March 11, 2015

Guest Post: The One Piece Of Writing Advice I Wish I’d Known Sooner by Aisha Saeed

 Hey, Misfiteers! Today on the blog we have the fantastic Aisha Saeed, author of the upcoming (March 24! But available for preorder now, of course.) YA debut Written in the Stars. (More on the book below!) Today, Aisha's sharing the one piece of writing advice she wishes she'd known sooner, and since she's far more eloquent than I am, I'll let her take it away!
The One Piece Of Writing Advice I Wish I’d Known Sooner
Aisha Saeed
Just as many times as people stare at me like I sprouted a kiwi fruit from my left ear when I inform them I'm a writer, I meet people who are impressed- who wistfully say, I always wanted to write a book. I have this great idea. . . and look at me as if I'd walked to the moon.

I understand this envy-tinged awe because I used to be this way. As a child I wrote before bedtime, when I came home from school, during math class, ideas came to me like raindrops in a storm- but as I got older I grew increasingly nervous about my abilities. I began reading books on 'how to write' and taking writing workshops, and attending book readings to ask the author for advice. I spent a good solid five years looking up advice on how to write, and now, I realize that those were five years wasted- because the only true advice that counts for anything when it comes to how to write is to:
Just write

It sounds so obvious- but the problem is that for someone who wants to write but doesn't- the biggest challenge is sitting down and getting started. You think: I can't just write? Whenever I sit try my words looks like gibberish a two year old penned. No one in their right mind would publish this! And then after protesting, click on yet another writing blog, or pick up another book and read about. . . writing.

The truth is, you can't read about painting and sketch like Van Gogh, you can't read about basketball and dunk like Kobe, you must do it again and again. You must practice. You think what you've written is jibberish? Write it down anyways. The idea of an 80,000 word novel making you want to hide under your bed? Write a chapter. A page. A sentence. Will your initial foray into writing be bad? Maybe. But I doubt Lebron James got each ball in the hoop when he first began, or that Picasso's first drawing was worthy of a million dollar purchase-price- it takes time.
According to Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours to achieve genius level in your particular field- the only way to get those hours is to put it the blood, sweat, and tears, and just write.

That's the part I failed to realize. I thought writing was sexy and elusive- that writers sat down at their desks, took a sip of red wine sighed and began penning away the next Booker Prize- but writing is four parts drudgery and two parts creative hypnotic bliss. Writing is hard- some days its boring- some days the words don't fit right, but you have to keep on going. This is what I did in writing my debut Written in the Stars, there were days I did give up on it entirely because it was difficult or confusing and well, twitter just seemed so interesting at the moment, but I kept going until I finished it and I can tell you with confidence that published or not, that moment you close your laptop and say I just finished my first novel is a very special feeling.

What I'm sharing may seem obvious, but it is advice I wish I had encountered before I spent my money, and worse still five years of my life reading up on how to be a writer. There is benefit in reading writing websites and reading books on writing and taking writing courses, but the actual writing- that's up to you to do. Write and rewrite and then write again- and you will succeed with your goal. There is simply no other way.  

Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

Aisha Saeed is a YA author, attorney, and educator and one of the founding members of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. Her upcoming debut Written in the Stars will be released in 2015 by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons. Visit her online at or follow her on twitter and tumblr: @aishacs. 

February 27, 2015

Casual Friday: And Fearless Friday

Hello and Happy Friday, Lovely Misfiteers!

So earlier this week I did something, something that probably should have intimidated me or at the very least made me slightly nervous. But I didn't allow myself the time to think about what I was doing, I just did it.

I also read a blog post about fear and was in the midst of a casual conversation that started with the question "Do you guys remember being fearless?"

I thought about this collectively all week and really wanted to bring it here and use all of this to ask you a question for casual Friday. I want us to answer it for ourselves not necessarily for each other (but if you want to share that would be awesome!)

What's the WORST thing that could happen if you followed your dream?

As writers the fear of being judged (having our writing judged, our creations judged, our very existence judged) is a huge thing that holds us back, yes? But what really comes with that judgment? What are the consequences to that judgment? Or that rejection or denial?

