Song & Artist Author’s Notes

If I Were Brave

Shawn Colvin
A Few Small Repairs

Step I
Building a character with music…
I’ve always loved Shawn Colvin’s simple, clean voice. And this song could almost be in a Broadway musical, the mournful song before the character’s about to undergo a big change, as Cassie is, prior to joining S.E.C.R.E.T. So this was the song I associateD with building courage, or acknowledging that Cassie needs it.

Percolatin’ Blues

Smoking Time Jazz Club
Lina’s Blues

Step II
My editor and I made a trip to New Orleans to fine tune details and confirm locations. I fell in love with Frenchmen Street and this band that was playing the night we bar-hopped. How could I not include them as the actual band playing while Cassie experiences one of the more daring fantasies in a public place? The lead singer, Sarah Peterson, she’s just so potent and sexy. She’s definitely an honorary member of S.E.C.R.E.T.

Lover’s Spit

The Black Sessions

Step III
Oh Jesse. Sigh…This is the first fantasy kiss. And no song is a sweeter makeout song than “Lover’s Spit,” the Feist version.

Come Pick Me Up

Ryan Adams

But Jesse was conjured listening to Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker record. “Come Pick Me Up” is the ultimate sexy, sad, heartbreaking album of all time. The opening harmonica riff reminds me of hot New Orleans’ nights. Ryan’s a southern boy.

American Wedding

Frank Ocean
nostalgia, ULTRA.

Step IV
My musician fantasies include Jay-Z. Something about the fact that he’s a mystery, despite being so mega-famous. He’s holds his cards close. He’s cool. He’s an adult in a world full of full-of-themselves babies. And he’s ridiculously talented. That said, it’s not his music I hear when I think of him, but Frank Ocean’s (a New Orleans boy, as it happens) —especially “American Wedding.” Also, I love the Eagles and “Hotel California.” This is the first step that finds Cassie in the mansion so it feels just right this song.

Hurt Me Tomorrow

Country, God or the Girl

This song is my new obsession. So sexy, a little mournful. You hear a new, rock-type yearning in K’Naan’s voice. Love, love, love K’Naan.

Slow Motion

Juvenile featuring Soulja Slim
The Greatest Hits

I had this song in mind for what the character was listening to while stirring the gumbo. Juvenile’s a local boy! New Orleans represents.

It Will Rain

Bruno Mars
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

Step V
“It Will Rain” is quite apt for this fantasy and damn it if Bruno Mars doesn’t just get it. I wish he had been around when I was imprinting pop songs in my pre-adolescent brain. This would have been an indelible one.

Fade Into You

Mazzy Star
So Tonight That I Might See

Step VI
This is a beautiful Cinderella waltz, a dance being the prize in this fantasy…Love Mazzy Star. Again with the ’90s! But try to top this as the ultimate slow dance song.


Death in Vegas
The Contino Sessions

Step VII
I mean it when I say this: Death in Vegas’s “Dirge” is THE sexiest song of all time. It builds in intensity, like this fantasy, and leaves you spent and gasping. The ’90s were a good decade for moody instrumental music and this song kills me every time. There have been times when I’ve played it on a constant loop.


Kruder & Dorfmeister
The K&D Sessions

So for full sensory overload, musically, you can’t go wrong with Kruder and Dorfmeister’s K&D Sessions—a classic collection of their remixes. It’s always in my playlists, and it never goes out of style. I listen to it a lot, still, not just when I’m writing. Love “Heroes.”

(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher

Rita Coolidge

Step IX
This might be my all-time favorite song, period. In any genre. It starts slow and then tips into a joyful mix you can’t help but dance to. It’s sexy, fun and leaves you feeling happy and adored. And Cassie must make a choice, so the lyrics are so apt.

Central Reservation

Beth Orton
Central Reservation

Step X
Beth Orton’s “Central Reservation” perfectly captures that bouyancy you feel the morning after one of those nights where it all came together, you know? When everything’s perfect. You’re walking home, on air. That’s how we leave Cassie at the end of the book. Joyful, fearful, doubtful, hopeful. So lovely.

Listen to the playlist on YouTube: