In 2008, I first outlined a story about a green apple tree and a twelve-year-old girl named Lottie Fiske. Little did I know that, nearly seven years later, Lottie’s story would be published as The Water and the Wild. Those seven years of writing and rewriting were jam-packed with music. I pieced together Lottie’s story to the tune of countless soundtracks that evolved over time and each reflected a new stage in the writing process.
Music inspired me, kept me focused, and gave me an extra nudge when I was tempted to close my laptop. “Just a few more paragraphs!” cried Azure Ray. “Then you can call it a day.” (Note: Azure Ray said no such thing. That was just the sleep deprivation talking.) Now that The Water and the Wild is finally in bookstores, I’ve been able to step back and put together a mini soundtrack to accompany the story of Lottie Fiske. Hope you enjoy!
“You Know Where to Find Me” – Imogen Heap
Be still with me / If you want to be alone / If you’d rather die than tell / You know where I’ll be
My love for Imogen Heap’s music knows no bounds. She creates a sonic space that’s all her own, and her lyrics have resonated with me since I was a teen. In an interview, Imogen said she wrote “You Know Where to Find Me” from the perspective of the River Thames. I LOVED that explanation, because I wholeheartedly believe nature can be its own distinct character. To me, “You Know Where to Find Me” is a perfect representation of the special bond that exists between Lottie and the magical green apple that grows outside her bedroom window.
“Home” – Gabrielle Aplin
It’s not just where you make your bed / As long as we’re together, doesn’t matter where we go
An orphan, Lottie has grown up in a boardinghouse run by her cold and unsympathetic guardian, Mrs. Yates. Though the boardinghouse is the only physical home Lottie knows, she’s never felt like she belongs there. The only place she finds true understanding is the home of her best friend, Eliot. Later, when Lottie steps into the magical world of Albion Isle in an attempt to save Eliot’s life, she discovers secrets about her parentage that complicate her idea of what home really means. Is it where you were born? Where you’ve lived your whole life? Is home more about place or people? Gabrielle Aplin’s “Home” beautifully explores those questions.
“Hear the Bells” – Vanessa Carlton
Now I’m asking a witch doctor / But the witch doctor won’t tell
Growing up, I quickly learned that when illness invades your life, it’s an all-consuming, ever-present weight. Whether it’s a personal affliction or the illness of someone close to you, sickness can affect your every thought and step. Lottie Fiske learns this lesson when she finds out that her best friend Eliot, who’s fought an incurable illness all his life, has only a few weeks left to live. The melody of “Hear the Bells” is otherworldly, and its lyrics convey the awful constancy of sickness, punctuated by a refrain that reminds me of John Donne’s Meditation 17.
“Spirited Away” – Lily & Madeline
We are surrounded by such history and change, / And like the ancients, we are spirited away
When Lottie arrives in the world of Albion Isle, her intent is to find a cure for Eliot. But as she journeys along, she learns more about the history of her parents—a history she’s craved to know all her life. When I was writing Lottie’s story, I felt that the presence of her mother and father continue to resurface like faint whispers, echoing back to Lottie across the years. Sister duo Lily & Madeline’s ask, “Who wants you? Who haunts you?”—questions I think are very present in Lottie’s mind throughout The Water and the Wild.
“You Are the Moon” – The Hush Sound
All the light that you possess / Is skewed by lakes and seas / The shattered surface, so imperfect / Is all that you believe
I first heard The Hush Sound’s We Intertwined album when I was a brooding teenager. The track “You Are the Moon” affected me in a visceral way that didn’t leave me, even years later when I began to write The Water and the Wild. I wanted to create a character that fit the description of the song’s melancholy lyrics, and that character turned out to be Oliver Wilfer—a sensitive, poetry-quoting boy who carries with him an affliction that prevents him from touching others and exposes his private feelings for the world to see.
“Wonder-Dummied” – Brooke Waggoner
I tried my best alone / But it got me nowhere, and I can’t do it on my own
Brooke Waggoner really has a way with words. Wonder-dummied is precisely how I’d describe Lottie’s emotional state upon arriving in Albion Isle. The song progresses from a place of burdened loneliness to a realization of the need for companionship. Similarly, Lottie enters Albion Isle alone and weighted down by her concern for Eliot. But she doesn’t leave alone. Throughout her journey, she grows closer to her companions—Adelaide, Oliver, and Fife—and slowly forms a bond of friendship.
“Drink the Water” – Eisley
Little wicked boy / Come out and shake my hand / I come from where you come from / I’ve seen what you’ve seen
On their journey, Lottie and her companions must travel through a place called Sweetwater—a swamp filled with poisoned waters and dotted by the disembodied souls of wicked will o’ the wisps. The scent and sight of Sweetwater is deceptively pleasant, lulling victim’s into a sense of complacency so that will o’ the wisps can lead travelers off their path to their doom. “Drink the Water” is an eerie tune that I imagine could well be an old folk song associated with Sweetwater.
“How Loud Your Heart Gets” – Lucius
Nobody knows how loud your heart gets / Cause we're a million miles away, but I still hear you
At the very center of The Water and the Wild is the unwavering connection between Lottie and Eliot. It’s Lottie’s love for her best friend that first sends her on her journey and continues to propel her onward, even when she’s faced with danger and uncertainty. I love the imagery of a friend’s heart pounding so loudly that the other friend can hear its beat, no matter how far apart those friends might be. “How Loud Your Heart Gets” serves as an anthem for Lottie’s unwavering commitment to find Eliot a cure and return to him, no matter the cost.
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This has been music hour with K.E. Ormsbee! And should you like a handy-dandy Spotify playlist to accompany this post, look no further.