Music is essential to our lives. We use it to change our moods, propel us forward when we need an extra boost of energy, to motivate us, to woo a sweetheart and set the mood, to soothe a broken heart, to comfort when lost, and to give a healing balm during the most challenges times in our lives. We make friends over songs. When I was growing up, my friends and I used to make mixed tapes and stay up all night watching music videos, we made song requests to radio stations at midnight, and later, in high school, my brother and I begged our parents not to throw out the CDs that came with explicit lyric warning stickers. I see my characters the same way–they have worlds of music, too. I create playlists for the characters in my novels. How does music change their moods? What is the role of music in their lives? Are they musicians? Do they sing in the car? Can they “carry a tune,” as my grandparents called it?
I’m like a kid during this stage of crafting a story. I learn new songs, cry through old ones experienced anew, discover a fresh meaning for a tune I’ve never liked in relation to my own life, and notice how music affects the choices we make whether we admit it or not.
Music and food play a central role in the Ballard family, the focus of Poke Sallet Queen and the Family Medicine Wheel, my latest novel. From songs shared during family get-togethers and hootenannies, to town festivals, talent shows, and bands forming during college, music connects people and is one of the guides on the journey of life. We follow our favorite bands and become connected with people over our shared tastes in music. We discover new rhythms and create our own melodies.
I’ve added part of my playlist (some with YouTube links) for the characters of Poke Sallet Queen & the Family Medicine Wheel:
1. Wildwood Flower by Mother Maybelle Carter and the Carter Sisters
2. Rattle My Bones by The Secret Sisters
3. Pretty Thing by Bo Diddley
4. Fever by Tom Waits
5. Tennessee Waltz by Patsy Cline
6. That’s Alright Mama by Elvis Presley
7. Dirty Lie by Bob Dylan
8. Laundry Room by The Avett Brothers
9. Wabash Cannonball by Roy Acuff & the Smoky Mountain Boys
10. Polk Salad Annie by Elvis Presley
11. Wang Dang Doodle by Koko Taylor
12. Karma Chameleon by Culture Club
13. Fortune Teller by Robert Plant & Allison Krauss
14. Live and Die by The Avett Brothers
15. Hurt by Johnny Cash
16. Wildwood Flower by Loretta Lynn
17. Tennessee Me by The Secret Sisters
Join us at Parnassus Books on May 9, at 2 p.m., for the Book Launch of Poke Sallet Queen and the Family Medicine Wheel