Coffee With Helena & Hannah – The Return of Hannah & Helena

Coffee With Helena and Hannah

We took a brief hiatus on Coffee with Helena and Hannah since Hannah went back to Texas to visit and attend a wedding (which was not her own wedding, contrary to claims made by Helena, who is now the proud owner of an albino opossum for her cheek). Last time around, we talked about CHUK, Helena’s alter ego Jessica B. Bell’s serial novel that you can check out HERE and who we would cast for the different characters in the hypothetical film version of CHUK. That got us thinking about inspiration in general–what inspires stories, what gives us a jumpstart when we’re stuck, and what kinds of things stop us dead in our tracks and make us write.


Hannah Sears  Let’s start with inspiration–if you know Helena (and if you don’t shame on you), you know that music is definitely one of the things that makes her tick. While we probably don’t have many of the same artists in our iTunes, that’s something we have in common. I’ve actually written a few stories inspired by songs–some as prompted challenges and some just because I couldn’t get the song out of my head (Ex. No Sleep Tonight, Circus.) I know some people that create writing playlists specific to a project they’re working on.

Helena, what’s your experience with this?


Helena Hann-Basquiat  I always write to music. When there’s no music on, it just feels spooky to me — like I’m writing in a cave or something. I don’t have any favourites to write to, surprisingly, but every once in a while I’ll find certain music that just seems to work as the soundtrack for what I’m writing. For CHUK, I think I’ve mentioned several times that Tom Wait’s album Get Behind The Mule has gotten a lot of play, and Alice Cooper’s Welcome to my Nightmare has been on my turntable (yes, darling, I spin them on vinyl, because I’m old school like that) frequently.

I actually have to be very careful sometimes, because my mind is full of lyrics — sometimes I pull an Accidental Plagiarist and think I’ve come up with something brilliant, only to realize it’s a snippet of a song (this happened to me just today — I very nearly swiped a bit of Opera Star by Neil Young)
And I have to be really careful not to steal from Dr. Seuss. He’s so sexy. Do you think Dr. Seuss ever secretly wrote erotica? Like Dr. Seuss’ Big Book of Bootie?


Hannah Sears  Green Eggs and Ham is already basically sex

I would not do it on a boat….

Green Eggs is the prostitute and Ham is the john


Helena Hann-Basquiat  I would not, could not with a goat.


Hannah Sears  Could you, would you in a box? Could you, would you with a fox?


Helena Hann-Basquiat  Megan or Michael J?


Hannah Sears  Ah, well, that’s really up to you, I suppose.


Helena Hann-Basquiat  So music then?


Hannah Sears  Music.


Helena Hann-Basquiat  Well, when I’m writing as Helena, it’s fantastic to have music around — I do anyway — and often, I’ll be inspired to write a story simply because of whatever I was listening to. And then, of course, I can always just write about music — I could give up writing Helena and writing as Jessica today, and still write every day, just raving about music. I could start a whole other blog, but god, who has the time. I’m already two people too many.

What about you? Do you consciously choose certain music to listen to while writing, or does it work the other way around — you’re writing, and suddenly, you have a craving to hear something in particular?


Hannah Sears  For me, it really depends on two things: the story and for practical reasons, where I’m writing. If I’m writing at work, for instance, I can’t really plug in headphones and listen to whatever I want. You make a good point about it feeling like a cave, I have a harder time concentrating without some kind of background noise–but I absolutely cannot write while watching television.

Usually, I’ll listen to something relaxing or albums I know so well I’m able to tune them out. I’ll usually listen to that if I’m just beginning a story, or if I’m not certain what I’m writing. However, there are some stories where I choose the music more thoughtfully. I’ve been working on some linked stories about a small town in Texas and the country music scene, so I obviously have to listen to something with a twang. My go-tos lately have been Josh Abbot Band, Randy Rodgers Band, and Stoney LaRue.
For general writing, Bastille (song: Skulls) and Kings of Leon (song: Closer) are also favorites–I love the vocalists for both bands and there’s just something about the mood they create. I think really good music makes you feel something–even if you can’t quite put a label on the emotion. Good writing should do the same.


Helena Hann-Basquiat  Thanks for joining us here today. If you’d like to ask either of us any questions, we’d love to chat with you.

What is your writing music? Why? Do you find lyrics distracting or inspiring? What lyrical gems do you find yourself wishing you’d written? What other things inspire you? What feeds your energy? What saps your energy? Talk to us. Pull up a cozy chair. Have a coffee.


14 responses to “Coffee With Helena & Hannah – The Return of Hannah & Helena

  1. I can’t concentrate if music is playing. I find myself listening to the words instead of creating my own. Occasionally, I’ll put on the Star Wars soundtrack and that helps since there are no words on which to focus.

  2. I usually write my flash fictions while “watching” TV. Not something I really really want to watch with a proper plot but one of my soaps, so it doesn’t matter if I miss a bit. However, my flash fictions are already actually written in my head for the most part so all I’m really doing is typing them in. Flash fiction, being short (usually 100 words for me), tends writes itself during the day while I’m at work. I’ll suddenly think of a “great” line every now and then and by the time I get home it’s ready to go 🙂

    I pause the TV while I’m doing my final proof-reading. That requires concentrating on just the one task.

    As for music, I find it a bit distracting as I only listen to music I really like (rather than random radio stuff) so I like to concentrate on it, and that means I’m not concentrating on my story.

    Thanks for the coffee, ladies!

    • Do you ever make notes for yourself when you come up with a great line but can’t actually write just then? Or do you have a better memory than me? I dictate notes to my phone and then later, try to translate what the phone thought I said.

      • I usually note it down and then email it to myself on my gmail, so I can get it later at home.
        Otherwise I’m forever getting home and knowing I had a great idea but being unable to remember what it was – very frustrating!

    • Thanks for joining us! I absolutely have to write things down or I forget. There’s a great line of dialogue I thought of that I didn’t write down and it’s so painful to think it’s floating around in my brain somewhere but I just can’t remember.

  3. Ladies- So glad to be able to coffee chat with you. I love these. Dr. Suess genius. BTW I have a Disney Prince nudes article I will send to you asap. I have music on all the time, even at work- this is to block out the CNBC, stock ticker drone. I listen to all kinds of music whatever the mood and situation calls for. I have always loved country. As a little girl I want to be a country singer. Clare Bowen from Nashville is awesome. I call her a gritty angel. I recently discover a young man Noah Gundersen (First Defeat) and Old Southern Moonshine Revival (Beautifully Unnoticed). Yesterday at work it was 80s revival day all day and then classical for my drive home. Like I said I’m all over the map but as long as I have music I am a happy woman. Love you both. Love these chats. Got to run- moving day.

  4. I usually need absolute silence to get into scribe mode or some lo-fi background music; nothing over powering. FYI Dr Seuss drew a book of nudes (in his signature cartoon style) many moons ago + was clearly not meant for children. Will send you the link tomorrow!

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