Does a beta say "I didn't really connect with your MC, so give me your dog. You can never see Baxter again."

Does an agent tell you "This MS really isn't right for me, so you'll have to move out of your house and back in with your overbearing mother!"

Of course these are our hopes and dreams so we want to be successful and reach the top, but we can't have that unless we try. So if fear is what is keeping you from trying, what's the worst that could happen? I think if we put it in to perspective we might see that we are making it so difficult for ourselves when our writing might be worth so much more than we can see. Or at the very least that beta or agent will let us down super gently and we'll be strong enough to try again.

Hashtag #CasualFriday if you want to chat about this <3

February 23, 2015

Monday Pep Rally: Anywhere But Here

Happy Monday!

Well, happy except that it's negative a bajillion degrees outside for many of us. And writing may or may not be making us want to strangle someone. And work is piling up, and seriously, February? Really?

So my question today is about escape. What books are your favorite escape mechanisms? A summery contemp that lets you feel the warm breeze on your face from the page? An intense fantasy that helps you remember that hey, your boss might suck, but at least you're not leading a revolution?  

What are your favorite books that let you get away from the real world for a blissful few pages?

February 18, 2015

Writing Club Wednesday: Writing Girls

I've seen a lot of talk about this, lately. Last fall at Salt Lake Comic Con, I easily attended 4 or 5 (or more) panels specifically talking about how to write girls & women. Honestly, I didn't think this was a difficult thing - we're people, right? Apparently I was wrong.

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend Courtney Alameda's launch party for her debut, SHUTTER. (It was pretty awesome, I have to say.) I ended up spending a large portion of the night talking to one of her young teen fans about all things writing. Process, character development, plot lines. This young fan was a writer just getting started, and she was eager for anything and everything I could tell her. Towards the end of the night (or rather, the signing line), she asked a question I think she'd been waiting all night to ask me.

How do you write female characters?

Before I could swallow the shock (a girl asking how to write girls?) she went on to explain, and it suddenly made sense to me. This wasn't a problem of girls not understanding how to write girls. This was yet another side of the continual diversity issue. Not how do we write girls, but how do we write girls that can do stuff that has traditionally been reserved for guys.

Because here was what she told me: I usually write male characters, because they can do stuff.

Talk about heartbreaking. But I understood. Video game heroes? Almost all men, almost always rescuing a helpless damsel (we're sorry, your princess is in another castle!). (And most of the women are so sexified that I could never stand playing as them. Thank you Bioware, for making actual women in armor, and Crystal Dynamics/Square Enix for the reboot of Lara Croft.) Action movie heroes? Again, almost all men. Terminator, Die Hard, Bourne Identity, James Bond... Do I even need to continue? The really kick-ass main characters in most books that have shaped us? Male. (I mean, look at Tolkein. I love him, but there are only 3 women all of the Hobbit & LotR combined, and they're side characters. Love Harry Potter, but Hermione basically saved him in every book, yet Harry is the hero. I could go on.) So of course it's hard to imagine anything else.

So here was my advice to her, advice that we were told time and again at Comic Con, by both male and female writers in the fields of TV, movies, books, and gaming. Write good characters. Forget about girls are supposed to do, supposed to be. Forget about what guys are supposed to do and be. Just write good characters, who can do anything, be anything, succeed and fail at anything. And then make them girls. We've grown up in a world with so few solid female leads, either on screen, in game, or in book, and the only way that will change is if we write more of them.

So stop relegating girls to just 'traditional' roles, and let them be whoever you want them to be. Take a page from Buffy, and write a cheerleader who saves the world, or a prom queen who rules the underworld. Write characters who have depth and feeling, and just happen to be female.

Let's let our girls kick ass.

