Friday, March 22, 2013

Music as Inspiration: Grace R. Duncan Talks About Choices

I really enjoyed Grace R. Duncan's slave-fic novel, Choices. For one thing, the cover is gorgeous! But I also admire the sensuality the story evokes. Turns out she owes some of that to some of the beautiful music in this post.

Welcome, Grace!


Music has always inspired me.  As a kid, it helped me get homework done.  As an adult, it gets the housework moving, the other tasks I need to accomplish done much more quickly.  It’s always fed my moods, cheering me up or feeding the need to let it out and cry when I couldn’t seem to, otherwise.

So it seemed to me that it was a natural step for that to move into inspiring fiction and it was.  I’ve mentioned before that I started in fanfiction and I had more than a couple of songs cause the writing of short stories, chapters and even a couple of novel-length piece!

When it came time to sit and actively work on Choices, then, there was no doubt that I would build an entire playlist for the novel. The first place I went was to one of my favorite artists:  Loreena McKennitt.  The woman’s voice is absolutely incredible and her composition is amazing.  To top it off, she experiments with different flavors of music and had several pieces that were very Middle Eastern in style.

But the kicker for me about her music was the one song that had always been my favorite of hers: Caravanserai.

The song, which I’d heard first on CD and not yet seen any Youtube videos of, had always brought to mind the desert nomads that became my gypsies.  (For the lyrics, go here.)  Well, when I started looking at music and brought this one up, I knew in a heartbeat that it was Teman’s theme.  The consummate wanderer, the one who can’t seem to find a place to land, just couldn’t stay in one place, well, this song was perfect for him and one that got played a lot over the course of writing this book.

Another of Loreena’s songs that inspired me quite a bit was Marrakesh Night Market. 

I often thought of Teman and Jasim at the beginning a bit like the assassin’s from Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed games.  The robes I’d envisioned in my head looked very much like the ones Altair wore in the first edition of the series.  And this song often made me think of the assassins, climbing to the roofs, hiding inside their hoods.  Below the video on the Youtube site, the uploader included what Ms. McKennitt wrote in the CD notes and it is so appropriate to what I imagined nighttime in Behekem would be like.    I even had the image in my head of Jasim and Teman jumping from roof to roof in a desert city, hoods up, hidden blades in their sleeves.  This song became the theme for the first chapter of Choices

Because the game helped to inspire me, I discovered that some of the music from the Revelations soundtrack went very well with the rest.  Among those are Fight Or Flight, Welcome To Kostantiniyye, The Traitor, Ambush, Nova Roma, On The Attack and Yerebatan Cistern

Marrakesh Night Market and Caravanserai were, by far, not the only songs of Loreena’s on my soundtrack.  A few of the others are: The Gates Of Istanbul, Kecharitomene , Marco Polo, Night Ride Across The Caucasus , Santiago, and Tango to Evora.

But as much as I love Loreena’s music and even with the Assassin’s Creed soundtrack, those few songs can get repetitive after a while.  So, I poked around to see what other Middle Eastern style music I could fine.  Let’s just say… there was a lot.  I was, however, pleasantly surprised to discover an album by Sarah Brightman from a special DVD she did called “Harem.”  There were two in particular I liked from the album:  Harem and one called “Arabian Knights.”  But, though the whole song was, of course, on my playlist, it’s really the 40ish-second bit starting here that caught me:

There is a scene in the book where Teman is walking into the Grand Hall (the palace’s dining hall) in line with the rest of the pleasure slaves, all done up for the evening in gold jewelry.  I imagine that snippet playing as they walk in and it just seemed perfect to me.

My search turned up an interesting mix of music.  I was reminded of the “Prince of Persia” movie and the “Welcome To Persia” piece, while short, fit well.  That led me to other soundtracks and I nearly smacked myself in the forehead when I found the “Kingdom of Heaven” soundtrack.  In very short order, I had A New World, Ibelin, Sibylla, Saladin, and Light Of Life added to the list.

