THIS IS NOT A DRILL: Joely Sue Burkhart Discusses The Red Headed Stranger & Offers a HH Prize

You. Guys. Of course I’m super excited to have Joely Sue Burkhart at the blog today. She’s a total sweetheart, and I always love to hear from her. So, first of all, that’s totally awesome. But … secondly…. OMFG FLAIL FLAIL FLAIL. JSB (that’s what I’ve decided just this moment I’m going to call Joely Sue Burkhart) is giving away the Hayden-Harnett Pilot Clutch in White Snake. (You’re all just lucky it’s not the Lorca because that’s a bag I’ve been hunting for 4+ years now.)

Er, anyway, not that I get easily distra – *ooh shiny!* – ahem. But JSB discusses music today, which is also something I love, so without further ado …

The Red-Headed Stranger

This is going to show my age, but when I was a kid, Mom would stack 6 old-fashioned albums on our record player at night.  Since Willie Nelson and Freddie Fender were her favorite singers, I fell asleep to songs like “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” and “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” for years.

I never realized how much those old cry-in-your-beer songs had stuck with me.  I don’t even know why, but a few weeks ago, I got a craving for an old Willie song I hadn’t heard since my childhood, “Red Headed Stranger.”

Back when I was in elementary school, we had one week of “show and tell” in music where we could bring in a record (yeah yeah we didn’t have iPods back then) and play our favorite song for the entire class.  Now before you think that’s a lot, my graduating class only had about 35 people in it.  Anyway, what 5th grade kid do you know today would bring in a country and western song by Willie Nelson?

Some of my friends had brought in KISS and other rock songs (as long as the lyrics were approved), but there I was with my “Red Headed Stranger.”  I know.  Even then I was a little “out there.”  *wry laugh*

So the other day, I hopped out to iTunes to see if I could buy that song on a lark.  Sure enough, there was Willie’s song, and while I was there, I bought “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” (it’s a theme song for a WIP).  As I listened to “Red Headed Stranger,” it was like a curtain pulled back in my mind.  I could suddenly see how strongly that song had affected me, especially my writing.

I love dark, tortured heroes.  If he’s hiding his pain, vicious in his sorrow, all the better.  I especially have a thing for assassins – I’ve written three (that’s Gregar, the Shadowed Blood, in The Road to Shanhasson, the first and most dangerous assassin I’ve written to date).  If you listen to the lyrics of Willie’s song, all of these key words started popping up in my mind, blazing with importance.


Raging black stallion

Eyes like thunder

Little lost darling

Heavy as night

Wild in his sorrow

Don’t cross him

To this day, it still drives me crazy that I don’t know what happened to the Stranger’s little lost love.  We know she’s dead on the hillside.  But how?  Was it his fault, one of his enemies from his outlaw days?  Did she die in childbirth?  An Indian attack?  We just don’t know.  But that “what if….”

That’s why I’m a writer and this song still haunts me today.

Does a song haunt you?  Let me know in comments – I’m always eager to add to my very eccentric playlists!  One commenter will be entered to win an awesome prize I bought just for this giveaway: a Hayden Harnett snake-skin wristlet purse.  I saw Limecello linking to some sales on Twitter and couldn’t resist this adorable purse.  It’s small but all leather and super cute.  My Middle Monster (age 11) tried to steal it – I had to hide it in my closet to save it for this giveaway.  I’ll mail this purse anywhere on the planet!

~ * ~

Joely Sue Burkhart has always loved heroes who hide behind a mask, the darker and more dangerous the better.  Whether cool, sophisticated billionaire, brutal bloodthirsty assassin, or simply a man tortured by his own needs, they all wear masks to protect themselves.  Once they finally give you a peek into the passionate, twisted secrets they’re hiding, they always fall hard and fast.  Dare to look beneath the mask with delicious BDSM in a wide variety of genres with Joely on her website, Twitter and Facebook.  Be sure to check out her free reads!

And since JSB wrote this post centered around the song, I figured I’d include it if you’ve never heard it before. 🙂

[I tried to find it on Willie Nelson’s VEVO page but he didn’t have this one uploaded!] The lyrics are also on the actual youtube page too, in case you’re interested in readinf those. 🙂

But! The important thing is – talk to Joely! Answer her question, and you might be the luckiest girl (or boy) like pretty much ever. Ever.

35 thoughts on “THIS IS NOT A DRILL: Joely Sue Burkhart Discusses The Red Headed Stranger & Offers a HH Prize

  1. denise

    We must be close to the same age. My parents had the country music. So I know/listen to a lot of genres of music.

    “Wildfire” was good one, bit of a crossover hit from the 70’s. I remember a teacher using it for THE RED PONY. I was the only one in class that knew the song.

  2. Sebella Blue

    OMG!! This is one of my all time favorite albums. I know every word by heart and even though I’ve updated to a CD, I still have the original vinyl. One of my favorite lines off the album “I knocked and I knocked, and no answer there came. No one came to greet me no voice called my name.” I tear up every time I hear it.

  3. Jane

    Hi Joely,
    Not many songs haunt me, but I guess at the top of that list is Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” The meaning of the song has been debated and I’m not even sure what the song is about. Thanks for the awesome giveaway.

  4. Patti (Caught in a FAB Romance)

    Hi Joely!
    I love this post. It never ceases to amaze me how music affects writers and their craft.

    As a kid, my mom hated country music but my dad liked it so I have happy memories of the two of us listening to country music when my mom was out 🙂

    As far as a song haunting me, I’d have to say “Lightning Crashes” by Live. It’s kind of morbid but I always wonder about the lives of the women in the song.

