Carter Higgins is a writer, librarian for kids, and motion graphics designer. We initially bonded over geek speak for key frames and frame rates. Please check out her amazing blog, Design of the Picture Book. Carter shows not only the illustrations, but the design details that make up a whole book. Thanks for sharing the music that inspires your writing Carter!
Track 1: I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire by The Ink Spots
Oh, man. The Ink Spots. Do you know them? I'll confess that the first time I heard 'I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire' was in a teaser trailer for Fallout 3. I'm not a gamer, but I worked in video game trailers for a while, and was numbstruck by this haunting and terrible and terribly beautiful piece.
The possibilities for other stories in that song lingered in my brain. For a while, a line in the first chapter of my middle grade novel read, “I didn't mean to set the world on fire.” It was a placeholder for the snowballing events in that story before I was sure what they were.
And then their smooth, easy, and rich tunes served as the backdrop for writing the rest of that book. I have a hard time hearing words when I write, so I turned it way down and crossed my fingers that smooth, easy, richness seeped into my own words. In the story, we get a glimpse into June Mattingly's life after her husband Franklin is gone. Those two were a couple of lovebirds who loved to dance, and I picture them swaying over rickety floorboards to sounds of the Ink Spots. (And in my head, Franklin is a plumper version of Ink Spots guitarist, Huey Long.)
Track 2: Whispering Grass (Don't Tell the Trees) by The Ink Spots
Their crooning on 'Whispering Grass (Don't Tell the Trees) carved a whole second story set in the same world. Old things buried under the snow, secrets, and blabbering trees. A golden chance to create something of my own that is haunting and terrible and terribly beautiful.
Track 3: Attaboy by The Goat Rodeo Sessions
I also like a little bit of zip with my melancholy, and that's why I adore The Goat Rodeo Sessions for writing mojo. 'Attaboy' makes me want to settle in my bones and create something. The wails of a mandolin make light the work. Isn't that stitched on a pillow somewhere? Should be.
Track 4: Hard Times (Come Again No More) by Emmy Lou Harris
Emmylou Harris is a legend. This evocative rendition of 'Hard Times (Come Again No More)' socks me in the gut. Sets the tone for some sad and sweet storytelling, all mixed up with a touch of hope.
Track 4: A Life That's Good by Lennon and Maisy Stella
And my very favorite. Lennon and Maisy Stella sing harmonies far beyond their young years. Their expressive vision is proof in the flesh that kids deserve good art – in the form of pictures, words, or music. This one is from their work on Nashville, which is sudsy, delicious television with some real oomph in its musical roots. Check them out on YouTube, too – I love their version of 'Hard Times (Come Again No More),' and bet Emmylou Harris agrees.
I'm not sure that I'd call myself an illustrator, though. My art background is in design, and I love creating something to visually ground my story when I write the words for picture books. That's not a vision I get obsessed with, and I'm eager to see a true illustrator's work with what's in my words and what's not! But I can't get away from seeing something in my brain when I write, and having enough restraint to leave a bunch of that out.
Because I do love all things design and picture book, those two forms meet in my blog, Design of the Picture Book. Come by! Or find me on Twitter, @carterhiggins, where I talk about writing, art, and being a librarian. It's an exhausting thrill to combine all of the things I love the most.
Thanks for having me, Brian!