Woohoo! I finished my rewrite of Wherever You Go this morning and I’m celebrating by sharing with you the playlist that has kept me going through the past few months.

A playlist for a book? Is that a thing?

It is for me. Think of it as a book soundtrack, not so different to a movie soundtrack. Besides, books and music have one big thing in common – they both tell a story, so why can’t they go together?

I know some writers who use music and playlists to help them craft their novel, such as Sarah J Maas:

“Before I type the first word, I’ll begin a playlist for a project, and add songs to it as they inspire scenes or characters or big moments in the order of how they’ll appear in the novel. And once I begin writing the novel, I’ll add songs as they inspire almost every word. When I finish that first draft, I’m left with what is basically a musical outline of my book.”

Unlike Sarah, I don’t use music to outline a book. Instead, I use music for three main purposes:

  1. To create ambience: Often when I’m writing I play meditative instrumental music in the background, like this one on YouTube. My mood determines what I want to hear (sometimes it’s no music at all and sometimes it’s there to drown out other ambient noise such as barking dogs, happy children, and hungry cats).
  2. To help set a scene: Working from home and writing a scene set in a café? There are soundtracks out there to help with that, like this one on YouTube. While writing some of the travel-themed feast scenes in Wherever You Go, I played instrumental music reflecting the cuisine I was writing about. It did get interesting when I was writing about a Vietnamese feast!
  3. To get into character: When I’m trying to channel deep emotions, such as depressions or grief, I often find that songs (with lyrics) help me get deep into the character’s point of view. Sometimes, I can listen to the song while I’m writing (while writing one scene I played “The Sound of Silence” by Disturbed over and over and I found myself immersed in the character’s pain). Other times, it’s more helpful to stop typing and listen to the lyrics, or the mood of the music.

Many of the songs I listen to go into a “novel playlist”, which evolves as I’m writing and reflects my characters’ journeys. And at the end, I shuffle the songs, and voila! I have a soundtrack designed to underscore the emotional elements of my story.

Not the real cover – just a mock up.

Wherever You Go is a story of grief and loss, of a marriage on the edge, of a couple trying to make a fresh start. Each song in my playlist relates to a mood or moment in the book; some, like “Resolution” by Matt Corby and “The Sound of Silence” are directly mentioned by a character; others I hope, bring out the nuances within the story.

My hope is that when Wherever You Go is published (it will be, one way or another), future readers will connect with this playlist either before, after or during the reading experience. 

In the meantime, it’s a glimpse into the world of my story, and perhaps, if you check it out, you will discover new musicians, new songs, or new sounds.

Wherever You Go playlist:

  • “Big Jet Plane” – Angus & Julia Stone
  • “This Town – Kygo feat. Sasha Sloan
  • “Unwell” – Matchbox Twenty
  • “Mad World” – Jasmine Thompson version
  • “Song of the Caged Bird” – Lindsey Stirling
  • “I Want to Break Free” – Queen
  • “Resolution” – Matt Corby
  • “The Sound of Silence” – Disturbed (I chose this version specifically for its darkly emotive feel)
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen
  • “Shadows” – Lindsey Stirling
  • “Lithium” – Evanescence
  • “Angel” – Sarah McLachlan
  • “Better Days” – Pete Murray
  • “I’m Only Human After All” – John “The Ragin Cajun” Jones
  • “Save Myself” – Ed Sheeran
  • “Say Something” – Christina Aguilera
  • “Try” – P!nk
  • “Little Talks” – Of Monsters and Men
  • “Just Give Me a Reason” – P!nk, Nate Ruess
  • “Breathe Me” – Sia
  • “Both Sides Now” – Gang of Youths (this version suited the story better)
  • Wherever You Will Go” – The Calling
  • “Over the Rainbow” – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

If you’re a Spotify user and you want to follow the playlist, I’d love to hear what you think.




Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

5 Responses

  1. I love this playlist Monique. And I love the whole idea of playlists for novels. I created one on Spotify for Close To Home. Now I need to do one for my new novel. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I am interested in how many songs you used in your playlist. DId you find that any, in particular, kept repeating in your head?

    For my February release, novella Fire & Ice( Daisy Lane Publishing_) which features both Vikings and Ice dancers , I concentrated on music that ice dancers could use for their routines.

    John Barry’s Through Time

    Secret Garden’s Lonely Swan

    Pat Benatar’s’ Fire & Ice

    Within Temptations-Fire & ice

    There were times I wished that I could have used some of the lyrics too.

    1. Hi Sonia, yes, some of the songs did repeat and some have more “power” than others. For example, The Sound of Silence was quite important because I first heard that version while I was writing a particular chapter from a male POV and it just fit. I listened to it several times. Others fit the story, but didn’t have as much impact on the writing experience, so they are more like fillers for the overall “soundtrack”.

      I do wish I could write in lyrics sometimes, but I don’t want to risk the wrath of the music gods!


      1. Hi Monique,

        Yes, the lyrics can be so expressive, I understand about the ‘power’ of some songs – others are less memorable.-
        Id have loved to have quoted some of the lyrics in my story. But of course, you cannot infringe another’s copyright and permissions can be hard to obtain and expensive. Natasha Lester mentioned a figure of $700 for one quote she hoped to use – she then decided to choose something else. I also fell in love with Robert Frost’s poem Fire and Ice but again could not quote from it

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