Music – A Story Picture for My Muse

Loneliness. Redemption. Love.


Sound like a romance novel to you?

These are also recurring themes in country music. I’m from Texas and was raised on country music legends like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Don Williams, Willie Nelson and George Jones. Later I listened to musicians like George Strait, Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett. And the one thing you can count on in country music is a story. Granted, some of those stories are about lost hound dogs, cheating men and trains. But it’s rare for me to listen to a country song without envisioning the story in my head.

Kelsey BrowningA great example is Miranda Lambert’s latest release, “Mama’s Broken Heart.” I mean, this woman is hacking off her hair—and very likely with a pair of pinking shears—because she’s been dumped. Can’t you see it? She’s sitting at her mama’s kitchen table and that blond hair is falling all around the table like little wisps of misery. Then people start calling her mama, exclaiming over her daughter’s crazy behavior. Mama shakes a finger at her heartbroken daughter and tells her to buck up, suck it up and put her make-up on because it’s just a break-up. No man is worth looking like hell for. Now, maybe that’s not a romance novel, but it’s pretty easy to picture, isn’t it?

For each of my books, I create a playlist and inevitably country music is well represented. The soundtrack/playlist for my August release, Personal Assets, includes these songs:

  • “Too Bad” by Nickelback
  • “Ragtop Cadillac” by Lonestar
  • “You Wreck Me” by Tom Petty
  • “Old New Town” by Tim McGraw
  • “Someday” by Nickelback
  • “Baboom/Mama Said” by The Vaughan Brothers
  • “Does Your Daddy Know About Me” by Lonestar
  • “Six Foot Town” by Big & Rich
  • “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” by Tracy Lawrence
  • “Walk Like A Man” by Tim McGraw
  • “Fight For All The Wrong Reasons” by Nickelback
  • “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
  • “One More Night” by Maroon 5
  • “The Power of a Woman” by Lee Brice

And yes, it’s now clear I have an obsession with Nickelback and Stevie Ray Vaughan as well.

Sometimes, a song inspires the entire story. Sometimes it’s a mere phrase that matches the characters. But I listen to the playlist long enough that it immediately puts me in the “zone” to write and revise that book. After a while, I no longer hear the words, but the songs still represent the book’s essence.

In each book of my Texas Nights series, my characters eventually find themselves at a dive on Highway 12 called Dirty Harry’s. At Dirty Harry’s, you should order your beer with the top still on and avoid the restrooms, but the boot-scooting and the music? They’re always good.

Does music inspire you? Can you listen to music while you’re reading or writing?

Kelsey’s debut book, Personal Assets, will be released by Carina Press August 26, 2013.


Personal Assets is on pre-order at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other book retailers.

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Music – A Story Picture for My Muse — 24 Comments

  1. Music is my second love and I often find inspiration in songs. I’m especially fond of singer/songwriters who can pour their heart on a page and make you feel the same. There is so much we as writers can learn from the rich storytelling in songs. Country music is filled with songs that tell vivid stories. Thanks for sharing your inspiration and your playlist, Kelsey!

    • Reese –

      I swear I think of at least one new story every time I’m in my car listening to my iPod. I need to do a better job of recording those ideas into my iPhone! LOL


  2. Good morning, Kelsey! Love that photo of you! It’s so you. Tech Guy did good!

    I can’t listen to music when I write, but if I’m stuck it helps me get “unstuck”.

    I too am a Stevie Ray fan so I’m with you on that one!

    • Hey, A!

      Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to give Tech Guy credit for the pic, but it was taken by Anne Yarbrough when she did my headshots. And Stevie Ray is totally Friday music for me. I mean, who can stay in a crappy mood with that kind of music rocking? I’m also a huge fan of Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett (if you can get past the hair :-)).

      Early on, I couldn’t listen to music. And even now, it’s only my playlist while I’m writing.

      Wait until you see the Grannies’ playlist. It’s a long one! LOL.


  3. Music always inspires me. I’m writing a story about a relationship in trouble, so I’ve been playing the heck out of Jason Mraz’s ‘I won’t Give Up’. Great post!

  4. I love music as much as I love books, so I love it when there are playlists available. I always have music on. Having had the privilege of reading Personal Assets already I have to say that of the songs I know above these really fit the story. It is such a good book, Kelsey! I can’t wait to read it again and really can’t wait to see the cover. :)

    • Mary Jo –

      May have to add some Bruce to my next playlist – thanks for the tip!

      I’m super-excited about the upcoming release – thanks for all your support over the past few years!


  5. Hi Kels,
    Love this post. I think the same thing when I listen to country music. I can totally “see” the story unfolding from the lyrics. It’s lots of fun, but kind of scary sometimes, too! 😉 I wish I could listen to music while I write, but I require the melody of silence. *sigh* Can’t wait until PERSONAL ASSETS releases! Yay! :)

    • Tracy –

      Oh yeah, country songs can be a riot. Sometimes you just have to shake your head – LOL.

      Hang in there with everything you have going on – I’ll need someone to talk me down in August :-).


    • Samantha –

      I’m with you – I think it’s the repetition that works for me. I worked on my current draft this afternoon with my playlist going and I only noticed it when it finished!


  6. I am a big fan of Adult Contemporary music and the only radio station that plays a wide range of this music is 97.9 WRMF. I am also kept updated on the station’s latest promotions and community events. Visit their website for live streaming at .

  7. Just realized I hadn’t turned on my playlist in the last week… I have words to get me in the mood, then I write to soundtracks. Love my LONGMIRE to set the cowboy mood.

    Glad I stumbled across this today!

    • Angi –

      I feel inept that I don’t know Longmire – are you talking about the show or something else? Even though my stories aren’t all about cowboys, I have a TON of country music in my playlists because all my heroes are country boys at heart :-).


      • Yep, the show. I loved the music so much, I bought the soundtrack. Same with me, all my heroes aren’t cowboys, but they’re all Texans and have a “country” feel. Check out Longmire. Show and the music.

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