Spencer Seidel’s debut novel, Dead of Wynter, is a thriller with exciting plot twists that keep readers guessing until the very last page.
The plot revolves around Alyce Wynter who, twenty-five years after fleeing her broken, self-destructing family, must return home to bury her father. Her alcoholic brother is missing. Alyce hopes to come to terms with her toxic family history, but realizes that things are even worse than she thought. As it turns out, she holds the key to unlocking not only the mystery of her father’s death but the 25-year-old murder that started it all.
Interestingly, Seidel got the idea for the story from his own family history! One rainy day on Cape Cod, he talked with his mother about a persistent family rumor concerning a murder and cover up on a Michigan campsite. Not long after, his troubled and heavy-drinking uncle, who never really escaped his father’s control, died. Seidel combined the two ideas and realized he had the basic plot for Dead of Wynter in which the focus of the relationship dynamic is between a daughter and mother, and son and father.
It is my pleasure to welcome Spencer to Colloquium today!
I am not exactly sure when I started writing to film scores. Way back when I was starting out and really trying to work up to to novels from short stories, I used to listen to jazz or classical music when I wrote. Somewhere along the way, I switched to film scores.
Please forgive me if you already know this, but “film scores” are not quite the same as “movie soundtracks.” Soundtracks can contain parts of the film score, but usually they contain other pieces of music used in a movie. These are cool too, and sometimes just as powerful as the score, but I prefer the mood-inducing mellowness of the film score, which is often orchestral.
Stephen King famously wrote to pounding heavy metal, rumored to be Metallica (he’s since stopped doing this, so I’ve read). That’s great. Other writers, JK Rowling, for example, like to write in cafes. I’ve even heard of people writing novels in Apple Stores.
The point is that every writer is different. I’ve met plenty of writers who need complete silence to write. They find music–in particular, film scores–to be far too distracting. I find writing in public nearly impossible. Libraries are the worst and cafes no better. I’m too interested in people and easily get distracted. Also self-conscious. But I think all writers share this: it’s all about blocking out the real world so your fantasy mind can run amok for a couple of hours. Whether we do it with super-loud metal, the gentle crowd noise of a cafe or Apple Store, or a cone of silence, it accomplishes the same thing.
Years ago, I thought I was going to go broke buying all this music to write to. Back then, I insisted on having a set of film scores for each project I was working on. Naturally, I figured I was going to get sick of whatever I was listening to. But something funny happened while I was writing Dead of Wynter. I discovered a soundtrack so perfect for my book that I listened to practically nothing else for the better part of the several months it took to write it: Hans Zimmer’s Frost/Nixon. And no, I’m still not sick of it. Now, when I listen to it, I get almost nostalgic thinking about the fun I had writing the book.
There is something about the subtle intensity of that score that reminds me of my main character, Alice Wynter, and her struggle to keep her secrets hidden away — who knows, maybe that’s what Hans was thinking with Nixon. I found that no matter what my mood, as soon as I put on my headphones, took that first sip of coffee, and went over what I needed to write that day, Frost/Nixon helped to transport me to that alternate universe where Alice and Chris Wynter struggled with their demons.
While writing my latest manuscript, Lovesick (due out in April 2012), I listened to almost nothing but the Inception film score, also by Hans Zimmer. Again, somehow, the music just fit the story.
So, if you haven’t yet read my novel, Dead of Wynter, consider picking up the score to Frost/Nixon and listening to it while you read. Oh, and uh, I promise Hans isn’t giving me kickbacks . . . for now.
Spencer Seidel is an honors graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University. He also attended the Berklee College of Music where he studied guitar. He has been playing for over 25 years.
His life-long love of reading began as a child when he discovered Roald Dahl’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He began writing at about age six — he asked his mother if he could use her old red college typewriter to write a novel about a boy who discovers a fantasy world after crawling into a hollowed-out tree trunk. About that early work, he says, “I didn’t get far, but the seed was planted at that early age.”
Spencer became interested in music and put writing aside — well, mostly. He studied music off and on for years until he was in his early twenties and could pull off a decent impersonation of his guitar idol, Eddie Van Halen. In college, he rediscovered his love of writing through lab reports and an honors thesis, of all things.
He has found himself drawn to works by authors such as Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Jack Ketchum. Those writers continue to influence his own dark novels and short stories. “Horror writers are in fact my main influences,” he notes.
Spencer lives and works in suburban New Jersey, but over the years, he has also called Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine home.
Thank you, Spencer!
Review and Giveaway
Click here to read my review of Dead of Wynter and enter to win a copy of the book!