Bookish readers know that we are Julie C. Dao fangirls at heart. Her third novel, Song of the Crimson Flower, is one of our most-anticipated fall books. It follows Lan, who is on a mission to break the curse that trapped the soul of a boy named Bao within a flute. Readers who have been counting down the days until Song of the Crimson Flower hits shelves are in luck: Bookish has an excerpt of the novel and is giving away advance reading copies! To celebrate the raffle, Dao put together a playlist inspired by her novel. Listen to the book’s soundtrack below, and then visit BookishFirst to read the excerpt and enter to win an ARC.
Music is a huge part of my process and inspiration, and whenever I am working, I will have something without lyrics (because that can throw me off) on in the background.I grew up playing the violin from fourth grade through college, so I’m a big fan of classical pieces and movie scores. Cinematic music can have so many different moods: romantic, action-packed, atmospheric, and so on, and it helps me visualize my scenes and get into the book more deeply while writing.
When I am not writing, music with lyrics is fine and can help me think about the project while I’m doing other things, like running errands or cleaning the house.
Here is some of the music that inspired me while I was working on Song of the Crimson Flower, my new standalone YA fantasy out November 5!
“Let No Man Steal Your Thyme” (instrumental) by Craig Armstrong, from the Far From the Madding Crowd soundtrack
This is such a lush, sweeping, romantic score that was perfect for listening to while I was writing my love story! It also sounds like the countryside, and much of my book takes place in a pastoral setting.
“The Legend of Ashitaka” by Joe Hisaishi, from the Princess Mononoke soundtrack
I adore Joe Hisaishi’s music, and this gorgeous piece feels epic and darkly magical in scope. I listened to it whenever I was writing scenes involving the hidden past of one of my main characters, Bao.
“The Secret Letter” by Brian Crain
There’s something about slow-tempo piano music that sounds like moonlight on water to me. My book has a meandering river that brings my characters, Bao and Lan, to their destinies and I kept thinking of this piece.
Traditional bamboo flute music
One of my characters plays the Vietnamese bamboo flute, which becomes a very important detail in the story, and I listened to a ton of traditional music on YouTube.
“Collide” by Howie Day
Song of the Crimson Flower is about two people who fall apart before they fall in love, and I think this song is so beautiful and perfect for that theme! The lyric “I somehow find you and I collide” is absolutely spot on for the relationship.
“Fall Again” by Glenn Lewis
This utterly romantic cover of a Michael Jackson song is also perfect for my characters’ love story, especially the lyrics “We fought in a battle nobody won, and now we face a mountain to be overcome. You can’t turn away the past, I need us to carry on.”
“Fields of Gold” by Eva Cassidy
This is a cover of an old and lovely song by Sting, and it makes me think of the Kingdom of the Sacred Grasslands where my book takes place. I think the lyrics are gorgeous: “Will you stay with me? Will you be my love among the fields of barley?”
“Paradise (Peponi)” by The Piano Guys
This mostly instrumental Coldplay cover has a vast, adventurous, epic feel to it, especially with the cello carrying the melody. I’ve been using it as journey music quite a bit, both in this book and my two previous novels, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix.
“For the Love of a Princess” by James Horner, from the Braveheart soundtrack
This is another lush, achingly romantic score that makes me think of Bao and Lan! Bao is a poor fisherman far below minister’s daughter Lan, who might as well be a princess to him at the beginning of the story.
“This Land” by Hans Zimmer, from The Lion King soundtrack
I’m in love with the sweeping, atmospheric feel of this score, and I imagined it playing through the last scenes of this book, when things are falling apart and coming back together in a way the characters never imagined.
Here’s a Spotify playlist for Song of the Crimson Flower, which substitutes the vocal track of “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme” for the instrumental.
Julie Dao is a proud Vietnamese American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. She is the author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.