I listened to these songs to get me into the right mood for writing Rio’s story, and they were an essential part of the creative process. I hope you enjoy them too! I’ve tried not to be too spoiler-y in my explanations for each selection, but suffice it to say that after you’ve read ATLANTIA, you’ll understand even more why I picked the music I did for this list. Also, I arrange my playlists in chronological order, so that the songs/their meaning follow the story arc of the book.
1. Half Light II (No Celebration) by Arcade Fire.
I have so many memories of driving the country road at night on my way home, after book events or kid events or running errands, and listening to this song. Almost every time, I’d come right inside and go to my desk to write something because I felt inspired. It’s the general feel of the song that’s so perfect, plus these lines have so much to do with Rio and the sirens: “Some people say, we’ve already lost/But they’re afraid to pay the cost for what we’ve lost.”
2. Runaway by The National.
Everything about the imagery of this beautiful song is right for an underwater city, and for a character who feels that she is in the wrong place. The lyrics say “we swallow the sun” and address “being led to the flood.” The melody is also beautiful and haunting, and I associate with both Bay and Rio when they make certain choices.
3. Radioactive by Imagine Dragons.
I am a sucker for a good arena song when the feel is right, and this one is great. It has the right amount of anger for Rio as she realizes what has happened to her and deals with betrayals both real and perceived. And radioactivity is, quite literally, one of the reasons the city of Atlantia had to be built in the first place. Also, the parts about waking up, the apocalypse, and a revolution are perfect for Rio’s story.
4. Your Bones by Of Monsters and Men.
This song is like reading a piece of epic poetry—so much to it, so much I don’t quite understand, perhaps, but the beauty comes through so strong it makes me weep. I also love the words—stripped bare of everything, as Rio is over the course of the book, all that’s left is the heart.
5. City with No Children by Arcade Fire.
Another late-night listening, perfect inspiration song. The melody feels like a wave you can’t help but ride along. The line about the city being “a garden left for ruin” and people being unable to “trust a millionaire quoting the sermon on the mount” have a lot to do with Rio’s city, with Nevio the Minister, and with the feeling of Atlantia, a place that has lost the ability to change and grow.
6. Midnight City by M83.
This song led me to the score to the movie OBLIVION, which was also done by M83, and I listened to that score constantly while I wrote this book. The line “The city is my church” is especially relevant to ATLANTIA, and I love the sound of this song—every beat, every part of the melody.
7. Ghosts that We Knew by Mumford and Sons.
Every year, I pick a song that describes my experience of that year. This was the song for 2013. It made me weep, it made me smile. It helped me get through my own rough times, and I also could picture Rio (and Maire) listening to the ghosts of Atlantia and finding their own catharsis.
8. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire.
Yes, this playlist is a bit heavy on Arcade Fire. I make no apologies. 😉 So many lines in this song–“They heard me singing and they told me to stop”–and “On the surface the city lights shine/They’re calling at me, come and find your kind” fit Rio’s story, especially her journey to power and the way she claims her voice at last.
9. How Can I Keep from Singing by Bruce Springsteen.
There is a very particular scene near the final act of the book where this song fits perfectly. The scene involves many voices, Rio, and Maire, and you’ll know it when you read it. 😉 I love Bruce Springsteen, and I love the power of folk music. There is something in it that you cannot get anywhere else.
10. Gravity, by Steven Price. (From the motion picture of the same name.)
I picture this song playing during the final scene of ATLANTIA. It’s gorgeous, empowering, and you can just feel the character emerging from where she’s been to where she will go next.