In the back of my debut novel, Birds in the Black Water, I provide a list of songs that meant a lot to me while working on the story and matched the mood of the story or the inner state of my main character, Neviah. I promised an explanation of the songs that made the cut and (though it’s long overdue) here it is:
Birds in the Black Water available as paperback, ebook, or Kindle Unlimited here.
Playlist Track Listing
Body in a Box (City and Colour)
This song was at the top of my list because it fit so well both lyrically and musically with the elegiac tone of Birds in the Black Water. I’ve been a fan of City and Colour since high school, being the good little Canadian girl that I am, but this song in particular is a favourite (and easy to sing along to, something I enjoy doing so long as it’s not in front of anyone).
Before I Sleep (Joy Williams)
From nearly day one of writing Birds in the Black Water, I’ve considered much of Joy William’s ‘Venus’ album to be the soundtrack to my main character’s life. In this song, the visuals of ravens and the frozen wilderness the lyrics begin with are a perfect match to the aesthetic of the book. The remainder of the lyrics, however, perfectly parallel the protagonist’s declining energy as she pushes through burnout, willing to rest only once she feels she’s done enough to heal those around her.
Truth (Alexander Ebert)
If you’ve read the books and the lyrics to this song, I think this one will speak for itself. A song that was on repeat for me even before the idea for this book formed and one that I relate to on a personal level.
Stars (Grace Potter and the Nocturnals)
In the introduction to the book, I mention that this book was created in large part as a way of dealing with the grief that came after a close friend of mine took his life. This was a song I played on loop, walking through town at night and contemplating where he is now, hoping that maybe he was still with me somehow.
Oh That I Had (Mt Eden)
The aforementioned friend liked electronic music and I found this song particularly applicable to what I was working through as I wrote the book. Again, no shortage of avian imagery and descriptions of the cold to fit the book aesthetic. “Oh That I Had” is repeated throughout the song and was a thought I had often when confronting the loss… that I had said something different, that I had done more, that I had noticed sooner. Birds in the Black Water, in fact, was almost titled Oh, That I Had.
One Day I Will (Joy Williams)
If the Venus album is the book’s soundtrack, this song is the protagonist, Neviah’s, anthem. This song got the most plays while I was writing. Lyrically, the song portrays someone in dark times who feels isolated and is holding out that one day she’ll look back on her relationships and trust that she did right by her loved ones, even though it ended poorly and a lot of hurt remains.
Darkness Visible (Mumford and Sons)
Probably the second most played song on the list. This song is a huge part of my decision to portray mental illness and distress as something external. The lyrics are based around a book of the same name by William Styron outlining his battle with depression.
Picture You (Mumford and Sons)
A hopeful ending to the playlist, a song that lifted me up when the subject matter of the book became too heavy. It made me think of my husband and his ongoing support, not only as I wrote this book, but as I battled with my own darkness.
Tracks That Didn’t Make the Cut
These songs didn’t make the cut, mostly because they were either songs that made me go ‘wow, that’s like the book’ but ultimately weren’t revisited much while writing (e.g. Fix You), or they were played a lot but didn’t fit the tone of the book enough for it to land on an accompanying playlist (e.g. Here With Me).
Fun Fact: The band Dark Water in the book was loosely based on Pearl Jam, and the story about Neviah and her husband attending the same concert alone prior to meeting is based on true events.
Way Down We Go (Kaleo)
Beautiful Trauma (Pink)
Here With Me (Marhmello, CHVRCHES)
Fix You (Coldplay)
Sirens (Pearl Jam)
Daughter (Pearl Jam)
Hate Me (Blue October)
Fear (Blue October)
Landslide (Dixie Chicks)