Those of us who write visionary fiction oftentimes transcend alongside our characters. I’d like to share with you the most recent evolution within my life that I owe to Jessie’s Song. Little did I know that the protagonist’s journey to find himself in jazz would lead me on my own journey to rediscover my love for singing after a long hiatus.
I’d given up singing jazz right after college, convincing myself it wasn’t really what I wanted. The details behind it are enough for a full length book. Perhaps I’ll write it one day. Suffice it to say, several other musical projects followed but nothing captured my heart and soul until I started to chant. As much as I enjoyed doing it, I eventually gave that up as well. I tried to find inspiration again and returned to writing. Jessie’s Song was born during a high concept screenwriting class I took back in 2007. When I first set out to write the story, it had a very dark theme. Markos Adams, the protagonist, began as Remus Caruso, a hit man. He evolved into a police officer in my second draft. It still didn’t work for me as there was a child molestation backstory that I thought would turn people off. I’m not the type to change a story around for the sake of getting readers, but my instincts told me I needed to change it. Not having the will or energy to continue, I laid it aside and moved on to other projects, then stopped writing all together as I’d lost my inspiration.
In 2009, music re-entered my life when I sang barbershop with the Greater Auckland Chorus in New Zealand under the wonderful director, Melody Lowe. Sandy Marron, director of the Lion’s Gate Chorus from Canada, had come to train us. Her concise explanation on how to breathe properly led to a massive breakthrough in my singing voice. Before then, I’d always struggled through the mid-range of my voice and often worried whenever I had to navigate through that area. I cried from excitement and thanked Sandy when my voice came pouring out seemingly without any effort. What I’d failed to accomplish through all my years at college, studying with classical vocal instructors, I managed to learn in one day thanks to Sandy. It was all very stirring for me, but I still never returned to singing solo.
When I moved to Oahu in 2010, I continued to sing barbershop with the Honolulu Blend Show Chorus and wrote another screenplay, entitled The Cabin. Later in that year, I transitioned from screenplays to writing novels. The Cabin, which later evolved into Unison, was my first published book. Jessie’s Song followed. When I made the decision to write it as a book, a friend suggested I compose a song to go along with it. I thought it was a great idea, so I did it and subsequently changed the title of the book to Jessie’s Song.
In the screenplay version, I envisioned Jessie singing “Trust in Me,” a song from The Jungle Book covered by Siouxie and the Banshees. Kaa, the snake crooned it in the Disney film. The melody is both beautiful and haunting, inducing a hypnotic effect. I had to capture a similar mood with the song I composed, and I think I pulled it off. The lyrics in the chorus evoke the hypnotic aspect of the melody making it sound like a siren’s song:
Trust in me and follow along
Whenever you hear me sing my song.
Hear my call, you’ll never go wrong,
As long as you hear my song.
The major change in Jessie’s Song came when the character of Remus Caruso evolved into jazz guitarist, Markos Adams. His love for his ex-wife, along with his relationship with Jessie all felt so real. The story came together like magic and spoke to me on a spiritual level, releasing the music that I’ve kept inside me for far too many years.
Through Markos’s life experiences I began to reconnect to music. It flowed into my consciousness as I was writing, and I started to recognize that my own love for jazz was similar to how Markos felt about the music. With each keystroke, he was speaking to me, telling me that I shouldn’t give up singing. It’s hard to believe that a story that went through so many changes turned out so right. There were many instances I wanted to give up on it. I’m glad I didn’t. I love the character of Markos Adams and can’t wait to write him into another novel. He won me an award and gave me back my passion for singing. His love for jazz, how it connected to his life story and added meaning to his life is what singing does for me. I lost my connection for the longest time, but I found it again…thanks to him.
Writing visionary fiction is always adding more meaning and positive experiences to my life. I often wonder what lessons I’ll learn as I begin a new story. Jessie’s Song reminded me how much I love singing, and that it shouldn’t be a chore. I hum all day long and have to force myself to take a day off. That never happened to me before. I will also sing A capella if someone requests me to do so, and I never fear I’ll go off pitch. I also no longer fear my mid-range as it comes out effortlessly. Thanks Sandy Marron, for helping me find my voice. And thanks Markos Adams for making me want to use it again.
To hear some of my recordings, click here.
Eleni Papanou is the author of two novels. Read more about them at her website.