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Pam Van Allen’s Newsletter, June 2023
The first three books of the Secret Messages series have been published.
I'm now writing Book Four: Balance of Power, based on the next Electric Light Orchestra album in the series. This was also the last ELO album of the 1980s. In this newsletter, I 'd like to talk about how I translate the ideas from the music into ideas and characters on the page.
Each person derives a different experience from a piece of music and a set of lyrics. The story of JJ, the destruction of his dynasty, and his return to the kingship unfolded to my mind as I listened to the double Secret Messages album, not released in its entirety until 2018. One song meant for the double album, “Beatles Forever," was held back from the later release by Jeff Lynne, perhaps in his embarrassment over its fawning nature. Once he'd worked closely with the Beatles, he was a bit less in awe of them. I included the song in the novelization.
The two songs "Bluebird is Dead" from the ELO album On the Third Day and "Bluebird" from Secret Messages seem to be linked. I used the song cycle from OtTD to begin the novels, then forged a link between the two Bluebird songs in the plot.
The Secret Messages album contains dozens of coded messages, including backward snippets and vague allusions to mysterious subjects. Anagrams of the group members' names appear on the album cover. In the 1970s, fundamentalist Christian groups accused the Electric Light Orchestra of planting satanic messages in backward masking on their album Eldorado. In an ironic response, Jeff Lynne purposely planted multiple backward messages on ELO albums over the years, and Secret Messages contained the most. The Secret Messages novel series reflects this running joke, containing multiple secret codes, anagrams, and messages conveyed between members of JJ's faction in the War for the Crown.
Because many of the lyrics on the album may also be "secret messages," their interpretation by listeners is subjective. These novels offer my interpretations. Only Jeff Lynne knows what he, as the composer, really meant.
In the next newsletter, I'll talk about how music is reflected in the writing of the novels.