In the forthcoming YA anthology Behind the Song, a handful of literary all-stars have written stories inspired by their favorite songs (all of which you can listen to on Spotify). Edited by K.M. Walton and featuring a foreword by Ameriie, Behind the Song includes stories from David Arnold, G. Love, Ellen Hopkins, James Howe, Beth Kephart, Elisa Ludwig, Jonathan Maberry, Donn T, E.C. Meyers, Ellen Oh, Tiffany Schmidt — and EW’s own senior writer Anthony Breznican.
The full list of stories (and their musical inspirations) are below:
Forward – by Ameriie
Suburbiana (or, The Return of Super Frog) – David Arnold
A short story inspired by Arcade Fire’s song “The Suburbs”
Miss Atomic Bomb – Anthony Breznican
A short story inspired by The Killers’ song “Miss Atomic Bomb”
Cold Beverage: the song I wrote that changed my life – By G. Love
A personal essay
Tiffany Twisted – Ellen Hopkins
A short story inspired by the Eagles’ song “Hotel California”
How Miracles Begin – James Howe
A personal essay inspired by James Howe’s & Mark Davis’ song “Planting Trees”
The Opposite of Ordinary – Beth Kephart
A personal essay inspired the song “Somewhere (A Place for Us)”
Music by Leonard Bernstein; lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
About You Now – Elisa Ludwig
A short story inspired by Oasis’ song “Wonderwall”
You Know Something’s Happening Here (But You Don’t Know What it is) – Jonathan Maberry
A personal essay inspired Bob Dylan’s song “Ballad of a Thin Man”
Time to Soar – Donn Thompson Morelli aka “DONN T”
A short story inspired by Amy Winehouse’s song “October Song”
City Girl – E.C. Myers
A short story inspired by Keane’s song “Somewhere Only We Know”
Second Chances – Ellen Oh
A short story inspired by Inspired by 2NE1’s song “It Hurts”
Anyone Other Than Me – Tiffany Schmidt
A short story inspired by DMB’s song “Dancing Nancies”
The Ride – Suzanne Young
A short story inspired by Jimmy Eat World’s song “The Middle”
Doomed? – K.M. Walton
A short story inspired by Marcy Playground’s song “All the Lights Went Out”
In advance of the anthology’s September release, we’re thrilled to present the exclusive cover reveal, above, and an excerpt from Breznican’s Killers inspired story, below:
An excerpt from Anthony Breznican’s short story Miss Atomic Bomb, inspired by The Killers’ song “Miss Atomic Bomb”
They made it to the mall in record time, but it was still too late. The Republic Supply Co. had advertised a shipment of jeans going on sale that afternoon, but by the time the girls arrived, half their school was already in front of them. Even as they waited in the zigzagging line, the trio could tell there wouldn’t be much left except for the odd sizes and irregulars. Cassie, who was tall and muscular for only sixteen, went to the boys’ section first, since there was always more stock there. She found a remaindered pair that probably would have fit her waist, but the legs were too short. There was nothing in the store that fit Abigail’s bony frame, or the stout, sturdy Mia. Literally nothing. The white metal shelves had been picked clean.
“Think you’ll get any more before Christmas?” Cassie asked the clerk, a turkey-necked older man with wire-frame glasses. The man shook his head: “Not until a month or two into the new year. At the earliest.” He made a clipboard appear from behind the counter, like a boring magic trick. “Have you signed up for the waitlist?”
Cassie actually had signed up for several waitlists, but the Republic Supply Co. only used them to let you know when a new shipment arrived. You had to be there in person to buy anything. First come, first served. She guessed the form was just a way to get people to stop nagging the clerks. “Thanks,” she said, and wrote her name and contact number anyway.
The strip of shops was called The Street, but the kids all called it RetroVille, since the storefronts were built to evoke the kind of small town that had only ever existed in Hollywood backlots and the promises of politicians. This quaint little downtown was only three years old, crammed inside a modern glass and steel atrium that was meant to be psychologically pleasing to those who craved the illusion of sunshine and fresh air.
Cassandra leaned against one of the lampposts in the food court, staring through the thick glass windows as the sun sank into a purple churn of clouds rolling over a mountain range in the distance. It was late for monsoon season in the desert, but a bruised sunset always meant treacherous weather was moving in.
“Cass, check it,” Abby said, nudging her friend. “Oppressive male gaze, at six o’clock.” Mia, who was finishing off the last of a bottle of water the three of them were splitting, turned around to look, too.
It was the same boy from the hall, staring at them from outside the railing of the food service area. He held a plastic daisy plucked from The Street’s fake-rock water fountain and wiggled it at them in a wave.
“You got a problem?” Mia called out.
The boy shook his head. His fingers plucked a petal off the daisy and let it drop at his feet. “Six,” he said, just loud enough for them to hear. Then he touched a finger to his chin, pantomiming deep thought, before locking eyes with Cassie again and repeating: “Six…” He pulled off another petal.
Abby and Mia scrunched their faces, but Cassie straightened up from the lamp. “Oh crap, you know…I forgot,” she said to her friends. “He’s in Mrs. Shute’s history class with us. We have a project we’re doing together. Just…hang on, okay?”
Her two best friends in the world shrugged. Whatever. Cassie was always up to something weird. “Don’t take forever,” Abigail said.
“Yeah,” Mia agreed. “I wanna get home before the storm hits.”
Cassie walked briskly toward the boy, arms stiff at her sides, her satchel full of books swinging from one hand like a bludgeon she might decide to use. “Can I help you?” she asked.
The boy turned his mouth down in a sad-face expression. “Five…” he said in a baby voice, lifting the daisy and plucking off another plastic petal. Cassie shoved the fake flower out of her face.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she hissed.
The boy flexed another painful smile, showing off his braces and stretching his inflamed cheeks. “You know what I’m doing,” he said. “You’re Daisy.”
“Uh, I don’t know what you’re talking abo—”
“Sure you do,” he interrupted. “Everybody knows Daisy.”
She couldn’t speak. She had to force herself to breathe, to appear calm. “My name is Cassie.”
The boy nodded. His eyes were half-lidded, oblivious to her lie. He wouldn’t quit with the plastic flower, raising it again and saying in a baby voice: “Four…” which came out “fwarh…”
Cassie stole a look back at her friends. Sweat soaked her back. Her heart battered against the inside of her chest like something buried alive.
The boy smiled and touched her nose with the fake daisy. “I figured out your secret,” he said. “You’re the girl from that political ad. The little girl counting down the flower petals as she rips them off one by one…”