I always listen to music when I write, but the type depends on my mood and on the scene I’m writing. Because I’m also a musician (guitar and piano, plus a few other instruments) I tend to take the act of listening to music very seriously and can get involved in the layers of notes—so, when I’m writing, I need to pick songs that I’ve already thoroughly explored to avoid getting distracted by the complexities of something new. Here are some of the tracks that I listened to while writing and editing my latest book, What You Want to See.
Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton “Detective Daughter” : The protagonist of my mystery series, Roxane Weary, shares my taste in music and has (so far) listened to music by two artists in the series: Emily Haines (Metric) is one.
Elliott Smith “Twilight”: Elliott Smith is the other. If you’re familiar with his music and his story, you might get choked up just thinking about him; I do. This song, recorded near the end of his life, is both beautiful and chilling.
Ludovico Einaudi “Night” : I often listen to classical or instrumental music while writing, and Einaudi’s entire 2015 album ELEMENTS is modern perfection.
Agnes Obel “Chord Left”: I discovered Agnes Obel’s music while watching the HBO adaptation of Big Little Lies—I heard a lushly gorgeous piano piece near the end of the first episode and immediately had to google it. That piece was “September Song,” off her album Aventine, where I also discovered this gem
Elena Katz-Chernin “Conversation” : Fun fact, before I started writing seriously, I wanted to be a composer. I went so far as to meet with a professor of music composition at an Indiana university I was considering attending. He advised that most of the music composition students in his program were men, which seemed to imply that modern women couldn’t be serious composers. While I decided not to study music for other reasons besides that jerk’s shameless sexism, I dare him to listen to Katz-Chernin’s piano compositions before he ever says that to a prospective student again.
Fiona Apple “Every Single Night”: At least one Fiona Apple song can be found on every playlist I’ve ever made. Her complicated, unconventional songs are the perfect backdrop for writing about Roxane Weary.
Ani DiFranco “Virtue”: If there’s one song that represents Roxane’s character, it is this one. “The one person who really knows me best/ says I’m like a cat … the kind who doesn’t mind being held, but only when it’s her idea / the kind who feels what she decided to feel when she’s good and ready to feel it”
Neko Case, “Night Still Comes”: I picture this song playing in the background of the final scene in What You Want to See—it’s bittersweet, resolved-but-not-quite, yet still satisfying.
What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka is published by Faber & Faber in May (£7.99)