Since I was a child, I have had a soul-deep love for music. I began playing the piano by ear at age six. I’m no child prodigy by any means, but I have a genetic ability to “sound out” any song on the piano. It took me some time to realize that not every other person on the planet has the same internal connection to music that I do. That I was the only person in my family who could be rendered to tears by the sound of just the right melancholy minor chord combination or a majestic symphony. Simply put, I feel emotions in music that resonate with the ones inside me.
I was raised in a musically conservative household in which Christian contemporary music was taboo. I wasn’t exposed to it until I was a teen, and I can honestly say it was transformative to my life. The emotional connection to God I feel through praise music has grounded me over and over throughout my life since. If you’re a subscriber to my newsletters, you might have picked up on that, as I have written quite a few devotionals about songs I heard on K-LOVE radio at just the right moment.
Because music is so near and dear to my heart, it plays a big part in my writing as well. The tricky part is that copyright laws do not allow authors to quote lyrics in books. So rather than leave out music or resort to writing my own (I’m no songwriter!), I have gotten creative at times. In my Hometown Holiday Heartstrings series, I have at least one music scene per book.
In The Trouble with Tulips, my first full-length romance, I played it safe and only mentioned the singer and her well-known song: A case of nerves took over as [Kim] stopped in front of the microphone, waiting for her soundtrack to come on. As the opening stanza of Francesca Battistelli’s “Beautiful, Beautiful” flooded the speakers of the church, the door at the back of the sanctuary opened and a figure stepped through.
In The Fault in Firelight, I was a little vaguer, referencing Gungor’s “Beautiful Things” in a way that if the reader was familiar with the song, she would immediately know I was referring to it, but if not, the emotional impact of the passage would be the same: …as they got closer to Abingdon, he switched to one [radio station] Stacy never listened to. She knew immediately what it was, though. Christian. Not what she needed right now, pointing fingers at her. In spite of her efforts to tune the music out, the words kept crashing into her cranium like waves against a rocky coast. Beautiful things. Out of dust. Out of us. Could God really make beautiful things out the dirt? Out of people? Out of people’s dirt? She swallowed against a constricting feeling at her throat. Out of her?
In The Loophole in Lilies and The Promise of Picnics I handled music differently each time, with varying levels of subtlety. I find it an intriguing challenge to try to infuse my personal emotional connection to music with the stories and characters I write.
I will leave you with one last scene, from The Miracle of Mistletoe. Not a Christian contemporary song, but rather one we all know well. What does it evoke in you?
Colt forced his focus back toward the gazebo, where the pastor of the small church he’d been admiring on the way blessed them with a heartfelt word to God. With eyes closed, Colt invited the Holy Spirit to come in and cleanse his mind from all the hurts he tended to hold inside. As the soft strains of “Silent Night” flooded the square after the prayer ended, something shifted inside him. He didn’t know what it was, but it felt right.
Hearing Marcy’s alto voice beside him harmonizing with the second verse of the holiday hymn, Colt became aware of her thigh drifting close enough to his to feel the warmth emanating from her leg. When she shifted, her leg pressing against his, the warmth shot all the way to his heart. But she didn’t seem to notice.
As the final “Heavenly Peace” sighed over the open-air congregation, multi-colored lights sprang on in a mesmerizing dance, racing in circles around the huge tree at front and center, eliciting ooohs and aaahs of approval from the audience. In the same instant, the trees that edged the roads in a square around them revealed their white lights, coating wintry branches and encasing the trunks all the way to the ground.
Colt’s face slid into a smile. This was the magic of Christmas. It was beautiful. His gaze shifted to the woman beside him. So was she.
The Miracle of Mistletoe is free on Kindle today, December 13 through December 17. I made it free with my Inspy Romance readers in mind. This book is a marriage-on-the-rocks story of hope and healing. If you’re looking for a light and fluffy Christmas read, you’ll want to skip this one. It’s anything but. But it has a beautiful story of a marriage restored at Christmas, with all the holiday feels. It was one of the hardest books I’ve ever written, but adding music references throughout was one thing that brought balance to an otherwise quite heavy story. If you like Christmas, and you like marriage romances, and you like stories of a God who can redeem from any trauma and hurt, you won’t want to miss this one.
Now over to you! Do you like music references in books or do they not make much difference to you as a reader?