Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Research assistance required!

Chapter 7 is done – and (cue frantic touching of wood) without the usual crisis.  That may be because I have been writing this book in clumps of two or three chapters at a time in between other projects and still haven’t got any momentum going yet, in spite of feeling sick about looming and colliding deadlines.

But I’m liking my hero, an uptight economist, and especially my heroine, Clara, whose quirk is an unlikely obsession with old musicals.  To get myself in the mood, I downloaded 100 Greatest Musicals from iTunes (my first successful download!) and have been listening as I write.  It’s amazed me how many of the songs I recognise and can sing along with.

I am practically word perfect on The Sound of Music, which I first saw in 1968 at a drive-in in Papua New Guinea.  It was the first and only time I’ve ever been to a drive-in, and the words and the pictures weren’t quite aligned, so it wasn’t the best of introductions, but at nine, I wasn’t that bothered. I must have seen it on the television a few times since then, but I don’t remember it particularly, and yet now I’m singing songs which aren’t even on the download.  I have confidenceI am sixteen going on seventeenHow do you solve a problem like Maria? … You name it, I can warble along with it.  Just call me Julie.

Worryingly, I can also singalonga to My Fair Lady, The Jungle Book, Gigi, Oklahoma! and even The King and I, which I am certain I have never seen. I am finding it all a little disturbing, as if I have let loose a hidden Julie Andrews.  Quite apart from anything else, it is SO uncool.  It might be endearing in my heroine, but I can’t tell any of my friends.

My lack of sophistication aside, I’m also concerned that no one else will get the references to The Sound of Music.  I’ve assumed that the reason I know the tunes is that this is an iconic film whose songs have somehow permeated general consciousness, but am I right?

If I’m wrong, I’m going to have to rethink the entire story, or at least bring myself up to date with some more modern musicals.  I suppose Clara could be a fan of Mamma Mia! but I feel a bit ho-hum about that.  Somehow The Sound of Music is right for her, but there’s no point if no reader is going to get it.

So come on, ‘fess up.  If I started singing Climb every mountain, would you be able to join in?  Does a Captain and seven children mean anything to you?  I’d particularly like to know if you are in your twenties/thirties! 

Up for grabs
In return for your research assistance, I’ll feed the names of anyone who posts into my computer and run a highly advanced random identification programme (otherwise known as eeny-meeny-miny-mo) to select a winner, who can have a choice of any of my spare books here (an assortment of past titles) or the first copy of Ordinary Girl in a Tiara when it arrives.

Thanks!  I’ll just off to slip back into my dirndl skirt and run over a few mountains … ‘So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodby-ye …’


  1. Hi,
    I am of the same era as you and was bought up on the songs from the shows. I used to dance around and around the dining room wearing a bridesmaid's dress to Sound of Music, Seven Brides, Oklahoma, West Side Story, South Pacific, etc. I lose count of the times I find myself singing these songs - love them. On one of my first dates with my now husband we sat on the sofa and watched West Side Story - we both knew all of the words and quite romantic too. I'm sure I'd love a book with Sound of Music references. Mx

  2. I'd better get on and finish it for you, Morton! Had loads of heart-warming comments on Facebook from under 35 year olds, who all know the words too, so am very relieved about that. Will still have to be careful not to quote the songs directly, but it's good to know Clara isn't quite such a freak as I was afraid she might be ... phew!

  3. Hilarous post! Good job Clara isn't into hip-hop - those lyrics really make ones eyes water!

  4. Hi Jessica,
    No need to put me in the drawing. I've been lucky too many times and I want to share the wealth ;-)
    I just want to say I'm early 30 something and I definitely think most people would get Sound of Music references. I'm kind of a musical fan (it doesn't seem cool to my friends either!), but even my non-musical friends my age would get Sound of Music. They used to show it on TV every year in the States.
    The other ones. . . maybe not. Although I love them all.
    And if you haven't seen The King and I, you should! It doesn't have a conventional happily ever after, but Yul Brynner is a totally captivating alpha guy.

  5. Hi Jessica,

    I would totally get all the 'Sound of Music' references as I'm a fan of the 1950s musicals.

    I'm also in my mid-thirties.

  6. My 19 and 25 yr-olds-would definitely get all your references--especially to Sound of Music as their 23-yr-old sister with Down syndrome loves musicals. Come to think of it, dd #1 and #3 did musical dramas all through middle and high school. Okay, bad examples as they were all into musicals. LOL

  7. Love the thought of 'Sound of Music' references in a love story. *G* I never get tired of that muscial whereas many other musicals I can take or leave. And my children would readily know the references too.

    In the U.S. seems as though they air 'Sound of Music' once a year around Thanksgiving.

    Can't wait to read to read your story!

  8. I totally think people would get it! My girls - 13 and 11 - would sing along with you. If you said "A captain with seven children" they'd come back with "what's so fearsome about that?"

    My eldest just said today how she'd like to watch South Pacific again as she was singing Bloody Mary around the house! (now ain't that too damn bad!)

  9. This is all so reassuring! I am so glad Clara is not alone, and that so many of you - and your daughters! - will be able to relate to her! Thank you all so much for your comments.

    Have run random identification programme ... and came up with Indigo as a winner. Indigo, do you want to email me - jessica@jessicahart.co.uk - and let me know if you'd like to wait for Ordinary Girl in a Tiara, or find out what's available from my back catalogue? And don't forget your address!

  10. Hi Jessica,
    Loved your post and I'm already liking your heroine! I can't fit your bill I guess, 'cos I'm 38, but I'd like you to know my thirteen year old daughter has got Sound of Music songs CD from her school and she can sing along with These are some of my favourite things.

  11. That's great to know, Ruchita, because you're in India, aren't you? It's really important to have references that readers will get all over the world, and not just in the UK. But I get the feeling that The Sound of Music is a global phenomenon.

    All this discussion of the film has made me want to watch it again, so I've just ordered the 45th anniversary DVD - purely for research purposes, of course!

  12. Great post! We love the Sound of Music in our house too :-)

    My daughter is 16 and watches tons of musicals. My sisters aren't into musicals so much, they are 25, but they would still "get" references to the captain and his 7 children.

  13. Hi Jessica,

    I emailed you this morning (Pacific Standard Time) from my shaw account.

  14. My first submission to Mills & Boon had a Sound of Music theme! It was about a footloose American girl who ends up nannying for a stern Austrian widower, aka Captain Von Trapp. It was fun to write, and it actually finaled in the Golden Heart many years ago, but it never was published and rightfully so :) I'm sure your book is *much* better!

  15. I agree with all the comments above, I'm sure that Sounds of Music is perfect for your heroine, as well as for the readers (at least, majority of them).
    My mother adores this movie, and me too, I've seen it a number of times (by the way, I'm 27), and could join in not only on those songs you mentioned, but on others as well, like Do-Re-Mi, My favourite things or Edelweiss :)