Arthur Phillips is the internationally bestselling author of Angelica, The Egyptologist, Prague, and The Song Is You.
From his interview by Tim Riley, the author of several books on rock history, including Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary and Fever: How Rock ’n’ Roll Transformed Gender in America:
Tim Riley: The Song Is You tells the story of two music-obsessed people at different ends of the music industry, and how music steers and inflects their obsession with each other. It starts with a live Billie Holiday recording of “I Cover the Waterfront,” and we learn that Julian’s father is the fan on the record yelling out the song request. You’re very attentive to how such intimate affections burst into public. Have you ever had a similar experience—where a pop record takes on intense personal meaning in your private life?--Marshal Zeringue
Arthur Phillips: All the time. I wouldn’t have written this story otherwise. I do have that much in common with Julian Donahue. I haven’t really taken my affections public, however. I have befriended a musician whom I greatly admired when I was a kid, and, many years ago, I did ask the singer of the Beautiful South to dance with me at First Avenue in Minneapolis, at the end of their concert. She looked at me as if I might be dangerous and ran to her tour bus. But otherwise, it’s just me and my iPod having intense personal experiences all the time.
TR: Randomness plays a key role in how your plot unfolds—the way an encore of “Monkey Man” by the Rolling Stones reveals something telling about Cait to Julian, fills in some blanks. Did you have playlists for each character, or did songs jump out at you as you developed their differing traits? How many of the novel’s music choices were random?
AP: Well, it’s...[read on]