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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Singing Her Own Song: Angela Morrison On Writing Lyrics

As promised, Angela Morrison is here to guest post today. Remember that she's available today to answer questions, so leave some good ones! And don't forget to enter my giveaway for copies
It's all you, Angela ...

A lot of people have asked how I came to include the lyrics Beth writes as part of SING ME TO SLEEP's narrative. Nope. I'm not a song writer. My daughter is. She's the musician in the family.

My editor writes poetry when she's not editing, so Leesie's poems in TAKEN BY STORM were a big hit with her. She has amazing confidence in my poetic abilities. When we were working through the proposal for SING before I started writing, she asked me to make Beth a songwriter and weave her lyrics throughout the story. And of course, Derek would be the brooding composer. Good twist. I agreed.

As I got into the project, I realized I needed more than just Beth's lyrics. I also had to come up with original lyrics for the songs the choirs perform that I use in a scene. Yikes! Could I pull this off? Song lyrics are a far cry from free verse.

My first attempts were pathetic. Sing-song rhymes. Simplistic rhythmic structure. In a bit of a panic, I started studying song lyrics. Pop songs. Gospel choral numbers. The music from "The Phantom of the Opera." I listened to every CD in our apartment. Downloaded more. If I didn't have note liner lyrics, I jotted them down with headphones on. Then I took away the words--wrote out blanks like a giant game of hangman that rhymed. I wonder if Shakespeare's sonnets started that way? No way. Shakespeare breathed sonnets. I sweated those lyrics.

I did happen to have a copy of Leona Lewis's CD that we'd bought in London, England before we left Switzerland for Singapore. We watched her win on X-Factor when all we got was UK TV. (It's a great show, by the way. I'm glad Simon is bringing it to the US.) Her songwriters are incredible. The lyrics are intricate and created a marvelous structural challenge for me. And to test my lyrics out, I got to sing along with Leona! As long as no one was listening. (No one can hit any of those notes.)

As you can imagine, I was an emotional wreck the whole time I worked on SING ME TO SLEEP. The material is so powerful. And "Beth's Song" is the culmination of all that emotion. I wrote it with a box of Kleenex under my arm and Leona wailing on the stereo. We were living in a tiny apartment in Singapore. Close quarters. But my husband was traveling a lot for work, and my son was in school all day, so I had the apartment to myself tons. Otherwise, I wouldn't have finished this book.

One afternoon I was barricaded back in my bedroom, singing through "Beth's Song" at the top of my lungs, blotched swollen face, runny nose, tears choking me up-- And my son walked in!
"Mom, what are you doing?"

I jumped. Screamed. Almost had a heart attack.

He shook his head and left me to my madness.

Ah, the things we do for our art! But now when I hear Shayna Follington from the Amabile Youth Singers, backed up by both of the Amabile men's choirs (the Young Men's Ensemble AND Primus: the Men's Choir)--one hundred gorgeous male voices--I figure it's worth freaking my kids out every once in awhile.

Enjoy the tease you get of it on my trailer. Amabile will release "Beth's Song" on iTunes soon. Everyone please buy it. Harriet and I are waiving our royalties, so all the proceeds will got to Amabile in honor of the Matt Quaife Leadership Award. My tiny way of saying, "Thank you."


  1. I can't wait to hear the whole song!

  2. Okay, I'm going to start off the questions by asking the same thing I asked the giveaway entrants: If you could choose any musician to write you a lullaby, who would it be? Who would you choose to sing you to sleep? Also, can you explain what part music plays in your writing. I think you mentioned listening to certain bands while writing TBS. Who are your favorites?

  3. I would definitely want Josh Groban to sing me to sleep. I'm sure he did write, "She Dances," for me. Absolutely. I love all of his music.

    I'm a huge American Idol fan. The music I listened to writing TAKEN BY STORM was all Idol music--mostly Kelly Clarkson and Chris Daughtry. Some Jordan Sparks. I can't wait to download Kris Allen's new CD. You can hear a playlist of the songs I listened to on STORM's page on my website.

    I also love Broadway music. "Wicked" is my new favorite. The songs are sooo clever. And I will always adore the music from "Les Mis."

  4. Josh Groban DOES sing me to sleep very very often!

    I forgot to ask a question: What's coming up next for you... even after the Taken By Storm sequel?

  5. I have a third book to write for Michael and Leesie (CAYMAN SUMMER) and two novels waiting in the wings that are written but need some revision before I give them to my agent to market.

    I'm dying to work on those, but I have been soo busy. One is an romantic historical YA coming of age based on my Scottish coal mining roots. That is the first book in a series of six novels. Yeah, I plan big.

    And the other WIP is a time-slip adventure set in my favorite Swiss castle--The Chateau de Chillon! I'm turning it into JANE EYRE meets the TERMINATOR--but my hero is no robot.

    Thanks for asking, Suey!

  6. Hi, Suey and followers!! Good news today: "Beth's Song" is now on iTUNES!!!!! You can get the whole song at last.

    Here's the link:


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