I always knew Entangled was a book about music.
When I got my first glimpse of the character at the center of the story, I had three absolute facts: She was angry. She lived on an inhospitable planet. And she was a guitarist.
Punk rock in space! The idea was love as first mash-up.
Some of my favorite stories combine elements that don’t seem like they belong together, but it turns out they’re a beautiful fit. It’s sort of like the story equivalent of two people you would never dream of matching being TOTALLY HOT together.
For me, punk rock in space made perfect sense. Punk is rebellion in musical form. And my main character has plenty to feel rebellious about. There’s her universe—an unwelcoming place where humans are treated like space trash. There’s her life, which is a lonely stab at survival. And then there’s the inside of her head, which isn’t much better—it’s filled with a very strange and disruptive Noise, which only fades when she plays her guitar hardfastloud.
There’s also the fact that my book is about connection—and while punk is a form of rebellion, all music is a form of connection. Whether it’s a personal one that happens between the listener and the song, a social one that happens between people who love and understand the same music, or an even bigger one—the way the brains of our entire species are wired to love and appreciate a certain kind of sound. (This has been proven! By science!)
So I was totally thrilled to have come up with this story that brings all of these things together.
The hard part? I had to actually write. About music.
Here were two major challenges: I don’t play the guitar. At book events, when people asked me if I did, I had to reveal the nerdy truth. I played the violin. And I was in the choir in high school. I was even the vocal percussionist in the a cappella choir. Oh man. So now that I’ve admitted that to the Internets…
Fortunately, I had help when it came to the guitar. My awesome little sister plays guitar and bass. Cori McCarthy, my best writerly friend and next door neighbor, also plays the guitar, so we did the only normal thing. We formed a fake band.
The second challenge was finding the words to write about music. It’s such a full-body experience. It’s physical, it’s sensory, it’s brain-filtered, but most importantly, it’s emotional. I didn’t want to simply describe Cade’s songs—I wanted to get as close to making the reader feel them as possible. It was essential, really. Music fuels character and plot in Entangled and even more so in its sequel, Unmade. Music isn’t just a trapping to make the story seem cool. Music is the story.
So…what music did I write Entangled to?
Silence wasn’t going to cut it while I was writing this book. I had never been much of a write-to-music person before, but it would have been artistically irresponsible (or just plain weird) to write about Cade without some being piped directly into my brain. I played around with listening to classic punk, and while that did rev me up, it was better pre-writing music. (Read: jump around and air-punch music.) The majority of Entangled was written and revised to the Metric album Fantasies. I got hooked on its hypnotic, guitar-driven awesomeness and its bleak lyrics with occasional bursts of hope. It fit the story perfectly. I think I should write Emily Haines a love letter. I couldn’t have written Entangled without her.
Now, the sequel, Unmade (which comes out on January 13?!?) That was written almost entirely to the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack. Which should give you a sense of how epic things got.
Want an EXCLUSIVE clip of the music writing in Entangled? Just watch!