February 13, 2015

Casual Friday: Agent Interview with Rena Rossner

Today we have a Q & A with Rena Rossner, literary and foreign rights agent at The Deborah Harris Agent. Rena is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars Program, where she double-majored in poetry and non-fiction writing. She studied at Trinity College, Dublin and holds an MA in History from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She worked at bookstores in four countries, has written extensively for The Jerusalem Report and The Jerusalem Post, and worked in PR, grant-writing, and website development at The Jerusalem Foundation. She is a writer of both fiction and poetry and has a cookbook called EATING THE BIBLE out with Skyhorse Publishing.

Hi Rena and welcome!

We love book recs. What have you read recently and loved?

THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER by Leslye Walton – one of the best books I read this past year, it’s got everything I look for in a submission: lyrical language, magical realism and fantasy, beautiful descriptions and it made me cry.

GREENHEART by Alice Hoffman – I love everything that Alice Hoffman writes, but since her adult novel THE DOVEKEEPERS she’s become one of my all-time favorite writers. This is her latest YA novel, and again: poetic language, magic and witches. Yes please.

FAMOUS IN LOVE by Rebecca Serle – not to neglect my love for YA contemporary, I read this novel in one sitting on a plane. I love novels that captivate me that way and won’t let me go. It was fun and light but it also had me crying. I’m a sucker for a good love story.

I saw on your website that you have five kids in addition to your career as a writer AND an agent. Any tips for balancing a full life?

People always ask me: how do you find time to read?? And I always look at them and say: how do you not? And I think that’s really the answer. You make time for what’s important to you. It might be half an hour or an hour a day, or you may go to bed later and stay up into the wee hours knowing you’ll be tired the next day, but it’s worth it because it’s “your time” to read, to write, whatever. Runners find time to run, readers find time to read, and writers find time to write. If it’s your passion, it cannot be denied.

How did you become an agent?

I spent years doing all sorts of things that were related to writing and books, but never really found my calling. I worked in bookstores, worked as a journalist, had a weekly food column in a major newspaper, worked in website design and content editing, marketing, grant writing, editing books for an archaeological press, but all of it made me miserable. I quit my job about 5 years ago and spent a year writing my second novel. But I was still unhappy. So I asked myself what I really wanted to do. I wrote to my (current) boss, even though The Deborah Harris Agency wasn’t looking for anyone, and told her I’d do anything to work for her. And here I am three years later, SOOO HAPPY. I regularly tell people how much I love my job.

Are you able to read a book without the "agent hat" on or does it creep in?

Absolutely. I think that what makes me a reader and a book-lover is that I have a very well-developed “willing suspension of disbelief” built into me. It means that I can allow myself to get completely swept away by a book, be it by the language, the plot, or the characters (and ideally all three…), but I am very much able to let go of my “agent hat” and just hold on for the ride. Guilty confession: I am obsessed with paranormal romance and urban fantasy and my greatest joy is to curl up with a cup of coffee and a good mass-market paperback and read about vampires and werewolves, demons and gargoyles, elves and fairies, and all the creatures of the night (yes, still.)

Any recent sales or upcoming client releases you’re extra excited for?

Yes! I have three coming out this year and I’m so excited about all of them!!

1. May 2015: DUCK’S VACATION by Gilad Soffer, coming from Feiwel & Friends / Macmillan (Picture Book)

2. June 2015: DARKNESS BRUTAL by Rachel A. Marks, coming from Skyscape/Amazon (YA Paranormal/Urban Fantasy)

3. September 2015: YOUR VOICE IS ALL I HEAR by Leah Scheier, coming from Sourcebooks (YA Contemporary)

What are you looking for right now and not getting?

I love historical fiction in all genres: Picture Book, Middle Grade, YA and Adult.

Ditto fantasy and scifi in all genres.

I’m really looking for some great “voice-y” middle grade

YA romances to make me swoon, with diverse characters, LGBQT too!

Beautiful writing.

My dream books right now:

1. YA or NA set in the Israeli army

2. A sweeping Middle Eastern Epic fantasy

3. Books with badass characters who cover their hair (and no, that’s not a contradiction in terms.)

What type of characters or stories do you feel are underrepresented?

