I am so excited to be hosting a spot on blog tour for THE STEEP AND THORNY WAY by Cat Winters! I adore Cat and her books! I have Cat's book playlist to share with you today! And make sure to enter the awesome giveaway for a finished copy of the book!
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A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.
1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.
The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.
Now on to the playlist!
The Steep and Thorny Way Playlist
1. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” traditional American folk song, also known as “In the Pines” and “Black Girl, recorded by various artists since 1926
This was my number one go-to song whenever I wanted to get into the right mindset for working on The Steep and Thorny Way. I often listened to the 1940s Lead Belly recording of it, which is a haunting, bluesy rendition that put me straightaway into the novel’s setting: the backwoods of Oregon in 1923, where danger and heartbreak lurk around dark corners. I also listened to Nirvana’s 1993 MTV Unplugged performance of the song, in which Kurt Cobain screams the final verse with an extraordinary, primal intensity. Those passionate cries inspired the creation of my protagonist, Hanalee’s, pain and terror when dealing with the aftermath of her father’s murder. At one point in the book, Hanalee even spends a night “in the pines, in the pines,” as does the girl in the song.
2. “Wade in the Water,” American spiritual associated with the Underground Railroad, recorded by various artists since 1923
Hanalee is the daughter of a black man from Georgia and a white woman from Oregon. When her father’s death leaves her as the only person of color in her rural community of Elston, Oregon, she finds solace in remembrances of her dad sharing his Southern heritage with her. She particularly takes comfort in a memory of her father singing “Wade in the Water” while she fished by his side in one of the local creeks. The Blind Boys of Alabama‘s stirring recording of the spiritual is the version I most often listened to when writing the book—and the legendary gospel group itself is an inspiring story straight out of the South.
3. “Son of a Preacher Man,” Dusty Springfield
The Steep and Thorny Way is loosely based upon Hamlet. In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet originally believes that a snake killed his father but soon learns that his stepfather murdered him. In The Steep and Thorny Way, Hanalee initially believes that Joe Adder, the teenage son of a local preacher, killed her father while driving drunk. She later suspects that her stepfather was the real killer.
Whenever I wrote about Hanalee referring to Joe as that “preacher’s boy,” Dusty Springfield’s 1968 “Son of a Preacher Man” invariably popped into my head, so I started listening to the song while working on the novel. Aretha Franklin belted out her own gospel-inspired rendition in 1970, and her sister, Erma Franklin, covered it (fabulously) a year earlier, in 1969.
4. “Modern Jesus,” Portugal. The Man
The church in Elston is the center of the town’s social life, but both Hanalee and Joe find themselves at odds with the congregation, despite their religious upbringings. Moreover the Ku Klux Klan—a powerful force in Oregon in the early 1920s—has taken over other local churches and turned houses of worship into establishments of fear. Whenever the 2013 rock song “Modern Jesus” came on the radio as I was writing the book, I thought of Hanalee and Joe and how they’re force to learn how to have faith in themselves when their old ways of life abandon them.
5. “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” The Beatles
This one’s for a hidden relationship in the novel. That’s all I’ll say about that.
6. “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” Yvonne Elliman, Jesus Christ Superstar
I’m a lifelong fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock operas, and I remember watching the movie adaptation of his 1970 hit, Jesus Christ Superstar, on TV from a very young age. This particular song from the production makes me think of Hanalee’s confusion over how she’s supposed to feel about Joe. The novel opens with her heading into the woods to kill him after he’s been let out of prison early for good behavior, and, gradually, the two of them grow to depend on each other for safety and comfort as they struggle to figure out the true cause of Hanalee’s father’s death.
7. “The Cave,” Mumford and Sons
Hope is a necessary ingredient in all of my YA novels. I throw my characters into some of the most horrifying moments in American history, and they must be able to find their own inner strength and leave their protective “caves” of sorts in order to survive a world that’s failing them. Not only does “The Cave” have a folksy banjo sound that helped inspire my book’s setting, but when Marcus Mumford swears that he’ll hold onto hope, especially in the song’s passionate ending, I believe that anyone, including Hanalee, can do the same.
Cat Winters’s critically acclaimed debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, was named a 2014 Morris Award Finalist, a 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, a 2013 Bram Stoker Award Nominee, and a School Library Journal Best Book of 2013. Her upcoming novels include The Cure for Dreaming (Amulet Books/Oct. 2014) and The Uninvited (William Morrow/2015), and she’s a contributor to the 2015 YA horror anthology Slasher Girls & Monster Boys. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit her online at www.catwinters.com.
Photo by Tara Kelly
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5 winners will receive a finished copy of THE STEEP AND THORNY WAY, US Only.
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