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February 19, 2015

Book Notes - Steph Post "A Tree Born Crooked"

A Tree Born Crooked

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 Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Steph Post's debut novel A Tree Born Crooked is pitch-perfect literary noir, authentic and mesmerizing.

The Atticus Review wrote of the book:

"Post doesn't have to reach for realism here – her equable, deliberate authorial voice is a natural fit for the novel's country noir sensibility. She has an excellent ear for lifelike dialogue, wielding a Southern accent like a sawed-off shotgun without ever overstepping the boundaries of believability."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Steph Post's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel A Tree Born Crooked:

I consider myself to be a cinematic writer. I can see every scene that I write, down to the last detail, and I hope that the reader can as well. The look one character gives another, the angle of his face when he turns to speak, the shadow of a cigarette when he raises it to his lips- this is what concerns me most when writing out a scene. I have to be able to see it in my mind's eye, as if were playing out on the screen.

In other words, for me at least, A Tree Born Crooked exists like a film on the page. And if that film had a soundtrack, it would go something like this:

Track One: "Old Friend" by Rancid
Despite the country noir genre, A Tree Born Crooked opens up with punk rock. This is James' theme song and the first scene in a nutshell. "Good morning heartache, you're like an old friend, come and see me again." James is a man who wakes up every day, expecting heartache, embracing it, even. Taking it in stride. Wearing it like a badge of honor. There is an optimism in this song, a beat of hope beneath the heartache. And here we have our hero.

Track Two: "This Old Town" by Clay George
If ever there was a song to describe James' hometown of Crystal Springs, which he reluctantly drives into at the end of chapter one, this is it.

Track Three: "Lawd Have Mercy" by El Camino
Here we meet Rabbit, the younger brother who got left behind. He's a tough guy, in his own mind, brash and pathetic at the same time. The kind of guy you want to strangle, then help, then punch in the face, then pick back up off the floor. He stresses readers out. Lord have mercy on them.

Track Four: "Even the Losers" by Tom Petty
This is high school. Not as it was, but as you remember it, fifteen years later, sitting on a barstool next to a girl who can't let the good old days go. Picture James, his ex-girlfriend, and a bar full of aged-out karaoke singers who never quite topped their senior year at Crystal Springs High.

Track Five: "Change My Way" by Howlin' Wolf
A drinking song, pure and simple. Before things get underway, James spends a lot of time at the Blue Diamond, trying to figure it all out with the help of Budweiser, Wild Turkey and good music on the jukebox.

Track Six: "The Night" by Morphine
Close your eyes, listen to this song, and you'll know all you need to know about Marlena. This is the song playing in the background when James and Marlena are sitting across the kitchen table from one another, a storm raging in the sky and in their hearts. "Unknown the unlit world of old, you're the sounds I never heard before…"

Track Seven: "Swampblood" by Th' Legendary Shack Shakers
The Alligator Mafia. ‘Nuff said.

Track Eight: "Low Down" by Hank III
Another drinking song. This is James, Rabbit and Marlena, stewing in a hotel room at The Happy Flamingo, ready to turn on each other in an instant. Ready to turn on themselves. Thank God there are plastic cups and a half gallon bottle of vodka to throw fuel on the fire.

Track Nine: "Baddest of the Bad" by Reverend Horton Heat
Tires screeching, bullets in the air and a strong grip on the "oh-shit" handle. Every story needs a wild car chase and here is its song.

Track Ten: "How's it Gonna End" by Tom Waits
And the credits roll. I had the title for A Tree Born Crooked before I had written one word of the book, but I knew this song would be everything for the story. One of the greatest joys of working on this novel was figuring out what being "a tree born crooked" meant to these characters and how that key lyric was going to factor into their journey. The idea of being bent, but not broken, beaten, but still breathing, is essential to James, Rabbit and Marlena and has become a touchstone for me as well.

Steph Post and A Tree Born Crooked links:

the author's website

Atticus Review review
Heavy Feather Review review

Alisse Lee Goldenberg interview with the author
Bionnovate interview with the author
Entertainment Weekly interview with the author
Entropy interview with the author
The Indie View interview with the author
Read To Write Stories interview with the author
Regina West interview with the author
This Podcast Will Change Your Life interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)