Whenever I’m working up a new book, whether it’s during the concept phase or during outlining, I start making a playlist to go with it. Eventually I start calling it a “soundtrack,” but it’s really only a playlist. I can only imagine how much I’d have to pay in licensing fees to make an honest-to-goodness soundtrack for every book I’ve written or published. But whatever the case, Walk Away is no exception.
The soundtracks never come together in exact order. They start with a seed song or two that capture a specific character or moment. Walk Away started with the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” because I knew the book would climax with a slam-bang action sequence, and when I thought of it “Sabotage” leapt right into my head. Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” followed quickly thereafter, signifying a critical moment toward the end of the book following the action, but you’ll notice it isn’t here. About midway through the editing process on the book, I realized Willie Nelson’s “The Maker” better fit the characters in the scene and the message I wanted to convey. So Dylan was out and Willie was in. I consider that a good trade.
It’s rare that I call out a song in the text itself, but occasionally I want so much for a reader to hear what I hear that I’ll name-check the artist or the title so the scene unspools as I imagine it. Such was the case with the Kid Rock’s “Bawitdaba,” which is something of a douchebag anthem, but irresistibly catchy. It seemed like the perfect song to accompany Camaro beating the holy living s— out of someone, and so you’ll find direct reference to it in the book. Sorry for being so pushy.
Many of the songs you’ll find on this playlist become totally obvious in the context of reading the book. They are indicative of a place — like “Going to California,” or “All the Small Things” — or they attach directly to a character. I don’t think anyone can read Walk Away and not realize how George Thorogood’s “Who Do You Love” connects to the book’s primary antagonist, Lukas Collier. Similarly, when the playlist opens with Larkin Poe and “Trouble in Mind,” you know that’s Camaro to the bone.
I chose some songs because they spoke the same language as Walk Away. Pearl Jam’s “Better Man” is a sorrowful tale of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship, and Walk Away addresses this issue head-on. The victimized woman in “Better Man” has a far less salvific fate than Camaro’s sister, Annabel, but we can hope. And when you hear Tracy Chapman lament in “At This Point in My Life,” you know you’re hearing the interior voice of Camaro more clearly than she would ever allow. It is in these and many ways that I prime myself to tell the story I want to tell, the way I want to tell it. If there’s an emotion to strike, sometimes there’s need of a boost to get there.
Of all the songs on the playlist, though, I think the one that communicates a sense of hope better than anything is the closing track from Everclear, “Santa Monica.” In Walk Away, Camaro goes through a serious grinder, not only physically, but emotionally. “Santa Monica” talks about coming into your own in a way you haven’t before, and I like to think the final moments of Walk Away convey that to the reader.
Enjoy listening once you’ve read. Tell me what you think.