Friday, November 18, 2011

Music to Die By: My Post-Apocalyptic Mash-Up!

When I first started writing my 2013 YA debut, THE TORCH KEEPER, I had very specific ideas about what kinds of emotions I wanted to convey on the page. Scenes played out quite vividly in my mind as if I were sitting in a crowded movie theater, my large buttered popcorn bucket resting in my lap, sipping on an ice-cold soda, watching the movie unfold on the silver screen (after having the manager eject annoying talkers and/or texters of course ;-)

As I was writing, I anticipated certain sections long before I actually got to them, so by the time I did, I felt they were old friends. Perhaps it’s my love for film that quite literally had me cobble together my own soundtrack directly from the source itself—Hollywood!

You see, I was creating a very dark, dangerous post-apocalyptic world, (yep, even worse than the Democrats losing in 2012), and modern pop-tunes just weren’t going to cut it. Instead, in order to get myself in the mood for some literary foreplay, I turned to motion picture soundtracks to inspire me.

And what were the three most influential soundtracks for my Muse-zak?

BEN HUR - Miklos Rosza's Academy Award-winning score to the 1959 blockbuster film was the cornerstone of my soundtrack, from its epic, sweeping overture, trumpeting processions, and melancholic romantic cues, I felt it captured the scope of my novel’s tale of childhood betrayal and the endurance of the human spirit despite terrible adversity. Here's a taste of the overture.

LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY – Howard Shore’s beautiful music also helped to inspire me, particularly its solemn cues of sadness and loss, as well as the mournful melodic choral tracks featuring Elvish lyrics. One of my favorites was used in THE TWO TOWERS and it's called EVENSTAR.

TITANIC – What better way of channeling epic, romantic Young Adult angst than listening to James Horner’s Academy Award-winning 1997 score? My favorite tracks are ROSE, which reminds me of the blossoming romance of my two male leads, and UNABLE TO STAY, UNWILLING TO LEAVE, which counters with the moment where obstacles conspire to separate them despite their undying passion for each other.

I also drew inspiration from the following tracks from other motion pictures which I felt captured the majestic, melancholic feel I was going for in my novel.

GHOST – Maurice Jarre’s Oscar nominated score featured the track MOLLY, which reminded me of the pangs of first attraction that soon give way to chaos.

SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE - John William's score for the 1977 film featured the track LEAVING HOME, which conjured images of my protagonist leaving his loved ones behind as he embarks on a quest that will take him far away to face unknown perils.

CARRIE – Pino Donnagio's score to Brian DePalma's 1976 movie (vocals by Katie Irving) featured the song I NEVER DREAMED SOMEONE LIKE YOU COULD LOVE SOMEONE LIKE ME, which I thought perfectly exemplified my main character's doomed romance with the boy of his dreams and the one brief moment of happiness they share before their lives take a horrible turn.

INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE – Elliot Goldenthal's 1994 score provided the track BORN TO DARKNESS PART I, which I felt inspired the moment in the novel when my protagonist and his fellow recruits realize they are adrift, alone, and have no one to rely on except each other.

As I write this, I'm in the middle of putting together a soundtrack for the sequel novel I'm currently working on, even as I'm standing in line at the box office to see it! ;-)

Steven dos Santos is represented by Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown, LTD. He loves movies, particularly ones about things that go bump in the night, as well as sci-fi and fantasy. Chocolate, Cheesecake, and Happy Endings are nice, too! When not glued to his computer coming up with innovative ways to torture his characters, Steven can be found skulking away on his website, amassing an army on facebook, and sending unanswered tweets to celebrities who, for some inexplicable reason, choose to ignore him on twitter. His debut novel, THE TORCH KEEPER, a Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic thriller, will be published by FLUX Books in early 2013.


  1. and I must be the same age! LOL...same song picks for a LOT of our soundtracks, yet, very different books! cool, thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you, Jackie! Always great to hear from a fellow 25 year-old ;-)

  3. I'm also a huge fan of the LOTR soundtrack. Congrats on your coming book! It sounds wonderful.

  4. Congratulations on THE TORCH KEEPER, and I love your music choices. I listen to the soundtracks to "Garden State" and "Wonder Boys" pretty much non-stop while writing, and I also love "Gods and Generals." Amazing how well mood music works!

  5. Thank you, Lisa! Mood music is definitely inspirational in the writing process!

  6. Love getting an inside look into your grateful to know and love your book, The Torch Keeper, can now picture you sitting and typing, the music of geniuses filling your head. Makes sense.

  7. Awww, you are so sweet, Stacie! I can always count on you to put a smile on my face! HUGS!

  8. Congratulations on THE TORCH KEEPER