I have as much musical talent as a broken guitar string. One that is lying in a dusty and forgotten patch of mould at the back of an old stage in a derelict village hall where the band hasn’t practised since the 1950’s. And they weren’t even any good.
I’m not being modest. I know this for a fact, because at the tender age of about 8, my primary school Head Teacher made sure I knew it. She also made sure the whole school knew it. She used phrases like:
‘Never sing in public.’
‘You can come to the church with the rest of the school to sing at the special occasion, but you must only mouth the words. Don’t make any sound.‘
‘Perhaps if you practice your recorder more, you will be better at singing.’
Bitter? Scarred for life? You bet. (To be honest, this is not the only trauma said Head Teacher inflicted, but it’s the one that has lingered on into adulthood, impacted some of the jobs I have done, and is the sad reason why my own children have never had their mother sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to them. The other incident involved a KitKat.)
I have decided, since, that I have some dyslexia-equivalent for music. I’m sure there’s a name for it other than ‘Tone-deaf’, ‘Shut up’, or ‘Never sing.’ I freely admit that I can’t really hear music all that well and have no idea if someone is in tune or flat, or whatever. I couldn’t identify a note if it introduced itself and came to me in neon, labelled, flashing lights.
So when my publisher took a notion that her 2022 debutauthors each rustle up a playlist to to accompany their books I wasn’t feeling confident. I rarely listen to music when I work, and I am lacking confidence in admitting to what I like or what I might try to link as ‘suitable music to listen to when reading/writing/whatevering’. Nonetheless, I realised that Dear Isobel does, in fact, have a very definite soundtrack. Some of the songs on it are songs I listened to at certain times in my own life; some aren’t. But, once I began to compile the list, it unveiled itself quite easily. In the book, the main character doesn’t talk much about music. In fact, if I remember correctly, I think the only reference is that she does at one point talk about the ’80s soundtrack that buoys her through her days. I will accept that I, too, am an ’80s girl and my preference is for music with lyrics that sing to me far more than the musical notes manage too. I’m surprised that more ’80s songs don’t feature here – proof again, perhaps, that books go the way they choose and an author sometimes has little control over the way things unfold.
The playlist for Dear Isobel is in strict chronological order. Some of the songs relate to particular characters or particular events. I can’t give away the plot, but I’m sharing the playlist as a teaser of what is to come. There are songs of hope and songs of despair, but together, they plot a journey. Because of my own shortage of musical passion and awareness, it includes some of my favourites from a political band that I have followed through teenage angst and on into the here and now. It includes a few that I listened to through a tough time of my own, and a few that firends have shared over the years that have marked important events for them. I suspect that this list will include a few ‘Who the heck are they?‘ responses; a few ‘That’s depressing.‘ reactions, and a large chunk of ‘Is that really what this author listens to?’ thoughts. (The answer to the last is, yes and no. But that’s irrelevant.) What matters is that this is the soundtrack for the story that unfolds inDear Isobel.
Now, I have to come up with a playlist for my cosy mysteries, and that, dear readers, is far harder, because, Jess O’Malley is too much like me. She doesn’t really listen to music, except when she’s in the car. She loves a good audio book so she can keep up with her never-ending love of mystery stories. I don’t listen to music when I write her, and she is not giving me any clues about what would be on her playlist. The theme song to Scooby Doo, perhaps? Ideas welcome.
If you’re feeling brave, curious, dismal, energised, or falling in or out of love with someone, why not pick a song from Dear Isobel and give it a play. Better again, listen in order and see what you can piece together about the story it’s telling.