Release day is finally here! After months of collaboration, authors Tony Healey and David K. Hulegaard have unleashed volumes 1 & 2 of the Playlist series upon the world. In the interview below, Tony and David talk about the series, what readers can expect, and why David secretly thinks Tony is a jerk.
What is the concept behind Playlist?
[TONY HEALEY]: Dave and I are both heavily influenced by the music we listen to, so when it came to discussing what we’d collaborate on, it was sort of a no-brainer to bring music into it. Our two pieces, Dark Beyond the Blue and City of Night, use music as their inspiration. If not for their plot, then the emotions or general mood behind them. It’s all quite interesting, and I don’t think it’s been done before that I’m aware of.
[DAVID HULEGAARD]: Tony deserves all the credit on this one. I remember pitching him a few ideas for a collaborative project, and he came back with one of his own; something he’d been chewing on that combined his love of writing and music. As an avid music lover myself, it took me all of about three seconds to get on board with his vision.
Music is always playing in the background when I write, and I’d never stopped to think about how it influenced my work. This project allowed me that opportunity, and I realized that I absolutely do feed off of the emotion the artists put into their sound. The whole concept was pretty eye-opening for me.
How did this collaborative effort come together?
[TH]: Dave was already published when I started with my first short story, and he’s given me support and acknowledgement from the very beginning. I have had the fortune of falling in with a very fine crowd, and am proud to call people like Dave my friends. I don’t know about him, but I call it destiny that we worked on a project together. I wouldn’t be surprised if we write a novel together some day. I’m serious about that.
[DH]: I’ve been wanting to work with Tony for the last couple of years, but the jerk had to go on and become a best-selling author without me! 🙂 In all seriousness, though, I’ve always felt Tony and I are literary kindred spirits, and that we could create something memorable if given the opportunity to work together.
Playlist is not our first attempt, mind you. We’ve discussed other projects in the past that never got off the ground, and to be honest, I’m glad. Although I have no doubt we would’ve written something entertaining together, I’m more confident today than I was yesterday, and this project captures me at my very best. Perhaps we’ll have to collaborate again in a couple of years when I inevitably feel different. 🙂
What was the inspiration behind each of your volumes?
[TH]: We tried to work together in the past, and nothing came of it. We were both too busy, the idea fell apart, etc etc. We still wanted to collaborate on something, though. A few months ago, Dave and I started firing emails back and forth, throwing ideas around, and as these things go, we came up with the concept behind Playlist.
[DH]: Specific to Dark Beyond the Blue, I listened to Hammock on repeat. Hammock is a Nashville-based duo of the most talented songwriters I’ve ever heard. Ambient, post-rock, space rock, shoegazer music—whatever you want to call it—it’s nothing short of breathtaking.
Pitchfork once called Hammock’s albums “intensely visual music,” and I can’t think of a more fitting description. When I listen to them, full scenes play out in my mind’s eye with amazing clarity and detail. All of the stories in this collection were inspired by my emotional connection to the music.
Is there a particular theme to each volume?
[TH]: City of Night is about the past: moving on from it, returning to it years later, and accepting it for what it is. In the case of my main character, it’s about how he locks the beast in the basement and realizes he has to let it loose again.
[DH]: Dark Beyond the Blue examines why we should never take anyone at face value. It’s in our nature to conceal certain elements of our existence from others—even those we’re closest to. These are usually secrets that fill us with shame, guilt, embarrassment, and various other emotions that can often leave us feeling conflicted. With that in mind, can you ever truly know someone other than yourself?
Although the stories in my volume aren’t directly connected, each digs beneath the surface of its characters to expose the real person inside, and I had a lot of fun doing it.
What can readers expect from Playlist?
[TH]: Something different. And cool. And a recommendation for five songs from each of us that will stir their soul, and move their heart. At least, we hope . . .
[DH]: I tried to explore a wide range of human emotion, from anger and sadness to apathy and regret. My hope is that readers will find traces in each story that they can relate to, even if it makes them a little uncomfortable at times. A couple of my beta readers confessed being moved to tears by the end, and I can’t think of a better compliment than that.
Of course, you’ll also find my signature brand of both traditional and dark humor, as well as my love of playing around in a speculative fiction sandbox. Oh, and one of these stories is actually a prequel for an upcoming full-length novel, but I’m not ready to tell which one just yet. 🙂
What do you like best about David’s work, Tony?
[TH]: He has a vision that’s all his own, and he has the strength and balls to follow his work through to the end. There were many times while writing Noble he could have gone the full commercial route and wrote your average thriller, but what he has with his trilogy is something unique. Each of the three books is different, but connected by the overall plot. I love that it’s not what you expect, and that he’s totally comfortable in doing whatever the hell he wants which, of course, is badass.
Something a lot of readers might not know is that Dave initially published Noble (book 1) without editing, and that when he realized every book needs a good editor he pulled it from Amazon, worked with his editor to bring it up to scratch, then reissued it. That’s his dedication not only to the craft, but to his readers. We’re all on this learning curve. We all make the odd hiccup here and there. The best of us are doing what Dave did. We’re learning by our mistakes in the beginning, putting the time and energy (and money) into something we’re passionate about, and really putting the best books out there that we can.
What about you, David? What do you like best about Tony’s work?
[DH]: Tony is a literary chameleon. His writing style is so captivating that he can explore any genre he chooses and deliver a quality story every time. When I first met him, his wheelhouse was epic space opera, but he also dabbled a bit in horror. Somewhere along the way he picked up elements of romance, which led to the only conclusion that made sense: hardcore alien sex stories. 🙂
All kidding aside, I am such a fan of Tony’s work, including my personal favorites: The Fallen Crown series and Dead Pretty. Of course, Tony is so prolific, that it’s entirely possible he published a new book while you were reading this interview. That may sound like a joke, but Past Dark literally went on sale as I answered these questions.
Any final thoughts?
[DH]: You should totally go get both Playlist volumes right now! You won’t be disappointed.