I am so excited to welcome the fiercely feminist fantasy author, Claire Legrand, to the blog!
The Music That Inspired the Empirium Trilogy
by Claire Legrand
I’ve told this story before—how I came up with the idea for the Empirium Trilogy when I was eighteen and a recent high school graduate. How, while listening to Howard Shore’s score for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, I daydreamed the character of Rielle Dardenne. How I worked on the trilogy for fourteen years before the first book, Furyborn, was published.
What I haven’t talked about quite as frequently is the specific music that took me beyond that first moment of inspiration. The apocalyptic choral bombast of “The End of All Things”—the music that accompanies the climactic scene in Return of the King—ushered in the character of Rielle. But what about the days after that, once the heady rush of initial inspiration had passed, when I actually had to sit down and figure out how to write this thing?
In middle school, high school, and the first two years of college, I studied music with determination and fervor. My goal was to become a professional orchestral musician, and my instrument was the trumpet. But even before my official study of music, which took my love of instrumental music to the next level, I was obsessed with film scores.
I remember obsessively listening to Danny Elfman’s score for Black Beauty when I was in elementary school, and using it to daydream up all kinds of weird and often dark stories—always infused with magic and always centering around some kind of love story. A girl and her horse. A princess and her knight. Two best friends on the adventure of a lifetime. If music has been my greatest source of inspiration in terms of the Empirium Trilogy, then I can trace that inspiration all the way back to Black Beauty, and the hours I spent listening to it on repeat as a child. (Thanks, Danny.)
Another important piece of music in the process of writing the Empirium Trilogy was Fantasia On a Theme By Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a haunting, bittersweet work for string orchestra that I listened to on repeat while writing the original prologue of Furyborn. I can still remember the nervy, giddy feeling that came over me as I sat down to write that opening chapter. I had been planning the trilogy for a few years by that point, and I remember feeling like the moment I began writing this story for real would be pivotal, and that I would remember it forever. I was right. (Side note: The Furyborn prologue has stayed virtually the same over the years.)
Originally, the world of the Empirium Trilogy was our own. Rielle existed in a forgotten/concealed past, and Eliana lived in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic version of the southern United States. You can see a nod to this original concept in the name of Orline, Eliana’s home city. In the first version of the story, she lived in New Orleans. I spent a lot of time writing her opening pages in my university library, tucked away in various quiet corners. Hans Zimmer’s score for The Da Vinci Code was—and still is—a huge part of the musical soundscape of the book, and one particular track, “L’esprit Dès Gabriel,” helped me establish the look and feel of that post-apocalyptic New Orleans, which remains very much the same, even now that it’s Orline.
Last but certainly not least (though I could honestly keep going through my extensive original playlist for several thousand more words), is John Powell’s score for X-Men: The Last Stand. Seeing this movie in the theater was my introduction to the character of Jean Grey/Phoenix, and since I had at the time already started developing the character of Rielle, I was fascinated by this powerful, incredibly dangerous character, who was similar to Rielle in many ways. Say what you will about the movie itself, but Powell’s score is truly deserving of the overused “epic” descriptor. The three-track sequence “Entering the House,” “Dark Phoenix Tragedy,” and “Farewell to X” imprinted on me in a big way. The all-female chorus, the sense of mystery and encroaching doom, and the feeling of rage—it’s basically Rielle in musical form.
These are only a few of the musical pieces that inspired me in the early days of writing the Empirium Trilogy. For more music like this, check out my book playlists on Spotify!
Empirium, Book 2
In this sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller Furyborn, two queens, separated by a thousand years, connected by secrets and lies, must continue their fight amid deadly plots and unthinkable betrayals that will test their strength—and their hearts.
Rielle Dardenne has been anointed Sun Queen, but her trials are far from over. The Gate keeping the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the seven hidden castings of the saints. Meanwhile, to help her prince and love Audric protect Celdaria, Rielle must spy on the angel Corien—but his promises of freedom and power may prove too tempting to resist.
Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora grapples with her new reality: She is the Sun Queen, humanity’s long-awaited savior. But fear of corruption—fear of becoming another Rielle—keeps Eliana’s power dangerous and unpredictable. Hunted by all, racing against time to save her dying friend Navi, Eliana must decide how to wear a crown she never wanted—by embracing her mother’s power, or rejecting it forever.
About the Author
Claire Legrand is the New York Times-bestselling author of FURYBORN, the first book in the Empirium Trilogy, as well as the YA horror novel SAWKILL GIRLS and the Edgar Award finalist SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS. Her other novels include THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, THE YEAR OF SHADOWS, WINTERSPELL, and FOXHEART. She is one of the four authors behind THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, an anthology of dark middle grade fiction. She lives in New Jersey, where she works as a librarian. Visit her at claire-legrand.com and on Twitter @clairelegrand.