My first post about book soundtracks was more of a “what a book soundtrack means to me” or “how I craft my book soundtrack” type of post. From here on out, the posts in this series are going to be specifically about songs from the soundtracks.
I should probably start with Essential Magic, since that’s the book that’s available now, but I just finished the first draft of A Theft of Magic and music was a big part of the drafting process, so I’m excited to talk about it!
Early on in the outlining stage, I was driving around, listening to music, and brainstorming. I was a little late to the Sara Bareilles party because I didn’t really like “Brave,” and that was the only thing that pop radio played of hers. (Note that I love the message and lyrics of “Brave,” but the melody/production quality is not my favorite).
But then when Outlander the TV show was announced, fans started cutting together pieces of the trailer to music, and I saw this:
And I thought, “holy shit, that’s an amazing song. Who sings that??”
And then I went on a journey through Sara’s albums and found many, many amazing songs that will never be played on a top-40 station because they aren’t “pop” enough. But that’s fine with me! “Breathe Again” still hasn’t quite made it into a novel, although I did outline a story that meshes with the lyrics.
When I started brainstorming A Theft of Magic, at first the only thing I knew about the story was the main romantic pair. Sorcha, my heroine, has a magical affinity to light, and is the kind to fall in love deeply and only once. Ronan, my hero, has an affinity to water and at the start of the story had deliberately altered his personal magic into something that is more like salt water, but not the kind in the ocean. His is more like what you’ll find in Utah, or the Dead Sea- so salty nothing can live in the water.
So I’m driving, and on comes “Islands” by Sara Bareilles. Here it is if you’ve never heard it:
The actual song is about the end of a relationship with someone she loved but who was no good for her. But when I gave some of the lyrics to one character, and some to the other, it suddenly fit with the story. In a romance, there is a story beat called “The Breakup.” Sometimes, it’s a symbolic breakup, where the characters are on different sides of an issue or can’t reconcile something about their relationship. But often it’s a literal breakup, and that’s what happens in A Theft of Magic. So while I wrote that part of the story, I had this song on endless repeat.
Islands and isolation are a big theme in the story. The book takes place in the British Isles, particularly on Skye in Scotland and then in London. Sorcha lives alone on Skye, and while Ronan works with other people, he has isolated himself emotionally from almost everyone in his life. It is difficult for either of them to change those habits and look forward to a future where they are no longer alone.
But this is a romance, so through trials and difficulties, of course they do!
That’s where the second song, also by Sara Bareilles, comes in. It’s called “The Light.”
Again, some of the lyrics would be from Ronan’s perspective, and some from Sorcha’s, but this song was the one on repeat when I got through the climax and into what Gwen Hayes in the book Romancing the Beat calls “Whole-Hearted.” (Note – If you are just starting out as a romance writer or want to add a romance plot into your book, you should totally buy this book).
As I mentioned above, Sorcha has an affinity for light. Ronan repeatedly refers to her as “a solas,” which is Irish for “my light.” The song also talks about love being transformative, and how we can change and become better people because of love. That is definitely what happens, on both sides, for Sorcha and Ronan (but more dramatically for Ronan).
There are other songs on my soundtrack for A Theft of Magic, but those are the two that spoke most closely to the plot, characters, and themes of the book.
Next week, I’ll be back to talking about Essential Magic with a discussion of the process of creating the cover art!