With its lyrical prose, Leesa Cross-Smith’s book “Whiskey and Ribbons,” doesn’t just read like music; it’s organized like a composition.
Specifically, Cross-Smith wrote it like a fugue, which is a composition technique that became really popular during the Baroque period, in which you have one theme, multiple voices reflecting on that theme and a lot of repetition.
“Whiskey and Ribbons” features the intertwining voices of three main characters.
There’s Evie, who was nine months pregnant when her husband, Eamon was killed while working as a police officer. We have the voice of Eamon before he was killed. And then there’s the voice of Dalton, Eamon’s brother who has moved in with Evie to help care for her newborn baby.
“I had no idea how to structure the novel, but then I just started marathoning ‘Mozart in the Jungle,’ Cross-Smith said. “And they would talk about fugues and symphonies, so I started looking up fugues.”
“The fact that it is three voices that are tied together and one can drop out — I really did have a lightbulb moment.”
But music’s influence on the novel goes deeper than just structure.
“So there’s three main characters and one is a ballerina — she is a professional ballerina and a ballet teacher — and then one is a pianist. And so what I had there was kind of easy,” Cross-Smith said. “Music is so important in their daily lives.”
Cross-Smith said as she wrote, she learned her characters’ taste in music; Eamon loves 80s power ballads, for example.
As a result, Cross-Smith said there are songs like “Chained and Bound” by Otis Redding and “One More Night” by Phil Collins that she associates heavily with the text.
And now that “Whiskey & Ribbons” is available online and in bookstores, that’s something she wanted to share with readers.
Cross-Smith created an entire Spotify playlist of “mood music,” songs that were important in her writing process and that reflect her characters. Readers can listen along on her website.