So something you might notice is that this playlist — and all three of my (listen here, here, and here) Spotify playlists — has a ’60s–’70s vibe. I wrote Landline right after Fangirl, which is about a contemporary teenager. And it was the first time I’d written about someone my own age and in my place in life. I really enjoyed writing a character who shared my frame of reference, culturally.
My agent sent me this song while I was writing the book, and I couldn’t believe how well it fit my story and tone — a strained relationship with the landline as a symbol of stability. It used to be that your telephone still worked, even when your power went out; you could always call for help. If Landline were a movie, I’d imagine this song playing when everything seems lost. “All I ever needed was a landline, just in case the power lines go down / All I needed would never be enough for me.”
I loved this song when I was a little kid; something about it has always gotten under my skin. But I didn’t understand until I was older how sad it is. “Could we be much closer if we tried? / We could stay at home and stare into each other’s eyes.” When my book starts, Georgie and her husband, Neal, are very deeply in love and very deeply married — but they both feel like they’re failing each other.
Pretty sure this song is about drugs. But it’s also about hitting bottom and trying to make your way to the surface. Which is what Georgie and Neal are doing in their relationship. “We bathed like swimmers in the morning sun, and waited for our night to end.”
Georgie works as a writer/showrunner on a sitcom, and she’s really geeky about old ’70s shows. Sitcoms used to have great theme songs. I listened to a bunch of them while I was writing.
This is the first book I’ve written that doesn’t take place completely in Nebraska. Georgie works in TV, so I thought the book had to be set in L.A. And that’s actually part of the struggle between Georgie and Neal — he hates California. Neal is basically living the melancholy opposite of this song — longing for brown leaves and winter’s days.
Landline takes place both in the present, when Georgie and her husband, Neal, are struggling, and in the past, when they met and fell in love. “Leather and Lace” starts out as a song that they tease each other about — “Give to me your leather / Take from me my lace” — but then it takes on meaning for them, and becomes their wedding song. (This actually happened to my husband and me, though it wasn’t our wedding song.)
If you’d spent a week thinking about your marriage at two points in the space-time continuum, you’d want to listen to “Both Sides Now,” right?
The book takes place at Christmas, and when I was writing, I thought of it as a big heart-wrenching romantic comedy that would hit theaters on Christmas Day. I wanted it to have that vibe. There’s a scene where Georgie’s running through an airport after making a big decision, and she imagines this song playing — she thinks she’s having her big-screen moment. (I really wanted to find a haunting cover of “Celebrate Me Home” for the scene where she realizes she was wrong.)
I’ve loved this song since I was a kid. It’s so raw and passionate. Tina Turner is throwing down — she loves this guy, she’ll do anything to be with him. There’s a scene in Landline where Georgie will do whatever she has to get to her man. It’s more steep hills and snow banks than river and mountains — but I imagine this song playing while she runs.
Back to this book feeling like a Christmas movie for me: This song is playing in the final scene when Georgie and Neal have to face each other, after everything that’s happened. I like that it feels warm and nostalgic, but doesn’t promise anybody a happy ending. “Someday soon / We all may be together / If the fates allow / Until then / We’ll have to muddle through somehow.”
I went on a Walk the Moon bender while I was writing Landline. (I flew to Boston just to see them play.) And I always imagined this song playing over the book’s closing credits. I don’t think it was written as a romantic song, but the chorus describes marriage for me: “Don’t even tell me where we are going / (Hands over my eyes, hands over my eyes) / Don’t even tell me where we are going / Just walk, just walk, by my side.”
Rainbow Rowell lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.