The Music of the Firefly Witch

Back when I first wrote the stories that comprise volume one of The Firefly Witch tales, I also discovered the use of music to set the mood for writing. I know from talking to other writers that it’s a common thing now, and probably was back then–Stephen King blasted AC/DC when he was working, for example. But with no internet to connect me with other authors, I not only discovered it on my own, but thought perhaps I was unique.

The two songs I associated with Ry and Tanna Tully were specifically about their relationship, and more specifically about how Ry saw his girlfriend/wife. This was sort of inevitable, given that I’d decided to tell the stories from Ry’s point of view. In a sense, that choice freed me from a level of objectivity that would’ve been hard to maintain. I couldn’t constantly reiterate how beautiful Tanna was, or keep describing that beauty in detail, without it becoming tedious. However, it was a snap to describe how Ry saw her and felt about her, because it established the stories’ central relationship in a way that an objective, third-person perspective never could. And it really didn’t matter if Tanna was the most attractive woman in the world; what mattered was that Ry thought she was. As I revise the stories for the next volume, I’m reminded of the wisdom of that decision. I’d like to say it was a conscious choice, and in some ways, it was. But there was also a healthy dollup of beginner’s luck.

The first song that connected itself to the stories (and I use that phrase deliberately; I never set out to find songs, they just appear and resonate) was “Spooky,” released by the Classics IV in 1968. First, the song itself is brilliant: there’s a sense of wind through bare trees in the production, and the vocals are simply and fun. If you pay close attention to the end of the story, “The Chill in the Air Wakes the Ghosts Off the Ground,”* you’ll catch the pretty blatant shout-out to the song.


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The other song, 1985’s “And She Was,” is by the Talking Heads. Ironically, I’ve never been a huge fan of David Byrne, but this song has a joyousness that goes beyond the arrogant smugness of most of his work. The story, possibly apocryphal, is that Byrne wrote the song about a girl who liked to take LSD in a field next to a Yoo-Hoo factory. But whatever the inspiration, it’s always felt to me like a man delighted with a girl’s quirks, and that’s certainly how Ry feels about Tanna; hell, he’d have to, to put up with them.


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These songs let me quickly access the mood I’m after when I’m writing. And, now that I’m revamping and revising these Firefly Witch stories, that’s become an incredibly crucial thing. I wrote the original versions of most of these stories fifteen years ago, when both the world and this writer were very different; the music lets me reconnect with how I originally felt about them, and why I felt their stories were worth telling.

*the title of this story comes from a slightly misheard lyric in “Harvest Moon” by the awesome Jason and the Scorchers

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