Josh Groban’s “Brave” is a gorgeous song and quite different from a lot of the rockers on my novel playlist.Every time I write a novel, I feel a compelling need to come up with a soundtrack for it. OK, officially, it’s a playlist of songs that inspire me and, in my mind, illustrate emotions and plot turns with addictive tunes. These are songs I bought so I could listen to them over and over as I write and revise. Right now, if I could wear a groove in my iPod, there would be one where the “Zap Bang” playlist is.
I wrote about my playlist for the last novel, “Tornado Pinball,” in a blog post: “A book soundtrack? Playful playlist enhances novel writing and reading.” Other writers get into scoring their books, too. Deborah Harkness, now at the top of the New York Times bestseller list with “The Book of Life,” shared a playlist on the eve of her release, going so far as to hold back the last few songs so they wouldn’t give away the ending. (As I’m looking forward to reading her book, I’m avoiding looking too closely at her song selection until I’ve done so.)
“Zap Bang” will be published in about a month, before the official end of summer. It will conclude the Storm Seekers trilogy with a new adventure starring storm chaser and scientist Jack Andreas and pilot Maribeth Lisbon, whom readers may recall from her appearance in “Tornado Pinball.” They are called to join a lightning study – Jack on the ground, where his expertise chasing tornadoes comes in handy, and Maribeth in the air, flying an A-10 Warthog converted for civilian lightning research. The National Science Foundation is currently converting an A-10 for similar purposes, though it will be focused on tornadoes and hurricanes, not lightning.
Fortunately, the realm of rock and roll is full of great songs that use lightning and thunder as a metaphor. I’ll selectively mention some that appear in the playlist, starting with Pearl Jam’s “Lightning Bolt.” It’s an absolutely fantastic rocker, and it’s how I see Maribeth – she really is a lightning bolt who’s about to shake up Jack’s life. Opposite in tone is Craig Carnelia’s beautiful song “Flight,” performed by Sutton Foster and Megan McGinnis. It speaks to what I think the younger Maribeth must have felt when she first learned to fly, before the hardships she faced later in life; that kind of yearning may be a feeling she needs to rediscover.
Speaking of rockers, how can you resist The Strypes’ “Perfect Storm”? Hunter Hayes’ “Storm Warning” gives the playlist a needed country inflection; after all, Tornado Alley is country music central. And “I Don’t Want To (Love You)” by TAT is a frenetic, humorous expression of a feeling many of us can identify with.The list dips into classic jazz with Johnny Hartman’s “Stairway to the Stars,” which is mentioned in the text. Saxy tune. Pun intended.
Josh Groban’s “Brave” is a transcendent song (complete with a thunder reference) that I see as being about emotional bravery, whereas “No Fear” by The Rasmus has a great chorus that intones “destination darkness” – a place our characters must face. Now, don’t read those lyrics too closely, because if you do, you’ll probably conclude it’s about becoming a vampire. I swear, there are no vampires in my storm-chasing novels. But I dig the dark, urgent tone of the song. And Foo Fighters’ “Learn To Fly” puts me in Jack’s head at a certain point in the story. No spoilers …
I conclude the playlist with a couple of evocative Ryan Farish instrumentals, including the aptly named “Beautiful.” If the Storm Seekers novels, which I consider quite cinematic, were ever made into films, I’d love to see one of his transporting pieces on the soundtrack. Cue the closing credits . . .
And stay tuned. “Zap Bang” is coming very, very soon!