First, let me say that there’s a good bit of music in PURE. There’s a song sung by children early on in the novel.
Burn a Pure and breathe the ash.
Take his guts and make a sash.
Twist his hair and make a rope.
And use his bones to make Pure soap.
I hear this song in my head sung by children, voices floating and echoing as if in an alley.
Writing a post-apocalyptic novel means that you have to ask certain kinds of questions: What survives? Does music survive? Does the concept of God and faith? Does the desire to make art survive? Does love survive? To my mind, all of these things endure because they’re facets of the human condition. In book two, FUSE, there are more songs, eerie ones that haunt the characters.
But also, one of the things that Pressia remembers about her mother is a song, a lullabye. This becomes very important. The lullabye, although never identified outright, is a song that many people should recognize. (Here’s a hint – it’s about about a girl on a front porch and someone is begging her to take his hand to ride with him into the Promise Land.) So, yes, music is important, essential. It survives.
I don’t listen to music while I write, but sometimes I listen while plotting which for me can be a fairly associative, visual, and improvisational. It’s strange to think of plotting a novel as anything but the organizational mapping of a book – something that’s done in a very self-aware way. But for me, it’s not at all. I gather images and visual clips of what I want to write. I use large art-book sized sheets and jot those elements that have been surfacing and resurfacing. And then, sometimes to music – sometimes the same song, over and over – I quilt those images together, creating stitches that would attach one to the next. I create a map, one that I think will see me through to the end of the novel; it never does. In the writing process, the characters are willful and start to do things I don’t expect. These are moments I long for. It means the characters are real enough to make their own demands.
For PURE, toward the end of writing it, there was a song that I turned to. The Smith’s “How Soon Is Now?” It’s dark and industrial and seems, to me, to resonant with a dystopian aesthetic while insisting on being human, each of us deserving to be loved.
"I am human and I need to be loved. Just like everybody else does."
Julianna, thank you so much for stopping by! I'm about halfway through PURE right now and honestly, The Smiths' song is PERFECT for the feel of the novel. It's dark, it's ominous, it's desperate. Go HERE to order PURE from Amazon. It's released today!
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