There’s no way around it: music permeates everything. So it’s no surprise that my novel, Rooted, is In many ways about music. Not just the music of the punk rock character, Slade Mortimer, but music of a time and region: 1970’s West Tennessee. A time of outlaw country: Willie, Waylon, and Hank – Sr. and Jr. A time when the women of country held their own: Tanya Tucker, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly, of course.
And while this music certainly filled the airwaves of the fictional town, Moonsock, it was other music that affected Rooted’s characters in real and deep ways. When creating these characters, certain songs came to mind that seemed to fit what these characters were going through. The following is the playlist that ran through my mind when writing the book.
Lynard Skynard, Gimme Back My Bullets
Grover McQuiston: hard working and hard-fisted patriarch of the McQuiston family and town leader of Moonsock. Grover has worked a lifetime to regain his family legacy and overcome a youth stained by loss and poverty. When I think of Grover, I hear this line –
“I’ve got my act together, gonna walk all over you.”
Mindy Smith, Come To Jesus
Sarah Jane McQuiston: a damaged young woman who has seen too much of the world at too young an age. Sarah Jane longs to be free of the past, and the pain and the feeling that she was never good enough to warrant love. This line brings Sarah Jane to mind every time I hear it:
“I have conquered hell and driven out the demons, I have come with a light to set you free”
Stereophonics, Maybe Tomorrow
Slade Mortimer: Washed up and drugged out, punk’s poster-boy is on the run from himself, his past and his dead girlfriend’s father with a penchant for pipe bombs. Windblown and rootless, Slade is in need of someone to give him what he has never had: a family that claimed him as one of their own. This song captures the gritty feel of longing that eats at Slade’s soul:
“So maybe tomorrow I’ll find my way home”
Staple Singers, Will The Circle Be Unbroken
Eleanor McQuiston: Grover’s long-suffering wife has watched her family self-destruct around her. When Eleanor’s weak heart gives out, only then does Grover understand the true cost of his actions and his secrets.
“But I could not hide my sorrow when they laid her in the grave”
Natalie Merchant, Carnival
Ellie McQuiston: Slade’s mother who mysteriously disappeared from home twenty-five years before. Grover’s favorite daughter, ambitious and full of life once, now haggard, sick and wasted.
“Have I been blind, have I been lost”
Genesis, Me and Sarah Jane
Bug Patter: Sarah Jane’s one friend. Bug will do anything to protect and help Sarah Jane, including hiding his love for her. This Genesis song gives that sense of being with someone, but not fully in the way Bug would like.
“Me and Sarah Jane in silence walk along the shore”
Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man
Aunt Althea and Miss Josie: Grover’s feisty old aunt and Eleanor’s friend. I imagine these old ladies would listen to something country and a little rowdy. I can picture Aunt Althea and Miss Josie, shelling peas on the porch, listening to Conway and Loretta on the radio, laughing and singing along. Makes me want to be on the porch with a tall glass of iced tea, listening and learning from two old friends.
“Lousiana woman, Mississippi man, we get together every time we can”
Christi Lane, One Day At A Time
Myrna McQuiston: Grover’s eldest daughter. I like to think of her riding around in her beat-up, baby blue Cadillac car with the windows down, really belting this out.
“One day at a time Sweet Jesus, that’s all I’m asking from you.”
Moe and Joe, Good Ole Boys
The Duanes: Myrna’s husband and son. This song captures perfectly captures the duo.
“Hocked my wife’s diamond ring last June, bought me an outboard Evinrude”