I. Love. Playlists.
I rarely listen to them while writing, but I do listen to them all the time when brainstorming a draft or edits—which helps me associate the music and the book. After that, any time I listen to one of these songs, I’ll be immediately thrown back into the feel of the book. It’s a great way of getting into the right mindset before writing.
For my YA fantasy Otherbound--out June 17--I had a 23-song playlist, of which I’m sharing 12 songs today.
One song that always gets to me is “Herinnering Aan Later” by Bløf and Cristina Branco. At the core of Otherbound is the dynamic between my two main characters, Nolan and Amara, who are from different worlds. They’re inextricably connected, but have never—will never—meet face-to-face. The song encapsulates that beautifully. The interplay of different languages, different worlds, different people … the mood, the longing for the distant, the impossible … it’s perfect.
“Still Alive” by Lisa Miskovsky works for both Nolan and Amara in different ways. One part is 100% Nolan. Every time he blinks, he sees through Amara’s eyes, feeling what she feels, experiencing all that she does. It’s nearly destroyed him. He copes by hiding all of this from the world, faking smiles and compliance.
But inside my head
So loud and clear
Covered up with a smile I've learned to fear
Most of “Still Alive” reminds me of Amara, though. She’s a beaten-down servant who’s been at death’s door far too often … but she’s still here.
I'm still alive
I'm still alive
And I cannot apologize, no
“Too Close to Leave” by Guano Apes is perfect for Nolan’s connection to Amara: ‘Cause I live all the dreams you dream And I see all the things you need You've been down with me I'm too close to leave
“You Will Never Know” by Imany is my quintessential Amara/Cilla song. Amara is a servant; Cilla is the princess she’s forced to protect. An odd attraction has grown between the two of them, but the inherent power imbalance makes it … difficult for them.
With every smile comes my reality, irony
You won't find out what has been killing me
Can't you see me, can't you see?
You will never know
I will never show
What I feel
What I need from you, no
Other songs that always remind me of Amara and Cilla are “Weak” by Skunk Anansie—about Amara’s simultaneous rage and love for her—and “This Love” by The Veronicas.
I adore “After the Storm” by Mumford and Sons, which works in so many ways, and always just wants to make me want to hug Amara—“because death is just so full, and man so small; well, I’m scared of what’s behind, and what’s before.” And “storm” can refer to both the literal storms that plague Amara’s world as the metaphorical ones. The same goes for “Storm Comin’” by the Wailin’ Jennys.
Similarly, in “On the Opposite Side of the Sea” by Oren Lavie, I see the sea as both literal—just like storms, the sea plays a large part in Otherbound—and metaphorical, referring to the distance between Nolan and Amara.
On the opposite side of the sea you'll find her
But the waves will pull you under
With “Wêr Bisto” by Twarres, it’s not the lyrics that resonate, because, well, I don’t speak Frisian. It’s just the mood of the song. Quiet and lovely, and full of longing. Meanwhile, “Missed the Boat” by Modest Mouse is the opposite. It's about Nolan and Amara, who have given up hope of a better life. "We had truly missed the boat."
“This Bitter Earth” by Dinah Washington & Max Richter is just achingly beautiful. I think these lines encapsulate Nolan and Amara’s sense of feeling only half-alive so well:
And if my life is like the dust
That hides the glow of a rose
What good am I?
The end of the song—"and this bitter earth / may not be so bitter after all"—is a perfect note on which to end the playlist. And—just maybe—the book, too.
Amara is never alone. Not when she’s protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they’re fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. Not when she’s punished, ordered around, or neglected. She can’t be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes. Nolan longs for a life uninterrupted. Every time he blinks, he’s yanked from his Arizona town into Amara’s mind, a world away, which makes even simple things like hobbies and homework impossible. He’s spent years as a powerless observer of Amara’s life. Amara has no idea . . . until he learns to control her, and they communicate for the first time. Amara is terrified. Then, she’s furious. All Amara and Nolan want is to be free of each other. But Nolan’s breakthrough has dangerous consequences. Now, they’ll have to work together to survive–and discover the truth about their connection.
"Original and compelling; a stunning debut." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Duyvis makes ingenious use of a fascinating premise." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"While Duyvis’s debut is an exciting take on the fantasy genre ... the true strength of the novel is in its positive portrayal of LGBT issues." —School Library Journal (starred review)
"[A]uthors should take note—this is how you do fantasy in a global world." —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
A lifelong Amsterdammer, Corinne Duyvis spends her days writing speculative young adult and middle grade novels. She enjoys martial arts and gets her geek on whenever possible. Find her at her website or Twitter.