- Bonnie Randall
The Soundtrack of Within the Summit's Shadow
When Buffy Sainte-Marie said "Music has been my playmate, my lover, and my crying towel", it was like she stole the phrase from my heart. As a medium, music operates as a pacesetter for me; every piece of my fiction - no matter how short - has a soundtrack...or at very least a song that becomes its anthem. And, whether it is my own strange Confirmation Bias, or indeed some sort of ethereally symmetrical attunement to the creative process, when I write there are inevitably tracks whose resonance shock me for how aptly the lyrics and tone echo the atmosphere within the story.
Within The Summit's Shadow, a novel that's half ghost story, half love story, and all my character Andrew's story, has spawned the most reverent playlist to date, and is a reflection of so many deeply complex and emotional relationships at work in this novel; resentment, betrayal, malice, misguided loyalty...and love. Deep love. A Great Love.
The intensity between the characters in this novel is as palpable as The Dead Boy's pelting footfalls through the trees, enticing Elizabeth to follow him up the mountain past midnight. A dark anthem wended its way through the imagined black branches as I wrote this scene, a song as eerily deep as all the secrets The Dead Boy is keeping even as he longs for Elizabeth. This is their love song:
But Andrew loves Elizabeth too, and in all the years they've been apart he's kept her memory with him by learning to play guitar - not as well as her, mind you (she is a classical guitarist), but well enough to make her knees a little weak when she happens upon him sitting within the shadows cast by candlelight, playing - and singing - this incredible track:
Yet for all that they compete for Elizabeth, and despite all their animosity and the times they've tried to kill each other, Andrew and The Dead Boy are nonetheless deeply attached to each other too. When Andrew rescues Elizabeth after she plunges through the rotten floor in Summit Centre Lodge, he immediately pities The Dead Boy, for as Elizabeth and he walk away, the thing skulks back into Summit Centre, dejected and lonely without her. Then later, in an atypically civil exchange, The Dead Boy admits to Andrew that "I imagine being you all the time", a revelation that not only shocks Andrew, but saddens him too.
Of all the relationships in WTSS, Andrew's with The Dead Boy is by far the most fraught. They despise each other. Are obsessed with each other. And they know each other far better than anyone else ever can or will. In fact, if The Dead Boy could give Andrew a song it would be the following track. These lyrics bring me to my knees for it seems like The Dead Boy wrote them himself for Andrew, his nemesis:
In turn, Andrew could just as easily take up his guitar and offer The Dead Boy the following lament. An apology? Perhaps. A confession? Likely. His truth? Definitely.
Andrew is the only character I've ever created who has evaded me, ignored me, and flat-out lied to me as I tried to coax forth his story. In fact,I had written an entire first draft of this novel before he 'fessed up and admitted that I had the identity of The Dead Boy all wrong.
Yet it was how difficult he was that made me love him and I, like Elizabeth, can now say to him: "Andrew, I know what it cost you to show me your scars." That, and if I were also able to assign him a song, the song that makes me think of him without fail, it would be this:
Although no matter what song I, his author, could give Andrew, none would stir him quite as much as this piece, the one his sister Shaynie, upon blackmailing Elizabeth to play at her wedding, said was "The sound of two people in love."
Here's to your Happy-Ever-After, Andrew. Thank you, my tortured cop and haunted stone-mason, for telling me the story of a lifetime.
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