Some authors prefer silence while creating, others are fueled by melodies that play like the ghostly hands of a muse… In celebration of his new book, Screams the Machine, Sam Mortimer talks about music and how it plays a role in his work as a writer.
Soundscapes and Screams
Every writer is different and has a method of transferring their unique world to page. Music acts like a transistor in select writers’ stories, modulating the tale’s energy and revealing new angles. It’s interesting to see which bands and artists haunt a writer’s playlist. For instance, I learned about The Raveonettes, “Love in the Trashcan” from Stephen King’s playlist on Itunes years ago. Music connects like the cat’s meow, and right songs enhance the writing process, which hopefully creates an unforgettable reader’s experience.
Sound or lack thereof, played an integral part in Screams The Machine. Even though music practically hums in my bones, during the first draft, the room stayed as silent as possible. T’was a rather isolative feeling, but doing so helped preserve the story’s initial soundscape. Nothing interfered with the frequency, if you will. Even the fiction world’s imagery stayed pure and raw in my head, which hopefully allowed me to write better! Also, I wanted to ‘hear’ the breaths of the characters, their voices, and the ambience of the Screams The Machine’s dystopian world. As the story moved forward, an original soundtrack began writing itself in my head. If for some serendipitous reason Screams The Machine lands a movie deal, I’d love to compose a song or two that burned in my mind while writing the novella.
The second draft is where the party began, and least that was the case in Screams The Machine, when writing and music became starry-eyed companions. New energy bounced in and sound’s influence morphed aspects of the tale, hopefully revealing some depth to the world and its characters. Music works in mysterious ways I’d imagine for many writers.
The ambient band Stars of the Lid carried a hefty influence on a majority of Screams The Machine’s second and third drafts, especially during the protagonist’s, Randal Markins, phantasmagoric withdrawal from The All. Stars of the Lid produce dreamy, intense sounds that give a celestial sensation; they know how to create a potent atmosphere, and that was precisely what Screams The Machine required.
Randal’s trials and tribulations felt entirely focused while I listened to Stars of the Lid. His pain became clarified in my mind, almost real, and hopefully the reader can experience the same thing. His withdrawal from a presence called The All might’ve been entirely different if Stars of the Lid weren’t in the background. If you’ve watched Twin Peaks, you’ve likely heard their music.
When Stars of the Lid didn’t play, droning deep-sleep inducing music was moving some particles in the air. Only I didn’t sleep much (still don’t) so the music never put me under—instead, I basically fell into a trance. The experience was gravely interesting, resulting in some of the prose you’ll read in Screams The Machine.
Next book you dig into, consider the soundscape. What surrounded the author as they wrote some of your favorite scenes? Were they jamming to The Rolling Stones, Nine Inch Nails, Even the Slept or Falls Lake? Maybe Tycho?
Cash carries a disease; one that’s already killed a large majority of the population and something needs to be done. To stop the crisis from escalating, The Solution (a worldwide organization) is formed and rises to great power. They monitor people’s dreams and shape reality to fit their own wants and needs. In an effort to control existence itself, The Solution is searching for what they believe to be the ultimate tool; a person with the ability to master a deep connection with the mysterious, pervasive energy known only as The Ultimate Reality.
Watching her neighborhood decay, her friends and family perish, Elizabeth Reznik needs to find meaning in her life. She discovers her existence is more meaningful than she could ever have imagined. Operatives of The Solution seek her out, take her from her home and perform brutal experiments on her. Their conclusion? Elizabeth is the one they have been searching for; she is the key to gaining complete power.
The stratagem of The Solution is single minded – own the resources and you own the people. And the last resource available is free will. They will own your thoughts, they will orchestrate your dreams; they will dine on your fears. But there is always a cog in the machine… or in this case, a scream.
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Sam Mortimer has worked the graveyard shift in law enforcement, attended film school, and has been writing strange stories since age eleven. He loves reading, music, and strives to meet the demands of his five cats.