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Questions of Perspective

From the Author:



My writing process is somewhat atypical, in that I will spend days or weeks just daydreaming about how certain scenes and chapters should play out before typing a single word. These reflections often took place while I was commuting to and from work while listening to music, so it should come as no great surprise that Questions of Perspective was greatly influenced by certain musicians and songs. Sometimes it was just a particular lyric that resonated with me; other times, it was the energy of a song that seemed to drive a chapter. This playlist represents the songs that most influenced me in the course of writing this story. The list is somewhat chronological, inm that the first couple of songs influenced early parts of the book, and so forth. A more detailed description of how each song impacted Questions of Perspective is set forth below (with some spoilers).

1. “How a Resurrection Really Feels” by The Hold Steady. I listened to a lot of The Hold Steady while writing Questions of Perspective. One line in this song always stayed with me, as it really encapsulated what I wanted the book to be about: “Father, can I tell your congregation how a resurrection really feels?” I wanted this story to be about what it is like to live through a rebirth (both figuratively and literally), and I revisited this song often whenever I needed a shot of inspiration.


2. “Heart of the Continent” by John K. Samson. There are a lot of John Samson songs on this list (both his work as a solo artist or through his band, The Weakerthans). Simply put, I believe he’s the best lyricist on the planet. The story’s protagonist, Dave Randall, is a bit of a rudderless mess in the early chapters of Questions of Perspective, and one line from this song bounced around my skull as I wrote those early chapters: “As the dusk descends and my inspiration fails.”  Dusk had descended on Dave’s inspiration as well, and it took a bit of divine intervention to give him the kick in the butt he so desperately needed.


3. “Sleep” by Jawbreaker. From my own experience, I’ve come to associate depression with the entire concept of sleep. During the period of my life when I really struggled with depression, there were times I felt so depleted that I would take four naps in one day, and even the time spent awake felt more like a sleepwalk than actually living. In one of the early chapters, Dave realizes with a jolt that he arrived at work with no memory of how he got there, which he recognizes as a symptom of just sleepwalking through life.


4. “Plea from a Cat Named Virtute” by The Weakerthans. This song is about a cat trying to motivate her depressed owner to wake up and start living. If you read Questions of Perspective, this song’s influence (as evidenced by the relationship between Dave and Peaches) should be obvious.


5. “Morning New Disease” by Jets to Brazil. About a third of the way through the book, Dave finally starts asking himself some hard questions about his path and whether it will lead to a fulfilling life. One portion of this song, which stayed with me for decades, lays out that sort of internal struggle beautifully:


I am dreaming of a life,

I am dreaming of waking up;

There’s this anger rising cancer in me,

standing like a wall

between the waking world I seek

and this infected plane of sleep


6. “Oldest Oak at Brookside” by John K. Samson. John Samson again. Probably the hardest part of Questions of Perspective to write was attempting to describe a state of omniscience. I equated that feeling with a sense of oneness with all of creation, and this song was a welcome reminder of what life may be like from the perspective of a tree. I hid a “thank you” to this song in that part of Questions of Perspective by referencing a blue jay burying an acorn, and that came directly from the ending of this song.


7. “Hey God” by Tony Sly. Dave has an opportunity to speak with God and ask some hard questions. It was hard not to think of this song when writing that portion of the story.


8. “The Longest Time” by Billy Joel. Dave is further transformed when he meets Abby and falls in love. Their romance manifests in a sweet and innocent way that I always associated with this song.


9. “Hell” by Tegan and Sara. Questions of Perspective takes a bit of a dark turn after Dave and Abby meet. The frantic energy of this song seemed to lurk in my skull in writing many of those scenes, to the point that a not-so-subtle reference to a Tegan and Sara concert buried its way into that grim part of the story.


10. “Eli, The Barrow Boy” by The Decemberists. It’s hard to think of many bands that capture the essence of sorrow or loss better than The Decemberists. This is a particularly bleak (albeit beautiful) song that would serve as a perfect soundtrack to Dave’s shattered life as he struggles to accept loss in his own life.


11. “It’s Quiet Uptown”, Hamilton Soundtrack. I “discovered” Hamilton in the midst of writing this story (I was later to the party than most), and this song in particular drove me to tears just about every time I heard it. This is another song that inevitably lodged itself into my skull while writing scenes addressing how one can cope with loss (or fail to cope).


12. “Dearly Beloved (Acoustic)” by Bad Religion. Rather than accept loss, Dave finds himself blaming God. Dave’s anger in these scenes was in many ways fueled by this song, which is also “a story of an honest man losing religion ….” Not that I view Questions of Perspective as a religious novel, but losing faith in a higher power (as Dave does) is akin to another “losing religion.”


13. “(Hospital Vespers)” by The Weakerthans. The lyrics to this song are actually an Elizabethan sonnet. The final couplet always struck me as being so powerful that I was determined, at the outset of writing this story, to capture the imagery of “prayer” in the narrative: 


Before the nurses came, took you away

I stood there on a chair and watched you pray


I ended up using the mechanism of prayer as a precursor to Dave being reunited with John towards the end of the story.


14. “Help I’m Alive” by Metric. This is always the song I hear whenever I am forced to do something that I’m utterly terrified of doing. That feeling of forcing your limbs to move when all you want to do is curl up in a ball and whimper. I imagine this as the soundtrack when Dave is marching down the train to confront Tom Horton at the end of the novel.


15. “Real Love” by Mary J. Blige. Since I first heard the song, I’ve loved the line: “We are lovers through and through and we’ve made it through the storm.” Dave and Abby went through a lot, both together and apart, but they also ultimately “made it through the storm.”


16. “The Bleeding Heart Show” by The New Pornographers. This song, to me, perfectly captures what it is like when everything just somehow comes together beautifully. It starts off with a few scattered plucks of a guitar, and ends on a soaring wave of music. I tried to mirror some of that positive energy in the epilogue of Questions of Perspective.


17. “Who Wants to Live Forever” by Queen. The relevance of this one is probably obvious if you made it to the end of Questions of Perspective. The song is posing a rhetorical question, but I’m overly literal at times, and I saw this question as a way to wrap up at least one of the character’s arcs in a way that I found deeply satisfying.

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