(Music and writing, miscarriage and loss…)
Originally published as a guest post on Mark Hayes’ Blog, 13 October 2020

It’s been thirteen years since Hil took me by the scruff of the neck and told me that we were going to write these books… twenty eight years, almost to the day, since Mr H and me, on our second wedding anniversary, sat in a hotel in North Yorkshire and drafted out five characters (LC, Sean, Gallagher, Hal Duncan, and a yet to be named drunk pilot) who’d been thrown together on a deep space freighter called El Pato Loco…

We knew LC was a thief who’d stolen… (won’t say what coz, y’know, spoilers). We knew Sean was the bounty hunter who was chasing him. And we knew Gallagher had lost his previous ship because it was shot down by aliens.

And for fifteen years I wrote heap loads of stuff, fluff stuff, nothing ever happens stuff, random scenes (NG appeared soon after, with no name, hence he became the FNG), short stories and nonsense, and none of it really came together or worked, until 2007…

To go back a step, in 2001 Mikey Hollifield (the infamous Mikey ‘Merlin’ Hollifield) gave me a CD of music at a paintball event of all things, and I drove everyone insane by playing it non-stop over the PA system for the whole weekend. It was Hybrid Theory and it instantly became the backdrop to everything I was writing. But my big story was still not quite working, not quite there, not ‘it’ yet.

And then 2007 happened.

There are two camps on writing… one is write what you know, one is write what you can imagine… I love writing science fiction because I love to imagine whole galaxies. But pain is a strange thing. I don’t think you can really write it until you have experienced it. I know I couldn’t until I had.

So in 2007 I experienced pain like no other. I’d experienced loss, and grief… but pain, deep down, never to get over it pain…?

I had a miscarriage. Our first. Our longed for, yearned for child died.

And it threw me.

It threw me into a dark and angry place at the same time that Linkin Park, my go to writing guys, released Minutes to Midnight.

No More Sorrow became my loud and angry, fiercely belligerent soundtrack, everywhere I drove, too fast, too loud. And Hil turned up with his angry, belligerent hurt and confusion.

If you know me, you also know that I’m intimidated by LC. I love writing LC, I love being with him… but there is something awesomely intimidating about him (not least that he’s based and inspired by a real person, as is Hal Duncan, both of whom died way too young). So trying to write LC’s story was hard. When Hil turned up in 2007 amidst all that pain and anger, it all fell into place.

As loud as Linkin Park was in my car, so too were the characters and the scenes in my head, and the hurt and pain of more and more miscarriages each year were written into them. And working through it all, eventually, after a long time, the belligerence became residual…

But never really went away.

Until we met a parrot called Chester and a sequence of events led us to 2012 when the munchkins came into our lives, and everything changed again. They’d had enough hurt and pain of their own and we are all still helping each other to heal. By then I’d written Blatant Disregard and most of Harsh Realities (yes, the titles echo my frame of mind at the time), both of which had their own signature songs, but always accompanied by my go to soundtrack – Hybrid Theory, Meteora and Minutes to Midnight, joined by various tracks from Living Things.

In 2014, when I started writing Wilful Defiance, I was willing Linkin Park to come out with something new, something that was more like those first three albums, and they delivered with amazing timing the brilliantly energetic Hunting Party with Wastelands that became my soundtrack for the opening scene when NG is walking through the riot. It was perfect.

And when I went on to write Kheris Burning, A Line in The Sand became LC’s absolute go to. If I ever want to drop into LC, I can play that track and I’m right there on the wall of the garrison on Kheris with him.

After that, Redemption had its own tracks and then in the summer of 2017 as I was struggling to write Darkest Fears, Linkin Park released One More Light… and I hated it.

I hated the electro-chipmunk nonsense and female guest vocals… this wasn’t the Linkin Park I knew and loved… what were they doing? I was writing a really dark, tough place to be and I had no soundtrack…

And then Chester Bennington died.

In desperation, I found an acoustic piano version of One More Light that I love, stripped bare vocals and raw emotion, and it became LC’s song as he fought for his own survival. I cried in the kitchen as I wrote that book, and I still cry every time I hear it.

So what now…? Hil had his own soundtrack for Convergence, and I can always ditch back to No More Sorrow and the pain of 2007 to get back to him if I need. Writing LC’s third story, I have plenty of tracks to dip back into that are and always will be LC. And for the next big book, NG has tracks of his own that throw me right back to Devon, and Erica, and Leigh in an instant.

There will never be another new Linkin Park album… but I know I’m one of millions who can thank them for helping me get through the hard times.