Yep, yes, you guessed it. It’s a Taylor Swift song.
I think I don’t need to say I’m a Taylor Swift fan – although I just did. I was completely obsessed with 1989, listened to it nonstop for months, depicted each lyric trying to guess the stories behind them.
Unfortunately, I can’t remember exactly why Welcome to New York was the one that gave birth to this book. It’s not my favorite song, not even close, to be honest. I only remember I found my two main characters in these verses:
Everybody here wanted something more – hi there, Alana!
Everybody here was was someone else before – and you, Harry!
This was the very start of the book. Actually, not exactly the very start…
As I told you in the first post, the original idea for this was very different. At first, Harry would be the one chasing a dream and Alana would be the one with a dark past. Alana would still be a waitress in a coffee shop, and Harry would get a gig there, playing live music once a week. Things would evolve from there – Harry would charm his way into Alana’s life, even though she didn’t want a friend (let alone a romance), and would eventually get a record deal and achieve some type of fame. Alana wouldn’t have much development, she didn’t have any dreams or ambitions, and wouldn’t reveal her secret until someone in Harry’s team researched her past and found it out. I don’t know what would be her secret then.
When I decided to restart the project, I had a few problems with this version: first, someone seeking a musical career would probably go to Los Angeles, not New York. I’d have to make up a really good reason for him to have chosen a not obvious place. Second, Alana was very dull. She looked like a secondary character, when I wanted her to be the star.
So, I made her the star. A Broadway star. I exchanged their personalities, and tried to give them a little more balance. They both have secrets, they both have pasts they regret, but they both have dreams and ambitions. They’re both human. And they both have credible reasons to be in New York.
Then, I wrote that scene where Alana sings in the shop. For a long time I knew she was going to sing, but I didn’t know which song. Until I found it. Roots Before Branches seems to encapsulate perfectly the moment Alana is living. And Harry, too. They’re both lost, have no idea how to move on and how to get over whatever they have been through. Life is nowhere near what they envisioned it to be, and they’re stuck – that’s exactly what the song talks about (in my opinion, anyway).
Also, you might know of someone else who used this song as a theme for moving to New York…
Now, you might have noticed there is another thing I kept from the original idea: the secret. I not only kept it, but doubled it – gave secrets to both the main characters. But as in the first version, I had no idea what would be their secrets for a long time, although I knew the consequences they caused in their lives. So I tried to think in reverse: what type of event would justify a secret?
What could possibly make Alana have to stop pursuing her dream and settle for being a waitress at a coffee shop? It had to be something important. And believable – this was a major concern of mine throughout the writing process. What major event may force you to put everything else on hold?
That’s when I found Juliet. A baby really changes your priorities and your routine like nothing else does. Or like few other things, but once I had this idea, I didn’t think of anything else.
Soon after I made this discovery, or created this situation – it’s hard to tell which – something magical happened: She Used to Be Mine. I found a cover of this song online and could not believe how well it fitted into the story. I listened to it on repeat for several months.
PS.: Juliet was also named after a song. This song. It’s also perfect – besides being filled with Shakespeare references, Zac originally wrote it for his own daughter.
At this point, it became clear to me that this book would have a soundtrack. Not only the story was originated from a song, but I kept finding songs that reminded me of the story or that helped me further the plot. That’s when I started to make a playlist!
Every time I listened to something that I thought related to Alana and Harry, I added to the playlist. I think I ended up with 70+ songs by the time I finished the first draft! As I embarked in the editing process, I narrowed the list down, and now we have 21 songs arranged in chronological order – you can find them on Spotify!
There are a few more that I’d like to highlight:
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – the song she sings in her first talent night at O’Malley’s. The perfect Irish song for an Irish pub, and for our heroine.
Five Tattoos – Harry’s song. I think this describes him perfectly and – *SPOILER* – in my mind, this is the song Alana writes for him at the end.
On My Own and Out Here on My Own – I had to add some Broadway classics in here, right? Also, another little spoiler – in the first draft of the story, Alana makes a theater friend while waiting in line for one of her auditions and they end up singing both songs together. I had to ultimately kill that character for plot purposes, but the songs live on.
It’s You – I added a lot of love and friendship songs in the list, but this might be my favorite. It’s the last one and the one I think encapsulates their relationship: simple, easy and meant to be.
That’s it for today! And here are the things I want to know:
Did you get the title reference from the start?
Do you connect songs to stories the way I do?
Is there any other song that reminds you of WtNY?
Let me know! Leave a comment here or hit me up on social media!
Tomorrow I’ll walk you through my gorgeous cover! I don’t know if you noticed, but there are a lot of hints hidden in it…
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