    Thanks for the giveaway – it’s super cute!!

  5. Mary Preston

    I grew up listening to classical music, so I’m more attuned to Mozart & Beethoven, for example, then country.

  6. Cee

    When I was in 5th grade, one of the teachers was a country singer at a local show thing every weekend. On Friday afternoons, all the 5th grade classes would get together and he would sing for us. It’s amazing how many of those songs I remember – especially since that’s really the only country music I listened to.

    Looking back, I think he was rehearsing on school time. LOL

  7. Aliquis

    Hi Joely!

    I love “The World I Know” by Collective Soul. I can’t say if it’s influenced me, but “Run” by Collective Soul is another favorite. I think I grew up with grunge so those bands would be what I’d call my formative music.

    Thank you for visiting!

  8. GutterBall

    Seven Spanish Angels. The version by Willie and Ray Charles. I don’t work it into my stories, but that song definitely haunts me. It just breaks my heart. When she knew the gun was empty, and she knew she couldn’t win… but she picked it up and aimed it anyway….

    And on a completely different tangeant, Loved by the Sun by Tangerine Dream. They play it at the end of the American version of that old 80s movie, Legend, and every time I hear it, it makes me believe in magic, makes me believe that Light will always conquer Darkness. *sigh* I think I do work that into my stories – at least the fantasy ones.

    1. GutterBall

      Also, Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors usually makes me puddle up a little. The “and Mama blessed it with a kiss” bit. Reminds me of Mom sewing some of our clothes when we were kids.

  9. JenB

    I loooove Willie Nelson. I was raised on him and Johnny Cash. <3 Lost Highway is one of my favorites, and I love Willie's remakes of old hymns.

    I think Top of the World by Patty Griffin is one of the most haunting songs. It's so sad, about a life wasted.

    I love antiheroes. I'll have to check out your assassin books. Great post! Guess I'll be listening to my classic country station on Pandora tonight while I edit. 🙂

  10. LSUReader

    I don’t think A song haunts me. It’s more like an album-full. I hum songs frequently. Unchained Melody is one of my favorites. I’m always surprised when someone in a store or restaurant comments on it, since it’s so status quo for me. And I sing the same Beatles songs to my grandkids that I sang to their parents when they were babies (I Will; Here, There and Everywhere; If I Fell.) You’d think I would have found new material in all those years, but nope; I stick with the sure thing. Don’t even get me started on how often I sing Christmas carols in the summer! I’ve been doing it for years decades. Thanks for a fun post.

  11. June M.

    I can’t really think of any songs that haunt me but I do love a huge variety of music. My favorite band is Metallica and they write some great stories that are set to amazing music….most of their music really touches me. But, like you, I was raised on a lot of country music, especially Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. And I remember in the second grade taking an Alabama record to school to share, this would have been in the early-to-mid 80’s.

  12. Diane Sallans

    Music can really effect my mood so I’m often better not to have the sads ones playing for too long, and patriotic music can make me cry. So an up beat is best if I need to keep moving. I used to play music while I wrote/typed up computer programs – it blocked out my surroundings and helped me type faster. I like all kinds of music – from classical (Love Vivaldi’s Four Seasons) to arias by the Three Tenors to country to rock to fun pop – just want a good tune & words that I can understand. what they are singing.

  13. Chelsea B.

    By a rule I only listen to music that makes me feel good, because music can switch my mood just like ‘that’! But that doesn’t mean my tastes aren’t still electric and strange. A few recent favorites of mine are:
    Kill of the Night by Gin Wigmore.
    The Devil Within by Digital Daggers.
    Lil’ Red Riding Hood by Laura Gibson.
    Everything’s Just Fine by Lily Allen.
    Mouthwash by Kate Nash.
    The Show by Lenka.


  14. Maureen

    I remember my mother playing Buddy Holly’s Greatest Hits on the stereo when I was a kid and she was cleaning. Any time I hear his songs I think of listening to the album and twirling around in circles until I fell down.

  15. Joely Sue Burkhart (@joelysue)

    In my best Sweet Brown impersonation: Oh Lord Jesus there’s a fire! I forgot to pull a winner! I totally forgot, went on a business trip, and lost half my brain evidently. If the winner responds quickly, I’ll get it in the mail THIS WEEK so you have it in time for Christmas!

    I numbered each comment and ran it through to get lucky DIane Sallans. Diane, please drop me a note (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com) so I can ship this cute little purse to you for the holidays!

  16. Joely Sue Burkhart (@joelysue)

    Lime if this comes through again, just delete it. I’ve been having issues posting tonight.

    In my best Sweet Brown impersonation: Oh Lord Jesus there’s a fire! I forgot to pull a winner! I totally forgot, went on a business trip, and lost half my brain evidently. If the winner responds quickly, I’ll get it in the mail THIS WEEK so you have it in time for Christmas!

    I numbered each comment and ran it through to get lucky DIane Sallans. Diane, please drop me a note (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com) so I can ship this cute little purse to you for the holidays!

  17. Joely Sue Burkhart

    In my best Sweet Brown impersonation, Oh Lord Jesus, I forgot to announce the winner! I posted last night but it doesn’t look like the comment went through. (Facebook was super squirrely last night for me) I apologize again for taking so long to announce the winner – I had a business trip and then I just forgot!

    I numbered all the comments and used to pick lucky Diane Sallans. Diane, email me (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com) and I’ll ensure your lovely purse gets to you by Christmas!


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