Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Came First, the Music or the Mystery?

By Maria Alexander

Music. Many writers call it a “creative crutch.” Others, a distraction. It’s fascinating how music affects our creativity. It can spark an idea or sustain a mood as we complete a scene. Some authors listen to music as a warm up and then turn it off when writing.

For me, story ideas frequently find me as I drive and listen to the car stereo. Many of my short stories were born this way. For example, “Black Roses and Hail Marys” fell into my head one day as Offspring’s “Gone Away” hit the airwaves. And the final scene of “Coming Home” appeared in my imagination as “Carol of the Bells” started playing one evening on my favorite classical music station. I continued playing the tune at home until the entire story unfolded on the computer screen.

But with my debut novel, Mr. Wicker, the music and the mystery came at the same time. I’ve been pretty cagey about the origins of the novel, offering the extraordinary, true-life backstory in a transmedia puzzle trail that starts at the end of my book trailer. (WARNING: The trailer is graphic and bloody.) Without giving away the backstory, I can say that a haunting lullaby came to me during the event that inspired the book. I “heard” Mr. Wicker’s voice singing this song:

In a time and out of time
In time, the ink shall sing.
Blood and trust
They turn to dust,
Each secret that they bring.

Brooders weep
And brooders keep
Their misery at hand
Let Mister Wicker wash your sicker
Memories in sand…

That’s the song of the Library of Lost Childhood Memories, where Mr. Wicker is the Librarian. (To hear the tune, watch – or just listen to – the book trailer.) In the novel, children come to Mr. Wicker in their dreams to give him their most traumatic memories, which he records in a book with their name on the spine. When they wake up, the children no longer remember either what happened or Mr. Wicker. Music plays a big part in the story, as it’s deeply connected to memory.

The Librarian’s song was the soundtrack to my nightmares throughout the years it took the novel to develop. Starting as a short story in September 1997, the tale then evolved into a well-regarded screenplay before I eventually adapted it to novel. In September 2014, Raw Dog Screaming Press published Mr. Wicker to critical acclaim. And in May 2015, the book won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.

It seems Mr. Wicker’s song was right. In time, the ink shall sing…indeed.

Maria Alexander is a screenwriter, games writer, virtual world designer, award-winning copywriter, interactive theatre designer, short fiction writer and poet. Her debut novel, Mr. Wicker, won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Represented by Alex Slater at Trident Media Group, she lives in Los Angeles with two ungrateful cats and a purse called Trog. Visit her at:

Alicia Baum is missing a deadly childhood memory. Located beyond life, The Library of Lost Childhood Memories holds the answer. But the Librarian is Mr. Wicker — a seductive yet sinister creature with an unthinkable past and an agenda just as lethal.

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