Two Girls Down was the PageHabit January Mystery pick and is a story following bounty-hunter Alice Vega on the search for two missing girls in small-town Pennsylvania.
Fans of the novel, read on – author Louisa Luna shared with us five books that inspired her while writing and her Spotify playlist for the book. Enjoy!
1) “Shattering Sea” by Tori Amos/ Prelude op. 31 no. 8, “The Song of the Mad Woman on the Sea-Shore” by Charles-Valentin Alkan
I listened to a song by Tori Amos called “Shattering Sea” a lot when I was just beginning the process. There is a melody in that song that is so haunting, it would play in my brain all the time. Then I did some reading and discovered that all of the songs on that particular album were inspired by specific pieces of classical music, and “Shattering Sea” was a variation on Prelude op. 31 no. 8, “The Song of the Mad Woman on the Sea-Shore” by Charles-Valentin Alkan. So then I started listening to that piece on repeat. It is so creepy, so moody, so evocative that even now when I listen to it, I feel like I am on a deserted street or in the middle of the cold woods.
2) “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails
Okay, let me just put this out there: Trent Reznor might be Vega’s spirit animal. I can’t think of a song, lyrically-speaking, more suited to Vega’s ethos than this one. It’s really beautiful and angry and sad, which I also think goes with her personality. The Johnny Cash cover was used for the “Logan” trailer, and first I was pissed off because I was like, that’s Vega’s song, but I guess it’s for any damaged mercenary types. So okay, Wolverine, we can share.
3) “Consummation,” Gone Girl soundtrack, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
Generally when I’m brainstorming or in the pre-writing space, I can listen to any kind of music, but when I’m actually writing, if I’m listening to music, it has to be instrumental only, so that gives way to a lot of soundtracks. As it just so happens, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s soundtracks are the best (ie, The Social Network, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo), but while I was writing 2GD, I listened to the Gone Girl soundtrack the most. All of the tracks are great, but I picked “Consummation” because it starts off with spooky ambient sounds and then builds to a shocking crescendo (a consummation if you will) which is how all good thrillers read.
4) “Trouble Town” by Jake Bugg
This is like the Denville survey song. I would listen to it and picture Cap driving around town, looking at the old-coal-mining landscape and some of the more downtrodden denizens. Jake Bugg has this retro-Dylan thing going on, which I think Cap would be into as well; he might be listening to such a song in his car. I think Bugg was like seventeen when he recorded this. What an asshole.
5) “Husbands” by Savages
Even though I’m not quite sure Vega listens to angry-girl type music, or any music really at this stage of her life, this is a great band and a great song railing against being defined by men. Also it plays over the closing credits of the movie, “Ex-Machina,” and again I was like, jeez, that’s another of Vega’s songs but then I was like, okay, vengeful lady-androids, we can share.
6) “Scream” by Grimes feat. Aristophanes
Yet another Vega song, but I like to think of it as something she would have listened to in her youth, when she partied a little bit more and did one-armed push-ups at bars. If there’s ever a “Vega Chronicles” TV show about her harder-drinking, bounty-hunting days, this would be good for such a soundtrack. Oh, and it’s in Mandarin so I have no idea what the lyrics are but it sounds pretty tough.
Top 5 book recommendations:
Here are the few of the books that inspired me for 2GD. As mystery fans, you’ve probably read some or all, but they do not stop being good.
In no particular order:
1) The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
Though I didn’t exactly base Vega on Lisbeth Salander, that character got me thinking wouldn’t it be neat to write an American counterpart (ideally not a rip-off), a gal who shares Salander’s fondness for street justice and tough love. I also appreciated the relationship between Salander and Blomqvist, which influenced me when I was sketching out Vega’s partner-in-crime, Cap.
2) The Cutting Season, Attica Locke
This is my favorite of Attica Locke’s books — it takes place on a former-plantation-turned-museum and begins with the discovery of a dead body on the grounds so you know, there are some serious layers here. Locke does not shy away from any of them, giving us a great conflicted protagonist in Caren Grey, the African-American general manager of the property, mixing a great mystery with historical and sociological depth, plus lots of twists and turns and real human reactions. I found the ending especially skillfully executed, the culprit being a character we’d known all along and somehow never suspected.
3) Gone, Mo Hayder
This was the first Mo Hayder book I ever read, and it has stuck with me. It’s a master class in plot structure as one story begins and then another, far more disturbing mystery emerges. Hayder has a classic pair of detectives in Jack Caffery and Flea Marley, whose emotional landscapes fill out the corners nicely. Also a great portrait of frantic frightened parents which was helpful in drafting the Jamie Brandt character.
4) Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge
The first in the Helen Grace series. I like the others but none of them pack as much of a punch as this one, which introduces us to the tough troubled DI Grace and vacillates between her POV and those of the various victims, whose predicaments are truly terrifying. Like Hayder, Arlidge is not afraid to kill people off which is one of the best things a writer can do for readers because it keeps us on our toes and also because it’s just like life.
5) Faithful Place by Tana French
This is my favorite of French’s, primarily because the focus is on what family members can do to each other. Another great ending with a murderer we don’t see coming but have known all along. Detective Frank Mackey is a perfect cop-protagonist – gruff and smart and funny. He appears in other books as a supporting character, but this one has him in all his brilliant damaged glory.
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