I am thrilled and honoured that I am taking part in the Book of Blood and Shadow blog tour as this book is a very smart yet utterly gripping read (if you haven't read my review,click here)!
Today, the author of this book, Robin Wasserman, takes over the blog and chats about the playlist she listened to while writing this book! All the songs are at the bottom of the post so you can have a listen! Now, am handing it over to Robin...
I wish I was the kind of person who wrote well to music – not least because I usually write in coffee shops with annoyingly loud songs playing in the background, and it would be convenient if I were the kind of person to be inspired by this rather than annoyed. Unfortunately, music I like tends to drown out the words in my head, while music I hate just drives me nuts unless I can drown it out by a sheer act of will (or my well-padded noise-cancelling headphones).
But that’s not to say music plays no role in my writing life. Some books, like The Book of Blood and Shadow, have such a distinctive atmosphere and feel to them—an atmosphere and feel completely removed from the cheerfully petty concerns of daily life—that listening to the right songs before I start to write can be the perfect way to ease me from the real world into the world of my mind.
Here are some of the songs that I could count on to make me forget my grocery list and my unmade bed—songs that could, each morning before I sat down to the computer, transport me to the world of The Book of Blood and Shadow.
Gravity/Falling Down Again - Alejandro Escovedo
It was the melody paired with the singer’s gravelly voice that first drew me to this song, but it was the lyrics that held me (for reasons that, if you’ve read the book, will seem obvious): “The wheel is spinning / going round and round / No angels hanging from the ceiling can save you / No no St Jude can’t pull you out” and “No use in running from the / shadows of strangers / the odds are they let you down / No words written in the songs can save you / the silence drowns you there’s no way out.” There was something in there that felt familiar to me: The desperation and loss of faith in those lines, paired with what becomes a strangely upbeat melody and the haunting laughter of children. And that title, “Falling Down Again,” which implies that though the fall might be inevitable, so is the rise that follows it. And that’s the story of Nora, the protagonist of The Book of Blood and Shadow: She comes to understand that she will fall, and fall again, but somehow, she will stand.
Breathe Me - Sia
This song was crucial for writing Part II of the book. (You can tell this just from reading the section’s opening lines.) I must have listened to it a hundred times. In many ways, this is a book about grief, and finding a way to go forward in the face of loss—and I’ve never heard a song that so perfectly captured that sense of numb, frozen confusion that follows the death of someone you love. The lyrics are simple, but somehow, right: “I am small, I’m needy / warm me up and breathe me.” What’s interesting is that Sia has actually written a song that’s explicitly about grief (“Healing is Difficult” written after her boyfriend’s death), but that one leaves me cold.
Let Go - Frou Frou
For me, this song has always been about finding the comfort and security you (or at least an uptight control freak like me, as well as my protagonist) need to find in order to completely let yourself go. This is what Nora finds with Max, and longs for so desperately when he disappears. The song is equal parts joy and melancholy and that constantly repeated line, “There’s beauty in the breakdown” is the thing that most terrifies Nora, as well as her renaissance counterpart, Elizabeth. Both girls fear the darkness and power inherent in letting yourself go, in wild emotion, in love, in hate, in desire, in faith…but both girls eventually see the tempting beauty in it as well, and that’s the scariest part of all.
Symphony #25 in G Minor, K 183 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (from the Amadeus soundtrack)
Though most of The Book of Blood and Shadow is set in the present, there is a Renaissance narrative threaded through the book, and the prospect of writing this terrified me, as I’d never written historical fiction before. (I’d barely read historical fiction, since as a general rule, I hate it. In fact, don’t tell anyone, but when I come across novels with “historical letters” in them, I usually just skip those parts and hope I haven’t missed anything.) So on the days I was writing about the Renaissance, I needed something to take me back in time, something that would shake me out of my contemporary mindset, and while Mozart is both geographically and chronologically way off base, I happen to own and love the Amadeus soundtrack, so Mozart it was.
Galileo - the Indigo Girls
Speaking of the Renaissance, while this song doesn’t in any way capture the feel of the book itself, I listened to it a lot anyway, claiming it as a good luck charm. The Book of Blood and Shadow came partly from my desire to write an adventure/mystery novel that incorporated the history of science (since I have two degrees in that and not much to show for it but a lot of books about dead astronomers on my bookshelf). Listening to this song was reassuring at the moments I was sure there was no way I could pull it off. (And there were many.) The Indigo Girls managed to turn Galileo into a hit song—surely, I told myself, I could write Kepler into a book.
Die, Vampire, Die - [title of show] soundtrack
When Galileo didn’t manage to stop me from having a nervous breakdown, I turned to this song — as every writer or artist of any kind should turn to this song when in the throes of creative anxiety. A vampire, in this case, is “any person or thought or feeling that stands between you and your creative expression,” and this song offers instructions for how to bash their heads in, stake them through the heart, and bury them in the ground where they belong. Pro-tip: In truly dire times of self-doubt, I suggest locking the door, turning the volume up to eleven, climbing on top of whatever piece of furniture is most available and least precarious, and belting this out at the top of your lungs. Trust me, it works.