In Jan Guillou’s book about the Knight Templar Arn, there’s a really beautiful scene in a church. Arn meets the love of his life while she’s singing in a choir, and he starts singing with her. Their voices twirl and swirl and make love to each other, symbolizing their future union.
I loved this idea so much that I’ve taken it, transformed it and dragged it out into (so far) four books. Jamie and Michael meet through music, and music remains at the heart of their relationship even ten years down the (literal) road. The reason Jamie approaches Michael to begin with – even though he’s a bullied geek – is that he’s heard that Michael plays the guitar.
But the last thing Michael wants is to play in front of people. He doesn’t want the attention, because in his experience, attention is always negative. He feels ugly and awkward, and when Jamie urges him to test out his singing voice during a camping trip, it takes some doing to bring him out of his shell.
Jamie went to get his guitar. Twilight was falling, and it was time for music. Seeing him sit down with the instrument in his lap, Michael smiled and fell quiet.
“No, don’t stop. Why don’t you sing a little? For real?”
Michael took a seat beside him. “Because it sounds awful?” He tipped his head back and swallowed a mouthful of beer.
Jamie weighed his words on inner scales, trying and discarding a bouquet of formulations. “I’m… trying to master the verse of Nights in White Satin. Help me?”
Michael turned his head at that. “Help…?”
“I don’t know where I am if I don’t have the, you know, lyrics. Melody.”
It was such a ridiculous lie that Jamie could see it enter Michael’s ears like a stranger and clash with everything he knew for true. But miraculously, it worked.
“O-kay…” Michael’s cheeks reddened a little and Jamie could see him swallow. “So…?” He glanced at the guitar, and Jamie strummed the E minor. Michael began to sing, but after only a few words, he broke off. “No…” He laughed a little and burrowed deeper into his jacket.
“Yes, come on,” Jamie urged, continuing with the E minor. “It doesn’t have to sound good, I just need the guidance.”
Michael cleared his throat and tried again. Jamie barely heard him, but steered his musical vessel by the faint stars of Michael’s flawless articulation – the d’s and the t’s stood out and showed the way. Not until they came to the chorus and Michael had to sing higher did Jamie actually catch snippets of the melody. And when Michael sailed on the notes of the final line, the bird-chirping dusk seemed to fall silent around them. Jamie felt his heart pound a little, but he went on playing, flashing a smile when Michael looked to him for reassurance.
The second verse was a little stronger. Jamie wouldn’t have known the words, but Michael delivered them all without a single mistake. Settling into the alien situation of singing with an audience, Michael’s voice grew steadily louder, but it never lost that initial softness. There was a wistful, yearning quality in there which almost fooled Jamie into believing that Michael had elongated the notes, but it was all done with sound, not rhythm: he subtly stressed the words, using his heart as his instrument, and the song became instantly three-dimensional. Jamie almost messed up the chords for listening so intently.
And then it was over. Michael fell silent after only one repeat of the chorus and looked into the crackling fire, hair obscuring most of his face. Jamie’s strumming trailed away into nothingness and they just sat there, quiet as if the world was coming to an end.
Before long, the pair’s music-making is almost indistinguishable from their tentative lovemaking. Even though they’re afraid of their new, confusing feelings, the music lets them get close to each other under the pretext of playing. When they jam together, they’re speaking soul to soul.
But that’s also the problem. Once Michael dares to get up on that stage, others start noticing his and Jamie’s chemistry. In the glare of the spotlights, their attraction is laid bare for the whole world to see, and not everyone is happy about it. Their manager nags them about their effeminate image, and the record company insists that they stop acting so gay with each other.
In book after book, Michael and Jamie try to adapt, to adjust to what people want from them and to what a rock star is supposed to be. But it feels wrong. They’re musicians first. Of course they want a career in music, but at what cost? It seems that to get to where they want, they have to negate everything that makes the band, the songs and even themselves who they are.
So the question becomes: do they obey the powers that be to maybe, maybe hit the charts, or do they do it their own way and almost certainly fail?
Ingela Bohm lives in an old cinema, tucked away in a northern Swedish forest where she can wander around all day long and dictate her books. She used to dream of being an actor until an actual actor asked, “Do you really need to do it?” That’s when she realized that the only thing she really needed to do was to write. She has since pretended to be a dietician, a teacher, a receptionist and a cook, but only to conceal her real identity.
Her first imaginary friend was called Grabolina and lived in her closet. Nowadays she has too many imaginary friends to count, but at least some of them are out of the closet. Her men may not be conventionally handsome, but they can charm your pants off, and that’s all that matters.
Ingela’s more useless talents include reading tarot cards, killing pot plants and drawing scandalous pictures that no one gets to see. She can’t walk in heels and she’s stopped trying, but she has cycled 12 000 miles in the UK and knows which campsites to avoid if you don’t like spiders. If you see her on the train you will wonder what age she is.
you don’t like spiders. If you see her on the train you will wonder what age she is.
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Amazon author page
Books by Ingela Bohm
The Pax Cymrica series:
The Road Taken
Not Safe For Work
All You Can Eat
Seven Thousand Minutes
The Subjunctive Mood
Beneath The Mask