|Photo by Shreya Ramachandran|
**Giveaway is now closed**
Deborah Michel joins us today to talk about music and celebrate the release of her debut novel, "Prosper in Love." Ms. Michel spent the majority of her professional life writing for various magazines before penning her novel. The topics she has covered are as varied as you can imagine (movies to interior design). A Los Angeles native who currently resides in Northern California, Ms. Michel used L.A. as inspiration for her novel, and her personal website includes a section devoted to places that are featured in “Prosper.” While she works on her second novel from home, catch up with Ms. Michel on her website or Facebook.
Ms.Michel is here to tell us the songs that went through her head while writing "Prosper in Love." Thanks to Penguin, we have one copy of "Prosper in Love" to share with a lucky US reader!
"Just an Old-Fashioned Love Song"
I’m afraid I can’t listen to music when I sit down to write—it’s too distracting. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a soundtrack running in my head when I’m working on a novel. For "Prosper in Love," it was an imaginary playlist that might sound odd and outdated today, but there’s a reason for that.
I’ve always thought of "Prosper in Love" as an old-fashioned romantic comedy, and in fact it was inspired in part by (a more elegant way of saying “I stole from”) a classic Hollywood screwball comedy from the 1930s, The Awful Truth, with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, in which the perfect couple ends up headed for divorce by the second scene. Their witty repartee in this movie is the spoken equivalent of inimitably clever Cole Porter or Ira Gershwin’s lyrics, their patter as light and synchopated as a Fred Astaire tap dance. So it seems fitting that the music I channeled included Astaire’s—but with him singing, instead of dancing.
I’ve owned a CD called "Stepping Out: Fred Astaire Sings" since before I was married, and I used to listen to it over and over again, loving the slightly scratchy sound of both the original recordings and Astaire’s light, pleasant, almost casual-sounding singing. My favorite was the Gershwin song “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” which we played at our wedding. In fact, both my husband and I loved this collection. It was part of the soundtrack of our own romance. I think what I love most about it is the unaffectedness of Astaire’s singing—it sounds as if he just slips into song. His dancing always looks like the opposite of work, too, even though he worked ceaselessly at it. That naturalness and seeming (and false!) effortlessness is what I aspire to as a writer when it comes to style.
The rest of the music I associate with "Prosper in Love" is old, too—just not quite that old. I mentioned the soundtrack of my real life romance. Another inspiration for "Prosper In Love" was my own marriage in its earliest years. The way Jamie and Lynn Prosper met, the way their hands brushed on a jukebox, is my own story. It was the late 80s, and the music my future husband and I listened to, driving to the beach in Los Angeles (where my characters also live) or out to dinner or to a movie (we both adore them), was a fairly random selection of Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, the Neville Brothers, Malcolm McLaren’s Fans album, Billie Holiday, the Beach Boys, and Patsy Cline. Whichever tape cassettes—remember them?—happened to be in the car.
I think I associate this music with my novel because I also associate it with happiness, young love, and blue, sunny days in Los Angeles. At one point, though, in the middle of a draft, I felt the urge to actually listen to it again. Most of it I found easily, but I was dismayed when I couldn’t track down Fans on iTunes or even on a old CD. The album was a strange one, a departure for the originally punk McLaren, and is based on opera arias. (My character, Lynn, goes to the opera with the wrong man in "Prosper in Love," which leads to all sorts of misunderstandings.) But while writing this very post I checked iTunes again—and there it was. So please excuse me while I go listen!
Special thanks to Deborah for a lovely guest post and to Penguin for sharing "Prosper in Love" with our readers.
How to win "Prosper in Love":
Please tell us what your favorite big band or "oldies" song is (one entry per person) and include your e-mail address or another way to contact you if you win.
US only. Giveaway ends July 8th at midnight EST.