In late 2007, I was driving home from work thinking obsessively about the story of Fixing Delilah, which I’d recently started. All I had was a rough picture of a family of women, a bunch of long-buried secrets, and a teen girl who couldn’t seem to keep herself together anymore. I had no idea how to bring these random bits together on one page, let alone for an entire novel, and I was starting to question whether my publisher made a grave mistake in taking two-book chance on me.
Knowing my melodramatic self, I was crying in the car, alternately downshifting and wiping my nose and cursing the absentee muse, wondering if I’d have to give back my advance once my publisher discovered I couldn’t actually write books. Maybe. But at some point, I stopped sniffling long enough to click on the radio, and a song I’d never heard before filled up the gray space of my car.
All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
I was made for you
It gave me shivers. Her voice, her passion, the words, everything I could feel from her heart. It’s hard to explain, but when this woman sang, I believed her, that’s the best way to put it. And behind those words, I suddenly saw in my mind Claire Hannaford, Delilah’s mother, looking at her daughter, thinking about all of the difficulties of their relationship, all of the said and unsaid things, the history and secrets and mistakes, and how despite everything, there was still so much love. I thought about Delilah’s Aunt Rachel and her Aunt Stephanie that died young. I thought of Delilah’s grandmother, Elizabeth, who left her legacy unresolved when she died after an eight-year estrangement. And I knew it then — no matter how things turned out, the Hannaford women of Red Falls Vermont were made for each other, just like the song said. They would always be connected, blood and history, secrets and promises, good and bad. It sounds crazy, but for me, that one song brought the Hannafords to life in a way that no amount of plotting, brainstorming, character interviews, and crying (and drinking, if we’re being honest) could.
The song? “The Story,” by Brandi Carlile.
Last week, we had the privilege of seeing Brandi Carlile live in Denver. She performed with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, which made her songs even more powerful and dramatic. I loved the arrangements and loved seeing her live — I totally got choked up when she walked on stage, and though I’m a car-crier, I don’t usually cry over singers1. But I’d just received my finished copies of Fixing Delilah, and now I was sitting just a few dozen feet from the woman whose music helped bring the characters to life and became like the theme song of the book. It just felt right to see Brandi here in Denver. It was like things in the universe colliding and coming together, like they always seem to do (Aunt Rachel would definitely agree, with or without her Tarot cards).
I refrained from public fangirling2 at the concert, but I would really love to send Brandi a signed copy of the book she inspired. Is that nuts? Maybe. I sent an email to her PR people hoping to track down a fan mail address, but they probably think (*cough* know) I’m a stalker. I guess the only chance I have of delivering Brandi her signed copy is if singers are as neurotic and insecure as authors (*fingers crossed*), because a little self-Googling on Brandi’s part might lead her right… here! OMG! Brandi, is it really you? Can I send you my book? Please? I… I think I love you. But not in a creepy way. In that totally non-creepy way that strangers fall in love with singers all the time. Anyway, if you’re reading this, you rock. Maybe we could hang out some time? You can sing to me, and I’ll read to you? See? I’m not just in this for the fame and glory. This is totally mutually beneficial. Think about it and get back to me. Love, your stalker. I mean, me. Right. Anyway.
On a serious note (pun intended), if you’ve never listened to Brandi before, go YouTube and Pandora and iTunes her and get to listening.
Aaaand if you like “The Story” and want to see how it inspired the book… Fixing Delilah is already shipping from online retailers right NOW and is starting to make appearances in stores this week. Yes! Now is zee time on Sprockets ven vee3… freak out! Brandi, take me away!
1. Well, other than that time Michael Jackson got in the Pepsi commercial accident. But that was just sad, okay! Everyone cried!
2. We were after all in the orchestra hall, not some collectively drunk concert stadium with popcorn and vomit on the floor, and the usher had already “encouraged” us to use the “complimentary guest coat check” when she saw us try to drape our coats over the rail before us, so I figured any bra-flinging or crowd-surfing would be highly frowned upon, not to mention it’s pretty difficult to play the violin with someone’s bra dangling off your bow. Ahem.
3. Sprockets. I hope you got that reference. If not, I’m older than I thought.