I am not the fan of country music that my character Teddie is, but there is one song in her story that skyrocketed into my list of favorite songs as I was writing this book. A good bit of how much we like music has to do with our own circumstances, doesn’t it? I wrote c3 at a time when my husband and I were contemplating a major move from Texas to one coast or the other. I was lobbying for Oregon or Northern California, he was pushing for something along the coast in South Carolina. New Mexico became the compromise that neither of us quite wanted. Then we started talking about the mountains of Western North Carolina and everything seemed to come together.
It’s not surprising that “Heads Carolina Tails California” by Jo Dee Messina became my theme song for a few months. In the end “heads” won for us, but I will always think fondly of the Pacific coast, and of the restlessness in this song.
I moved to Texas in 1989. I didn’t particularly like country music then and I still don’t. But the seventeen year old hero of c3, Teddie, loves listening to the stuff. Each of my books has a nine song soundtrack that reflects the taste of its main character, and for this book I needed to find nine country songs that I actually liked and that fit well into my novel. I wasn’t sure that it was even possible.
Lucky for me country music turns out to be a much wider genre than I realized, slopping over into rock and folk with some fun stuff around those edges. Even better, I had help from from a country music fan who knew my tastes and kept feeding me possibilities. Before long, I found more country music to enjoy than I expected. I don’t think that I’ll ever listen to a lot of it, but I have to admit that each song that I ended up using spoke to me in a certain way. Some told stories I appreciated and some made me feel stronger and a few brought tears to my eyes in spite of how silly that made me feel.
All nine songs I picked live in my playlists now, though in the end I developed a clear favorite. The 1996 hit single that launched Jo Dee Messina’s career, called “Heads Carolina Tails California”, made it into the book about the time that my husband and I began talking seriously about leaving Texas. We’re nomads at heart and we’ve been here a long time. For the last couple of years we’ve considered Oregon and New Mexico and Northern California and North Carolina. I put the song into c3 to tie into Teddie’s desire to get out of Darjeeling. However, the truth is that I played the song over and over for myself as well as we struggled with our decision. I even thought of suggesting some sort of coin flipping ceremony to my husband, who occasionally is oddly open to ideas like that.
Time passed, c3 got finished and published and d4 is in the works. Our plans somehow gelled and we made our selection, no coin toss needed. It’s “heads” for us. Carolina won, after we spent a week in the Asheville area this summer and felt like we had found a home. We’re off house hunting there in a couple of months. Meanwhile we are packing stuff up here and starting the home selling process. It’s not quick when you’ve gown roots as deep as we have, but we’re as exhilarated as Jo Dee is here as she sings the song live.
Isn’t it funny that it doesn’t matter what the genre of music is? In the end your favorite songs are always the ones where the lyrics seem to be speaking directly to you.