Want to know what I listen to when I’m writing The Madison Chronicles?


I’m currently writing and editing book two of The Madison Chronicles while book one— Sadie Madison and the Boy In The Crimson Scarf— is going out to agents. In the meantime, here’s a blog about the music I listen when I’m writing and editing my work.

Music in The Madison Chronicles

Music plays a huge role, not only writing The Madison Chronicles, but as part of the story itself. Sadie Madison is a keen pianist and, throughout the book develops her skill at the instrument, pulling in the memories and emotions conjured by music to enhance her playing and spellbind the town of Iron Bridge.

Music as Magic is a theme that I’ve always wanted to work with as it’s possibly the closest thing we have to true sorcery. Music is something that unites people, a universal language but also something ethereal, personal and utterly private. The idea of a character being able to manipulate music, on a macrocosmic and mircosmic level, is a power that could unite the planet in euphoria or drag it to its knees. Through all the books in The Madison Chronicles books, the power of music— and it’s association with memory, emotion and magic— is at the centre of all things.

“Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory.”
Oscar Wilde

Music in my life

Music has played a huge role in my life since I was young. I started off on the piano, like Sadie, and then moved to the drums as they were far louder and instantly more rewarding. I studied percussion at the Guildhall in London and toured the UK and performed at the Edinburgh Festival in ’92 and’93 with the National Youth Music Theatre. In later life I switched to the guitar and bass and played hundreds of function gigs up and down the UK. I’ve worked in a music school since University too. Music is part of my everyday. It’s part of who I am and affects my writing on a daily basis.

“Ah, music,” he said. “A worthy language indeed— far more delicate and infinitely more expressive than mere words.”
Sadie Madison and the Boy In The Crimson Scarf, Chapter 22

Music I listen to when I’m writing

My iPod has the words ‘Cheese – Metal – The Hoff’ engraved into the back which should give you some indication of my musical taste. I listen to quite a variety of music when I moving through scenes and chapters, plotting and spreading out the story. My go-to playlists include artists such as Nelly Furtado, Nerina Pallot, Lorde, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, and Natalie Imbruglia: calm, steady, melodic music that I can listen to and enjoy without the uncontrollable need to air-drum or skip songs or grab the guitar to play along.

For more dramatic scenes, dark or frightening passages and action sequences, I tend to work better with the likes of Metallica, Nickelback (I’m not ashamed), Megadeth, Soundgarden and Faith No More.

Calmer music, and sometimes no music at all (although highly infrequent), is needed for the painstaking and soul-shredding process of re-reading, editing, and chopping my work to the bone. “Kill your darlings,” said Stephen King and so I took The Madison Chronicles from 175,000 words down to 140,000. I lost some entire scenes and huge chunks of dialogue that I really enjoyed but they added nothing to the story and just slowed things down.


Amongst the albums and playlists I reach for during this time are: Jenkins & Hulst’s ‘Calamity Kingdom Come‘ – a mixture of many things, like a brilliant cake: layered and delicious and dangerous and decadent; Carrie Underwood’s ‘Blown Away‘ – a masterpiece of modern country rock; and KT Tunstall’s ‘Eye To The Telescope‘ – moving, delicate and transportative.

I’m also keen on a selection of film and classical music as a lot of it harks back to my childhood and brings an amazing sense of fun, play and creativity. Alan Silvestri’s score for ‘Back To The Future‘ is phenomenal, Howard Shore’s work on ‘Lord of the Rings‘ really captured Middle-Earth and it’s inhabitants for me, while John William’s staggering catalogue of work including ‘Superman‘, ‘Indiana Jones‘, ‘Harry Potter‘ and ‘Star Wars‘ is always breathtaking.

“Music filled the air like stardust cascading from the heavens. It had colour, and depth, and passion, and innocence. It was almost touchable, something real. Her little fingers moved freely across the piano keys, as naturally as running them through water. But there was something more than music filling the room: something spoken, uttered, whispered; mystical words floating on hot air.”
Sadie Madison and the Boy In The Crimson Scarf, Chapter 22

There are lots of music videos that I find particularly inspiring for The Madison Chronicles. My two favourites are Metallica’s ‘Until It Sleeps’, whose influences will show up more in book two, and Katy Perry’s ‘Wide Awake’ which has the look and feel of a Tim Burton movie.

“I don’t know how to explain it. It was almost as though they were feeding off it. Like the music was talking to them. Like you were speaking to them through the music.”
Sadie Madison and the Boy In The Crimson Scarf, Chapter 16

And finally…

Obviously, there are hundreds more songs and videos that fuel, invigorate and drive my work on a visual, intellectual, and most importantly, emotional level. Hopefully this little overview has given you an idea of the music I listen to when I visit Sadie Madison, her family and the supporting cast of monsters, ghosts, billionaires, witches, and supernatural beings, in The Madison Chronicles. Perhaps you’d like to come along sometime…

“The music built to a dark finale. Sadie’s arms sailed up and down the keys with dexterity and grace, flourishing with torturous notes that twinkled like dying stars in the night sky, and then descended into a tranquil silence.”
Sadie Madison and the Boy In The Crimson Scarf, Chapter 22