When I began writing Love Songs & Other Lies, it all started with a song. Not writing a song—because I had never done that before writing the book—but listening to one. “” by A Great Big World (with Christina Aguilera) struck me the very first time I heard it. Probably because it was so stripped down that the first notes were barely audible, and over just a few minutes, the entire song builds up to this amazing, heartbreaking crescendo of love and angst. Those three minutes, those few verses that spurred me to write my own breakup scene which would morph into Love Songs & Other Lies, felt like a story within itself. And maybe it was. I’ve never looked up the inspiration behind that song, because I don’t want to know. To me, that song is the scene in my book. But usually, with most songs, I’m one of those people who need to know.
That’s the fascinating thing about artists, and especially artists who become popular enough that their creations are consumed by the masses: a tiny, personal piece of them is often on very public display. And even if it isn’t, we want to believe it is. I’ll admit to feeling just a tiny bit lied to, when I realize a song wasn’t written by the artist, despite how common that is. As a writer, I’ve heard for years that once my stories are released out into the world, they won’t be mine. They’re open to the readers’ interpretations, the words and characters ready and willing to have those readers’ experiences imprinted on them. Each person will take a little piece of the story and twist it to fit their needs. They’ll make it their own. It’s the reason that a breakup song written by a twenty-five-year-old can appeal to both a teenager and a thirty-something, or why a fantastical story can feel so relatable. It’s a beautiful part of the process.
But conversely, there’s a strange phenomenon of people wanting to tear away at the story, or the song, until nothing but the creator’s personal inspiration or truth is on display. We see it in the need to pair every Taylor Swift song with a past, present, or potential love interest. Or in the way I find myself googling Ed Sheeran’s girlfriend-status every time he releases a sappy new song, just to see if art is mirroring life.
Why do we have this obsession with celebrity creators? Why are we so intent on knowing every personal detail that goes into their art? In half of Love Songs & Other Lies, the story is set on a battle-of-the-bands style reality TV show. It was fun to write, because the love interests don’t just have to deal with their feelings about being trapped on a tour bus with their ex first-love, they also have the added stress of America watching them as they do it. And seeing America’s commentary, thanks to social media. It was interesting, as a writer, to explore what things would look like on the other side of the google search bar.
The need to know celebrities and their stories can seem creepy, but I think, more than anything, fans just want to know people. And if they can unravel their lyrics, or their stories, they feel like they get to see a little piece of the creator that someone else doesn’t. The way embarrassing stories and secret crushes bind childhood friends together forever in shared story, is the same way we connect to that artist who created something that really made us feel. Because if we can tear away all that comes with celebrity—the clothes we can’t afford and the beautiful people and places we’ll never see—and strip it down to the thing that we all share—first loves, breakups, shattered dreams—we feel a little more like that song or story was made just for us. But the truth is, it was our story all along.
If you want a peek behind the curtain of my debut novel, Love Songs & Other Lies, for all sorts of extras, including exclusive playlists, swag, and personal inspiration behind the story.