Writing songs for You Don't Know Me, with author Sophia Bennett
18th June 2014 < Back
When You Don’t Know Me was published, a young songwriter called Molly Ross agreed to compose and perform a song based on one of the lyrics from the book. Here, author Sophia Bennett talks about the experience of writing songs and having her lyrics set to music:
Q. Sophia, how did you go about writing the lyrics for the songs in You Don’t Know Me ?
A. I hadn’t planned to write lyrics at all, but I discovered that it can be very expensive to quote someone else’s lyrics in a book, so I had to write my own. To start with, I was intimidated. For example, when I came to write ‘Breathless’ (which is central to the story), I thought it would be a time-consuming process, with lots of changes. In the end, though, the words just flowed from the emotion that I knew Rose was feeling when she wrote that song. I wrote it in one sitting at my parents’ house. Sometimes a song just comes, fully formed. I wish books could write themselves that way!
Q. Have you written songs before?
A. No – but I wish I had. I used to write a lot of poetry at school, but I never considered songwriting. It’s very cathartic – once you’ve captured your emotion in a song, it helps you think more clearly about it and stand away from it a little. Also, it’s fun to do. Grab a guitar or a keyboard, think of a tune, get some words down … You could be the next Lorde, you never know.
Q. There are a few songs in the book. Did you have a favourite?
A. There are two songs I’m particularly fond of: Breathless, because it’s so full of passion and intensity, and I like Sunglasses – the first song the girls write together – for the opposite reason. It’s light and funny, and it’s just about girls having fun together. That’s one of the big themes of the book: friends need each other. Treasure them.
Q. Another song gave its name to the book. Was that always the intention?
A. No – I had a very different title in mind, and when we decided not to use it we struggled to think what else would work. Then we had the idea of something that might sound like a song title. The song ‘You Don’t Know Me’ was already written, and its theme seemed to fit the story very well. I then went on to write all the chapter titles as potential song titles. Each one is a short extract from the chapter it describes. That was one of the most enjoyable bits of the writing process.
Q. How did the collaboration with Molly Ross come about?
A. Someone at my publisher, Chicken House, knew Molly and asked if she would be interested in putting the words of Breathless to music for a video that we could use. Molly was a teenager at the time, and we were all amazed at the result. I write about very talented teenagers all the time, but I’m still impressed when I come across them in real life.
Q. How did you imagine ‘Breathless’ to sound? Was it similar to the way Molly wrote it?
The tune I had in my head was quite different from Molly’s, but the emotion that she brought to the song was exactly the same. I’d pictured the lines in a different order, with the emphasis perhaps in other places. But it’s fascinating that even though Molly did it her own way, she completely captured the feeling that I wanted. I love what she wrote and, more than anything, I admire her performance. It’s beautiful.
Q. Many authors create their own soundtrack to listen to while they write. What kind of songs were you listening to when you wrote the book?
A. I listened to a wide variety of music, some of it by stars such as Jessie J and Adele, some of it by new bands like Wayward Daughter. I wrote a post about it for Sister Spooky as part of my blog tour for the book, and you can read it here: http://www.sisterspooky.co.uk/2013/05/blog-tour-yo...