J and I just heard today that All Unquiet Things is going to copy edits early next week! I’m pretty stoked about this, because it means I can breathe a nice long sigh of relief and maybe remind my friends that I exist again. Although, hey hey hey, let’s not get too wild–there’s still another book on the table, Murder Burger, which my editor wants to look at once AUT is safely in the hands of someone that’s going to rip my not-quite-idiosyncratic-but-not-quite-correct-at-times grammar to shreds.

But this post is not about revisions. It’s about music! Or, really, it’s about the synergy of music and narrative as they relate to my own writing process.

Two nights ago I went to Union Square to have Chipotle with two of my friends. On my way to the 1 train after dinner I was listening to some Hanson, as you do, and the song “Lay Me Down” came up (clicking that link will take you to a Tumblr where you can listen to it full length for free). Now, “Lay Me Down” is quite a heartbreaking little ballad (maybe that’s not the correct terminology; “slow song” just sounded so eight grade dance of me to say). It was inspired by the trip the brothers Hanson took to AIDS-ravaged Africa; as fathers, they were horrified at the tiny little graves they were seeing, and wrote this song. It’s really sad and gorgeous and it makes me want to cry just thinking about it. Moving on!

Every time I hear “Lay Me Down”–not being a parent myself, so not associating the child in the song with any particular child in my life–I think of AUT. Namely, I think of a scene that isn’t dramatized in the manuscript; it lives only in my mind, and probably always will. AUT is about two teens who team up to solve a friend’s murder, so it’s not a spoiler to say that that girl’s name is Carly, the girl who dies. Her funeral is mentioned in passing, but the scene, which I know would only slow the narrative down because it does nothing to drive plot or character for it, is not actually played out for the reader.

It does exist, however, in my head. That’s what I think of whenever I hear “Lay Me Down”. I think of the Mass that would be said for Carly, the procession to the grave, the lowering of her coffin into the ground (man, is this a downer of a post or WHAT?). And even though the story is told from the alternating perspectives of her two friends, and most of the music I listen to helps me get into their heads (or Carly’s), this song is all about Carly’s dad. The poor guy. And even though Carly’s father appears only a few time in the manuscript, and he’s not exactly beloved by anyone, he’s beloved by me, because while I can’t empathize with him, I can sympathize with him, as he acts as pallbearer for his own child.

On that walk home from Union Square, I started to think about how maybe that song is the lynchpin of the whole book. Not in a literal way, because of course Paul (Carly’s father) is not the main character or anywhere near it, and the narrative absolutely doesn’t revolve around him, but I guess it could be said that one of the questions driving the book forward is “What do we do with grief?” And when Isaac Hanson sings, “I’ll never walk away from you,” it’s the saddest thing, because, like, you have to. You can’t stand over a grave for the rest of your life, you have to move forward and find a way to go on.

Right? I mean, I don’t know, I guess that’s what the book’s about–asking these questions and puzzling out the answers and maybe not getting a completely satisfactory answer but hopefully figuring out what’s right for you in your own circumstance. It seems like every day I’m figuring out more and more what the book is actually about, and all it took was a song to knock this particular nugget loose. And probably a few screws, too.

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