Soundtracking a Novel

I’ve never really understood people who don’t listen to music regularly.

You know the type. They never wear headphones or earbuds, and think singing loudly in the car is something that only James Corden does with his famous friends on TV.

How do these people travel through life without a personal soundtrack?

Music is my life.

I’ve loved music since I was a baby. I grew up with an odd assortment of records, thanks to my parents (Hair soundtrack, Jesus Christ Superstar, Tom Jones, the Beatles?). I used much of my allowance, and then cash from part-time jobs to fund music shopping excursions. When iPods became a thing, it was like all my dreams had come true. I could carry ALL of my music in one small device! Life made. 

I’ve always found that music soothes, relaxes, energizes, and celebrates. It also inspires. Do you hear a song and come away with a little story or film in your head? I know, right? I do, too. Happens to me all the time.

From iPod to Page

So, when I decided to write London Belongs to Me, it was a no-brainer that music, which plays such a huge role in my life, would also play a big part in my characters’ lives and their story’s creation.

I found songs that screamed London, tunes that spoke of Alex’s dreams and desires, fun romps for Lucy and Freddie, odes to the kindness of Mark … even nods to all around awesome Manchester, home of Alex’s dad, step-mum, and motorbike riding granny, Joan. These songs helped me build a real world of characters, places, and events.

And am I the only one who can tell a lot about a person—or a book’s character—by the music they enjoy? Alex adores plenty of contemporary artists, but she’s also addicted to cheesy tunes from the ’60s and ’70s (picked up perhaps in Florida while listening to an oldies’ radio station in her mom’s car). Freddie, who has vinyl from the ‘Mad-chester’ scene scattered around his flat, has a mysterious connection to Manchester, but why? These records pre-date his teen years, and hail from a city that’s not his hometown. What’s the link? You’ll have to read London Belongs to Me and find out!

By the time I was completed with my edits and ready to set my novel free, I had created not just a coming-of-age story about friendship, belonging, and fandom, but also a monumental playlist. I now have the best souvenir of all that hard work. Now I can listen to the playlist, hang out with Alex, Lucy, Harry and Mark, and take an aural trip through the pages of London Belongs to Me at any time, any where.

Care for an Easter egg?

I also used music in the story of LBTM to give extra insight into particular scenes. I refer to these songs mentioned in the pages as ‘Easter eggs’ (borrowing that old term used for DVDs with hidden extras for fans to explore). If you listen, or read, the lyrics to the songs in the novel, you might gleam some extra motivation or feeling for the characters.

The biggest musical ‘Easter Egg’ is the book’s title, London Belongs to Me. It’s a song by Saint Etienne, one of my favorite London-based bands. LBTM is a sunny, summery song with soft feminine vocals that depict a lazy, dreamy afternoon in a north London park. I’m guessing that park is Primrose Hill because Camden Town, and a road called Parkway get name-checked. This tune roughly influenced one of the scenes in the book—can you spot which one? The song lyrics are gorgeous. They’re brimming with love and want, as well as the desire to let go of the past, while holding on for the future … all themes that are important in my London Belongs to Me.

London Belongs to Me by Saint Etienne. Perfection. <3

In a future post, I will offer an edited version of my playlist for LBTM. Trust me, the real deal goes on for THREE hours! I’ll spare you the entire beast!

For more behind-the-scenes fun, check out the behind-the-scenes tag where you’ll find posts about the theatres and pubs the characters visit in the novel, who inspired me to start the book, as well as why the ‘meet-cutes’ in LBTM are based on real life events that happened to me.