Music to Write Books By – Sandra Danby

sandra-danby-author2-photo-ion-paciuToday on Crimepieces, I have Sandra Danby. Sandra is the author of Ignoring Gravity in which a journalist researches the truth of her adoption as a baby. It is first in the ‘Rose Haldane: Identity Detective’ series. The second, Connectedness, will be published in 2017. Sandra’s stories are published in anthologies Diaspora City and The Milk of Female Kindness. Although she is fascinated by the subject of identity, adoption and families, she was not herself adopted. Originally from East Yorkshire, she ran away to London be a journalist. As a child she played recorder, violin, clarinet, piano and sang in choirs. She can still read music [sort of].

Hi Sandra – Do you have particular pieces of music you write to?

These are the four instrumental favourites I never tire of listening to while writing:-

1 Gustav Holst’s ‘Venus’ from ‘The Planets’;

2 Max Bruch’s ‘Vorspiel’ from ‘Violin Concerto No I in G Minor OP 26’;

3 Antonio Vivaldi’s ‘Allegro non Molto’ from ‘Concerto No 4 in F Minor L’inverno’ [The Four Seasons: Winter];

4 Beethoven’s ‘Cello Sonata No 3 in A’ played by Jacqueline du Pré,


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

By chance one day listening to the car radio, I heard an extract from Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes. I went home and ordered the CD, the classic version with Britten conducting and the part of Grimes sung by Peter Pears, Britten’s partner. It is a dramatic story. Grimes, a lonely fisherman, is accused of causing the death at sea of his apprentice. He is let off and cautioned not to employ another boy. But he does. And the second boy dies. The town takes against Grimes, and he descends into madness.

It is not the story that captivated me. It was the four Sea Interludes. I was in the early stages of writing my second novel Connectedness [due out in 2017] and was toying with making the central character an artist who grew up beside the sea but was living in London. She misses the sea and while working she listens to Peter Grimes to remind her of home on the Yorkshire coast.

5 ‘Dawn’ for the swooping seabirds and the crash of the waves, the suggestion of brooding danger.

6 ‘Sunday morning by the beach’ for the musical interpretation of sunshine on water, I can feel the movement of the wind and waves.

I grew up by the seaside. Like my character Justine Tree, I now live miles away from the coast and find myself drawn to this music when working.

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

I am particularly fond of film soundtracks.

For a calm background tone, I choose Patrick Doyle’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ with a particular mention for the track ‘My Father’s Favourite’.

For romance, I turn to Michael Nyman’s ‘The Piano’. Particularly ‘Lost and Found’ and ‘The Embrace’.

To get into the mood for a chase scene [I haven’t written one yet, but if I do I will be listening to this] there is no hesitation. I turn to Howard Shore’s ‘The Bridge of Khazad Dum’ from ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’. Amazing male choral singing.

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?

Mozart every time for me. As well as ‘Requiem’ which is one of my most played CDs, I also reach for an old double CD called ‘Music for the Mozart Effect Vol 4: Focus and Clarity’. Other regulars include Górecki’s ‘Symphony No. 3’, Verdi’s ‘Requiem’, and an 17-CD box set ‘Jacqueline Pré: The Complete EMI Recordings’.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m editing Connectedness, second in the ‘Rose Haldane: Identity Detective’ series, and plotting the third, Sweet Joy. Joy is different because the dual timeline for the adoption search goes back to World War Two. To get in the mood I’m listening to ‘Our Finest Hour’ [Imperial War Museums]. It’s a useful combination of popular music of the war years – for example, ‘Music While You Work’ by Eric Coates, ‘We’ll Meet Again’ by Vera Lynn – and historical words by Winston Churchill. I’m particularly taken with the Glenn Miller tracks, with which I am familiar as my parents played them when I was growing up. Perhaps my characters will meet at a dance hall and dance to ‘In the Mood’.

Thanks, Sandra for letting us know your choices. Good luck with the writing! Sandra’s links can be found below. The complete list of tracks chosen by writers can be found here.


Twitter @SandraDanby


Ignoring Gravity at Amazon

Diaspora City at Amazon

The Milk of Female Kindness at Amazon



2 thoughts on “Music to Write Books By – Sandra Danby

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Such moving music choices! And it’s interesting how just listening to the car radio can sweep you away, if I can put it like that. I really like the sound of this book series, too – what an interesting topic. Wishing you much success.


  2. Thanks for inviting me to take part in this feature, Sarah. It was a fascinating process, making me consider why I choose certain pieces. Incidentally, playing in the background at the moment is Prokofiev’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. SD


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