This is an idea I’ve been considering for a while, but I’ve seen that Rainbow Rowell has done annotated playlists for Eleanor & Park and Wayward Son, so I’ve been convinced to do one for myself.
I’m not usually someone who listens to music while writing – I’m so easily distracted that I need full silence – but I make these book playlists as a soundtrack to the finished story, like a soundtrack to a film. Most songs are picked because they sound a way that fits a scene in my head. Some are picked because they have specific lyrics that fit perfectly to the characters. In this post, I’m going to try and explain some of my choices. It’s a shortened version of the playlist, but still a long post.
Ever After by Marianas Trench
“Once upon a time, I used to romanticize, used to be somebody, never mind, don’t miss it that much now”
This is the first song on the playlist, and it’s appropriate because book is a tribute to the album. It’s also the opening song on the album, so it makes sense to have a very fantastical and theatrical song placed here. So much of the inspiration for Paper Forests was plucked directly from the album, whether it was from lyrics or promotional imagery or music videos.
Buzzcut Season by Lorde
“And nothing’s wrong when nothing’s true, I live in a hologram with you”
This is an album that I listened to a lot during the times when I was writing the book but not actually putting words on a page. This song specifically is equally dreamy and gloomy: it’s about teenagers being driven crazy by the darkness of war. I thought it could relate to Paper Forests and how the characters are basically being driven insane by the afterlife.
Cancer by My Chemical Romance
“But counting down the days to go, it just ain’t living and I hope you know (…) the hardest part of this is leaving you”
Originally, this book started out as what was basically a fanfiction to the concept for My Chemical Romance’s fifth album that was never released, so it made sense to have a lot of their songs on this playlist. Cancer is not a poetic track. It’s very direct, very brutal, but that’s the way disease is. In the song, cancer is equally being used literally and as a metaphor. I chose it as it obviously relates to a character, but the tragic, bleak tone stands out from all of the other songs I’ve chosen, like the playlist has been split into two sections. This section is very much about August.
Forest by Twenty One Pilots
“I am supposed to be king of a kingdom, or swinging on a swing, something happened to my imagination”
It’s a song about a forest. The song describes a place where Tyler could go and find a group of people who all know the same music. A lot of the lyrics reference imagination and childhood and insecurity, all themes I explore in the book. If you ignore the lyrics and just listen to the song, the forest sounds like quite a pleasant place.
Heaven Is A Place by Amber Run
“A place where we could live together, playing with fire, but certain we live forever”
A haunting love song. The lyrics of it are so sweet and beautiful, but the melody is like a funeral march. That dichotomy between light and dark themes is something I tried to represent in Paper Forests, as well as a love story that’s cursed from the start, so this song felt perfect. Also, Amber Run’s second album For A Moment, I Was Lost is full of perfect songs.
This song is specifically the soundtrack for Chapter Thirteen. No further comments.
The Light Behind Your Eyes by My Chemical Romance
“And I’m sorry how it ends this way, if you promise not to cry, then I’ll tell you just what I would say if I could be with you tonight”
On Twitter, Gerard Way described this song as a song about mortality, among other ideas. In the YouTube comments of a lyric video, a fan described this song as a love letter or eulogy to fans struggling with mental health issues, and I think that’s a beautiful interpretation of the song.
Lover Dearest by Marianas Trench
“You’re still the best, more or less, I guess, don’t you leave me, well, I’m not sick of you yet”
Josh Ramsay from Marianas Trench said that this was a song he wrote in rehab, almost like a love letter to his addiction. There’s a lot of pieces of Josh’s personality and his life story that I’ve taken for Oliver, and I hope that it comes off as a tribute rather than an insult. I chose this song because it’s very metaphorical: the lyrics are addictive and obsessive and hopeless, and you can interpret them to be about whatever you want. I chose for them to be about Oliver.
The End of All Things by Panic! At the Disco
I don’t have a lyric for this song, because I didn’t know them until the exact moment I started writing this blog. I chose this song purely because of how it sounds. Brendon reportedly wrote the song in lieu of wedding vows and said he wrote the song to express how in love and infatuated he was with his wife. To me, it’s an extremely haunting song that sounds like a eulogy, and that’s why it’s the epilogue of this playlist.