodigy. Nope. I didn’t like the way the assignments went so I rearranged and added to them. Looking back, I was having fun. I’m sure she was beyond frustrated with me.
When I’m writing I can’t have lyrics being sung or I stop writing and sing along. So I rock out when I’m doing graphic art stuff but not when writing. I go back and forth between movie scores (I LOVE HANS ZIMMER) or more ambient music. YouTube has some I listen to often. Like white, brown, or pink noise. One is the engines of the USS Enterprise. Another is an icebreaker ship stuck in ice. Or meditation-type music with binural beats or Solfeggio frequencies. Or gurgling streams or the beach–thinking about your Coastal [Magic] Con, there….In my stories music is always definitely there to some degree. I guess I can’t comprehend a world where it isn’t given its place, so it makes its way into my stories. For instance in the Persephone Alcmedi books her love interest Johnny is the lead guitarist in a goth/industrial/metal band. Ringtones are mentioned. Things people say inspire lyrics or songs. Her spells are rhymes, too. (That was not a plug. Please don’t buy them. Go to the library if you’re interested. I’m trying to get my rights back and sales won’t help.) In Jovienne, which is currently being re-edited and prepped for re-release, there is a moment every evening where she hears drums, a throwback to her Hawaiian heritage and dancing on the sand in grass skirts.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t inspired by everything I hear, but when I’m writing music it’s character and situation driven. Each character and each situation has instruments that are essentially perfect to portray the mood and purpose.Can you imagine the Jaws theme without that tuba? It evokes not only the murky depths of the water, but the danger of the unseen. Sure, the full orchestra packs a wallop with sweeping themes like Star Wars, Superman, and Indiana Jones. Those are among John William’s most iconic pieces. Just a few notes in and people can name them. They’re heroic, in major keys (G, C and C, respectively). Leia’s theme is in F and has that B flat that makes it feel softer and adds a bit of romance and sadness. The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s theme) is rigid and pompous and conveys unquestionable authority in the key of G minor. Take all that into account, then think about the quirkiness of the cello in Pirates of the Caribbean. That one instrument rises above the others for characterization. Whenever you hear it you don’t think of Pirates of the Caribbean. You think of Jack Sparrow.That’s what I’m searching for when I’m writing music. What instrument and what melody–they both have to be right–conveys the character(s) in the scene and what is happening. I recently did the score for a short film a friend of mine wrote and directed. The teenage main character encounters 3 very different groups of people. I needed a theme for the main character, something I could have low-key and quirky to match that character, but could also build into the fully orchestrated version. I needed a theme for that character’s parents, one that implied they were smoking more than the vape device shown on screen. And I needed three distinct themes for the groups. One of the groups is a a trio of women in decidedly old west prairie dresses with matching bonnets. They are sweet as can be but they are nonchalantly open-carrying machine guns. The challenge of that one turned out to be the most fun. I ended up pairing a country fiddle with dubstep. The movie isn’t released yet, but everyone who’s seen it mentions that music among their favorite bits.Ultimately, writing music isn’t so different from writing stories. I feel like everything has been done before. It has. But not the way I’m going to do it. No one can write either music or stories without the knowledge that everything they’ve ever heard/read is an indirect influence. But I put those aside and consciously create my own thing. My personally unique blend of those influences and my tastes/preference and my take on how to portray those characters and that situation gets dumped all over that song or story like an explosion of sugar sprinkles on cupcakes.
It seems to have a few different names for the same thing. It’s also the Miami International Sci-Fi Film Festival. I’ve seen it both ways to mean the same event. (???) It is an annual festival and 2020 was its seventh year. Their mission is to enrich the members and local community with fantastic and educational film. I learned about them via the International Screenwriters Association. In 2018 I adapted/expanded an unpublished short story into a 20 episode miniseries, writing the hour-long pilot and second episodes, and outlining the rest. I joined ISA to find places to submit the screenplay. Festival competitions are a means to get noticed, much like similar competitions in genre writing organizations help writers make a name for themselves. For what its worth, the competition and gatekeepers on the film industry make the publishing industry’s competition and gatekeepers look like Mickey Mouse. I’ll be writing a novelization of that story in 2021. But, back to the point, I discovered that these festivals often have specific competitions for a variety of film areas, including scores. The cost to enter varies from event to event, and from the onset to deadline there are price increases. I became involved only in that I could afford their entry. (:
Corona Lupta is for the as yet unpublished 7th Persephone Alcmedi book. The ‘Corona Lupta’ is a free-for-all fight among ranking wærewolves where the last wolf standing takes the crown. I finished the song in June of 2019. It was entered in the competition in September. I was so happy with the song that I shared it with some musician friends. They had nice things to say about it. That bolstered me enough to put my neck out–or rather, to put my money down.
Nope, I’ve never entered any music competition before. The director of the short film I mentioned above had entered the film and the music into a few festival competitions, so I’m in other competitions already. I’m tentatively supposed to write music for another short film from a different director later this year and I anticipate having more material to enter. So, yes, I’ll absolutely be entering more festivals, but which ones and when I don’t honestly know yet.Also, I want to say that my winning this makes me want to say that I don’t think there are as many score entries in the competition as there are screenplays. Like how else could I win my first time out, yanno? What’s more, I listened to the entry of the runner up. It was a very solid compilation composition by a duo with far more credits than I have. It left me shaking my head, wondering how I inched past them.
My short story Colt’s Tooth is in the upcoming release of the anthology WHERE THE VEIL IS THIN. Due July 7, 2020. There are so many excellent stories in that, please check it out.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, Jovienne is getting re-released. I went from traditional publishing with the Persephone books to small press with Jovienne. Sadly, that press had some troubles and closed its doors only months after Jovienne’s release. All the rights were returned to me. While the folks I worked with were great, small press processes are quite different from big publishers process. One of which was editing. I’d pulled a fifteen year old manuscript out of the trunk and happily put it into contract…and it only got one round of mild editing. It needed more. I’d grown so much as an author in those fifteen years. I believe that I’ll always be growing and to that end, I like being edited. Real growth comes from those intense inspections of the work. I had expected the typical three rounds of edits that happened with the traditional publisher and so I thought there was time to smooth those rougher sections, etc. (There’s a lesson there…ask questions and have expectations set properly!) Only after that first round, when I’d gone over it and turned it back in, did I find out the process was different. I asked when the editor would send it back for the second round and I was informed that what I’d just turned in was what would be published. EEEK!!! There were no beta readers, either, so it went out with typos and other issues. I admit, I am a repeat offender of comma sins. But I’ve had it edited and have addressed the issues that bothered me. I’ll be writing book 2 and 3 this summer and getting those edited and ready, too. This fall, if the schedule holds, I’ll be republishing Jovienne for like ninety-nine cents or maybe free, then following it up with the release of 2 and 3 to finish the trilogy.