You can’t pin author Colleen Hoover to a specific genre. The Texas native is responsible for both suspense thrillers like Verity and heart-wrenching romances like Reminders of Him. Readers never quite know what story will unfold through the pages. In 2016, Colleen published It Ends With Us, a romance novel that introduced readers to the lives of Lily, Ryle, and Atlas. Fans followed Lily’s journey of love and loss, from Maine to Massachusetts. Now, six years later, her story continues.
Colleen wasn’t planning to write a sequel to the best-selling book, but requests from readers made her realize she wasn’t quite done. And today, fans can get their hands on the next installment of the story: It Starts With Us. As a bonus, Colleen created a Spotify playlist that incorporates songs that stuck with her as she worked on the novel and built onto the lives of Lily and Atlas. For the Record had a chance to chat with Colleen about her work, her playlist, and audiobooks.
Do you listen to music while writing? Does it help you get into a certain mindset?
I actually can’t listen to anything at all while I’m writing. In fact, if there’s any noise, even the sound of a clock, I have to remove the batteries. Yet music is what inspires books and characters for me, and gets me into the mood to write. And yes, I definitely have to listen to songs that I feel fit with the story. For example, “Bride & Groom” by The Airborne Toxic Event was a big one for me when I would pump myself up to write All Your Perfects.
Is the music you listened to for It Starts With Us the same as It Ends With Us?
I tend to be a creature of habit when it comes to music. If I want to get into a certain mood, I use music for that. And for me, I’m almost always searching for sad music.
How did you approach picking the songs on this playlist?
After writing It Ends With Us, I had a lot of readers who would send me songs that remind them of the book. I almost always go listen to the song to see how they interpret the book and the characters. A lot of those songs have stuck with me, so I chose them. Some songs I chose because they are common recommendations, like several of Taylor Swift’s songs.
Can you tell us about a few of the songs and what they mean to you or your characters?
“She Dreams of Boston” by Erick Baker was actually written specifically for Lily. Erick and I met because I had reached out to him years ago regarding his music and hopefully collaborating on something. He was on board immediately and wrote such a perfect song for Lily’s character.
As for Atlas, I feel like “All For A Woman” by The Airborne Toxic Event is a good fit for him. He just has so much love for Lily, and that song bleeds heartache.
I’d go back to X Ambassadors for Ryle’s character. The song “HISTORY” is my anthem for Lily to Ryle. I imagine him hearing it and being full of guilt and regret, but knowing there’s nothing he can do to get her back.
Can you share how The Avett Brothers inspired you to write?
I found their music at a time when I felt lost inspirationally. I had young kids; I worked full time; I was in college. I was going through the motions of being a wife and a mom and an employee, and had absolutely no time for myself. I think I was losing myself, not because I wasn’t happy—because I was—but because I wasn’t spending time nourishing my artistic side. That’s when I found their music.
Their lyrics spoke to me, and the passion they had when they played made me jealous. I used to have passion like that, and until I saw them play live, I didn’t realize how much I missed being passionate about life and using my imagination. Their music reignited my love for my hobby, and I think that’s a beautiful thing when one artist’s art can remind another artist how important it is to make time for what feeds your soul. After attending my first concert of theirs, I immediately went home and started writing. I’ll always be grateful to their music for that, and to every artist in any area who continues to create.
Your new book, It Starts With Us, begins right where It Ends With Us left off. Why did you decide to continue with the story of Lily and Atlas?
I honestly never thought I’d continue with their story. I always received pleas for more It Ends With Us, but I thought that was because people wanted Ryle to be redeemed, and I’ll never go that route. But when more people began to read the book and make videos on social media, I’d watch these videos and see them begging firsthand for more Atlas. I love Atlas, so the requests from readers, combined with a storyline that was slowly beginning to build for him, ultimately sparked an idea that I finally felt would be good enough to create a book out of. I may not have intended to write this sequel, but I couldn’t be more excited that I did.
If Lily and Atlas had a song, what would it be?
Definitely “If It’s The Beaches” by The Avett Brothers. I feel like Atlas would give Lily the world if he could, and that is such a beautiful love song. It always reminds me of the two of them when I hear it.
For audiobook lovers, how do you think having someone read aloud your words changes the experience for the listener?
If it’s done right and the reader feels that the voice fits the character, I feel like it gives it an entirely extra dimension. Audiobooks breathe a little more life into the story for me. I’m a huge movie lover. Watching movies is my second-favorite pastime after reading, so for me, audiobooks are a way to bridge the gap and enjoy the best of both worlds.
What aspect of audiobooks do you like, and when do you turn to them in favor of reading from the page?
I love audiobooks! I do a lot of driving and long road trips, so my favorite time to listen to them is when I’m alone in the car for long stretches of time. It makes the trip go by so quickly, especially when it’s an engrossing story.
Let music accompany you along the pages of the upcoming It Starts With Us by listening to Colleen’s playlist below.