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: https://blog.bufferapp.com/music-and-the-brain). 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 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.
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 . . .
BONUS GUILTY PLEASURE!
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 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.