Music is my main focus when I’m not writing. Like Dani, I’m a singer. I sang in choruses throughout school (in high school that meant the big general chorus plus the selective Concert Choir and the more selective Madrigal Choir) and later studied voice in the continuing education program at New England Conservatory. Now I perform popular songs of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s with my group Hixville Swing Trio, which includes my sister Diane Young as lead vocalist and our friend Tin Pan Haole (John Hicks) on guitar, ukulele, and vocal harmony. We describe ourselves as “The Andrews Sisters if one of them was a brother.”
I also sing backup for my boyfriend Tony Hilliard, a regionally recognized singer of Celtic, maritime, and folk music. Together we perform as The Dorymates. (A five-piece Canadian bandalso calls themselves The Dorymates but Tony says we’re the real Dorymates because only two people fit in a dory.)
Having both writing and music as creative outlets provides a wonderful balance. A book takes three years or more to plan, write, and publish, but to share a song you just sing it to a crowd and get an immediate response. Singing also gets me out with people after hours of solitude in my study.
Music has been a huge help in processing my emotions. When my mother died last year, she had dementia that made her unable to understand what was happening to her or to say goodbye properly. I felt like she left without giving me any kind of signal or direction. When Tony and I came across the song “The Joy of Living” by Ewan McColl, I decided that that song contained part of what my mother would have said if she knew she was dying and wanted to tell me how to go on.
Three years ago my literary career hit a detour when Atheneum changed the order in which my books would be published. Tony sang me two songs, “The Field Behind the Plow” by Stan Rogers (about an economically strapped farmer who continues to work one small section at a time) and “Heart Alone” by Bill Staines (about a racehorse with the endurance of a champion) that helped me stay dedicated to the work at hand without worrying too much about the outcome.
You can click to view them: Hixville Swing Trio and The Dorymates.
Janet Ruth Young, who lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, graduated from Salem State College and from the creative writing program at Boston University. Her debut novel, The Opposite of Music, published in 2007 and garnered enthusiastic reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal, and others. The Babysitter Murders, about a babysitter who has thoughts of harming the child she cares for, is Janet's second novel.