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February 19, 2020

Crissy Van Meter's Playlist for Her Novel "Creatures"

Cargill Falls

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, Heidi Julavits, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Crissy Van Meter's novel Creatures is a stunning debut, a coming-of-age tale with a strong sense of place.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"Vivid and moving . . . The tempo of [Van Meter’s] sentences matches Winter Island’s foggy skies and roiling seas: at once bright and languid, visceral and lyric . . .Van Meter’s debut is an unwavering triumph . . . A coming-of-age that’s as human as it is wild."

In her own words, here is Crissy Van Meter's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel Creatures:

Creatures is set off the coast of California on the fictional Winter Island. It’s the story of Evie and her well-meaning, drug-dealing, drunk father, and a portrait of a life that asks how we can truly overcome our past to have a future full of love. So much of the book is about California, grief, betrayal, and of course, love. Also, it’s a lot about whales.

I can’t really listen to music (at least with lyrics) while I’m writing, but as I get to know my characters, I start building a soundtrack to their lives. I end up making a lot of Spotify playlists for each character, sometimes per chapter, sometimes based on how I’m emotionally feeling during a part of the writing process.

Here are a few songs that live on many of my Creatures playlists.

“Midnight Special” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

There’s a scene in Creatures when Evangeline’s absent mother returns and forces her out for a cheezy bachelorette party on Winter Island. They get loaded and watch a CCR cover band at a bar. Things get weird and go emotionally south. This is the song the band plays while Evie’s wild mother dances along.

“Charlie Don't Surf” by The Clash

Creatures is so much about place – California and the ocean. Naturally, there’s a lot of surf culture in the book. I love “Charlie Don’t Surf” and imagine that Evangeline and her father would sing this song to kook tourists.

“Xxplosive” by Dr. Dre

Evangeline comes of age in the '90s. When Evie and her best friend, Rook, spend their time getting into teenage trouble, they listen to a lot of Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. This song is one of my personal favorites, but is also the perfect, too-sexual song for a pair of lost and troubled fourteen-year-old girls.

“Forever” by The Beach Boys

Evangeline falls in love with Liam and she must figure out how to overcome her past to truly make her marriage work. I loved writing the marriage section of Creatures so much and I imagine this perfect love song to be their wedding song.

“Evangeline” by Emmylous Harris and The Band

I grew up dancing to this song with my own father. This name has always been so lovely and special to me. My father and I shared in so much love for music, and especially we love Emmylou Harris. When I began writing Creatures, and building a world for a young girl and her father – I knew my heroine had to be named Evangeline.

“Maybellene” by Chuck Berry

Evangeline’s father drives a beat-up, old truck that he lovingly names Maybellene after this song. He’s a guy who loves music, who likes to dance and party, and who loves Chuck Berry. In this book, so many people have nick names, or code names, or silly names – as way to protect themselves perhaps – so it makes sense that Evie’s father named his truck.

“Sweet Virginia” by The Rolling Stones

This is my favorite get-drunk song. This book is a lot about people getting drunk and high, for better or worse. I imagine this song playing throughout these characters’ lives, especially when they are the perfect amount of drunk. A very good sing-along-with-your-buddies tune.

“Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Johnny Cash

And, a lot of this book is about coming down -- from booze, and drugs, but also from betrayal. This song so perfectly captures the dread of the day after you’ve gone too hard. There’s so much desperation in these lyrics, and in the tone of Cash’s voice. This the theme song of Evangeline’s father.

Crissy Van Meter and Creatures links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book

Kirkus review
Los Angeles Tines review
New York Times review
NPR Books review
Publishers Weekly review
San Francisco Chronicle review

also at Largehearted Boy:

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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

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