by Angela Terry
Although I prefer to write in silence, I love listening to music when I’m thinking about writing. A certain song can get me into a character’s head and their emotional state. And so one of my rituals when sitting down to write is to play my book’s “theme song” or maybe another song that helps me get into the mood of the scene I’ll be working on that day.
In my new novel The Palace at Dusk, corporate attorney Jasmine “Jae” Phillips has an affair with her married colleague Brad Summers, and the book explores their complicated relationship through Jae’s voice. And so whenever I heard a song that broke my heart a little, it made it onto my writing playlist for this story.
1. All This and Heaven Too by Florence and the Machine
This was my “theme song” while writing The Palace at Dusk. Whenever I needed to get into Jae’s head, I would listen to this song. The novel opens with her writing in a journal trying to make sense of her affair and history with Brad. To me this song is about trying to understand love, and how language can’t accurately describe the emotion. Every time I listen to it, this song gives me goosebumps.
2. Elevator Love Letter by Stars
If the first song on my list is The Palace at Dusk’s theme song, this one is its “inspiration” song. It’s about two lonely people—a woman who works long hours and doesn’t know how to love, and a man who is attracted to her but only wants a one-night stand. There’s a great line, “My office glows all night long,” and I imagine Jae sitting in front of her computer working late on a Friday night when Brad walks in and invites her out for a drink. It’s such a brilliant song because it sounds sweet, but if you listen carefully to the lyrics, it’s really about two jaded people unable to have a proper relationship.
3. I Left My Heart in San Francisco by Tony Bennett
If a certain weekend in San Francisco didn’t happen, would there even be a story for Jae to tell? I’ll leave it there for fear of spoilers. Most of the major turning points in Jae’s love life happen at The Palace of Fine Arts, and so I feel like the official song of San Francisco needs to be included in this list. Sing it, Tony!
4. Cosmic Love by Florence and the Machine
I listened to a lot of Florence and the Machine while working on this book. There are some great phrases in this song, like “shadow of your heart” and “stayed in the darkness with you” that make me think of an affair. While I don’t know what this song is actually about, I feel it encompasses both the emotional highs and lows Jae must have felt during her years of being the “other woman.”
5. Let Somebody Go by Coldplay & Selena Gomez
Again, I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but at certain points in the book both Jae and Brad realize that even though they love each other, the best thing for everyone is to let the other go. This song is heartbreaking, and I love that there are both female and male vocals singing goodbye.
6. Slow and Steady by Of Monsters & Men
This song makes me think of someone trying to move on, but almost reluctantly, knowing it’s the right thing to do. I can see this song playing as the car takes Jae to the airport when she tries to break with the past and reinvent her life.
7. Something Just Like This by The Chainsmokers & Coldplay
Not every relationship needs to have intense highs and lows, sometimes you just need security and a place to land. And after a sweet kiss that tastes like hot chocolate, Jae realizes she doesn’t need a fairytale romance…
8. Ho Hey by The Lumineers
For me, this song evokes feelings of trying to do the right thing and staying away from someone, while still pining for them. At various times in the book, the lyrics of this song could be Jae’s words to Brad, or Brad’s words to Jae that “you belong with me.”
9. Guiding Light by Mumford & Sons
When I hear this song, I think of two people coming back together again, and one person saying, “I’m sorry,” while the other person isn’t quite ready to forgive. I believe that even when Brad stays in his complicated marriage, he still loves Jae. No matter what happens, she’s his “guiding light.”
10. West Coast by Imagine Dragons
The story takes place in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, and so this seemed like the right song to end on. The lyrics are about someone realizing they have faults, but that they will be better and stronger for the person they love and for the sake of their relationship. When I listen to this song, I see a couple standing in front of The Palace of Fine Arts as the sun sets , one promising the other to always be there for them.
About Angela Terry
Angela Terry is the award-winning and Amazon best-selling author of Charming Falls Apart and The Trials of Adeline Turner. She is an attorney who formerly practiced intellectual property law at large firms in Chicago and San Francisco. She is also a Chicago Marathon legacy finisher and races to raise money for PAWS Chicago—the Midwest’s largest no-kill shelter. She resides in San Francisco with her husband and two cats, enjoys throwing novel-themed dinner parties for her women’s fiction book club. and is currently working on her next novel.
The Palace at Dusk is available for pre-order from independent booksellers, Bookshop.org, and other retailers.