Listen to the song inspired by THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE!
Before I was a novelist, I was a book-writer.
No, not a writer of books—a writer of book. Book and lyrics for musical theatre, to be specific—that’s everything that isn’t the music. So when Epic Reads asked me about a song for The Girl from Everywhere, I responded with my most enthusiastic jazz hands.
I mean, I love novels. But I 🎶loooove 🎶musicals. I’m the person humming “Wig In A Box” from Hedwig as I put on my makeup (Whoa-oh-oh-oh ohhhh). I’m the girl who answers everyday questions with quotes from Hamilton. (“Large coffee, please, a bagel… . AND PEGGY!”) I even got my graduate degree in musical theatre writing at NYU. So writing lyrics for my book was second nature to me.
Note that I said “lyrics”—I’m strictly words only. No musical talent here! But I’m lucky to have a long-time collaboration with composer Mike Pettry, and I bribed him with soft words and stiff drinks to set my words to music.
The lyrics came first, though. I wrote them on the subway ride into work one morning, in my horrible handwriting, in the margins of a draft of my manuscript, because that’s when inspiration struck after a solid week spent wondering what moment to musicalize.
“Song moment” is always a tough choice to make. There are so many types of songs, after all—and so many settings and characters in the book! It could have been a choral sea shanty for the whole crew as they sailed from one era to the next. It could have been a love song from the captain to his dead wife. It could even have been a song about old Hawaii, with soft guitar and ukulele. But ultimately, the tagline on the cover provided inspiration for the perfect hook for Nix to sing.
The hook is the most important part of a lyric—it has to encapsulate the point of the song while being natural to rhyme and easy to sing—so I chose “I’ll be gone.” After all, Nix has sailed from time to place, from port to port, enjoying the freedom but never staying long. She also worries that she might quite literally be unmade by her father’s attempts to change her past and save her mother’s life. Thus, as the hook repeats, it takes on new meanings.
Once I had the lyrics written down, I emailed them to Mike with an all-caps subject line reading “BOOK SONG???” His response, a few days later, was an email entitled “Yo” with an MP3 attached. It was just a simple recording of him playing piano and singing, but the melody was spot-on—both sweeping and catchy—and I loved it. He went back to the studio then, adding orchestration, using deep drums to create a sound like wind luffing in the sails, and the strings to invoke the feeling of the choppy water before a storm.
After creating the orchestral track, we asked our friend and frequent singer-of-our-songs Allison Posner to record the vocals. She brought her clear, strong voice to the piece, as well as a depth of emotion and vulnerability that perfectly expressed Nix’s feelings. After that came the magic of mixing and processing, and ta-da!
“I’ll Be Gone,” from The Girl from Everywhere (the hypothetical musical).
If reading about Heidi’s awesome musical background has you wanting to know more about her, and of course it does, be sure to check out her Fun Facts video! And don’t forget to read THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE, available everywhere on February 16th!
“I’ll Be Gone” performed by Allison Posner, music copyright © 2016 by Mike Pettry, and lyrics copyright © 2016 by Heidi Heilig.