12 February 2019

my Tuesday Talk guest - Joanne Larner

Helen has recently posted a series of  short stories inspired by a song, written by a variety of different authors, and I mentioned I used song titles for the scenes in my trilogy of time travel novels about Richard III (Richard Liveth Yet). 

I hadn’t intended to do it, but the idea came to me when I was writing a scene in which the heroine, Rose, kissed Richard. I had the song ‘Kiss From A Rose’ by Seal going round and round my head. It seemed so appropriate – not only was the heroine called Rose and kissing Richard, but he was also a ‘rose’ in that he was of the House of York which was represented by a white rose, so she was being kissed by a rose too. I decided to see if any other scenes could be encapsulated by a song title and gradually found more and more. The lyrics were not necessarily relevant to the story of each scene, just the title. 

I found that every time a song came on the radio, I would think – could this be a scene title in the book? I made scribbled notes on scraps of paper everywhere – in the car, at home, anywhere inspiration would strike. Sometimes things would turn out differently from the way I had expected. For example, I heard a song I thought must be called ‘Murderer’ which could have fitted in perfectly for one of my scenes. However, when I checked, I found out it was actually called ‘Unfaithful’ by Rihanna. I was disappointed, but soon worked out that it would fit for a different scene.

Once I had finished the first book, ‘Richard Liveth Yet’, I allowed myself to have a bit of fun, by trawling though my iTunes playlist for appropriate titles. It demanded a bit of creativity but, in the end, I think it was well worth it. I have written blog posts about each scene, linking to a clip of the appropriate song and got some great feedback. 

I continued this for the other two books in the trilogy, ‘A Foreign Country’ and ‘Hearts Never Change’. I was able to use an eclectic mix of genres ranging from classical (Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights) to Viking metal (Victory by Tyr), rock ballads (Always by Bon Jovi) to pop (DNA by Little Mix). I was particularly proud of succeeding in using Meghan Trainor’s ‘All About The Bass’ in a scene involving a death by means of poisoning a fish!

I was lucky in that there is a group, ‘The Legendary Ten Seconds’, who actually write songs dealing with many of the events in Richard’s life, so often I could use one of theirs (‘Middleham Castle on a Christmas Eve’, ‘White Surrey’, ‘The Boar Lay Slain’, ‘Fanfare for the King’, ‘The Court of King Richard III’).

It was one of their songs that inspired my latest novel, ‘Distant Echoes’. Their song, ‘Sheriff Hutton’, is about visiting the sites of Richard’s life and imagining them as they were. It contains these lines: 

          "Where distant echoes still resound 
            That which is lost may still be found." *

The words resonated with me and reminded me of a science fiction book I had read as a teenager, in which astronauts were visiting another planet. They had a mishap, a fall while walking in the woods and met some of the friendly aliens on the way back, who started to laugh at them. When they asked the reason, the aliens told them they could see their ‘shadows’. In other words, they picked up the echo of the incident. These two things made me think What if science could pick up the vibrations of someone’s voice from long ago? What if distant echoes did still resound?

Distant Echoes’ is also about Richard but also concerns a new technology that can trace the vibrations of a particular person (using their DNA) and pick up their voice. I wanted to write about some of the lesser known facts of Richard’s life and achieved it by using this plotline. 
And, yes, I have decided to continue the practice of using song titles for the scenes. I just couldn’t resist!

Find out more:
Joanne's Amazon page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Joanne-R-Larner/e/B00XO1IC4S/
Joanne's Writing Blog: https://joannelarner.wordpress.com/
The Legendary Ten Seconds: http://www.thelegendary10seconds.co.uk/

* Note from Helen: due to copyright laws it is illegal to publish quotes  of lyrics (even a single line) from the majority of  modern songs. Using a title, a well-known phrase, or an idea, however, is usually OK to do. I would advise any author to NOT quote lyrics unless they have written permission to do so - the music industry is very quick to sue... for big amounts!

However, Ian Churchward, the writer of the songs for The Legendary Ten Seconds  has given his written permission to quote the lyrics - he even said he would be disappointed if they were not quoted! So thank you Ian for your kind generosity!

Ian's website is:

Again - thank you Ian!

this link will take you to where you can have a listen to some of the Richard III-based music

 next week: A prisoner of WWII who changed his identity.


  1. It must be an entertaining diversion from the serious business of writing; I must say that, in your books, Joanne, it works very well!! And thanks for the 'key' at the end of Distant Echoes - I didn't know all of them!!!
    Thank you Helen and Joanne for this interesting article and also for the warnings re copyright. There is no copyright on titles - there are at least four different songs entitled The Power of Love, for example.

  2. Thanks, Richard - I'm glad you think the system works!


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