I’ve always been a little in awe of the power of music. There were periods of time when I could actually track the happenings of my life through music: a soundtrack to my life, you might say. Even now I hear a particular song and it brings me smack back to that moment, like some kind of magic that transcends time: driving in the truck with my father one summer afternoon, Fleetwood Mac blasting … waltzing for the first time with the man I would eventually marry to a Coldplay song … smiling as I remember my brother singing along with KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes.”
I don’t always listen to music when I’m writing, but I frequently do. The inspiration of music sometimes spurs on my own creativity and helps me jump into that other world. Some songs touch me more than others, and there are a few that speak so definitively to our novel, In the Shadows of Freedom.
There are times that music can say so much more than mere words. That’s why Chris and I want to share these songs with you, in hopes that they give you a picture into the tone, atmosphere, and themes of our book.
“snowball” by elbow
I remember driving around Manassas, Virginia, listening to this song in the early weeks of my marriage to Chris. We had just begun writing our novel, ideas and scenes filling my imagination. This song haunted me with its ominous, almost demonic chanting (They’ll come and visit you/We’ll come and visit you) and the gradual crescendo into greater intensity and desperation.
“Wonderful Life” by Smith and Burrows
If I could pick one song that best encapsulates our protagonist, this would be it. Amanda Burrow is a young woman who is broken inside and aches to fill that brokenness—primarily through her art, but also through a circle of so-called friends. The barriers she places around her heart, defenses after a severe pain in her childhood, keep her aloof from others and very alone. The sadness of this song, in sharp contrast to the singer’s assurance that “it’s a wonderful, wonderful life” makes you question how wonderful it could truly be in a state of such loneliness.
“We Used to Wait” by Arcade Fire
Amanda starts a new chapter in her life when she moves to New York City to attend an elite art academy. She hopes that this will signal the change she yearns for, and indeed, the move shifts her world in a dramatic way. I’ve listened to this song so many times and it always makes me envision Amanda standing in downtown Manhattan, the lights and sounds of the city such a contrast to the rural world she previously knew: this is a whole new kind of wilderness she must navigate. After Amanda moves to NYC, she is never the same. So when the lights cut out/I was lost standing in the wilderness downtown … Now our lives are changing fast/Hope that something pure can last.
“City of Devils” by Yellowcard
There is a major turning point during Amanda’s time in New York City. Things unravel more rapidly for her and everything comes to a dramatic climax, which plunges the characters into different directions for the second half of the novel. Almost every single lyric of this song seems to speak to this scene … I can almost imagine Amanda repeating these words to herself as she runs under the Manhattan night sky, her life in chaos and her heart searing with pain. “Flying along, and I/Feel like I don’t belong and I/Can’t tell right from the wrong, why/Have I been here so long/In a city of devils we live.”
If these songs and descriptions intrigue you, check out In the Shadows of Freedom for the whole story.