A lot of people have asked me about my writing process. What shapes my craft? Why write? How do I find the ruddy time? I’m not sure there’s a succinct equation which explains how I do it. There are some answers here but in terms of genre, I’ve always known I wanted to write stories that relate to the experience of being in the thick of modern life. I only write at night like a little owl. This means I’m always in my pyjamas. I like to drink green tea and I keep notes on timeline and character names in a Moleskine notebook. But when I’m sat there in the darkness on my own, trying to stay focussed and authorly and not be distracted by the Sky box and the contents of the biscuit jar, I listen to music. So, here is my music blog – a rundown of some of my writing playlist, the whys and whos and the stories behind each song. I’m not a music journo and my tastes are a bit questionable so don’t judge.
1) Ben Howard – Only Love. I fricking love Ben Howard. He’s a British singer-songwriter with a voice that haunts your soul, breaks your heart and gives you a great big hug all at the same time. I want to be one of his guitars. I frequently play Every Kingdom on loop.
2) Coldplay – Sparks. Before Chris Martin met Gwynnie, gave up meat and started wearing neon trainers, he was charmingly awkward with hair like a sea sponge. He had obviously had his heart trampled on a few times too. Sparks was from the Parachutes album which was released when I was at university and so was the soundtrack to my lovelife at Bristol. I remember every word to that album but sadly, very little of my degree content.
3) Nick Drake – Northern Sky. Ned introduced me to Nick Drake and he quickly became a firm favourite. This was the song playing when John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale finally see each other at the end of the movie, Serendipity. We also played it at our wedding.
‘I never felt magic crazy as this I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea I never held emotion in the palm of my hand Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree But now you’re here Brighten my northern sky.’
4) Lily Allen – The Fear (acoustic). Are you judging me yet? Lily is awesome, I don’t care what you say. I’ve always found her sweet and endearing and her lyrics make me laugh. I also appreciate anyone of a reasonable register. Worse thing is when you’re singing along to Beyonce and she makes you sound like a squawking cockatoo.
5) Morcheeba – The Sea. A university song. I used to get stoned to this song with my friend, Anna. Well..the whole album (Big Calm) really. Just so no one goes and calls social services, Anna and I are respectable moral upstanding sorts and haven’t got stoned in a long time.
6) Noah and the Whale - 5 Years Time (Sun Sun Sun). Fun fact time! My brother went to school with Charlie Fink. He was a very nice boy though I think he may have blocked our downstairs loo with toilet roll once. He came to Thorpe Park with us once.
7) Corinne Bailey Rae – I’d Do It All Again. This is from her album, The Sea written after the tragic death of her husband. When this song comes on, I always have a little break to sob over the keyboard.
8) Michael Giacchino – Married Life. Have you seen the movie, Up? This is the music that plays over the first opening minutes with the wife and the money in the jar and the….(*sobs uncontrollably*)
9) All Saints - Pure Shores. I like pop music. So shoot me. This is just an all-time classic and brings me back to a time when I had a semi-flat stomach, used to wear combats and thought there was the slightest possibility that I’d marry one of Take That (Mark, obviously…)
10) Stevie Wonder – Golden Lady. One question I ask people when I first meet them is: what is your favourite Stevie Wonder song? I then judge them. This is mine. It’s pure sunshine.
11) Rihanna – Stay. I quite like Rihanna. I like how she’s a bit saucy and unapologetic about it. Fun Mummy Fail Moment! My actual favourite song of hers is ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ and I’ve taught Daenerys the ‘brap brap brap’ bits.
12) Ryan Adams – Wonderwall (cover). This is just a gorgeous cover and I’d pick it over the Oasis version any day of the week. Further down my playlist is Champagne Supernova and Coffee & TV by Blur because I was good like that and never picked sides.
13) Craig Armstrong - Portugese Love Theme. You know that part of Love Actually when Colin Firth goes to the Portugese restaurant and tells that girl how much he loves her….(*cue uncontrollable sobbing*) - hint, it's also great music to write a romantic scene to.
14) Fun Lovin’ Criminals – I’m Not in Love. This is their version of the 10CC classic and it’s brilliant and smooth and I’d gladly have Huey Morgan’s babies if I didn’t already have four and a husband. But Ned also loves Huey so I think he wouldn’t mind, seriously.
15) Frank Sinatra – I’ve Got You Under My Skin. My favourite Frank song. I love Frank. One of my fantasy dinner party guests, definitely because he’d sing over after-dinner brandies, right?
So if you put those 15 songs on loop and sit at a keyboard every night for five months, it might be the case that you get a novel at the end of it. This isn’t the end of this list, there’s a lot of other stuff. More Coldplay, Air, Ed Sheeran, Massive Attack, Kylie, Al Green, Fleetwood Mac, Jack Johnson and yes, Bieber is in there too. They’ve all kept me company over the last ten years when I’ve been sat at a computer chair trying to work out this writing shit. They’ve inspired, lifted and done an awesome job looking after me. Cheers, guys.