I had an email from a reader who greatly enjoyed my Ceremony of Innocence and found it very gripping.
“One question,” he added. “What is a ‘trance club’?”
Well, Dad, I’m not sure how to answer that.
I’d better start with the music. And unlike my brothers, I am not gifted in music, so I’ll turn at once to Wikipedia, which succinctly explains that trance is “a genre of electric dance music that developed in the 1990s in Germany”–first in Frankfurt, the primary setting of my novel. It is repetitive, fast-paced, hypnotic and artificially enduces emotional highs. Listening to loud trance music in a dance club is not unlike drinking a little too much champagne. Add a little too much champagne, and whoo-hoo!
(One of the themes of the novel is escaping emotional pain by any created means available, and dancing to hypnotic music is one of them.)
It would be great fun to claim that trance is the absinthe of a new generation of writers, but I am the only novelist, let alone the only Catholic novelist, I know of to write a novel to an inner trance soundtrack.
Many of the descriptive details in Ceremony of Innocence come from a diary I kept when I studied German in Germany, and I lifted the King Kamehameha dance club right out of it. The KK exists–or did in 2006–and it played many kinds of electronic dance music, including trance. And because music can invoke visual memory and emotions, I helped myself “see” where my characters were, or “sense” how they were feeling, or “feel” the mood of European decadence with the aid of a trance-laden soundtrack.
(Incidentally, as I have told many interviewers, I am not my protagonist Catriona, and as I have assured all my friends, I have never lived in sin with a German Cardinal’s great-nephew. This is a fact that cannot be too widely known.)
For those who are interested in trance music, or curious to know what my inner sound track was like as I wrote “Ceremony of Innocence”, here is a list of the pieces:
Cascada: “Every Time We Touch”
Alice DeeJay: “Will I Ever” (NB Official video certainly not for children)
Blumchen: “Heut’ ist Mein Tag”
Tune Up: “Raver’s Fantasy”
The Killers: “Mr. Brightside” (Armin Van Buuren trance version)
The Killers: “Somebody Told Me”
Alice Deejay: “Back in My Life”
Mo-Do: “Einz Dwei Polizei” (NB Official video certainly not for children)
and my favourite Canadian rock song of all time:
Tragically Hip: “Nautical Disaster”
You can find them free of charge at youtube, which is what I did, but I will warn you that the official videos, in which I wasn’t interested, do not reflect Catholic values. Possibly the lyrics do not either; I never listened carefully enough to the words to judge. Mostly I was interested in the pattern of the notes.
I should also warn that, as in many other music scenes, illegal drug use is an optional part of the “trance scene”, a detail reflected in Ceremony of Innocence. As a matter of fact, I did not see anyone popping pills in the King Kamehameha, and the only time I was at a trance club with pill-poppers (years before that), the immediate source of the stuff said, half-apologetically, that he had not brought any for me, figuring that, as I was a Catholic, I would not want any.
“No, I don’t,” I said. “That’s quite all right. Good call.”
Apparently the mention of drug use in Ceremony of Innocence is one of the details that makes the novel controversial. Naturally, it is deplorable that people use illegal substances to impair or overthrow their God-given reason, but I would be remiss as a novelist if I pretended it never happened among European university students or in dance clubs.