Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Guest Post: Sarah Rees Brennan (Soundtrack to Unspoken)

Half way through the working week... I don't know about you guys but I'm seriously ready for the weekend already! Anyway, to get you all through this rather dreary day I've got a lovely guest post from Sarah Rees Brennan about her latest release, Unspoken.

I've been sent a great feature about the playlist for the book, so do have a read below. What an awesome playlist, don't you think? Relient K, Taylor Swift and Switchfoot in one place? Yes please. And now I'll hand you over to the fab Sarah Rees Brennan:

Well, when I was asked for a soundtrack, I was much dismayed, because I actually have already put up a soundtrack for Unspoken, which everyone is very welcome to come listen to here.

But actually Unspoken, the story of a sassy girl reporter who a) has to solve the mystery of the dark deeds in the woods and how they are linked to the sinister family in the Gothic manor, and b) has to solve the mystery of why her imaginary friend is suddenly a real guy, has a lot of songs I associate with it. Because it is a book full of feelings, and also because I always listen to a ton of music. The heck with sitting in beautiful peace in a white tower: I get my best work done bopping around the house listening to Taylor Swift.

So here are the songs playlisted, and then at the end, I add some special songs just for YOU GUYS!

'We should get jerseys, cause we make a good team' – Must Have Done Something Right, by Relient K

(Kami Glass, girl reporter, and her determined creation of teams, and teamwork! Every girl reporter needs a street team.)

'The more she ignores me the more I adore her' – Just The Girl, by the Click Five

(Kami's BFF Angela Montgomery Hates The World.)

'It isn’t hard to love your scars, because that’s everywhere you’ve been' – Be My Only, by FM Radio

(Jared Lynburn, imaginary friend, Gothic hero, human disaster. Do not let him get attached. Even if you are an inanimate object such as a book or house.)

'I'm not perfect, but I keep trying
’Cause that's what I said I would do from the start' – Perfect, by Hedley

(Ash Lynburn, Jared's cousin, conscientious soul, and the effort he puts in trying to be something he’s not.)

'All the boys wanna catch me, but I’m just playing' - Supergirl , by Saving Jane

(Holly Prescott, the school's cheerful femme fatale, and the one the investigative team go to when they need someone to vamp! But also the other girls, too, now and then, when they’re on a roll.)

'I got it all figured out
I got no worries that I’m worried about – Good To Be Me, by Uncle Kracker'

(Angela's brother Rusty Montgomery, his life philosophy. I thought it would be fun to have someone in the sinister Gothic manor who was both incorrigibly lazy and good-humoured.)

'Are you gonna be like your father was and his father was?
Do you have to carry what they've handed down?
No, this is not your legacy, this is not your destiny' – Family Tree, by Matthew West

(There’s a reason the series is called the Lynburn Legacy, and that’s because the Glass-Lynburn-Montgomery-Prescott Legacy was unwieldy. Everyone’s got a family, and terrible secrets that they don’t know—or even worse, they do—and there is always the spectre of history repeating itself. But Jared and Ash Lynburn, the golden boys from the Gothic manor full of secrets, fear their own histories more than most.)

'I’ve been keeping my mind wide open, yeah,
Oh your love is a symphony
All around me, running through me' – Your Love Is A Song, by Switchfoot

(I know, I know, it’s a religious song, shame on me! But a story about an imaginary friend necessarily involves love of the invisible and yet surrounding. Plus love of the dead but not forgotten, love and faith, what love means: love is a theme.)

'Half of my heart’s got a real good imagination, half of my heart’s got you' – Half of my Heart, John Mayer and Taylor Swift

(It expresses some of the characters' uncertainty about love, about how to define it, about the power of imagination. Also it expresses my endless devotion to Taylor Swift.)

'Wherever you go
If my heart was a house, you’d be home' -- If My Heart Was A House, by Owl City

(The series is a lot about home, and what makes a home: a manor, a town, another person, you yourself.)

'If you wanna slow down,

We can slow down together' – Stay Here Forever, Jewel

(Specifics would be a spoiler. But I read the song as about the push and pull of a relationship, and the potential ease of it. Okay, and Ash Lynburn, the dreamiest boy in dreamyville. [Note: the little English town where the characters live is called Sorry-in-the-Vale. For some reason nobody else liked dreamyville...])

'Finally I'm worth it, though I'm not perfect' – Best of Me, by the Letter Black

(This is a song about co-dependence, baby, and born romantics. Memo: my born romantics are almost always boys, and this almost always goes badly for them. There's something both alarming and seductive about being all wrapped up in someone: you should fight it as well as be drawn to it, I think.)

She never let on how insane it was
In that tiny kind of scary house
By the woods – Black Dove, by Tori Amos

(The song for the Gothic novel, the woods and the house and two fears: the fear that someone is trying to kill you, and the fear of madness.)

What about gold beneath the sea?
What about when buildings fall? What about that midnight phone call,
The one that wakes you from your peace?
Well, I am not in need. – What About Everything, by Carbon Leaf

(The theme song for the series, really: people are scared a lot, and running to each other’s rescue a lot through strange surroundings. Some of them are very damaged. But they’re strong people, too: they learn to be able to trust in their own strength.)


I kept seeing girls in YA having their first kiss... with boys who seemed to have been smoochin' all over Europe. So I thought it would be fun to have Jared Lynburn: suspected murderer, voted most likely to burn down the school, tried to beat up the hockey team, never been kissed.

'Oh, no, I do not hook up/I fall deep' - Kelly Clarkson, I Do Not Hook Up (Don't look at me like that okay just don't we all have our secret shame.)

Adventures can be scary and terrible things can happen, but I also think adventures should be fun: that there should be some sense of racing adrenalin and humour, and with all the imaginary friend-ing and crime-solving, there has to be a commitment to doing things that other people think are mad.

'All I really wanna do is keep it crazy for now/Don't wanna grow up don't wanna give up don't wanna slow down' - Crazy For Now, Jason Jones (I have a country music problem, OK?)

I like this song because it asks a question without making it a certainty: do soulmates exist? What would having a soulmate be like? How do you decide a certain kind of love is the real thing?

I'll keep waiting till we meet/What if we were made for each other? - What If, Colbie Caillat (and the reason I am embarrassed about this one is that it is SO SAPPY. I am a big sap. Sappy sap sap. I am like a tree I am so full of it)

I want a girl with a mind like a diamond/I want a girl who knows what's best - Short Skirt Long Jacket, Cake. (I am just embarrassed because I listen to this song SO MUCH. Ladies who take charge are one of my favourite things.

Does the world really need another love song?/Another you don't know how much I miss you when you're gone - Another Love Song, Uncle Kracker. (Country music, man. I am a slave 4 it.)

And that one's because, well, I wanted to write about romantic love, but of course there are a lot of romances around. I really wanted to write one that felt different, that felt genuinely difficult, that explored the idea of love in its many forms and asked hard questions about what it would really be like. To borrow a phrase from a favourite TV show, Veronica Mars( , 'they don't write love songs about the ones that come easy.'


I just want to say a huge thank you to Sarah for taking the time to visit Writing from the Tub!


  1. You have made my week with this! Unspoken has to be one of my top books of the year (I loves it with all my heart) and I love anything to do with it! So thank you for this fab post :)

  2. I'm so excited that this post exists! It's always so interesting to read about what music authors associate with their books. Inevitably, there's a big surprise or two tucked away, like Kelly Clarkson for Jared Lynburn. I love it. Thanks for posting!


Thank you kindly for the comment, you sweet thing.