I definitely think we’re not quite there yet in terms of diversity in fiction. Like I said above, I’d love to see more characters who cover their hair. Characters with mixed-race heritage where the color of their skin isn’t the most important thing about them, but it does enrich who they are. Surprise me, show me characters transcending stereotypes. Multicultural romances with all the messiness that that entails. And though I love a happy ending, give me some miserable ones, because that’s life.

Anything you’re tired of seeing?

I love demons, but I see too many of them in my submissions. I think “grief-group” YA or characters meeting in therapy is something that’s on its way out. There’s also too much suicide in YA fiction right now. So much scifi I read starts on the bridge of a ship…or with characters who have “ports” of some sort – futuristic communication devices. I want scifi that doesn’t feel like scifi. Give me real people in space. Ditto fantasy that starts with an eagle soaring overhead, verdant forests all around…give me real people in fantasy and historical fiction, get your characters out of the tavern.

Best piece of advice we haven’t talked about yet?

There is an exception to every rule. I once tweeted that I love historical fiction, but not Civil War, and now I rep a YA Civil War novel with elements of magical realism. I also once tweeted that I’m not the right person for sports books, especially not baseball, and now I represent a YA contemporary novel about French and baseball. Good writing trumps everything. Good writing can even bring suicidal demons in grief group therapy on the bridge of a spaceship with eagles soaring overhead to life. (Actually can someone please write that?)

Since we’re the YA Misfits, what would your high school superlative have been?

Gosh. It’s too obvious to say “biggest booknerd,” right? (Though I think that was actually what my superlative was…) that, and “I’m outta here! Suckers.” (because I skipped my senior year of high school in favor of early acceptance to Johns Hopkins’ Writing Seminars program.) Like I said: total BOOKNERD (and proud!)

Thanks so much for stopping by, Rena! Good stuff, right? Now go get your submissions polished up!

You can follow Rena on Twitter ( and check out her website at

February 11, 2015

Writing Club Wednesday: Guest Post by Courtney Alameda


It’s been fashionable to create playlists for one’s YA novel for years: In 2008, back when the Twilight Saga was dominating the bestseller lists, I worked as a bookseller for a big box bookstore. At one point, the store ran a promotion that cross-merchandised Stephenie Meyer’s books with the CDs she’d highlighted that contained songs from her “playlist,” or the songs that inspired her while she wrote her novels, as indicated by the table’s signage.

Yes, we still listened to CDs in 2008, but that’s beside the point.

Within the week, a trend was born. Other YA authors began posting their playlists online. Music figures prominently in many writers’ processes—in part due, I think, to our exposure to the music in film. Music can help transport a writer into the right emotional frame of mind, block out distractions, and has been scientifically proven to increase creativity (insert link: As for me, I rarely write without music and have the odd habit of listening to a single song nonstop while working on a scene. Also, while suffering writer’s block, I have been known to pace for hours while listening to music, which usually helps shake the book back into place.

Here now are the five most important musical influences on my debut novel, Shutter. My musical influences ranged from 90s grunge rock to soaring, triumphant vocal performances; from sweeping, cinematic scores to throbbing drum lines—a perfect blend of grit and grace.

Florence and the Machine, Ceremonials
 I didn’t happen upon Florence and the Machine’s music until mere weeks before I received my first edit letter, but the album’s poetic lyrics, fierce percussion, and rich vocals starting flipping the creative switches in my brain.  Songs like No Light, No Light and Seven Devils became anthems for Micheline’s journey and her relationship to the men in her life, particularly the one with her father.

Having enjoyed Ceremonials so much, I also listened to the band’s previous album, Lungs. Many of the Obscura chapters were written to darker, more melancholic songs like Blinding, Drumming Song, and Howl.

Florence and the Machine has become one of my staple artists, someone I listen to regardless of what novel I’m working on; their music never fails to inspire my best writing.

Jason Graves, Tomb Raider OST 
Whenever I need good instrumental music, I turn to Jason Graves. He writes incredible scores for video games and his resume boasts a large number of impressive projects, as well as several BAFTA wins. The man’s a powerhouse, and I’ve probably embarrassed myself too many times on Twitter gushing over his work.

