Join Sarah and her guests for conversations on everything from the art of writing to where we find our inspiration.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Writer Wednesday with Debra St. John

Music has always been a big part of my life. I listen to music all the time. Country is my genre of choice. Inevitably, music became a big part of my writing as well.

Sometimes it acts as white noise to cover whatever else is going on around me so I can concentrate. For this I usually choose classical or scores from movies. Something without lyrics. If I’m deep into a scene, music with lyrics is fine, but if I’m in editing mode, the lyrics are usually more distracting that whatever other noise I’m trying to cover!

Sometimes music acts as muse. I’ve gotten several story ideas from songs. Sometimes it’s the idea for an entire story. Sometimes it’s just a line or two that adds to the storyline or helps me to develop something about my characters. A Christmas to Remember was inspired by the song of the same title sung by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Mistletoe and Folly was inspired by one of my favorite Toby Keith Christmas songs: “Blame it on the Mistletoe”. Jessica’s (from This Can’t Be Love) butterfly tattoo was inspired by a line from Brad Paisley’s “Ticks”. Joe’s (from An Unexpected Blessing) preference for mustard on his fries came from a line in Eric Church’s “I Love Your Love the Most”.

Here’s the moment I created around the simple line:

     An easy silence fell as they readied their burgers. Katy doused hers with ketchup, added a small amount of mustard, and a generous dollop of mayo when it arrived. After topping it with pickles and lettuce, she settled the bun on top, and then took a bite. She caught the trickle of juice at the corner of her mouth with a napkin. The way his gaze lingered on her lips made her go warm from the inside out. 
     “Mmmmn.” She fought for a casual tone. “This place really does have the best burgers in town.” 
     Joe grinned. “This place has the only burgers in town.”
     Katy laughed, once again appreciating the way a simple smile lit up his face. “True.” She glanced at his plate. “You put mustard on your fries?” 
     “No other way to eat them.” 

I have to thank many songs for the setting in This Time for Always: it’s modeled after the country bar where my husband and I met. It closed a few years ago, but I like to think that the memories made there live on in my story. Sometimes I accumulate a playlist for a story.

This happened with my latest release, An Unexpected Blessing. The idea for this story wasn’t inspired by any particular song, but some I came across seemed to fit it well. It was fun to come up with my own mini-soundtrack for Joe and Katy’s story.

“Like Jesus Does” – Eric Church, Chief
“He Didn’t Have to Be” – Brad Paisley, Who Needs Pictures
“Til My Last Day” – Justin Moore, Outlaws Like Me
“Outlaws Like Me” – Justin Moore, Outlaws Like Me

Someday I’d like to write a story featuring a country rock star. For now, the specific ideas are still gelling, but I know they’ll come together someday! I just have to keep my ears open to find the right song to inspire me!

Debra St. John writes spicy romance with sexy heroes and spunky heroines for The Wild Rose Press. An Unexpected Blessing is her fifth release. Although she’s a country girl at heart, she lives in a suburb of Chicago with her husband, who is her real life hero. You can find her at www.debrastjohnromance.com or blogging at http://acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com, http://heroineswithhearts.blogspot.com, or www.authorsbymoonlight.com


  1. Hi Sarah, Thanks for having me here today!

    1. Thanks for visiting with us today, Debra!

  2. Great post, Debra! I wholeheartedly agree. I love to write to music and country is my favorite. It helps me settle down and block out, not only the white noise around me, but my mental noise as well. A couple of years ago I wrote a short Christmas story after being inspired by Blake Shelton's Austin.

  3. I like how you write about food, Debra. Food is such an essential part of life--everyone does it. It seems natural to have eating be the backdrop for a scene.
    Music seems harder to describe, for me. It, too, is essential--though absolute quiet has so many possibilities.

  4. Hi Karyn,

    It's always nice to chat with a fellow country music lover! Thanks for stopping by. I bet that Christmas story turned out great...it's a wonderful song!

  5. Hi Ana,

    I think all of my books have food in them at some point! The important thing to remember is to have your characters interacting - actually eating or drinking - and not just having the food sit there! It's a great way to include those senses!

  6. Hi Debra - I think I need to start listening to country music to get some inspiration! And being a Brit, I have some problems with food, as I wonder what American readers would think if I wrote about mushy peas, bubble and squeak, or bangers and mash? Must admit I've wondered what some food actually was in books I've read by American authors! But at least burgers are universal!

    1. You should definitely add food references, Paula! I would love to read a book where the H/h were enjoying bangers and mash! If the reader doesn't understand the reference, they can always go to the internet. Expand our minds, I say! :-)

  7. Okay, I'll admit it...I would have no idea what you were talking about, Paula, if you wrote about those things!

    I never thought about the unversality, or lack thereof, of food...I guess what we know does creep into our writing!

  8. Great post about music, Debra. I love country songs for exactly that reason, they often inspire me, either for character traits or sometimes an entire story. I can't write to it, though; I'd end up writing down the lyrics rather than my words!

  9. Hi Lisa, Thanks!

    Jennifer...that's why I prefer classical or scores for when I'm doing actual writing. I could totally see that happening!