Some “Muse”ings about Inspiration: the Voices in Meyer’s and Collins’s Heads

Inspiration often comes from unusual places. According to tradition, Charles Dickens was asked whether he wanted a lemon twist or an olive in his drink—“olive or twist”—and thus lighted upon the name of one of his most beloved characters.  Rowling got her inspiration on a train, Meyer’s came in a dream, and Collins’s idea for the Hunger Games sprang to life while she was flipping channels on television.  But, after that initial surge of inspiration, an author has to sit down and write, often even when he or she does not want to, and that’s where a different brand of inspiration comes in: auditory inspiration.

Many authors report that listening to certain kinds of music helps them write. Sharyn McCrumb, New York Times bestselling Appalachian author, usually has different soundtracks for the different characters in her Ballad novels, and has even produced a CD of traditional songs linked to the books. Suzanne Collins has noted that she prefers listening to classical music as she writes, since she finds lyrics distracting (and with Katniss’s voice in your head, there really isn’t room for more voices, perhaps). And of course, Stephenie Meyer has Muse, the band she has thanked publically as her inspiration and included on many of the “playlists” she posts for her novels on her website.  Muse is an interesting group. Like Queen, with whom they share some stylistic elements and whom they cite as an inspiration, Muse is a band named after a female figure, through the band members are all men. In addition to being a noun describing the nine lovely ladies of mythology, however, the word “muse” is, of course, also a verb for thoughtful pondering, and Muse’s lyrics certainly give much to think about.

In no way do I claim to be a Muse expert, as my experience with them is primarily from the music that has been used in each Twilight film, per Meyer’s request, but that music alone is very revealing to  thoughts on inspiration.  Confession time: I am a hopeless soundtrack nerd. When people ask my favorite composers, I am likely to list among them John Williams, Danny Elfman, Patrick Doyle, and, if I’m feeling charitable, James Horner. I have soundtracks that range from the sweeping orchestral( Jurassic Park and Star Trek First Contact are some of the best) to the ones that are collections of songs used in a film (like Cold Mountain). Since the Eclipse soundtrack comes out today, this might be a good time to look a bit at Meyer’s inspirational group. In particular, their single for the Eclipse soundtrack “Neutron Star Collison” is very musing-worthy. The video, available on youtube, does something very interesting that works into some of our discussions here. My favorite line in the song: “Hail, the preachers fake and proud/Their doctrines will be cloud/Then they’ll dissipate like snowflakes in an ocean,” is accompanied, in the video, with images of the Volturi—Jane, Alec, Demetri, and Felix. Considering the Voluturi’s role as the “bad religion” of Twilight, the connection is highly appropriate. Though Muse apparently did not write this song just for Eclipse, it works beautifully, at least for me, and I’d like to hear what others think. With the piano entrance and exit that evoke Edward’s music to the highly appropriate lyrics, it’s a good fit for the story, but of course, Muse has been in both of the other films as well (“Supermassive Black Hole” in the baseball scene in Twilight and  “You Belong to Me” in Bella’s truck in New Moon).

Muse also seems a good fit with the Hunger Games. Their  hit “Uprising” could be the theme song for the Mockingjay rebellion, as long as one is NOT thinking of the weird video with rampaging  teddy bears that, to me, seemed an obvious ploy on the band’s part to avoid stating exactly what we should all be rising up against. Thus, it’s anybody’s cause! Down with fascists! Down with parents! Down with the Capitol! It’s even being used in the trailers for the new action film Knight and Day, which doesn’t seem especially revolutionary. But it does go so well with the Hunger Games (the album is The Resistance), that one can’t help but wonder if Suzanne Collins is a fan, too, and just is keeping her cards close to her vest, or if a few of the Muse guys have been to Panem. This inspiration business does, of course, go both ways.

Speaking of Collins’s inspiration, it’s also very nice to listen to the voice she uses for Katniss when she reads aloud. The voice is so genuine, so much like the Appalachian voices that I hear every day, that I can’t help but think she has someone in mind, perhaps a family member or friend. It would be wonderful to know who is the inspiration for that voice, which I think will always be the “Katniss voice” in my head even after the inevitable film.

Whether it’s the voice of someone we know, or a song or album that sets a tone, the sounds writers hear in our heads (or headphones) may be one of the most underestimated aspects of the writing process.


  1. You can download Muse Supermassive Black Hole here. Also many other Muse tracks.

  2. joel hunter says

    hem, hem…Jerry Goldsmith?

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