Author Spotlight - Phil Williams

Guest Post: The Magic Of Music by Phil Williams

Phil Williams a few months ago talked about the playlist going with his latest novel, Dyer Street Punk Witches. Today he is back again with another guest post, this time talking about The Magic of Music and how music relates to his Ordshaw universe.

Meet the Author
Phil Williams

Phil Williams is an author of contemporary fantasy and dystopian fiction, including the Ordshaw urban fantasy thrillers and the post-apocalyptic Estalia series. He also writes bestselling reference books to help foreign learners master English. Phil lives with his wife by the coast in Sussex, UK, and spends a great deal of time walking his impossibly fluffy dog, Herbert.

Connect with Phil Williams

Guest Post

Anyone who’s been paying close attention might have noticed that music plays a significant role in the Ordshaw universe. While no one really has time to whistle a tune during the turmoil of The Sunken City Trilogy, the subsequent four books feature a mega popstar, infamous criminal jazz musicians and feminist punk rockers.

This isn’t coincidence. It feeds into an idea that actually first creeps into play in a random scene in The Violent Fae and is made more explicit towards the end of The City Screams. There’s a crossover between music and magic. However, it’s something that isn’t strictly limited to the fictional world.

Art, in its various forms, can create particular kinds of energy that can be inspiring or devastating, creating or confirming emotions you couldn’t necessarily put into words. Like the uncontrollable need to tap your feet to a good beat, or flail your arms about above your head and squeal. It makes you feel.

That’s the beauty and purpose of it all.

In the context of writing, I find music in particular can easily inspire ideas of specific scenes, shifting emotions, powerful themes. Sometimes the connections are obvious, but often they’re obscure.

For my latest release, Dyer Street Punk Witches, the background soundtrack was relatively obvious. It’s shot through with a ‘90s Fem Rock mood, and I primarily listened to music of that era (with past and future influences) while writing it. It’s perhaps the only time the soundtrack’s been that obvious, though, hence the splendid playlist we shared here.

More often, I find the connections harder to explain, and am fascinated by how contrasting elements can combine for a certain energy.

I grew up playing Fallout 2, realising how haunting The Inkspots’ love songs could be in the context of a post-apocalypse, and watching Tarantino pair joyous classic pop music with ultra-violence. With some of my earlier novels (unreleased or later discontinued), I obsessed over swing music in the context of urban gangs; I explored a vagrant murderer reduced to tears variously by Leonard Cohen and t.A.T.u.; and I matched up-tempo tunes from The Zombies to angels and demons raising hell.

Certain tunes, at certain times, simply fit a particular scene or story arc or character, in ways that might not entirely make sense. They just feel right.

I’ve written before that for Kept From Cages I had Zella Day’s “East of Eden” playing a lot.

The song itself is about love, yet its rhythm and power, with its odd Biblical referencing, perfectly matched my ideas of scenes of the Legion clashing. For sure, the music gave me something far removed from its original purpose.

That book and the sequel Given to Darkness feature an assassin spoken of but never really seen, who was broadly based on Tom Waits’ song “Black Wings” – many years ago I wrote a whole prequel novel about this character loosely inspired by various aspects of that one song. He didn’t kill anyone with a guitar string or save a baby from ‘drowneding’, but you get the idea he could have.

With my upcoming novel, an epic military fantasy with a somewhat anti-war feel, I’ve had the Dropkick Murphy’s rendition of “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye” playing. It has a tempo to match a crazed soldier leaping off a wall to swing an axe, while simultaneously shouts at you that this is bad, which is the book to a tee.

These are just some examples from my experience. There’s more, lots more. And as I listen to and discover even more music, there will only be fresh connections and inspirations to follow. Connections with creativity inspire more creativity: that’s real magic. As the Ordshaw series progresses, and the magic of music in its world starts to be exposed, mapped and interrogated, I doubt it’ll get any more fantastical than the magic of music in our own.