Well, I got away from movie soundtracks because, as much as I liked what I found, I wanted something a little less Hollywood and a little more Middle East.  That’s when I found Azam Ali, a very talented lady with an amazing voice.  She had some of the most beautiful songs and it wasn’t even a question of adding her to the list. She had a number of lovely songs that I added, including Abode, Ben Pode Santa Maria, Breton Medley, El Rey De Francia , I Am A Stranger In This World , Spring Arrives.

But the one that got me was one that came on while I was writing a particularly difficult dinner scene (for those who’ve read it, this is, fittingly, chapter 13), called “Inna-I-Malak”.   It was almost surreal how well the music fit the scene.  See for yourself how haunting the song sounds:

When I listen to that, it’s almost as if I’m watching the scene in my mind through slow motion.  That combination of imagery and sound would not leave me for a long time. 

So, when it came to the Middle Eastern music, I now had a nice variety.  But as I made my way in the book toward Tiantang (which is not-so-loosely based on Asian culture, specifically Chinese), I wanted something less Middle Eastern and more Asian.  Well, that was easy.  I’d always liked Kitaro’s music and knew that I had something of his to listen to while travelled through the Tiantang countryside and into Duankou.  I knew at once that Caravansary  and Dance of the Sarasvati would fit the bill nicely.

Please note:  What follows from here includes spoilers!

Then, as the company makes its way back to Neyem, they stop for an evening and visit with Teman’s family.  And as I’m writing this dinner with the gypsies, the Tiantang contingent and the group from Neyem, one of the pieces from the Assassin’s Creed soundtrack came on and I thought the title was very appropriate:  The Crossroads Of The World.

The last song I wanted to include was one that inspired me, made me cry and carried me through the parts of this story that I cried while writing.  This one, in particular, is towards the end and the parts of the song that talk about horses that never tire, sweet desert flowers and dreams just… fit.  For those who have read it, you’ll know what scene I’m talking about.  Now listen:


Thank you for going through the music that has inspired and carried me through writing Choices.  I do hope you’ve enjoyed it.  Which did you like best? Were there any you didn’t like? Why? Leave your comment for a chance at a swag bag and entry for the signed paperback!

Thank you so much to Miss Tali for hosting me today! I very much appreciate her patience in setting the post up for me. 

* * *


Born and raised a gypsy in the late eleventh century, Teman values freedom over everything. He and his best friend, Jasim, are thieves for hire—until one night they're caught and their precious freedom is revoked. Given the choice between the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery, they become slaves, but Teman vows to escape someday.

Bathasar doesn’t want the throne. He supports his brother instead, which suits their sadistic father, Mukesh. When Teman, the handsome slave Bathasar has secretly been watching, saves his life, Bathasar requests a slave for the first time. Before long, Bathasar and Teman fall in love. But all is not well. One day Mukesh brutalizes Teman before the court, angering the empress of a neighboring nation. To appease her, he then offers her Jasim as a gift, and Teman decides to stay with Bathasar for now—despite the abuse he may suffer.

The peace doesn’t last. Mukesh plans to invade Jasim's new country, and Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction. But if he succeeds, he'll ascend to the throne and have the power to grant Teman his liberty. Then Teman will surely leave him. What other choice could a gypsy make?


  1. I loooove the music of Choices. I should listen to it when I read it, hehe...

    I'm probably going to be playing Desert Rose when I get to that part again... and may or may not sob my heart out XD

    Thanks Tali for hosting, and Grace for writing! The post, and the book... and everything else you've written :)

  2. Excellent music choices. I just might have to re-read Choices and play some of these as I read

  3. Excellent music choices. I just might have to re-read Choices and play some of these as I read

  4. Loreena McKennitt definitely has music that seems to fit your book. I also like Enya, but she is into Celtic music.


  5. I use music when I'm writing too, and it usually seeps into my stories. The only problem is, I don't think my choices are quite as ... rhythmic as yours. (I have terrible taste in music. I'm the first to admit this.) Please do count me in too. aspeed2 at gmail dot com

  6. Thanks for the music sampler! It's always great to find new music-- stuff you'd never hear on the radio.
    brendurbanist at gmail dot com