Catherine McKenzie’s fresh and compulsively readable novel, Spin, at first sounds like a horror story out of Cosmo. Her heroine, Kate, is a freelance journalist with the job opportunity of a lifetime—but she botches it when the interview falls right after her 30th birthday, and she shows up drunk. However, she’s offered a second chance for her dream job—but first she has to go undercover at rehab to follow a Lindsay Lohan-like celebrity as she tries to sober up.
Kate is a music writer and music figures prominently in this story. Author McKenzie even goes so far as to include a playlist at the back of the book! We asked her to elaborate on five songs from the playlist. Below you’ll find why these songs are important to the story. You can find the full playlist on YouTube.
Behind the music of Spin
guest post by Catherine McKenzie
Music plays a central role in Spin. In part because the main character, Kate, is a music journalist—and therefore often uses music as a reference for her feelings—but also because I originally envisioned the book as a musical. I know. Weird, right? What I mean by that is that I wanted to introduce music into the book in a way that would take it from two-dimensions to three. That’s why there’s a playlist at the end. Each chapter has a song that is either mentioned in the chapter, or that embodies what Kate is going through and feeling. Here’s why I picked some of the songs I did:
Chapter 1: “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.” Kate references this KT Tunstall song as one she’s listened to hundreds of times. To me it’s an upbeat, feel-good song. The tempo and the way it’s sung make me think about dancing, letting go, having fun. I thought it was representative of where Kate is in her life at the beginning of the book.
Chapter 2: “Redemption Song.” Like the title says, this song is, on some level, about seeking redemption. As any blurb of Spin will tell you, early in the book Kate blows her chance at her dream job by showing up still drunk to an interview after a night of partying. This prompts Kate to try—sort of—to change her life, to redeem herself, if you will. But Kate isn’t ready to change, and so she ends up taking a different path: following a celebrity in rehab to get the inside scoop. If she succeeds, her dream job might be hers.
Chapter 3: “Hey There Delilah.” The lead singer of the Plain White-T’s wrote this song about a girl he was interested in, but it’s also about hope. Hope that they’ll be together. Hope that he’ll get the fame he’s seeking. Since Kate arrives at rehab full of hope about her future—I know . . . weird, right?—I thought this was a good song to accompany her.
Chapter 4: “Displaced.” This haunting song by Azure Ray is, to me, about feeling uncomfortable in your own skin. And that’s certainly how Kate feels in her first days of rehab.
Chapter 5: “Blackbird.” This pretty Paul McCartney/Beatles song is one that Kate dreams about early on in rehab. While the reference to it is passing, Kate’s urge to fly away “into the light of the great black night” is strong. And the first seeds of doubt about whether she’s broken or not start to creep in.
So . . . if you read the book, turn on some music. It’s the way it’s meant to be read.
Learn more about Spin on Catherine’s website. Readers: Do you associate books or characters with music? Share your associations in the comments!