The Lavender House Playlist By Lev AC Rosen - Tor/Forge Blog


The Lavender House Playlist By Lev AC Rosen

The Lavender House Playlist By Lev AC Rosen

Lavender HouseA delicious story from a new voice in suspense, Lev AC Rosen’s Lavender House is Knives Out with a queer historical twist.

When your existence is a crime, everything you do is criminal, and the gates of Lavender House can’t lock out the real world forever. Running a soap empire can be a dirty business.

Read below to see Lev’s playlist for his upcoming novel Lavender House!

By Lev AC Rosen:

To me, music is such a great way to capture the energy of a historical piece. Not just as an author making a playlist to have on as I write, but for readers, too. Music evokes a time so quickly. A mention of It’s Raining Men takes you to the disco era. Mister Postman immediately paints a Motown picture. Music is time, and it’s succinct in a way that describing an outfit or room can’t always be. So I knew I wanted to use it when writing Lavender House (and it didn’t hurt that I love the music of the late 40s and early 50s).

But as I started using it more and more, I realized that with a first-person narrator, the music had to be important to the character, too – how does he recognize these songs? And that helped me fill in some of Andy. Music is the thing he loves; it reminds him of his dad, it reminds him of friends, and it kept him company in a way that his fellow officers and his anonymous hook-ups could not. As I’ve been writing the sequel, I gave Andy a new home, and I knew the first thing he would buy for it would be a record player and radio. That’s what music is to him. It’s the first thing he needs to survive beyond food and water.

So with that in mind, one of the first things I did was make a playlist of all the named songs (and a few cut ones) in Lavender House. They were chosen for their vibe, generally, because they expressed the time, and because I like them, but also because of their mood, and how it matched the moment.

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Tennessee Waltz, sung by Patti Page

Honestly one of the most 50s songs I could think of, it’s the first one on the page, playing in the background of the bar as Andy tries to drink himself to death. It’s a melancholy song for a melancholy moment.

2. Mixed Emotions, sung by Rosemary Clooney

Again, another song that to me expresses the early 50s very well – but also, perhaps I was tempted by the on-the-noseness of the title for the moment. Andy getting in a car, going who knows where, taking a case he barely understands, when just moment ago his plan was suicide – he’s having a lot of mixed emotions himself.

3, 4, 5. The St. Louis Blues and After You’re Gone sung by Kay Starr and Cold Cold Heart sung by Dinah Washington

For Cliff’s strip tease/lip-synch (though, fun fact: the term “lip synch” didn’t exist til the 60s, so I had to find other ways to say it), I knew I wanted something sexy, but also kind of sad, and most importantly, something interactive – lines he could reach out and touch Andy on, and suggest that it was Andy who was being with holding and cold. My first instinct was After You’ve Gone because of it’s tone of ‘you’ll regret this’ which felt very haughty and Cliff. But after a few drafts, I decided it was too much of a bop, not enough longing in it, and switched to Cold Cold Heart, which had a lot more sensuality to it. And then my editor pointed out I needed the rights to use the lyrics of songs from that time period. Oops. So I did a deep dive into songs which were technically in the public domain now, but had recordings that were done in the late 40s or early 50s. My friend Molly was invaluable here, and managed to find another Kay Starr number for me – The St. Louis Blues. Again it’s about a cold man leaving a sad woman, and while a bit more upbeat, it still has that great sense of longing, and wonderful lines for Cliff to playact to, like “Oh my man’s got a heart like a rock cast in the sea.” And best part? The B-side of the record was After You’ve Gone, so I got to get that in, too – even if I couldn’t use the lyrics.

6. Kiss of Fire sung by Georgia Gibbs

One of my weirder choices, with its opening notes that sound like Pretty Woman and much more modern overall vibe. But I wanted something that felt like a tango. The staff, particularly the couple Dot and Judy, don’t get as much time on the page as the family in Lavender House. So when I had Andy go down into the kitchen to meet them for the first time, before they go stony and cold with him, I wanted a moment where they didn’t see him, and were just being themselves, a moment to express who they were out of sight. This song is sexy and fun, and when Judy and Dot dance to it, even just for a moment, you get a glimpse of who they really are.

7. Would I Love You? Sung by Doris Day

Doris Day is one of the other classic singers of the 50s I knew I needed to use. I wanted a song that was popular enough folks might sing along, and one calm enough to set the mood for the casual family breakfast it plays in the background of. Though Lavender House is brimming with a lot of secrets and emotions, there are moments – especially breakfast, when they all sit down together – when I wanted to fact that they’re still a family who loves each other to come across.

8. Too Young, sung by Nat King Cole

I wanted something with a similar energy to Would I Love You? To come on afterwards, to keep the mood going. Too Young has that great sweeping opening and even goes more romantic, perfect for Andy to notice the casual normalness of the relationships here.

8a. The Thing, sung by Phil Harris

I also wanted something that felt like an artifact, a silly 50s song, for someone to immediately shut off after Too Young. This fit the bill. I’ve spared you by not putting it on the playlist.

9. Mad About the Boy, sung by Maxine Sullivan

Oh Gene. Sweet, wonderful Gene, who I knew I wanted to not only introduce here, but set up to become more central in the sequel. Something romantic, and a bit sexy… but also Andy has just been beaten within an inch of his life and is passed out. But when he comes to, Gene next to him, I knew I needed the music to fit. This song is a little twinkly – as I imagine it might be coming out of a post-beating-blackout – but sexy, romantic, mysterious and obviously sets up Gene as an object of affection.

10. Why Don’t You Do Right, sung by Peggy Lee

I HAD to have some Peggy Lee. And why not use this song, made famous by that classic noir icon Jessica Rabbit? It’s one of my favorites. So when Cliff was drunk-dancing again and I wanted the music sexy, this was the perfect choice.

11. The Lady Drinks Champagne, sung by Pat (in the book) and Johnnie Ray (in the playlist)

Pat, the butler, is a wonderful character, and I thought it would be fun to give him a moment to shine, a song to sing as a sort of alarm at Andy’s request. But what song would Pat sing? A ballad for sure, Pat’s the type to enjoy holding a note, but also something filled with melodrama, and as he was supposed to be sweeping, something he could sing to a broom with real style. I don’t know why this song fits all of that so perfectly, but it does, and every time I reread the moment when Pat started singing, thinking of this song made me laugh because I could picture him camping it up so perfectly.

12. Wheel of Fortune, sung by Kay Starr

In an early draft, this plays in the final scene, a sort of obvious statement about how things have turned out and Andy’s life has turned around, but at some point I decided it was far too on the nose, and cut it. Still a fun song, though.

Click below to pre-order your copy of Lavender House, coming October 18th, 2022!

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