Aural Pleasures

The Soundtrack to CITYWIDE by Santino Hassell | Writer’s Playlist

CITYWIDE, the newest standalone addition to my Five Boroughs series, is a collection of three novellas about three very queer relationships. There is a M/M/M, a NB/F, and a M/F story where the heroine identifies as bisexual. The stories all take place during a massive New York City heatwave, so tempers and passions are running high between the characters as they find refuge in different parts of the city.

As I wrote, I was picturing the city but also thinking of the music that would be playing as each of the characters moved throughout the city. Here are some of the songs that would go on my Citywide soundtrack.

Princess Nokia, Excellent


Well baby, my day was good

I worked hard and knocked on wood

I skipped meals and got no sleep

But this was the life for me


This song is amazing for a variety of reasons, but it’s really Stephanie’s song—the heroine in my very first M/F novella. Excellent is about being proud of who you are, of working hard and finding success and not letting people bring you down while always remembering where you came from. It fits Stephanie perfectly. She practically raised herself but managed to put herself through college, is successful in her career, and has an awesome apartment. She has everything but a romantic happily ever after, which she finds in her story.

Lorde – Royals


My friends and I we’ve cracked the code

We count our dollars on the train to the party

And everyone who knows us knows that we’re fine with this

We didn’t come from money

Royals is Tonya’s song. Tonya is the hardass of the Citywide crew. She’s a Marine turned security agent, has a serious demeanor, and doesn’t let anyone slide if she feels they’re on her last nerve. Unfortunately, this happens a lot and she can be kind of a heartbreaker. She’s recently broke a gorgeous billionaire heiress’ heart. Tonya’s novella is about her getting over the fact that she’s falling for Manhattan’s version of royalty.


It can also be Chris’ song, since he’s also blue collar to the core and finds himself falling for not one but two rich guys.

Alessia Cara, Four Pink Walls


I grew up memorizing all the cracks in the wall
Staring up at the ceiling watching particles fall
See I prayed every day for a change to be made

Four Pink Walls is an ode to Jace and Aiden Fairbairn, the married couple who Chris falls for in the anthology’s first novella. They grew up in terrible circumstances and extreme poverty only to overcome it all and find themselves in a place they never expected—living in a beautiful condo, business owners, and never having to worry about money for the rest of their lives. There are times when their new lives seem like a dream, which is why they gravitate to Chris—one of the realest men they’ve ever met.

Princess Nokia, ABCs of NYC


Rollin’ through my zipcode

One double zero two nine

ABC’s of New York, and I’ll be doing fine


Princess Nokia’s entire album 1992 Deluxe is a love letter to not only New York City, but the parts of NYC that are often ignored by mainstream media. She talks about her culture, about going to the bodega and the park, about the diversity, interactions with police, growing up in a non-conventional home—it’s the NYC that my characters in Citywide live and breathe. This song doesn’t go with any specific story in the anthology, but I picture each character jamming to it.

city wideABOUT THE BOOK: 

In CITYWIDE, a record-breaking heat wave engulfs the Five Boroughs, and emotions run as hot as the temperatures.

In Rerouted, Chris Mendez is trying to live a drama-free life. That doesn’t include another threesome with Jace and Aiden Fairbairn. But then a citywide blackout leaves them trapped together, and Chris is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about relationships and his own heart.

In Gridlocked, former Marine Tonya Maldonado is keeping real estate heiress Meredith Stone on permanent ignore. Mere isn’t Tonya’s type. Not even close. Who cares if she kisses like a dream and has the filthiest mouth this side of the East River? But then a security detail at a summer party ends with her saving Mere’s life and discovering they have more chemistry than she’d ever imagined.

In Derailed, Stephanie Quinones escapes the heat and her complicated love life by going on a company retreat. Trouble is, it’s a couples’ retreat, and she lied about having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person willing to play pretend is her on-again/off-again fling, Angel León. They’re currently “off again,” but after a week in the woods, Stephanie realizes she wouldn’t mind them being permanently on.


Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family but grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into a grumpy introvert and unlikely romance author with an affinity for baseball caps. His novels are heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, and his desire to write relationships fueled by intensity and passion.

He’s been a finalist in both the Bisexual Book Awards and the EPIC Awards, and was nominated for a prestigious RITA award in 2017. His work has been featured in BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Washington Post, RT Magazine, and Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Connect with Santino: Website | Twitter | Instagram | FB Group | FB | GoodReads | Tumblr

Comments are closed.