Confession: despite the title of this post, I did not, in fact, have a playlist for THE WIFE, THE MAID, AND THE MISTRESS. Not exactly. What I had instead were three songs, one for each of the main characters. As the book progressed and the word count piled up, I found that I needed these songs more and more. Unlike many writers, I don’t “hear” my characters. They don’t talk to me. They’re all mute. Stubborn, frustrating creating. Finding the voices for each distinct narrator was one of my greatest challenges in writing this novel. So instead I found a theme song for each woman, something that would summon her individual “mood” when I sat down to write.
We begin with Stella. Because really, the story was hers all along. Of all three women she was the hardest for me to pin down. I struggled the most with her sections. She was so elusive. Controlled. Strong. It felt as though she was both hiding things from me and challenging me to discover her secrets. So it made perfect sense that her theme song was “Rolling In The Deep” by Adele:
Ritzi. I shouldn’t play favorites. I know that. But truly, she was my favorite. I loved everything about her character. She had spirit but she was vulnerable. She was conniving and tender. She was scared and angry and she’d messed her life up beyond recognition. In the end there was only one possible song for her: “Love For Sale” by Cole Porter. It’s her audition song for The New Yorkers, the one she knocks out of the park early in the novel:
Maria was the most soulful of the three women to me. She was so devout and so devoted. And yet she had this edge to her as well, like she could lie to your face and you’d never know. As the story progressed Maria became the glue that held everything else together. The story would not have worked without her. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was the only song I ever considered for Maria. You can find dozens of versions out there but the one I listened to was by K.D. Lang:
To this day I can hear those songs and feel my characters. I’ve still never “heard” them, not the way many authors talk of hearing their characters. But I know them nonetheless. The music made that possible for me.
* Email readers can click this link to hear the music/watch the videos.