Tomb Raider came out around the time Shutter sold, giving the music time to sink into my subconscious and become the soundtrack for the novel’s action scenes. The sweeping drama of songs like A Call for Help, Alone (SoundCloud only), and A Survivor Is Born inspired a lot of the revisions and played in my ears while I paced through problems. Previously, I’d written large chunks of the manuscript to Graves’ soundtracks for Dead Space and Dead Space 2, which are both incredibly creepy, jarring auditory experiences. I seem to recall the Pacific Bell scenes in the middle of the novel were written to the first four tracks on Dead Space 2, and the original Obscura chapters were written almost exclusively to Graves’ music.

Foo Fighters, Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace
This is hands-down one of my favorite rock albums of all time, showcasing the Foo Fighters’ raw power alongside delicate, heart-wrenching ballads. It provided a perfect adrenaline rush in a song like The Pretender, then gave me the pathos I needed in Strangers Things Have Happened or Let It Die. The album’s remarkable range became the foundation for the novel’s more emotionally-charged moments, such as when Micheline confronts her childhood home after her mother’s and brothers’ murders and 18 months of letting the house lie unoccupied. The Foo Fighters’ follow-up album, Wasting Light, also spent a lot of time rattling through my headphones while I revised the novel with my editor.

Nirvana, Nirvana
Nirvana is the only band mentioned in the novel, specifically by Micheline who says that she and Ryder bonded over Kurt Cobain’s rasping vocals. They are Micheline’s favorite band, and I spent a lot of time listening to Heart-Shaped Box and Lithium in particular.

Evanescence, Evanescence
I listened to this album ad nauseam while writing the early manuscripts of Shutter, and before Micheline found Florence, she loved Amy Lee. In fact, her “theme song” was My Heart Is Broken for a number of years. Lyrics like “I will never find a way to heal my soul/And I will wander till the end of time/Torn away from you,” matched Micheline’s loss of her mother and brothers and her soulchain predicament almost perfectly.

Also, the album’s cover seemed particularly appropriate for Shutter, with the band’s logo glowing in purply-blue light . . .


Kerli, Love is Dead and Army of Love

I love this album, mmkay? Don’t judge. I enjoy listening to Kerli’s older stuff, songs like Bulletproof and Strange Boy. They’re quirky, weird, and fit Shutter well!

Courtney Alameda's spent her entire career trying to con and cajole people into reading great books. A veteran of the big-box bookstore trenches, Courtney now works as a librarian for the prettiest library you've ever seen, where she spends her time ordering large stacks of YA books, doing readers' advisory, and dressing up as various mythical creatures for a variety of library events. 
Courtney has an affinity for brightly colored lipstick, urban exploration, cosplay, video games, and Twitter. If she's listening to music, it's usually Florence + the Machine, Marina and the Diamonds, Rodrigo y Gabriela, or Jason Graves. Her addiction to Dr. Pepper is legendary. 
Courtney holds a B.A. in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Brigham Young University. She is represented by the amazing and talented John M. Cusick of Greenhouse Literary. A Northern California native, she now resides in Utah with a legion of books and a tiny, five pound cat who possesses a giant personality. Her first book SHUTTER is now available.

February 6, 2015

Casual Friday: How Well Do You Know Your Characters?

Happy Friday, Misfiteers!

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about characterization. I'm starting a large revision based on some excellent notes and a lot of it is about characterization. Flesh it out! So it got me wondering how others get to know their characters. I put out a tweet asking how others got to the hearts of their characters and just let the awesome writing community weigh in ;o)

I got a lot of cool responses. Here's a few I thought were really interesting and helpful!

This is one I've never heard but sounds cool!

Here's another suggestion that I thought was really insightful and smart!

This is one I do!

This was another I found really helpful!

Several writers use playlists or talk to their characters either out-loud or in their minds. Some writers use special interview sheets. There were several with Pinterest boards. I personally love quotes for character inspiration. Here's some of the ones I've pinned recently.

