Jeanette Grey has stopped by during her release week to answer a few questions about the music that helped inspire her New Adult book, When the Stars Align!
How do you make your playlists for your books?
I’m the writer equivalent of a method actor. It takes a lot of thought and preparation to get into the heads of my characters, and music is a big part of that prep work. Typically, before I write a single word, I’ll make up a playlist for each of my point of view characters designed to help evoke what that character is thinking and feeling at the beginning of the story. For example, in my latest book, When The Stars Align, the hero, Adam, is feeling lonely and a little bit adrift in the wake of a breakup, so I listened to songs that encapsulated that feeling for me, like Bruised by The Bens and a lot of stuff by Death Cab for Cutie.
On the other hand, the heroine, Jo, was striving to make it on her own without asking for help from anyone, so her playlist included a lot songs about independence, mixed with just a little bit of anger, like Shake It Out by Florence and the Machine and Try by Pink.
Do you use the entire playlist for the whole book or specific parts for certain sections or types of scenes?
It’s probably embarrassing how many different playlists I can go through over the course of writing a single book! Part of what I love about the whole process is watching characters grow and change over the course of a story, and the music I listen to tends to do the same. In When The Stars Align, I went from listening to the kind of stuff I listed above to these sweet love songs about discovery and potential. If it were possible to wear out an mp3, I would’ve managed it with how many times I listened to Photograph and Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran while drafting the last half of that manuscript.
How does the music impact your writing process?
Music is just so instrumental to how I work. Putting on my headphones is my signal to myself that it’s time to get to work. It helps keep me focused, and I also think it does wonders for keeping my characters’ voices both consistent and distinct.
Do certain songs or artists continually come up in your book playlists?
Every book and every character has its own unique set of songs, but there are certain ones that I do get a lot of use out of. Beck’s Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime is one of my go-to’s for writing really heartbroken scenes, Damian Rice’s Cannonball shows up regularly during that first blush of intimacy, and Arctic Monkeys’ Do I Wanna Know? is one I turn to a lot while I’m writing particularly down and dirty love scenes.
Does the music on your playlists also get put into your casual listening?
It’s actually sort of the other way around. While some writers have trouble focusing if there are any lyrics at all, my only issue is that I have to know the lyrics fairly well if I’m going to be able to concentrate while they’re playing. So everything I listen to for my books has to start in my casual listening – it’s gotten to the point where I will put music I think I’d like to include in a character’s playlist into my general rotation just so I’ll know it well enough to be able to write over it.
What’s one piece of writing advice you would like to share?
Don’t compare yourself to anybody else. There will always be someone out there writing better or writing faster or selling more. But what you have to offer the world is precious and unique, and your process is precious and unique, too. Bring all you are and all you have to your craft. No matter what anybody else is doing, it’ll be enough.
Florence and the Machine: “Shake It Out”
The Bens: “Bruised“
Melissa Ferrick: “I Am Not”
Fun.: “Out On The Town“
Tracy Bonham: “Mother Mother”
The Dixie Chicks: “Not Ready To Make Nice“
Death Cab for Cutie: “The Sound Of Settling”
Imagine Dragons: “It’s Time”
Damien Rice: “Cannonball”
Ani DiFranco: “Shy”
Arctic Monkeys: “Do I Wanna Know”
Ed Sheeran: “Thinking Out Loud”
Deb Talan: “Forgiven”
Michelle Branch: “Goodbye To You”
Beck: “Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime”
The Gabe Dixon Band: “All Will Be Well”
Ed Sheeran: “Photograph”