I’m a big believer in finding the right music to write to—and what’s perfect for one book often won’t work at all for the next. For THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND, getting my writing playlist together took a little trial and error. The book is set in East Tennessee, specifically in the Smoky Mountains, so I needed songs with a southern, bluegrass feel. But the main character, Hallie, is a singer, and her tastes drift more toward the singer-songwriter spectrum. I wanted to make sure her artistic voice was present. And finally, Hallie and her friends are on a youth group retreat when they get lost in the mountains, which meant I needed at least a couple spiritual songs mixed in. A few weeks and one carefully curated Pandora station later, I had a selection of music that never failed to get me inspired to work on the book.
Because it’s all music I love, I thought I’d celebrate THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND’s (almost) six-week birthday by sharing a curated playlist with you. These songs will give you a glimpse into my process, as well as a glimpse into Hallie’s mind and heart. As an added bonus, this playlist roughly follows the arc of the story, so if you listen while you read, you might find that certain songs line up pretty nicely with specific scenes!
Want to learn more about why I chose each song? I’ve annotated the playlist below. But be warned—there are a few light plot spoilers!
So here we go!
1) “Elastic Heart” by Sia
Okay, I admit it—this song wasn’t around when I was first writing THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND. That said, “Elastic Heart” completely captures Hallelujah Calhoun at the start of the book: angry and angsty and ready to snap.
2) “The Weight of Lies” by The Avett Brothers
I discovered The Avett Brothers while writing DISTANCE, and this song is one of my favorites of theirs. I love the wistfulness of the singer’s voice, the sense of wishing for things to be different. As far as the book goes, Hallie is clearly suffering under the weight of all the lies people have been telling about her, and she feels like she can’t break free.
3) “Poison and Wine” by The Civil Wars
I was obsessed with The Civil Wars while I was working on DISTANCE, and to me, this song is made for Hallie and Jonah. It’s their former closeness and their current distance, the harmony and the hurt all wrapped up together. Plus, I can imagine the two of them performing this song as a duet…
4) “When Your Mind’s Made Up” from the Once soundtrack
Hallie loves the soundtrack to Once; it's one of the albums she shared with Jonah, back when they were friends. The chorus of "When Your Mind's Made Up" pinpoints how Hallie is feeling about Jonah—and all of her former friends—during the first few chapters: "When your mind's made up / There's no point trying to change it." I also hear the storm that opens the third day in the swirling emotion as this song builds and builds.
5) “Wash.” by Bon Iver
After Hallie and Jonah fight under the tree, she cries until she feels wrung out. This song is for those raw, tentative next moments when Hallie and Rachel start to open up to each other, as well as later that evening, when Hallie and Jonah start to figure out who they are to each other after everything that has happened.
6) “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Sufjan Stevens
This is my favorite version of one of my favorite hymns. It’s quiet and reverent and lovely. In the imaginary movie version of DISTANCE, this song is playing while Hallie sits on the mountaintop on the morning of the fourth day, looking out over the landscape and watching the sunrise.
7) “The Light Will Come” by Phil Wickham
The fourth day is when Hallie really starts to feel like things can change—she can change—and this song echoes that hopeful feeling. “Lift your eyes, the sun has overcome the night / Come alive…”
8) “Locked Up” by Ingrid Michaelson
Ingrid Michaelson is one of Hallie’s favorite artists, so this playlist had to include her! This song represents Hallie deciding whether to trust Jonah and Rachel with her story. There are so many spot-on lyrics: “I have taken a wrong turn / When will I learn? When will I learn? / Should I show them all my scars?”
9) “The Kiss” from The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack
The Last of the Mohicans was the first soundtrack I listened to over and over…and over. While writing DISTANCE, I kept returning to it when I needed to feel just as lost in the woods as my characters. “The Kiss” provides the perfect backdrop for Hallie, Jonah, and Rachel’s late-night soul-baring on the fourth day.
10) “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” by Nickel Creek
The fifth day starts with a few happy surprises—not the least of which is the renewed ease between Hallie and Jonah. This song is Jonah in the creek. It's the three of them with food in their bellies. It's Hallie's feeling that anything—good things—can happen.
11) “Everything Has Changed” by William Fitzsimmons
Pay no attention to the lyrics, aside from that critical “Everything has changed.” The song may be about a man’s relationship with his father, but the melody and William Fitzsimmons’ soft, wistful voice feel just right for Hallie’s changing, opening heart on the fifth day.
12) “The Story” by Brandi Carlile
It’s not in the text, but I know Hallie likes Brandi Carlile. This is one of Hallie’s hiking songs on the sixth day, as she’s psyching herself up to find help and make it home. And I love the lyrics: “All of these lines across my face / Tell you the story of who I am … But these stories don’t mean anything / When you’ve got no one to tell them to…”
13) “Where the Light Gets in” by Sennen
Pandora chose to introduce me to this song at the exact right moment: as I was writing the scene when Hallie finds the road on the sixth day. Now, I hear it in my head whenever I read that passage. The music builds and builds as Hallie walks closer and closer to rescue.
14) “Don’t Carry It All” by The Decemberists
The seventh day! Home! Rest! Safety! When she wakes up in the hospital, Hallie finally lets go of the burdens she’s been carrying and decides to move on. (And yes, Hallie definitely listens to The Decemberists…)
15) “Hard Times” by Eastmountainsouth
The “closing credits” song. It starts playing when Hallie and Jonah are together in the hospital, staring out the window at the mountains in the distance. "It's a song, a sigh of the weary / Hard times, hard times, come again no more / Many days you have lingered around my cabin door / Oh, hard times, come again no more."
Fade to black. :)