January 13 – 19: “Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what type?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5This week we’re rockin’ out with ITW Members Melissa Groeling, Lisa Von Biela and J. H. Bográn while discuss music and writing and asnwer the question: “”Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what type?”


THE JANUS LEGACY coverLisa von Biela worked in Information Technology for 25 years, then left the field to attend the University of Minnesota Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 2009. She now practices law in Seattle, Washington. Lisa’s first short story appeared in The Edge in 2002. Her short works have appeared in various small press venues, including Gothic.net, Twilight Times, Dark Animus, AfterburnSF, and more. Her debut novel, THE GENESIS CODE, was released in 2013. Her second novel, THE JANUS LEGACY, is due out in February 2014, and her first novella, ASH AND BONE, is set for release in May 2014.

Firefall_Proof2J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the Short Fiction Writers Guild and the International Thriller Writers. His debut novel TREASURE HUNT, which The Celebrity Café hails as an intriguing novel that provides interesting insight of architecture and the life of a fictional thief, has also been selected as the Top Ten in Preditors & Editor’s Reader Poll. FIREFALL, his second novel, follows former firefighter Sebastian Martin, now investigating insurance fraud, as he comes head-on against an international band of car thieves.

Lights Out by Melissa GroelingMelissa Groeling graduated from Bloomsburg University with a degree in English. She lives, reads and writes in the Philadelphia region and wherever else life happens to send her. She is a hardcore New York Giants fan and loves chocolate. LIGHTS OUT is her second novel to date.



  1. No, I don’t listen to music–or anything–when I write. I much prefer silence.

    See, my work/commute leaves me little time for any significant writing during the work week. Most of my writing happens on the weekend. Therefore, when I do sit down to write, I need the utmost focus and efficiency.

    Not only that, when I’m really “in the zone,” I actually see the action in my mind’s eye. It plays like a movie and I need to get it down in writing while it’s happening. I also sometimes find myself–especially when editing and fine-tuning–physically acting out some of the gestures in a conversation, for example. I do need to drop into my own little focused world when I’m writing at my best and most productive.

  2. Absolutely but it has to be turned down really low. Which doesn’t make any sense because what’s the point in listening to music if you can barely hear it? The thing is though I don’t really listen to it. It’s there as background noise and if I’m stuck on a particular scene, I crank up the volume and what comes out of the speakers is mainly rock. I’m a huge Shinedown fan and when I was writing Lights Out, there was a lot of them and Breaking Benjamin. Music really helps me get into the mind-frame I need to be in for a certain character—-it’s a lot like listening to the music that’ll get you pumped up at the gym. Same rules apply when I’m writing.

  3. In my case, I need music All. The. Time.

    A couple of times I’ve blogged about the music I listen to when writing. I’ve found that songs with lyrics are distracting when writing, but present no problem when editing. So, for actual writing time I use instrumental music. What kind? Well, here’s the funny part, I’ve bought a couple of wonderful CD’s with Orchestra versions of great artist like The Beatles, Queen, and yes, even Abba.

    I recently discovered a wonderful online jazz station called jazzradio.com. It’s now safely placed in my bookmarks and I listen to it all the time.

    But music has influenced my writings in more ways than just background sound. The main character from my first novel, TREASURE HUNT, says goodbye to her boyfriend with a line from a Queen song: Keep yourself alive. Of course, the guy needs to be reminded. He’s a thief and a risk taker.
    In FIREFALL, the main character hums to the tune of Kenny Roger’s Lady at some point.
    Some short stories of mine have borrowed titles from popular songs. For example, Blame it on the rain, Love me two times, and Drinking Again.

    All in all, music is such an important part of my life, not just for writing.

  4. I listen to music at a low volume, but the type is varied. I love listening to my i-pad list of seventies rock, 1940s big bands, and then there’s classical. It isn’t the noise in my ears, but the distraction that helps me focus.

  5. Wow–your brains must work differently than mine! When I wrote The Genesis Code, I was in a time and place where I would work on it during lunch hour–in various little fast food joints in downtown Minneapolis. I worked in the Skyway and so could quickly scurry off to some little place, grab something, and make the most of my lunch hour. I had to force the crowd noise out of my brain. And I suppose I got pretty good at it most times. I’d try to pick places with less people there, but that wasn’t always possible. I don’t have that ability now because of where I work, so when I get down to writing, I want my quiet! 🙂

    1. Ah, the noise in the head. I was *so* scared I would get a song “caught in my head” during the Bar exam. I’ve had that happen and that was the last place I needed it to happen. Fortunately, it didn’t, or I don’t recall it happening anyway.

      All this said, I do like to listen to music when I sew. Nine Inch Nails, for example.

    1. Not yet. But now that I think of it, next time I need to get into a good noir-ish mood to write something in that vein, I should listen to some Tom Waits. His lyrics are very dark and very visual. 9th and Hennepin comes to mind… BTW, Tom Waits is my music of choice when I make my killer New Year’s seafood gumbo. Something about him just gets me in the proper mood!

    2. Songs influencing my characters? Yes…plenty of times.

      The lead character of my short story The Assassin’s Mistress is, well, an assassin obviously, but the other day I listened to a song, and one sentence in particular defined my character perfectly: We kill with the skill to survive!

      10 Gold points, and a autographed copy(pdf) of The Assassin’s Mistress to whomever tells me the title of the song!

  6. J.H.—I’m drawing a blank on that lyric. 🙁
    Lisa—seafood gumbo sounds delicious!
    I recently had a lot of Shinedown influencing my character in “Lights Out”–so much so that I put some of the lyrics at the beginning of the book! Plus, I saw them in concert last summer and it was such a great show!

    1. Melissa–

      It *is* delicious. And it’s noticeably even better when it’s made with Mr. Waits’ assistance. I’m not kidding about that. It really is.

      And now my smartaleck remark of the day. We’ve talked about Queen songs inspiring us. Well, isn’t the obvious one (for thriller writers whose characters get knocked off) “Another One Bites the Dust”? Heheh. Now that’s going to be stuck in my head the rest of the day…

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