As a writer, I have two varying preferences. I either must have a well thought out character and tonal driven playlist or complete silence. There is really no in-between for my creative process.
As I have mentioned before, I began writing the first iteration of Roller Derby Vampire Girl in 2011 and have worked on it off and on for the last 10 years. A lot has changed about it, but one thing that has remained fairly constant is the playlist I write to.
For me, my playlist is a lot about mood. Since the beginning, I knew the tone and feel I wanted to book to have. A mix of dark, quirky comedy, and suspense. So I chose songs to help get me to that place or help me find that tone. I also typically pick a couple of songs that I feel captures a character. Sometimes it is how a character is feeling right in that moment, other times it is the essence of the character themselves.
I know what you are probably thinking, “That is really groundbreaking. They’re also called soundtracks.”
But the thing is, the vast majority of these songs aren’t right for a soundtrack. You see, a soundtrack is supposed to add to, complement visuals. For me, my writing playlist is more about getting into a character’s head. It is really a musical internal monologue.
My playlist started out in iTunes and later moved to Spotify. This resulted in my losing some weird covers I had ripped from youtube, but upon its recreation in Spotify, I think, much like the book itself, it found some refinement.
Most likely, I will never post my full playlist. Or the order of which, because somehow it feels incredibly personal and intimate, but also I think it sort of takes some of the fun out of you eventually reading the book. I don’t want to tell you what to think, or how to feel about the characters. The playlist is more about how I feel about them. But here are a few highlights and artists that I think are standouts on the playlist.
Quiet As a Mouse
Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s
This is only one of the songs from Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s that is on the playlist, but it is perhaps the one that helps me jump into the setting and mood of the book the most easily. I used to follow this band pretty seriously in my early twenties and they left a mark on me. I feel that the characters in Roller Derby Vampire Girl, while adults, still have a lot of growing up to do, but feel so much pressure and weight resting on their every decision. Somehow, this captures that for me. Maybe it’s the personal connection, but if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
This has been a recent addition to the playlist. Rx Fire, who emerged onto the Southern music scene in 2019 found a way to capture the nostalgia of my teens and twenties while still being fresh and smart. They are weird and wonderful. And their Worms captures that so perfectly.
For The First Time
This is the most recent addition to the playlist and I am sad it took me so long to discover the band. For the first time is this, “I’m going to be okay” anthem. And dang, couldn’t we all use that from time to time. Regina, in RDVG, struggles with being okay throughout the book. This was one of those songs that wasn’t about her, but I think she would have listened to in her car, just trying to pump herself up or find a place of hope.
I feel it is worth mentioning, that I first discovered Best Coast watching the movie, Scoob, with my wife and daughter. They cover the theme song. Immediately upon hearing it I had to know who the artist was.
Damn These Vampires
The Mountain Goats
This one might be the most obvious in name and sentiment. “...damn these vampires and what they’ve done to me.”
It felt like such a melancholy and honest way to just say the words. The further into the story you go, the vampires really mess up the lives of the characters in often irreparable ways. This song said that for them. Like an unspoken thought, they all shared.
Letter to My Sistars
I have loved Misha B. since her debut on the UK version of The Voice. The fact she didn’t win was criminal to me. (She is actually one of the artists that some of the songs I wanted were no longer available to me.) However, Letter to My Sistars felt like this great anthem for Regina to her team, to her friends, to her sisters. I will protect you at all costs, I have your back.
Pictures of Success
What does the world look like that you want? Is it even all it’s cracked up to be? “I’m a modern girl, but I fold in half so easily.”
As a man writing a female protagonist, it was important to me to have a lot of female voices on my playlist and female songwriters. I took so much from them to help build what I hope are realistic and vulnerable, yet strong female characters. This is one of the songs that sort helped me get in that headspace.
There are many more songs, and I could go into much more detail about each, but this feels like a good start and hopefully a fun look into my head when it comes to writing.
As a side note, I encourage you to check out all of these musicians.