Music to Write Books By – Catherine Hokin

CHThis week, I have Catherine Hokin on my blog talking about the music she listens to as she writes.

Catherine is a Glasgow-based author whose fascination with the medieval period began during a History degree which included studies into witchcraft, women and the role of political propaganda. CRDg-oxW8AAKMmDThis sparked an interest in hidden female voices resulting in her debut novel, Blood and Roses which brings a feminist perspective to the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482, wife of Henry VI) and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses. Catherine also writes short stories – she was a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition and has been published by iScot magazine – and regularly blogs as Heroine Chic.

The complete series of music chosen by authors can be found on my Youtube playlist.

Do you have particular pieces of music you write to?

 I have a soundtrack to everything (working in silence terrifies me, uncontrollable brain-wandering) which changes with the time of day. I tend to do admin, articles and research in the morning and am addicted to Lauren Laverne’s morning show on BBC Radio 6. It’s a wonderful mix of old and new music and has introduced me to so many new songs, including my latest favourite The Kings of the Back of the Bus by Steven James Adams which will get anyone’s day off to a lyrical start.

The afternoon is for writing and needs different moods and albums rather than short songs. I am currently obsessed with The Bride by Bat for Lashes which is actually a story in musical form about a woman left at the altar when her husband dies on the way to the wedding. It’s theatrical, over the top and musically stunning.

It’s also a relatively quiet album which is unusual for me, my other default would be anything by Biffy Clyro so I am currently playing their new one Ellipsis to death.

Has a particular piece of music ever inspired you to write something?

 There is a wonderful song by The Waterboys called Stolen Child which includes the poem by the same name by WB Yeats: come away, O human child!/To the Waters and the wild/With a faerie hand in hand/For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. It’s a favourite poem as well as a favourite song: changelings, malevolence and unexplained disappearances are fascinating themes that I played with in my short story Stolen Moments which was a finalist in last year’s Scottish Arts Club short story competition.

Could you recommend any particular pieces of music for a specific mood?

 For anything conflict or battle-related that needs a kick I have a few favourites: the Pixies, usually the Death to the Pixies album, and The Offspring’s Americana and, if things are getting really nasty, it will be Green Day and Blink 182. When I had to write a bedroom scene in my latest novel I found myself drawn to Bruce Springsteen’s track The River – I have no idea why, perhaps because it is so filled with hope and melancholy.

I played it on a loop until my family threatened murder. Fisherman’s Blues, again by The Waterboys, is a good backdrop for lyrical, descriptive writing. I am usually hopeless with anything that hasn’t got lyrics but the soundtrack for Buena Vista Social Club is a very good thinking-time album.


Are there any longer pieces you can recommend. If you need to write for an hour, for example, is there a particular composer/artist you’d chose.

 I switch to Spotify in the afternoon and have it loaded up with albums, everyone mentioned above and many others! Someone I really like when I’m playing with words, particularly for short stories when each word counts and you have to get really crafty, is Frank Turner – he is a great wordsmith and his album Poetry of the Dead is full of little gems. To be an honest, an hour with one artist is about my limit – I’m a musical pick and mixer!


What are you working on at the moment?

Like a lot of writers, I have more than one book in process. Blood and Roses came out in January and there is still a lot of marketing going on around that. My second novel has just been signed by an agent – it centres on Katherine Swynford and her long-standing affair with the twice-married John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and son of Edward III. She was the sister-in-law of Chaucer who features prominently, along with plague, mad monks and a tyrannical Richard II. While I’m waiting for next steps on that, I’m researching book 3 which has taken me into the twelfth century and more fascinating women.

Thanks for taking part in this, Catherine and good luck with the writing. Catherine’s social media links are below:

Social media links:

Twitter @cathokin


3 thoughts on “Music to Write Books By – Catherine Hokin

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Oh, I have to admit I like historical novels. So that appeals to me right away. And The River is one of my top Springsteen songs. So interesting to learn what other writers listen to as they go about it. Thanks, both.


  2. Thanks for this interesting look into your work and your musical choices. Depending on the mood of the scene I’m writing, I have Pandora on for my Chet Baker or Leonard Cohen mixes. One song that will do me in every time for emotional scenes is Itzhak Perlman playing the theme to “Schindler’s List~”


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