brendan halpin: my career in song!

Some time last year, I saw my friend Kristin espousing author Brendan Halpin‘s book Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Despite not having ever listened to the album from which it gets its name (don’t worry, I’ve since picked it up), I decided to give it a go. I immediately fell in love with Halpin’s tale of two unrelated folks with hit songs written about them crossing paths, and knocked out three more of his books in quick order. With music being a recurring theme in his works, I figured Mr. Halpin would be the perfect person to make us a mix. He obliged. Below is his mix, along with some notes about each song and how they play into his books.

Some notes from Brendan Halpin:

Since music has been so important in most of my books, I’ve decided to include songs that relate to each of my books.

It Takes a Worried Man– a memoir of the six months when my late wife was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

1.Rocks Off–The Rolling Stones.  The song is about heroin addiction and its accompanying anhedonia, which is a really awesome word, but I related to it a lot when my late wife was going through cancer treatment. I felt numb a lot of the time, which was basically how I got through the days without screaming.

Losing My Faculties– A memoir of my first 9 years as an English teacher.

2.Walk Out–Matthew Sweet.  I actually had this song playing in my brain when I walked out of a training that infuriated me at a school where I worked.  And a couple of months later I quit that job and walked out for good, so it felt apt.

Donorboy– My first novel, an Alex award winner about a girl whose two moms die in a car accident.  She goes to live with her biological father, the sperm donor she’s never met before.

3.Death Letter–John Mellencamp.  When I was writing Rosalind’s grief journal at the beginning of the book, this song, and the whole album Trouble No More, which is a great collection of blues and traditional covers, really helped me get into the grieving mood.

Long Way Back–A novel about a guy who joins a punk band after his wife’s death.

4.What Do I Get? –The Buzzcocks.  Covered by Francis’ punk band, it’s a song that really covers the feeling of not getting what you wanted out of life.

5.Boys Don’t Cry–The Cure.  Also covered by the band.  Also says a lot, I think, about screwing up and feeling horrible.

6.We’re Not Gonna Take It–Crucial to the ending of the book, which is the best thing I’ve ever written.

Dear Catastrophe Waitress– A love story about two people who were the subject of hit breakup songs.

7.12XU–Wire.  This song kind of inspired the whole novel.  The “saw you in a mac, kissin’ a man” line made me wonder who the song was about.

8.Dear Catastrophe Waitress–Belle and Sebastian.  I stole the title (you can’t copyright a title, suckas!), but more than that, I was listening to Belle and Sebastian almost incessantly during the time I was writing this novel.  I was grieving and falling in love at the same time, and only Belle and Sebastian seemed to express the weird bittersweet feeling that I had all the time.

I Can See Clearly Now– A novel about a bunch of musicians who come together in 1972 to create some musical educational cartoons.

9.Knock Three Times– Tony Orlando and Dawn.  There’s a scene early in the novel where one of the musicians chooses to sing this song after the other people have been playing a lot of earnest folk songs, as she figures Tony Orlando is pretty much the anti-Dylan.

10.The Magic Number–De La Soul–Built around a sample from the Schoolhouse Rock original song.  My novel is entirely imaginary, but Schoolhouse Rock is the obvious real-world inspiration for the Pop Goes the Classroom project my characters work on.

11.My Hero Zero–The Lemonheads.  Great cover of a Schoolhouse Rock song.

How Ya Like Me Now–My first official YA novel, it’s about  a kid from the suburbs who goes to live with his cousin in the city.

12.How Ya Like Me Now–Kool Moe Dee.  I stole the title (once again, you can’t copyright a title!), but I also like the whole “you underestimated me, and look at me now” message here.  It fits the novel very well.

Forever Changes–My YA novel about a senior in high school with Cystic Fibrosis and how she comes to terms with living with limited time.  The album Forever Changes by Love (yep, stole another title) plays a big role in the novel, so I’ve included the first and last songs from that album here.

13. Alone Again Or–Love

14.You Set The Scene–Love

The Half Life of Planets–a YA love story about a musically-obsessed boy with Aspergers syndrome and a girl with a reputation. Co-written with Emily Franklin.  To be published in June 2010.

15. Detroit Rock City–KISS.  Let’s just say that a key moment in the novel involves a KISS cover band.

Shutout– A YA novel about two soccer-playing best friends who have to deal with changes when one of them makes varsity and the other one doesn’t. To be published in August 2010.

16.Halloween Theme–John Carpenter.  Music is actually not that important in this book, but horror movies are.  There’s a key scene where my main character watches Halloween with her dad.

Notes From the Blender–a YA novel about a weird and kind of unpopular boy whose widowed father marries the divorced mother of the prettiest, most popular girl in school.  Co-written with Trish Cook, and to be published in October 2010.  Yeah, I’ve been busy.

17.Progenies of the Great Apocalypse–Dimmu Borgir.  I wanted my character to be into black metal, because it’s about the only genre of music that seems to be kind of like punk was when I was a teen: largely underground and scary to almost everyone outside the scene.  I started a Pandora station to just get acquainted with the music and found that I actually really liked it.  Weird.

18.Mystery Dance–Elvis Costello.  My main character is named Declan after Elvis Costello, and he’s obsessed with sex as most 15-year-old boys are, so I thought Elvis Costello’s horniest tune was appropriate.

19.Red Shoes–Elvis Costello.  Mostly because “I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused” is an attitude that my main character in this book should try to emulate and actually does by the end.

MY CAREER IN SONG
01| The Rolling Stones – Rocks Off
02| Matthew Sweet – Walk Out
03| John Mellencamp – Death Letter
04| The Buzzcocks – What Do I Get?
05| The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry
06| The Who – We’re Not Gonna Take It
07| 12XU – Wire
08| Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress
09| Tony Orlando & Dawn – Knock Three Times
10| De La Soul – The Magic Number
11| The Lemonheads – My Hero Zero
12| Kool Moe Dee – How Ya Like Me Now
13| Love – Alone Again Or
14| Love – You Set the Scene
15| KISS – Detroit Rock City
16| John Carpenter – Halloween Theme
17| Dimmu Borgir – Progenies of the Great Apocolypse
18| Elvis Costello – Mystery Dance
19| Elvis Costello – Red Shoes

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