September 14, 2012
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Gwenda Bond's impressive debut novel Blackwood is a supernatural young adult mystery immersed in history and filled with unforgettable and strong characters.
Karen Joy Fowler wrote of the book:
"A deft and clever debut! Bond takes some reliably great elements – a family curse, the mark of Cain, the old and endlessly fascinating mystery of the Roanoke Colony – and makes them into something delightfully, surprisingly new."
When I start a novel, I only really know it's going to actually become a novel when it merits the creation of a playlist. Usually, that's music that evokes a mood or tone, more than music that speaks directly to the story. But, with Blackwood, I wanted music to be part of the fabric of the characters' lives in the way it was for me at seventeen. (Along with books and TV...) So, the playlist ended up being a mix of mood pieces and songs specifically tied to my fictional people. Here are ten significant tracks--either to me during the writing or as they reflect on the book's main characters, Miranda Blackwood and Phillips Rawling.
Blackwood is set on Roanoke Island, North Carolina, and North Carolina is, of course, one of the best music states on the planet. It has birthed or is home to many, many great bands. One of my two main characters, Phillips, is really into music--it's his escape, and it made sense to me, as he's in exile at the beginning of the novel, that he'd have a dedicated North Carolina playlist on his iPod, a link to home. The Bowerbirds are on that list (as are The Rosebuds, among others). This track, in particular, was also important to me writing the book. For a long time, I wanted to use lyrics from it--"This is wild land humming. These are ancient songs that fill my body"--as an epigraph...but ran out of time to try and get permission.
"Satellite Mind," Metric
I had several Metric tracks on the playlist, and usually associated them with Miranda. But this one was more associated with Phillips, who hears the voices of the dead in a way he can't control. He in fact has a satellite mind.
"Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi," Jim White
I think Jim White is one of the south's true poets, a strange and surly magician of a musician, and this is very much a southern novel in many ways. (Though it's not the twee, manufactured south of so many novels, I hope; a particular pet peeve of mine.) And he's just obscure enough to appeal to Phillips. This song is referenced in passing in the novel as being on a mix Phillips has made. With his proclivities for getting in legal trouble, it seemed like a perfect fit.
"Lovesick Teenagers," Bear in Heaven
This was a track that sounded like the developing relationship between Phillips and Miranda. It was often on repeat while I was writing.
"Psychotic Girl," The Black Keys
There are many songs by The Black Keys on Phillips' imaginary iPod. I'm picking this one to include here, based on its rich, gothic feel. It has an eeriness that speaks to the dangerous elements of Phillips' attraction to Miranda and the situation they find themselves in. (Miranda, by the way, is not a psychotic girl, but who could blame her if she was?)
"Fox Confessor Brings the Flood," Neko Case
There's actually another Neko Case song referenced in passing in the novel--"Deep Red Bells"--during an especially tense scene for Phillips. A friend and mentor of Miranda's has given her some Neko Case to listen to. As above, the sound of many of Case's songs is so perfectly southern gothic, so rich and moody, that it felt like you couldn't live on this island and not fall in love with this music.
"The Island: Come & See/The Landlord's Daughter/You'll Not Feel the Drowning," The Decemberists
Pretty self-explanatory on this one. I don't know about other writers, but I always love finding a good looong track for a writing playlist. You don't have that frisson when the song changes as often if you can find enough long songs and stack them in a row.
"Future Boy," Catherine Wheel
I had a live version of this one, sung by Rob Dickinson in a radio studio. "Don't fear, superboy is here"--this song perfectly evokes the sense of yearning Miranda has for someone who understands her and the sense she can't have that now (or maybe ever). And it's the ultimate smart boy ballad at the same time. Love.
"So Far From Your Weapon," The Dead Weather
A super song from a supergroup. There's a weapon in the novel that causes many problems, and this song is definitely on Phillips' iPod. So there you go.
"Devil's Playground," Gram Rabbit
Roanoke Island is "the devil's" playground...or is it?
Gwenda Bond and Blackwood links:
Bibliophile Support Group review
The Book Smugglers review
Cosy Up Book Reviews review
A Dream of Books review
Ink Scratchers review
Jenny Davidson review
Popcorn Reads review
Violin in a Void review
Book Chick City interview with the author
Civilian Reader interview with the author
Distraction No. 99 interview with the author
Ink Scratchers interview with the author
Lexington Herald-Leader review
Manga Maniac Cafe interview with the author
Mary Robinette Kowal guest post by the author
My Bookish Ways interview with the author
Whatever guest post by the author
Wondrous Reads guest post by the author (her five favorite literary heroines)
also at Largehearted Boy:
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists