So, why is there a soundtrack, anyway?
Music has always been really important to me, and it has been the way I've connected with all of most of my closest friends.
I grew up in the 90s.
When I was in 7th & 8th grade, my best friend and I would listen to contraband copies of hardcore rap and hip hop that we'd hidden in her room. (We're talking 2 Live Crew, though I don't even really know why except Tipper Gore made them slap and explicit lyrics label on the front, so we were immediately obsessed with it.)
In high school, we traded our mid-riffs, skin-tight leggings, and walls of bangs for baggy sweaters, floppy jeans, R.E.M., and They Might Be Giants. (We maintained our love of L.L. Cool J, however. A love like that never dies.) This was the era of Nirvana and grunge. I remember a boy playing an acoustic version of "Plush" by Stone Temple Pilots at the freshman talent show at my high school and thinking I'd never seen anything so poetic or sexy.
Near the end of high school, I went to my first concert: R.E.M.'s Monster tour at the Spectrum in Philly. The SPECTRUM! That was it -- I was hooked. Live music was one of the things that made me feel truly alive and connected to something greater. How can you not? Surrounded by thousands of strangers, all sharing the same emotional energy and connection.
I started going to concerts whenever I could -- which wasn't a lot because I didn't have a ton of money. But I tried -- several concerts a year throughout college and my 20s. My favorite venues were the smaller ones -- the Troc in Philly (R.I.P.), the TLA, the Electric Factory (all in Philly). I went to similar places in Pittsburgh (Metropol). I also liked me some good lawn seats and festivals.
Some of my best memories are concert stories: Sneaking into a sold out Counting Crows concert in London by paying some some guy 20 quid, following him through some a maze of hallways half fearing that we were getting ripped off (or worse), and ultimately getting pushed through a door that put us directly in front of the stage. Riding the hot, sticky Greyhound from Philly to D.C. for the Tibetan Freedom Concert on a 90+ degree summer day, only to have it called off within 30 minutes of getting into the stadium because of thunder and lightning. Taking my 10-year-old kiddo to her first concert -- Bleachers at the Mann Music Center, in the rain, during Covid. Now that was an event!
But it's not just big memories that make music so important to me. It's the steady background tracks playing throughout my life. The music my mom played in the car when we drove to the shore. The MTV video countdown on the TV while I did my homework. Whatever pop music was buzzing through the cafeteria speakers. There was always something laying a foundation, setting a mood.
So, when I sat to write Pheidippides Didn't Die music just automatically played in the backgrounds of the scenes. The characters were reminded of tunes, they hummed, they talked about their favorite bands. Music was one of the first ways they connected. It made the world around them real, tangible, and rooted.
Music was also how I came to know the characters themselves. As I wrote about Mac & Libby, I imagined -- and ultimately built -- their unique playlists. To really know them, I had to know their favorite songs. I had to know how they preferred to listen (FYI: for Mac it's vinyl all the way, while Libby's a little less concerned about the medium, but she craves variety). I had to know whether they danced or tapped their toes, did they sing out loud or just bob their heads. Music made them more than characters to me. It made them human.
So, I created this soundtrack. And to be clear: this came after the fact. I didn't build the book around the soundtrack or individual songs; they all naturally wove their way into the narrative. The point is: I wanted to offer you this extra connection to the characters, their world, their personalities, their humanity.
I hope you enjoy it.