Author Playlists

Jan Stinchcomb’s Playlist for Her Novel “Verushka”

“The playlist is naturally varied and multi-generational, composed of songs that come to mind and what I imagine the characters would listen to.”

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Jan Stinchcomb’s novel Verushka is a compelling horror fable, a book that lingers like a shadow that follows you after the last page is turned.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

“Through evocative prose, Stinchcomb establishes a mounting sense of claustrophobia as the tension ratchets up.”

In her own words, here is Jan Stinchcomb’s Book Notes music playlist for her novel Verushka:

Verushka is a multi-POV novel in which a young girl fights the villain who has been tormenting her family for three generations. The playlist is naturally varied and multi-generational, composed of songs that come to mind and what I imagine the characters would listen to. We only see one character, Elaine, going to concerts and spinning records, but it’s easy to picture any of these Californians listening to music in their cars, or later, on their phones. The novel is organized by character/time period:

Verushka, 2004:

How do you choose a song for someone who is not all human? Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” is the perfect mood setter. Underneath the relaxed tone is the suggestion that the world is not what it seems and that anything is possible. It is both an invitation and a warning.

Caroline and Devon, 2004:

Mother and daughter are in danger and in conflict throughout the first full chapter of this novel. I associate the No Doubt version of “It’s My Life” with Caroline; she, like me, would have heard the Talk Talk original back in 1984. And Devon, with her trusty toys who evolve into full blown characters, makes me think of Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend”. She’s in desperate need of help, which she finds in imaginative play. Luckily for her, magic enters the scene in the nick of time.

Jack, 1981:

Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” is the theme song for all rebels, especially Jack, trapped under the authority of an undeserving adult. This song was everywhere when I was a kid. It focused all our adolescent frustrations into one grand refusal: we won’t be controlled by your script. I like to imagine Jack’s stepmother turning this song off every time it comes on the radio.

Elaine, 1968:

My flower child sensualist loves music. She is a fan of the Stones, so “Let’s Spend the Night Together” naturally comes to mind when I think of her. She would have watched the Stones performing this on Ed Sullivan, where they had to change the lyrics to “let’s spend some time together”. Elaine is lucky enough to have seen the Doors in concert. “Light My Fire,” one of their signature songs, would appeal to her because of its explosive sexuality. Jim Morrison refused to tone down the lyrics when the band performed that song on Ed Sullivan, and they weren’t invited back.

Like most young women of the time period, Elaine probably hears too much rock music that is powered by male desire. Therefore the quintessential Elaine song is one that prioritizes female pleasure, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.”

Caroline, 2013:

“Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys. Caroline is in crisis as a single mom, and she’s very worried about her daughter. I needed a song with a buoyantly optimistic take on girlhood in an imperfect world. The girl in the song is a superhero, both made of and charging through fire. She is destined for great things. Also, I can’t deny the role of fire in my novel. It is at once destructive and purifying.

Like all parents, Caroline has no choice but to hope for the best. Is the song about her or her daughter? It has to be both.

Verushka, 2013:

“I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. I can hear this song playing throughout this disturbing but engrossing chapter as Verushka goes in for the kill. I chose this version over Nina Simone’s because it is much scarier. The singer is insistent, desperate. You can hear suffering in the lines he literally screams, and we all know how dangerous people can be when they’re in pain.

Devon, 2013:

“Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill provides the energy Devon needs and reflects the girl-power atmosphere she creates with her best friend, Reina. These two have something more important than boys on their mind: survival is the name of the game. When Devon willfully heads into danger, I can’t stop hearing “Lil’ Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. This is my favorite Halloween song. It’s sexily menacing but just playful enough to give us hope. We know Devon will put up a fight.

Jan Stinchcomb is the author of Verushka (JournalStone), The Kelping (Unnerving), The Blood Trail (Red Bird Chapbooks) and Find the Girl (Main Street Rag). Her stories have appeared in Bourbon Penn, SmokeLong Quarterly and Menacing Hedge, among other places. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, she is featured in Best Microfiction 2020 and The Best SmallFictions 2018 & 2021. She lives in Southern California with her family and is an associate fiction editor for Atticus Review. She refuses to choose between the sea, the forest and the city.

If you appreciate the work that goes into Largehearted Boy, please consider supporting the site to keep it strong.