And I certainly can't leave out GIFs. GIFs are made of magic and a cool way to "see" your characters.

Here's a couple of Castiel from Supernatural because he's awesome and adorable.

Big THANK YOU to my writer friends who tweeted me and gave these great suggestions!

Okay, what about you? What do you use to get to know your characters?

Have a great weekend!!

January 28, 2015

Writing Club Wednesday: Books That Inspire

It took me three years to stockpile enough books to seriously damage my Walmart bookshelves. That cheap-o particle board was no match for the collection of awesomeness I had crammed on there. And about a month later I had a brand new, significantly sturdier set. Built by my super crafty husband. 

Finally, my books had room to breathe!

Then about halfway through the process of reorganizing everything, I realized some of them weren’t making it up there. I had plucked certain ones out of boxes and put them in a separate stack on the carpet.

By the time I was done, the pile had grown to about nine or ten books and I just couldn’t find the right place for them. These were… special. I needed a better place for them. So I lugged the stack back upstairs and made a mini collection on the shelf by my computer, and that’s where they’ve lived for the last year.

They're the ones I read when I’m neck deep in revisions and convinced everything in the world is terrible. Or when I open a new word document and worry that I’m wasting my time. The ones that remind me why I love to write and inspire me to get off my butt and dive back in.

They’re a kick in the pants, that I need on a semi-regular basis.

Every time I read THE SCORPIO RACES I’m reminded how powerful a truly awesome setting mashed up with stunning writing can be. I’ll be singing the praises of Maggie Stiefvater for the rest of my life, but this book has a special top shelf spot. It doesn't matter matter how hopeless I feel, a few chapters of water horses and November cakes is all it takes to bring back my inspiration, no matter where it ran off to.

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve retreated to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE when things in my life just go crazy. I’ve read it so many times I can flip it open to a random page and immediately know what’s going on. It’s the macaroni and cheese of books, my friends. It never gets old. 

Need a reason to pick it up? I'll give you three. Mr. Freaking. Darcy.

Need I say more? 

For those days when I’ve stubbed my toe on the same damn chair eight times, spilled tea on three different shirts, and listened to countless screaming fits from my toddler, it’s IF I STAY that brings be back to reality. Following Mia through her tragedy again and again, as she tries to accept what's happened to her, is a surefire way to reset my day.

When I’m writing really heartbreaking scenes, I second guess myself like nobody’s business. Re-reading NOT A DROP TO DRINK reminds me that not everything has to end with rainbows and teddy bears, and sometimes the tragic parts can mean the most later on. Mindy McGinnis has a knack for tackling the tough stuff. She doesn’t shy away from difficult deaths or endings that aren’t so much happy as they are resolved, and I really admire that. 

There are countless books I LOVED TO DEATH that still find themselves in the “favorites” section of my fancy new shelves, a whole floor away from my office. The inspiration shelf is for the books that haunt me. Make me stop in the middle of a scene and say “Holy crap, that’s good.” Fantastic to the core writing that can never be read enough times.

Those books doesn’t just impress me, they teach me something. They make me question my own storytelling abilities and INSPIRE me to get better. 

Plus, getting lost in Mr. Darcy daydreams feels a lot more productive than falling down the rabbit hole of Youtube singing audition videos.

Just saying.


Do you have any books you always keep close by? What ones inspire you, and when do you need them the most?

Happy Wednesday!

January 26, 2015

Monday Pep Rally: Happy Places, Happy Spaces!

Since we've all gotten so used to getting our thoughts down in 140 characters - and it's fun to keep the conversation flowing - we've take the Pep Rally to twitter! Every Monday, we host a twitter chat and we'd love you to join in. Just keep an eye out for the #MisfitPepRally hashtag!

Good morning, Misfiteers & happy Monday! It's a grey winter day and I need a little extra pep (can we pretend this post isn't hours late?). When I need a mental boost, I think of my happy place - a quiet, windswept in Oregon. I go to my happy place and let the memories wash over me. On a Monday that's already on the wrong foot, it's a good reset.

