Woke Up Singing (The Motherless Child Soundtrack Project, Part 1)
So, last time I did this, I had a story to tell about I story I tried to tell about people telling stories. The posts are still below, if you’re interested. They recount my struggle first to finish, then to publish The Book of Bunk, my much loved (by me) problem child. Bane of my existence. Biggest idea I’d had, to that point, maybe the biggest I’ll ever have. The book did emerge, finally, in a lovely limited hardback, and thanks to the e-reader revolution, it’s even widely available, now. Even so, glancing through those posts, they really do seem from a different era. Different writer. Mr. Rueful.
These posts will be…different. They’re about my new book, Motherless Child, due out from Earthling this coming fall. But not about the process. Because, right, who cares, but also because, in a way, this time, there was no process. Four or five years ago, I got invited by the fabulous Ellen Datlow to contribute to a new anthology of vampire fiction. I didn’t quite turn up the majestic Hirshbergian proboscis, but I did tell her, “I don’t write vampire fiction.”
A month later, I woke up one morning with this sentence in my head:
“Get the goddamn gun out of your mouth and give me a Juicy Fruit.”
A week after that, I had me a vampire story called “Like Lick Em Sticks, Like Tina Fey.” I wrote Ellen. She told me the vampire anthology had been postponed, possibly for good. I packed up my vampire girls and went on my rueful, merry way. On that year’s Rolling Darkness Revue tour, I read that story.
Years later–maybe a month after the residents of Bunk County from The Book of Bunk at last packed their bindles and hopped their various trains for elsewhere, I woke again, in the middle of the night this time, knowing exactly what happened five minutes after the end of my vampire story. And also what had happened just before.
Also, I was singing “Sugar, Sugar,” by the Archies, though I didn’t see the relevance.
The Motherless Child Soundtrack Project will not be about process, then, because for the only time in my writing life, this was my process: wake up, go to desk, open computer, start typing. When I say that The Book of Bunk feels to me the work of a completely different writer, what I really mean to say is that there’s a new book coming out with my name on it. How– or whether– it was actually me writing it is an entirely other question.
Whatever doubts I have, though, about whether it was really me– really the writer I’ve always been– who wrote Motherless Child …I’m pretty sure I scored it.
Like my life, but unlike anything else I’ve written, Motherless Child is positively suffused–saturated — with music. The language in it thrums with its rhythms (as opposed to my rhythms? Or are those mine?). It might actually have been written to those rhythms.
The Motherless Child Soundtrack Project will be about that. About the–no joke– hundreds of songs ringing through this book’s pages. About what those songs have meant to me (if anything), and what they mean to Natalie and Sophie, my desperate, lost and perpetually singing protagonists. And what they mean to the Whistler, who came for them, and who keeps coming. And why they seem to mean so much to so many of us.
Maybe they’ll mean something to you, too. Or they already do. If so, sing along with me, now…