April 28, 2015
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Christie Watson's novel Where Women are Kings is a powerful and poignant story of family and love.
Kirkus wrote of the book:
"A multilayered, sophisticated book that gets to the heart of what family is and what we will do to love them."
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
Nina Simone: "Little Girl Blue"
I play Nina Simone when times are saddest, and her voice reminds me that in sadness lives art. Where Women are Kings was a tough book to write. I had suffered grief and loss in my personal life, and the year of writing the novel was my toughest year to date. Had I not had such a group of friends and family as well as an encouraging agent, the novel would not have been written at all. I had to dig deep. Nina Simone helped me through the darkest days, when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and go to sleep, reminded me, that although life is sometimes shit, it is also so, so beautiful. "Little Girl Blue" got me up, got me writing.
Chopin: Berceuse in D flat major, op 57: Lullaby
I first heard classical music on long car journeys when my dad would play Chopin on the radio, or listen to the news, while my brother and I begged him for pop music. On summer holidays we made our way to a caravan park, Great Yarmouth or similar, and my mum did the driving, in a large red Austin that we had to stop on the hard shoulder every half and hour or so when smoke escaped from the front bonnet, to fill up the broken radiator with bottled water. We never worried about the danger of the black smoke coming from our car on the motorway, rather we complained about classical music being the most boring thing ever. Eventually we gave up, took the clothes off my Barbie dolls, put them in the back window and had them naked kissing in front of the drivers behind us. Like reading newspapers, listening to Chopin and eating seafood, the things I hated as a child are the things I love most as an adult. My protagonist, Elijah, is better than real life though, and I'd imagine that he'd love Chopin from the start.
Rolling Stones: "Gimme Shelter"
My youngest is the biggest Rolling Stones fan ever. As babies I had rely on Debussy in order to get writing time, and now it's the Rolling Stones. I often think of generations before, how the songs my children listen to changed lives. The importance of music. When writing a first draft, increasingly, I need complete silence. Even the sound of a car alarm or a letter through the door can break my concentration for hours. But during the long process of editing Where Women are Kings, I often played the Rolling Stones. My children and I are never far from bursting into dance, playing an air guitar to rock music. I love that they have no sense of embarrassment, and, as they hurtle towards puberty, I'm enjoying the air guitar while it lasts.
Kate Tempest: "Marshall Law"
Where Women are Kings is set in South London. Having lived in South London for most of my life I thought it would make my research about place easier than my first novel, Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away, which was set in Nigeria. As with most novelists I'm always looking for short cuts, to make narrative decisions that will shave a few months off the research or writing process. And I am forever reminded that there are no short cuts in novel writing. It is a long and sometimes painful process no matter where the novel is set. But I did enjoy hanging out in South London, visiting places I've lived: Brockley where I shared a flat with a group of midwives when I had first qualified as a nurse, and where we worked hard and played even harder, mostly on a condemned roof terrace that entire parties would climb out of the window to get to. I spent time in Greenwich, Deptford, Lewisham, walked the streets filled with my memories. Setting Where Women are Kings in Deptford didn't make the writing easier, but it did re-enforce my love of London, particularly South London. You don't get more South London than Kate Tempest. She reminds me of home.
Beyonce: "Drunk in Love (with Jay Z)"
One of my characters, Chanel, is slightly in love with Beyonce. Chanel was a bit of a nightmare but one of my favourite characters to write. I see Chanels everywhere in London, and magpie bits of them: a high ponytail here, a hoop earring there, a leopard print onesie only this morning on the 208 bus. London is full of characters and although in my fiction everyone is made-up, I borrow elements. Writing Where Women are Kings was a good excuse to listen to a lot of Beyonce. And if I (sorry Chanel) didn't love her enough, then Beyonce added some of my favourite writer, Chimamanda Adichie's words into her music. This song is my favourite though. I know drunk in love. I hear you, Beyonce.
The Magician: "Sunlight (feat Years and Years)" – Darius re-mix
Despite advancing towards middle age, and being an average dancer, I still love to dance all night to this kind of thing. Sometimes I'll dance at the Groucho club, where anything goes, but I particularly like dancing in somewhere like Dalston where all the hipsters look on in horror as me and my mate Shaz, who used to be a podium dancer back in the day, will empty a dance floor. Dancing clears my mind of everything, and sometimes I need headspace from everyone, even my made up characters. After all night dancing I like to watch the dawn, London's best time of day, and remember that everything is possible.
Christie Watson and Where Women are Kings links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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