Author Playlists

Rebecca Turkewitz’s Playlist for Her Story Collection “Here in the Night”

“…this playlist is like a musical time capsule for the last decade of my writing life. “

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.

Rebecca Turkewitz’s collection Here in the Night is filled with nuanced stories as moving as they are haunting.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book wrote of the book:

“Turkewitz’s nimble prose switches on a dime between soft and sharp, poignant and brutal, alien and achingly familiar. At the heart of each story, however, lies tenderness, magnified and made more precious by the dangers that surround it. This is a triumph.”

In her own words, here is Rebecca Turkewitz’s Book Notes music playlist for her story collection Here in the Night:

When I’m starting a new writing project, I tend to get strangely obsessed with one song, which I listen to over and over. Sometimes the mood of the song matches the mood of the story I’m working on. Sometimes I associate the song with a character, and it helps me get into their headspace. Sometimes the song conjures up the feeling of a particular setting, and sometimes there’s a lyric that strongly resonates with the project. Occasionally, I’m not really sure what the association is, but the story and the song are inexplicably joined in my mind.

Here in the Night, a collection of 13 spooky, literary tales, is my first book. It took me almost ten years to write it. As I was putting this playlist together, I tried to remember which song was playing on repeat as I was writing or revising each story. So this playlist is like a musical time capsule for the last decade of my writing life. 

“Hold On” by the Alabama Shakes, with “At This Late Hour” 

“At This Late Hour” is a ghost story, complete with a haunted hotel and phantom handprints left on windowpanes, but it’s also a story about how the narrator is trying to find her place in the world as she grows older. The song’s line “Didn’t think I’d make it to 22 years old” especially fits the narrator, who has lived recklessly and is now trying to settle into adulthood. 

“Every Single Night” by Fiona Apple, with “Search Party”

Marigold, the narrator of “Search Party,” is young and scared and angry. I think this song matches her spirit well: a mix of fury, self-reliance, and a drive to survive even the seemingly unsurvivable. I could easily imagine Marigold putting on headphones, cranking up the volume, and listening to this song on repeat.

 “Pynk” by Janelle Monáe (featuring Grimes) with “The Attic”

Although I wrote the first draft of this story years before Dirty Computer came out, I became obsessed with this song as I was revising “The Attic” in preparation for completing the book manuscript. This soft, dreamy, yearning song that is a love letter to all things girl is the perfect match for this queer ghost story about two best friends exploring their feelings for one another. 

“Shake it Out” by Florence and the Machine with “The Nightmares of Jennifer Aiken, Age 29”

This story is a strange second-person narrative that describes a series of nightmares. Both “Shake it Out” and the story circle around how we try to make sense of our personal histories, even when they’re difficult and messy and muddled. The song’s sense of disorientation and its feverish and almost dream-like lyrics helped me envision what I wanted this story to be.

“Truth Hurts” by Lizzo with “Warnings”

This flash piece, the shortest in the collection, is told by a chorus of girls on a high school cross country team. I brainstormed ideas for this story when I was out walking at dusk, headphones in, hyperaware of my surroundings. I, like the rest of the world at the time, was listening to a lot of Lizzo, and as I thought about what would be blaring in the AirPods of these runners as they practiced, I imagined it might be this bold, self-assured, messy Lizzo anthem.

“Missouri Waltz” by Marideth Sisco with “Here in the Night”

This melancholy rendition of the official state song of Missouri opens with the eerie sound of crickets. The key scene in “Here in the Night,” the one I always knew I was writing towards, takes place on the side of an unlit highway in rural South Carolina. The crickets and the quiet tension in Sisco’s vocals led me there. 

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night” by Leadbelly with “The Elevator Girl”

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” sometimes also titled “In the Pines,” might feel like an odd song to pair with one of the few stories in the collection that doesn’t have woods in it, but I listened to this song on repeat as I was writing “The Elevator Girl.” I listened mostly to the Leadbelly version, but also to the Nirvana cover, and the Janel Drewis version that plays in an episode of The Walking Dead. The threatening, raggedy, possessive refrain of “Don’t lie to me / Tell me where did you sleep last night” captures so much of what this story is circling around. The queer narrator, trapped in a stalled elevator with the ghost of her ex-boyfriend, acutely feels that line’s taunting sense of ownership and sharp-edged accusation. 

“I Put a Spell on You” by Screaming Jay Hawkins with “Northwood”

In this story, a beast-man—or at least the urban legend of said beast man—haunts a small New Hampshire town. The story’s young main character feels as if she is under the beast-man’s spell as she searches for her father, who has disappeared without a trace. 

“Bulletproof” by La Roulx for “Crybaby Bridge”

Sam, the rebellious main character of this story, is attempting to move on from a recent heartbreak, and posturing as someone who is tough and untouchable. She’d love this song and its upbeat insistence on being bulletproof, and the way it turns feeling wounded into a challenge to become a different, less vulnerable person. 

Waiting by Kate Bosman for “The Last Unmapped Places”

“The Last Unmapped Places” is, in many ways, a story about the ache of longing, which this song captures so well.  

“Walcott” by Vampire Weekend for “Deserving of You”

I will always associate Cape Cod with Vampire Weekend’s first album! “Deserving of You” takes place in Sandwich, Massachusetts, and while the story is quite different tonally from the song’s bouncy and almost cheerful rhythm, I kept wanting to listen to “Walcott”—which is about vampires taking over the Cape—when I was writing it. 

“Don’t Look Back in Anger,” by Oasis withSarah Lanes School for Girls”

This boarding school murder mystery is set in the 90s, and it has a very 90s vibe. It mentions the Clintons, cell phones are conspicuously absent, and it follows the 90s preoccupation with prep schools. Needless to say, I listened to a lot of 90s music as I wrote. 

“Paper Bag” by Fiona Apple for “Four Houses Down”

I’ve listened to this song more times than I would ever care to admit. I loved it when I was a kid, and when I was writing this story, I returned to it again and again. The refrain, “Hunger hurts, but starving works / When it costs too much to love” fits the young narrator’s attitude towards her grief well.

And finally, to bring this playlist home, a personal tongue-in-cheek favorite: “New England” by Jonathan Richman. Because this book really is a spooky love letter to the region.

Rebecca Turkewitz is a writer and public high school teacher living in Maine. Her debut collection of stories, HERE IN THE NIGHT, will be published by Black Lawrence Press this July. Her fiction and humor writing have appeared in The Normal School, The Masters Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Electric Literature, Best Microfiction 2023, The New Yorker’s Daily Shouts, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in fiction from The Ohio State University. She’s been a resident at Hewnoaks Artist Residency and won a 2020 Maine Literary Award in the short works category.

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