Ginger Nuts of Horror
Tim Major's You Don't Belong Here, is a innovative time travel novel, that dares to do something different with the concept of time travel ( read our review of it here). To coincide with our review of it Tim has written an excellent feature post on writing to music and creating a playlist to his novel. Read on to find out about Tim's rules and reasoning for choosing the Tracks of his novel...
Most writers I know identify a relationship between the act of writing and background noise. Some write in cafés or libraries, relishing the background hum of voices. Others, though not many, insist on total silence. Many have a preferred musical soundtrack. I’m firmly in the latter camp.
I work to music that’s barely music. Most of my stories, novellas and novels were written to a background of repetitive minimalist compositions and industrial drone. Music like this cancels out the outside world. Combined with coffee, it can provide total (though sometimes frenzied) focus.
Like most nerds, I’ve always loved playlists. Growing up, my C90 collection included more mixtapes than real albums. These days, this translates to a fixation with Spotify playlists. I’ve taken to linking music to my writing in a way that’s partly helpful but also ceremonial. When I’ve completed a first draft of any piece longer than a short story I create a playlist that acts as a soundtrack. It’s generally unrelated to the music I’ve been playing while writing. Instead, the playlist is an attempt to pin down the tone of the story – or, more often, the tone I’ll be aiming for during rewrites. Some of the track choices may be literal – songs often crop up in my stories – and others are more about capturing a particular mood. I’m as much a film-lover as a book- and music-lover, so I’m unabashed about imagining the playlist as the soundtrack of the ‘film of the book’. (I think this is a hangover from the mid-90s, when I’d regularly hear the mixtape-ish soundtrack of, for example, the new Tarantino film before I’d seen it.)
I’m the worst type of nerd – the type that is a stickler for rules, however arbitrary. Here are my guidelines for creating a book soundtrack:
1. The first and last tracks ought to work as an accompaniment to the story’s ‘opening and closing credits’.
2. The playlist should include diagetic (i.e. in-world) and non-diagetic (i.e. conventional overlaid soundtrack) music.
3. Broadly, the tracks should reflect the mindset of the central character.
4. The ordering of the tracks should reflect the changing mood or plot events.
5. Despite Rule #4, the playlist should be listenable in its own right, without sounding jarring. Unless jarring sounds good.
The point of view in my novel, You Don’t Belong Here, is closely linked to the main character, Daniel Faint. The book is concerned with his loosening grip on time and reality as he experiments with a stolen time machine. It’s a claustrophobic reading experience, so the soundtrack had to be similarly woozy and tense.
The ‘opening credits’ are accompanied by ‘Sometimes I Forget You’ve Gone’ by Dirty Three, with its melancholy piano desperately at odds with the frenzied drumming. Other tracks are similarly weird, such as Henry Flynt’s dizzying ‘Telsat Tune’. In ‘The Stars In His Head’, all of the clanks and groans are provided by solo artist Colin Stetson – his saxophone keys and his throat are miked, in order for him to produce multiple sounds, producing a bizarre gurgling effect. If anything represents Daniel Faint’s mental state, it’s this track. Several of the tracks, such as Nick Drake’s ‘Northern Sky’, are associated with the rural Cumbrian setting of the book. The ‘closing credits’ track, Johnny Nash’s ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, is the source of the single joke in the novel, which was provided by my good friend James.
One of two central tracks is David Thomas Broughton’s ‘Onwards We Trudge’. It’s always been a favourite of mine, and I listened to it a lot while I was editing the novel. There’s one lyric in particular that rather sums up the novel: A strong hold we claim / Is it a strong hold we’ve got? / Is it balls. For a long while I toyed with A Stronghold We Claim as a possible title for the novel, and for a very short time I considered Is It Balls.
The other important track is one that also provides the preface to the novel. Though it’s Nic Jones’ version in the playlist, the wonderful ‘Farewell to the Gold’ was written by Paul Metsers. It’s about gold prospecting in 1800s New Zealand. Here’s the chorus:
Farewell to the gold that never I found,
Goodbye to the nuggets that somewhere abound;
For it's only when dreaming that I see you gleaming
Down in the dark deep underground.
I listened to ‘Farewell to the Gold’ endlessly during edits, and it seemed more and more to crystallise the themes of the novel. I managed to track Paul down – though he’s a New Zealander, he coincidentally now lives close to my parents in Kendal. He was kind enough to allow the use of the lyrics, and even indulged me when I asked if he’d mind my reworking a few elements of the novel in order to reflect the song even more closely. When Paul plays the song live, he dedicates it ‘to all those who have never struck it rich’, which is an apt description of Daniel Faint in the novel.
You can listen to the full ‘book soundtrack’ for You Don’t Belong Here on Spotify. Here’s the tracklisting for the soundtrack in full:
1. Sometimes I Forget You’ve Gone – Dirty Three
2. Northern Sky – Nick Drake
3. The Stars In His Head (Dark Lights remix) – Colin Stetson
4. A’Soalin’ – The Lyttle Folk
5. Maze – Actress
6. Onwards We Trudge – David Thomas Broughton
7. Farewell to the Gold – Nic Jones
8. Telsat Tune – Henry Flynt
9. We Don’t Belong – Susanna
10. Gone Feral – Holden
11. I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash
Listen to Tim's Playlist with our handy Spotify Link below
Tim Major’s novel, YOU DON’T BELONG HERE (Snowbooks) is available now, as are his previous novellas, BLIGHTERS (Abaddon) and CARUS & MITCH (Omnium Gatherum).
Click here for Ginger Nuts of Horror's review of You Don't Belong here
Daniel Faint is on the run with a stolen time machine.
As the house-sitter of a remote Cumbrian mansion, he hopes to hide and experiment with the machine. But is the Manor being watched by locals, his twin brother or even himself?
Daniel is terrified about what the future may hold but, as he discovers, there can be no going back.