Music has a huge impact on my storytelling, but I’ve never written a book that relied as much on a soundtrack as Maybe This Time. The book takes place in 1992 so the music was crucial in rewinding my brain back twenty years. Although there are no flashbacks in the book (I am strongly anti-flashback), a lot of the music flashes back even farther to the year North and Andie were married, 1982, evoking memories and affecting actions in the present (well, in 1992).
The music from 1982 was music from Andie and North’s courtship (short though that was) and marriage. Andie’s theme was “Layla,” by Eric Clapton (original version) because North said that was the music that had to be playing in her head when she moved. (North’s theme was “Human” by the Pretenders, but I lost it when I moved the setting back to 1992 since it didn’t come out until 2004.) Their song was “Somebody’s Baby,” by Jackson Browne, because that’s what was playing when they met. And North said his first clue that Andie was going to bolt was when she kept playing “Any Day Now,” by Ronnie Milsap, when he came home at night; he really hated Ronnie Milsap. All of those (except for the Milsap) show up on a mix tape that North made for Andie in ‘82 that includes Clapton’s “Rock N’ Roll Heart” and “Man in Love;” North is a big Clapton fan, but then who isn’t? Another set of music from 1982 is a mix tape that Alice plays that belonged to her dead mother: “Gloria,” by Laura Branigan; “She Bop,” by Cyndi Lauper; “Time After Time,” also by Lauper; and “Make a Move on Me,” by Oliva Newton-John. Her mother wasn’t deep, but she was happy.
But in 1992, there’s the music on the kitchen radio that Andie and Alice dance to while they bake, which includes “Hurt So Good,” by John Mellancamp (the announcer says, “Here’s an oldie,”), “I’m Too Sexy,” by Right Said Fred (Alice loves “I’m Too Sexy”), and “Everything Changes” by Kathy Troccoli. Andie sings an old Disney lullaby to Alice, “Baby Mine,” because it’s the only one she knows, but North brings her a just-released album as a present: Clapton’s Unplugged with the acoustic “Layla” on it. Ironically, the song “Maybe This Time” was thematically right for the book, and since it came out in ’72 it was chronologically right, but it didn’t work at all musically: too melancholy.
I can’t imagine writing this book without the music to put me back two decades, so I owe a debt of gratitude to all the artists who helped and inspired me. Also, it turns out that you can play “Layla” over and over and over again and never get tired of it, so a special thanks to Clapton. Maybe This Time wouldn’t have been the same book without you all.