So today I want you to share your happy places - preferably in pictures! Share your book nooks and vacation spots and tree forts. Wherever it is that you retreat to in your mind when you need a break from the grind. Share with the class so we can all take a deep breath and start this week right! Head over to twitter or the comments section and show me your happy place!

Cape Lookout, Oregon

January 22, 2015

Band Geek Thursday: Susan Adrian's TUNNEL VISION Soundtrack

Today on Band Geek Thursday, we have our first 2015 debut! And one especially exciting for me because Susan Adrian's book TUNNEL VISION and my book are buddies and one-week-apart release twins! I love her soundtrack and her explanation for how these songs fit into the book. Take it away, Susan!
Thank you so much for having me, YA Misfits! I love Band Geek Thursdays, and am so excited to talk about the soundtrack for TUNNEL VISION.
I know, we normally call them "playlists"! But early on in the writing of TUNNEL VISION, a fast-paced YA thriller, I realized that it was so visual I wanted it to have a soundtrack, like a TV show or a movie. Each chapter (42 chapters!) has a song associated with it that's printed at the top of the chapter. As soon as I started that, I began listening to them as I wrote, and while I brainstormed (and while I mowed the lawn). With each chapter I'd add a new song and start again, in order. I must've listened to the first few songs hundreds of times. They relate to the chapter in different ways. Sometimes the title was so apt I had to take it, but usually it was the theme, or the mood I thought fit. My rule was that it had to come from the character, though, what Jake himself would choose. So even though I don't personally game, there's a piece from Call of Duty: Black Ops that was perfect. There are genres in there I don't even listen to, usually. I won't talk about what each song meant (because 42!), but here are 12 songs that are particularly resonant for me:
1. People Following Me by Phunk Junkeez. I love this song. I rock out to this song every time. To me it just sets the tone perfectly: Jake is paranoid, but there really are people following him.
3. A Little Party Never Killed Nobody by Fergie, Q-Tip, and Goon Rock. This was a late replacement, actually, but as soon as I heard it I knew it had to go in for Chapter 3. In which a party may actually kill someone.
7. Home by Marc Broussard. This song makes me teary when I play it, because it makes me feel Jake coming home to his family. I tried to play it for my husband once, but he just didn't get it. It has to go with the chapter.
9. Sister by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds. Jake's sister Myka is so very important to him, and this song captures that.
12. Tunneling Through by Tweak Bird. HELLO, TITLE. I could not believe it when I ran across this song! It describes tunneling, Jake's special power. Well, in my mind anyway.
13. Little Truth by The Delta Routine. And yet if I needed a theme song for a lot of the book, it would be this one. All he wants is a LITTLE truth. Somewhere.
18. Gone by Black Lab. Cry. Every. Time. This song encapsulates the mood for me of maybe the most difficult chapter in the book.
22. Lies by Billy Talent. There are about 3 songs about lies in the soundtrack, and I love each one. I like to yell-sing them. The Violent Femmes one is awesome too.
32. Revenge by Sean Murray, from Call of Duty. This is instrumental, but it really hits the "soundtrack" feel. I can hear it playing through the (ahem) revenge of the chapter.
33. Feeling Good by Nina Simone. A little respite for Jake, a moment of happiness. And a huge call-out to Chuck, the show that inspired me in the beginning.
39. Dad by Goldfinger. Can't give spoilers, but yeah. This one.
42. The End. by Jason Reeves. Because it is. And yet the words in the song talk about how it also isn't.
If you'd like to listen to the whole playlist, it's available on Spotify here:
You can find out more about TUNNEL VISION, me, and where you can find me on the Tunnel Tour here:

Susan Adrian is a 4th-generation Californian who somehow stumbled into living in Montana. She danced in a ballet company and worked in the fields of exotic pet-sitting, clothes-schlepping, and bookstore management. She’s settled in, mostly, as a scientific editor. When she’s not with her family, she keeps busy researching spy stuff, traveling, and writing more books.
Twitter: @susan_adrian

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