It was a lightbulb moment when a song popped into her head.
“Wouldn’t this be a great song for a music soundtrack when the novel, Boy Swallows Universe is made into a movie?” thought the AHL wanna-be music guru.
Then, an idea followed – movies have soundtracks, why not books?
The seed was sown, and the Book Playlist was born.
Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe was the first music playlist to be created. The AHL wanna-be music guru said being set in a gritty Australian suburb in the 80’s, meant putting together the playlist was “a cinch”. But are they all easy to collate?
To find out how she does it, we fired some questions to understand what goes into making a book playlist.
How do you make the selections for your playlists?
There are a few ways I select songs. I look at the era the book is set in, I think about the characters, the dialogue and what might work for a particular scene. In the case of Boy Swallows Universe, it meant looking at what the main protagonist, Eli might listen to on the radio at the time, what the characters might be feeling and sometimes it’s a reflection of what is happening in the book – an example of that is Jailbreak by AC/DC. And really, it’s a feel of what I think would play and flow well. It doesn’t have to be only from the era of the book, some new release songs suit perfectly.
If the book specifically mentions a song, that gets automatic inclusion.
Other books, such as Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey required more research. The main character Maude is elderly and suffering dementia. She has flashbacks to the 1940’s so I included songs she would have heard back in that era including the Glenn Miller Band and Vera Lynn. I mix these with more modern tunes that reflect the mood such as the piano version of Faded by Alan Walker and YoYo Ma’s Second Time Around. And I included Ezio Pinza as he was mentioned in the book and fits beautifully into the flow of the playlist.
Having said all that, there’s no right or wrong song, it’s an individual interpretation of a book.
Do you like all the songs in your playlists?
I don’t love every single song, but I don’t have to like them – they just have to be playlist-worthy and relevant to earn their place.
Are some books more difficult to define in song than others?
I find the books that I absolutely adore and know inside out, the easiest to put together. Sometimes as I am reading, the songs just come to me and I jot them down or start the playlist then. Leigh Sales’ book, Any Ordinary Day was a challenge because these are non-fiction stories, often heartbreaking and painful. I tried to make the playlist reflect that melancholy without being morose.
How do you know so many songs?
I have loved music all my life and I used to play a game where I’d listen to a song and guess whether it would make the top 10 music charts. I had a pretty good track record. I listen and enjoy everything from classical to hip hop. I love live music and have seen everyone from David Bowie, Nick Cave, Ryuichi Sakamoto, The Three Tenors, REM, Midnight Oil, Michael Jackson, Guns ‘n Roses, Ed Sheeran through to a gazillion local pub bands. Hilltop Hoods Great Expanse concert was up there as one of my recent favourites.
I can’t quite come at thrash metal though.
What other playlists have you collated?
I’ve put together playlists for 21sts and 40ths, dinner parties, school trivia nights, funerals, children’s birthday parties, fundraising events – weddings, parties, anything !
Do you have a favourite song?
That’s like asking me to name my favourite book – impossible
LINKS TO SPOTIFY BOOK PLAYLISTS
THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman
BOY SWALLOWS UNIVERSE by Trent Dalton
ELIZABETH IS MISSING by Emma Healey
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens
BECOMING by Michelle Obama
BRIDGE OF CLAY by Markus Zusak
ALLEGRA IN THREE PARTS by Suzanne Daniel
UMBRELLA ACADEMY by Gerard Way
THE PLACE ON DALHOUSIE by Melina Marchetta
ANY ORDINARY DAY by Leigh Sales
A LIFETIME OF IMPOSSIBLE DAYS by Tabitha Bird