Oh, that age-old question: is your novel autobiographical? Frankly, my dears, yes and no. Yes: because I'll use any source material and my life has a wealth of it. No: because I'll use any source material and your life has a wealth of it too. That's why they say never hang out with a writer.
Then there was music (and wonderful roses)
But seriously. They also say, write what you know. And while I write a book with a touch of magical-realism, I care for the authenticity of my characters' inner lives. I based my main character Sibyl on what I know. And I know me. So I consciously chose to have Sibyl be born in 1975, so that the broad strokes of our lives in terms of historic events and society are the same.
And then there's music.
I consider myself at child of the 90's, musically speaking. I spent my late teens and early twenties in smoky concert halls amidst distorted guitars and growling long-haired singers. It seemed only fair that Sibyl, who is looking for a way to break free of all constraints, should share my love of alternative rock. She's into Nirvana but, unlike me, doesn't really go for other grunge staples like Pearl Jam. Sibyl likes the Manic Street Preachers and the Vaselines. And Sibyl and I share a love for Therapy? After all, they're Irish and there's nothing like zapping to the Super Channel (does anyone remember the Super Channel?) when you're 17 and coming across the measured mayhem that is Screamager.
It's all wrong but it's all right
So far, so good. Up to my latest sprint. I have a chapter where Sibyl and her girlfriend cement their bond over the Manic Street Preachers This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. It had a few double entendres and I was quite happy with it. But due to some reshuffling this particular scene didn't happen in October 1998 as I originally intended but earlier when that album wasn't yet released. So I needed something else to tie Sibyl and her girlfriend together emotionally and maybe add a symbolic layer. Google was quick to offer suggestions and there it was...
Nick Cave's The Boatman's Call.
It was perfect. And also absolutely wrong. That album is mine. I didn't want to give it to Sibyl. Boatman and Grace by Jeff Buckley, those are my go-to emotional albums and I wasn't about to give them up.
How every little thing anticipates you
But in the end, I did, of course. I'm a writer and I got over myself. Both albums fit perfectly into what I wanted to convey. So now Sibyl sings along to 'Are You The One I've Been Waiting For' which carries both the idea of being meant for each other and that it might fail in the end. And in the next scene, sure enough, there's Grace. The best thing is, both Cave and Buckley bring symbolic foreshadowing. The Boatman's Call suggest a river and a crossing to the otherworld. Jeff Buckley himself disappeared singing into the Mississippi. What can I say but... *SPOILER ALERT*
In for a sentimental journey?
Check this NYtimes article about Gen X