Q: If the Upper Kingdom had a music theme what would it be?
A: Oh I was hoping someone would ask me that question! I actually have a series of soundtracks that I listen to while writing the Upper Kingdom series, including Tan Dun's 'Hero' and 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' and Ramin Djawadi's 'Game of Thrones', but if I were to pick a theme, I'd have to say either 'Marco Polo' or 'Night Ride Across the Caucasus' from Loreena McKennitt's wonderful CD Book of Secrets. That entire album is very evocative of the haunting Celtic and Asian blend that continues to inspire the Upper Kingdom.
Oddly enough, while I was writing TO WALK IN THE WAY OF LIONS, I went through a huge Lord of the Dance phase, and when I listen to it now, my kids will often say "Oh that's Kerris' theme!" ('Breakout') or "Oh, there's Sherah!" ('Gypsy') You can hear the singing of Ursa’s swords in 'Warriors', Ling’s slippered feet as she glides through Pol’Lhasa in "Celtic Dream", Sireth’s sad history in 'Lament.’ And you can hear Fallon’s heart and wistful soul in ‘Suil a Ruin’ and ‘Our Wedding Day’. These songs were and still are a huge part of the characters identities for me.
It's kind of funny - I can listen to that CD and pick out the subtle shaping of scenes in Book 2. When you listen to ‘Nightmare’ you can easily imagine the powerful scene where the Alchemists converge on Sireth in the Turakhish tent. Same goes for ‘Gypsy’ – you can literally see Sherah dancing for Kerris in Lahore, ending up on a floor of cushions to steal another wisp of his soul. I can say the same for McKennitt’s Book of Secrets. My heart breaks every time I hear ‘Dante’s Prayer’ - I see Kerris on the boat and Kirin on the shore, brothers torn apart by a pride, a Broken Tao wheel and now Dharma. The emotion in the music allowed me to channel the emotion in that scene. Music is good that way. (Yes, I still cry when I read that scene.)
Now Kirin. Noble, strong, wrong and brave Kirin. He doesn’t have a theme from any of those pieces of music. He would be Tan Dun’s Hero. He would be the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Or for a unique twist, he would be the “Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn” - powerful and majestic and a little sad. Perhaps I haven't found a theme for Kirin yet. He's growing and changing with each book. It remains to be seen what music will ultimately shape his journey."
Take a listen to these selections on iTunes and see what you think. Do you have a piece of music that you listen to when you're reading the Upper Kingdom books?
You can ask questions too – just pop on over to Goodreads and ask! See you in the chatroom!