The Afterlife Series Playlist
Welcome to my virtual birthday party! This month, I’m celebrating three important dates: my birthday, the six-month anniversary of my “book baby,” Hereafter, and the feast of Parentalia (February 13th-21st), an ancient Roman celebration to commemorate one’s ancestors and placate the spirits of the dead.
Today I wanted to talk about my “writerly playlist.” Writers frequently get asked if they listen to music while they write and/or if there is a suggested play list for each of their books. In my case, the answer is a resounding “yes” to both questions.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve needed to listen to music while performing certain tasks—studying for exams, doing math, cooking or baking. So it’s not surprising that I listen to music while I write. I’ve found that I often find one or two songs that become the unofficial theme song of the story I’m writing—listening to that song puts my either in the mindset of one of the characters or puts me in the “feel” or atmosphere of the story, so I tend to listen to that song over and over (and over and over—much to the chagrin of my husband).
For Hereafter, there were two main songs I listened to: “Stupid Girl” by Garbage and “Heavy in Your Arms” by Florence and the Machine. “Stupid Girl” resonated with me while writing Hereafter because both the lyrics and the dark, moody tone of the music really fit both Irene and the atmosphere of the story. “Stupid Girl” fits Irene so well that it’s really became Irene’s theme song and was great for getting into her mindset. The dark, obsessive feel of “Heavy in Your Arms” also really fit the overall feel of the story, especially Irene’s increasing despondency as it sinks in that there really wasn’t any going back, and I listened to that whenever I needed to write the really emotional scenes. I think I listened to more “Stupid Girl” (plus “Last Friday Night” by Katie Perry and “Alcohol” by Barenaked Ladies—you might be sensing a theme there) while writing the first half of the book, and more “Heavy in Your Arms” while writing the second half.
For Thereafter, Irene is wiser and a little more emotionally even-keeled, but the overall story is much more somber from the get go (whereas Hereafter grows darker and darker as the story progresses), so for this story, my playlist didn’t have the playfulness of “Last Friday Night” or “Alcohol.” Instead, I listened to a lot of “Swimming” by Florence and the Machine, “Howl” by Florence and the Machine, and “Seven Nation Army” by Melanie Martinez. “Swimming” might seem like an odd choice, compared to these other two, but “Swimming” has a sort of marshal quality to the music and a sort of fierce, almost belligerent, tone to the lyrics that helped me get into Irene’s mindset for this book. In Thereafter, Irene is very single-mindedly determined to find a way out of where she’s trapped, and the defiance and determination of “Swimming,” “Howl,” and “Seven Nation Army” really helped me get into Irene’s mindset for this one. Thereafter also has a lot more action (including chase scenes) than Hereafter, so “Swimming” and “Howl” were great for giving me the mindset of the intensity of those scenes.
I’m currently working on Whereafter, the third book of the series, and I’m listening to “Leave My Body” by Florence and the Machine, “No Light No Light” by Florence and the Machine, and “Dark Paradise” by Lana Del Rey. As you can tell from these song choices, the tone of the third book is trending toward very dark and also toward obsessive love. Here’s a small spoiler (quick, look away if you don’t like spoilers!)—Whereafter is actually told in alternating points of view between two characters, and I’m writing each point of view separately; these songs are the “theme songs” of only one character / point of view. I haven’t really dug into the other half of the story yet, which has a much lighter feel, so there will probably be very different songs for that.
And there you have it—as you can see, there’s a lot of Florence and the Machine going into this series, which is interesting given that I only recently discovered the band (when “Dog Days Are Over” came up on my boss’s Pandora station and she cranked the volume shouting, “I love this song!”). The super secret fantasy I have in my head is that Hereafter gets made into a movie with a soundtrack by Florence and the Machine, and at the launch party, the band plays live! How cool would that be?