Guest Post by Kirstin Cronn-Mills—Music is Always the Thing That Saves Me

Music features prominently in author Kirstin Cronn-Mills’s books. In this guest post she talks about how music and songs can help all of us get through difficult times. To find out more about the author and her books, visit her website,

Kirstin Cronn-Mills photo
Photo by Chelsea Kocina at Chelsea Morning Photography

Thank you for hosting me!

There are three consistent threads in my books: one is a caring grown-up for each protagonist, the second is teenagers who are outsiders, and the third is music.

Music is the art form that keeps me afloat in this world. I love all kinds of art, of course: I have season tickets to our local university theatre (and go to community productions, too); I hit any art museum I can; I am (duh) always reading something; but music is in my life every. Single. Day.  And yes, I mean every day. I can’t start my work day without a carefully chosen song for the drive to school (yes, I live close to my college—a four-minute song is just about perfect). I can’t work in my office without Pandora. I can’t write a book without a playlist. I can’t do housework without iTunes. Music is my life raft, and I’m always clinging on. You may think that sounds dramatic, but I assure you it’s not.

My first novel, The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don’t Mind, has no pop music in it—its musical component is the classical music Morgan’s grandma plays as a concert pianist. Beautiful Music, of course, is a long meditation on how music keeps us safe, sane, and alive when shit is rough. Gabe is probably the character most similar to me, simply for that reason. There isn’t a whole lot of music in Original Fake, but Frankie’s dad is a character in a musical, and his bestie models himself after (and is named after) 80s David Bowie, with a little more femininity.

Wreck cover image

Wreck’s musical connection isn’t obvious for a few chapters, then we discover Steve’s love for Gordon Lightfoot and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Little Kid Steve was in the right place at the right time to see the ship steam right in front of him, leaving the port for its awful fate, and he gets obsessed with the song once it comes out. The song worked as an unhappy but fitting metaphor for what Tobin and her dad are going through as his ALS progresses.

Of course the playlist for Wreck includes “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” so I’ve listened to the song countless times in the last four years. As songs go, it’s really pretty brilliant. It’s a bit longer than most (6:29), and I’ve never met a song that can make me cold, but that one can. It’s instantly November, the moment you hear the first note. I can’t imagine what kind of power it takes to destroy an ore boat, but I can clearly see how Lady Superior could muster it, and somehow Gordon Lightfoot captures that strength. I’ve experienced some pretty turbulent days on its shores (though in May rather than November) and that lake scared the shit out of me. Somehow Lightfoot captures all of it in his song. When we listen, we can literally feel his “witch of November.”

Even my car makes a difference in my musical life. I not-so-laughingly call it a rolling stereo (it’s a 2018 Prius, with a damn decent stereo system and Bluetooth). You’ll always find me somewhere with some playlist bouncing out its windows. And I don’t apologize for my eclectic, ever-present music, either. We all need something to get us through our days and nights, and music is much less harmful than a million other things. My son is leaving for work as I write this sentence—leaving in my old Prius, which has an aux cord (of course!). His music is loud, too. As legacies go to pass on to your child, relying on music to help you through life is a pretty great one.

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