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The Music Behind Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

Do you have a playlist you listen to for writing inspiration? TJ Klune, author of New York Times bestseller Under the Whispering Door, joins us today to discuss the musical inspiration behind his latest book and the role music has in his writing. Check it out here!


By TJ Klune

Music has always played a big role in my writing.

This, of course, comes with a caveat. Because I’m weird like that.

You see, when I’m actually writing, I listen to NPR. Yeah, I know how that sounds, but there is something comforting about the low murmur of voices in the background while I’m typing away.

And when I’m editing, I listen to Christmas music. Not necessarily because I have a great love for it (which I do—I’m of the firm belief that there is nothing wrong with putting up Christmas decorations in September), but because of another reason. When I was editing my first book before publication back in 2010, it was around the holidays and all I listened to was old-fashioned Christmas music, particularly the ones recorded in the 1950s-60s. When that first book came out, it sold pretty well, so I decided the music played a role in that (just go with it—superstitions can be dumb like that). So when I edit any book—no matter what time of year it is—I listen to Christmas music.

But when I’m writing the first draft, deep in the story, I tend to curate playlists for the book that remind me of the story. I listen to those playlists constantly when I’m not writing, something that keeps me focused on the world I’m creating. Most of the time, these soundtracks are just for me, something I put together without necessarily thinking about sharing it. I have shared some before for different books, selecting a few out of dozens and dozens that I think really fit with the heart of the novel.

The same is true for Under the Whispering Door, my upcoming novel about ghosts in a teashop. At its heart, Under the Whispering Door is a story about the tremendous power of grief, about looking back on a life through the lens of death, and realizing the opportunities wasted, the chances missed. It’s about trying to become a better person, and giving your all without the expectation of anything in return. It’s about hope and tea and finding a place in the world, even when your heart no longer beats.

The following playlist took me a long time to make, given I needed to pick out these ten songs from a list of hundreds. But these songs are the best representation of the novel and give you a good idea of the journey to come. Please support the artists by streaming their music or purchasing the songs and/or album. Each song I’ve listed is one I’ve bought because creators deserve to be compensated for their hard work. I’ve also included a lyric or two that I feel speaks to me about my ghosts. I hope your ghosts enjoy them too.

1. The Show Must Go On by Queen

Does anybody know what we are living for?
I guess I’m learning
I must be warmer now
I’ll soon be turning, round the corner now
Outside the dawn is breaking
But inside in the dark I’m aching to be free

2. Stabat Mater by Windborne

Stabat mater dolorósa
juxta Crucem lacrimósa,
dum pendébat Fílius

(Translation: At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last
)

3. Linger Longer by Cosmo Sheldrake

Distant thoughts become cluttered mind
What is a drop in the ocean?
Far and few, but long behind
We’re spun by the heavenly motion

4. Impossible is Possible by Black Violin

There’s a moment when you understand
You don’t gotta follow all their plans
It’s time to open up your hands
Don’t leave it up to chance
We can do anything

5. In Your Likeness by Woodkid

I know
I’m not made in your likeness
You’re not made for my darkness
I know
I’m not made in your likeness
I do try, but I’m hopeless

6. State Lines by Novo Amour

I’ve been awake in every state line
Dyin’ to make it last us a lifetime
Tryin’ to shake that it’s all on an incline
Find me a way, I’ll be yours in a landslide

7. Stand By Me (cover) by Florence + the Machine

If the sky that we look upon should tumble and fall
Or the mountain should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry
No, I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

8. Go Wherever You Wanna Go by Patty Griffin

You can get up on some sunny day and run
Run a hundred miles just for fun now
Heartaches and yesterdays don’t weigh a ton now
You can get up on some sunny day and run

9. The Parting Glass by Hozier

But since it fell into my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be to you all

10. Burning Fire by Camino

I long for the day when I see your face
I know, we’re on a road to a better place
I hope the one I love waits for me
‘Cause I know you will find me

11. Home by Edith Whiskers

Oh, home, let me come home
Home is whenever I’m with you
Oh, home, let me come home

TJ KLUNE is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling, Lambda Literary Award-winning author of Under the Whispering Door, The House in the Cerulean SeaThe Extraordinaries, and more. Being queer himself, Klune believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive queer representation in stories.

Order Under the Whispering Door Here:

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3 thoughts on “The Music Behind Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

  1. This book, which I’ve just listened to via Audible, was exactly what I needed.
    Tom, the love of my life, with whom I shared my life for 15 years, died in October 2020, and his guide dog followed three months later with the same cancer.
    It has taken me most of the last incredibly strange year to rejoin the world. I have to say that grief is a weird, weird emotion.
    Under The Whispering Door was written just for me… well, for anyone who’s endured the loss of someone close.
    TJ understands grief. He’s had plenty of his own and this amazing, fantastic book really, truly spoke to me.
    Not only is this a tremendous and beautifully crafted yarn, but the emotion and feeling in it are just so REAL.
    Thank you, TJ. I laughed and sniffled and cried in all the right places. And this playlist is a proper capper. Wow.

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