My career as a harpist informed both of the books I have published. Stories from my gig life became a backdrop against which to set the plot of my novel, Ellen the Harpist, and my experience working with soon-to-be married couples occupies a central place in my wedding ceremony music guide, From Here Comes the Bride to There Go the Grooms. Each of my books comes with its own playlist.
The marriage between my musical and writing careers melded together harmoniously in Chapter 25 of Ellen the Harpist. I play tea at the St. Regis New York a few days each month. Four years ago, while playing Perfect Day by Lou Reed at the hotel, my mind wandered. I pictured a scene in which Ellen and her bff’s, Chloe and Gwen, spend a day following the activities laid out in the song’s lyrics.
Traffic jams at the Lincoln Tunnel that afternoon delayed my bus's departure by half an hour. I scrawled my ideas from teatime into my notebook as I waited in line at Port Authority. Route 3 westbound was equally snarled. I continued scribbling away as we crawled home. After a quick dinner and a glass of wine, I spewed a 2500-word chapter into my laptop. We follow the three friends on their Lou Reed-inspired journey in this excerpt from the chapter:
And now we were heading into Manhattan. Without the budget of ladies who lunch, we invented games to play whenever we hung out in the City. On an adventure last August, we followed the itinerary laid out in Lou Reed’s Perfect Day. We opted to see a movie first and were stuck watching the only thing playing at 11:30 am at the theater on East 72nd St., The Expendables. After far too much explosive action from Stallone and friends, followed by hot dogs from a cart, we headed over to the Central Park Zoo. We planned our visit to the zoo to coincide with the 2:30 penguin feeding, but they had shut the penguin enclosure for maintenance. Gwen’s backpack harbored a bottle of some pre-fab sangria. We passed the contraband back and forth while we perched on top of Rat Rock in the park and wished we had purchased a more palatable selection. We laughed with the sense of abandon of women getting drunk in public under the August sun. By the time we emptied the bottle, we were ready to go home, even though it was not yet dark.
The music continues to play in my work-in-progress. In my first novel, Ellen attempts to use her arrangements of Radiohead tunes to seduce Josh when the two of them play their first duet gig together. She takes her love of Radiohead’s music with her into book number two. Here’s a sneak peek of a passage from my WIP:
A perception of someone scrutinizing me from behind my back sent a wave of shivers across the surface of my skin. I glanced over my shoulder and saw that Sheldon had taken his place at the piano. Squaring my shoulders, I plucked out the next verse, prepared to ignore whatever criticism he planned to hiss at me. It was the piano, not Sheldon, who raised his voice, singing along with the harmonies.
“What did I just play?” Sheldon asked when we reached the end of the song and my set.
“Creep.” He lifted himself to his full height and leaned back, his eyes telegraphing his sense of horror at a perceived insult. I stuttered, “I mean, the name of the song is Creep. It’s by the band Radiohead.”
In order to bring the music to life in my next novel, I plan to embed links within the digital editions connecting the reader to videos of me performing music cited in the book. I have begun my recording project, and I am excited to share with you the video I will embed in this passage of the novel. You can check out my new cover of Creep over on YouTube. Thankfully, I didn’t have a creepy, haranguing pianist hovering over my shoulder as I recorded it!