On Writing

Historical Novelists and Their Music

Whether I’m working as an historical novelist or a non-fiction history article writer, I seem to write far better when my background is filled with period music.  For example, the album pictured above has tunes that were popular during the time of Lewis and Clark; I played it to death while I was writing an article for the 200th anniversary of the Expedition.

Or, when writing about the Frontier West, it helped to listen to Songs of the 7th Cavalry – especially tunes like The Dreary Black Hills and Soldier’s Joy (a ditty about using morphine). The Black Hills song in particular gave me some insight into the thoughts of the day:

Don’t Go Away, Stay At Home If You Can,
Stay Away From That City, They Call It Cheyenne,
For Old Sitting Bull Or Comanche Bill
They Will Take Off Your Scalp On the Dreary Black Hills.

There’s something magical about listening to the music your fictional characters would have known, or your real-life  people would have heard in their everyday life. Other than dressing up in period costume (which I think I’d like to do!) I don’t know any other way of getting into the period faster or more in depth. With the music, you can just feel it.

Other music choices for historical novelists:

  • Songs of the 7th Cavalry
  • Songs of the Santa Fe Trail
  • Songs of Revolutionary America
  • Songs of World War I and World War II
  • Songs of Ireland

I nabbed most of the albums over at Amazon but I’m pretty sure you can now download individual tunes through either Amazon or iTunes.

So, historical novelist or history writer, what music do you listen to?

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