I grew up in the house of a musician and a singer. Music was always playing throughout the day, and especially at dinner; fortunately, my parents had excellent and wide reaching tastes. I can still recall specific moments of my childhood just from hearing old songs. Dolly Parton was for car rides, and let me tell you, you haven't lived until you've heard two girls under the age of six belting out “Jolene.” If it was raining and my mother had chores to do, we listened to Carole King's Tapestry. Good day for my dad? Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life, and we girls would be danced around the tiny kitchen, perched precariously on the toe of my dad's shoes.
There are songs that make you happy, that make you want to move, that make you get riled up and ready for whatever challenge you have to face that day. And then there are those songs that get under your skin, that work their way through you until they pierce your heart and you can do nothing but just listen and feel. Oh, how I love a song that tells an epic, sweeping (and painful) love story.
That was how this book began. The haunting song, "The Bones of You," by English rock band Elbow, was a song that just cut me to the quick the very moment I first heard it. My hands went still, my heart lurched, I sat down, and I just listened. I was transfixed by the image of this busy man racing out the door to get on with his day when suddenly he hears a song that reminds him of a former lover, and of one perfect day spent together, wrapped up in nothing but their love for one another and a hope for a perfect future.
The character in the song had carefully built up walls to hide all of those past feelings of love, determined to move on, move past that fractured relationship, and then suddenly, wham! Well, not the group Wham! because that would be ridiculous, but suddenly he's jolted right back to remembering what it was like being in love and thinking everything was going to be perfect.
I think we all have wondered, "What if?" with a former lover or maybe even tried to forget them and build a new life for ourselves. But I think for many of us, there's always that one person who worked their way into our hearts, who knit their souls with ours whether we wanted them to or not, and all it takes is that one song, that one whiff of a familiar cologne, that one memory of being held just right that stops us in our tracks. When that happens, we're all helpless to the flood of memories, the feelings, the longing we had before it all went so wrong.
The song ends there, but I couldn't let it go. What was it about that relationship that seemed so perfect all those years ago? More importantly, where had they gone wrong? Is there any way they could have fixed it? I'm a romantic at heart, and I always want things to work out in the end. Now, as a writer and especially as a reader, I don't mind massive bumps along the way. Oh, make me ache! Make that ride off into the sunset count because the characters earned it! But please, please let them ride off together. Please?
I listened to that song on repeat while writing, that and a specific playlist I made that evoked the mood I was going for with various scenes and chapters. Big orchestral pieces that drown you in sound, pull you off your feet and carry you along the journey. Plaintive, quiet numbers that are nothing more than a singer, their feelings laid bare, and a guitar. And if you've had a chance to read The Bones Of You, you'll know that I have big love for Gladys Knight, the way she is a strong woman but willing to open herself up, share her life with the man she loves, even when it seems there's no hope.
Music inspired this story, carried me through the writing process, and now, when I hear Guy Garvey's voice against the stripped-down orchestration of his eponymous song, I smile and start Oliver's journey all over again.
Giveaway: A $25 Interlude Press GC to one randomly drawn winner and digital copies of THE BONES OF YOU to ten randomly winners via Rafflecopter. One randomly chosen host will win a $25 Interlude Press GC.