Alison Reynolds, author of The Near Daphne Experience, shares how a playlist she created from songs released in 2001 and 2002 helped her shape the characters in the book.

Writing my novel The Near Daphne Experience was my escape during the Covid lockdowns of recent years. I chose to slip back in time to 2001, when we sipped Cosmopolitans sharing straws without fear, danced to Kylie’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ and still looked for possible loves in the classified ads of newspapers.

To recapture the mood, I tried to embrace all things early 21st century. Unfortunately, my pale pink velour tracksuit was long gone, Cosmopolitans and writing a manuscript weren’t a good mix for me, and what was this mythical thing called a newspaper classified ad? That left music, so I compiled a playlist of the songs from 2001 and 2002 that I remembered. I tapped away to Kylie, Kasey and The Waifs, and the words tumbled out.

My poor neighbours must have shuddered when they heard the same music crank up yet again. Soon, the themes in the novel echoed the songs: obsession in ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’, feelings of inadequacy in ‘Not Pretty Enough’ and the yearning for what you can’t have in ‘London Still’.

Characters and places in the book emerged with their own theme music. Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ fuelled the story of dear old George, the septuagenarian with all his own teeth. Johnny Cash’s cover of ‘Hurt’ conjured up Jonathan, a psychiatric patient encased in pain. ‘Bohemian Like You’ by The Dandy Warhols and JXL’s remix of Elvis’s ‘A Little Less Conversation’ were the soundtrack for Raw Funk, the self-confessed hippest nightclub in Melbourne. It would sound so cool to say I danced in clubs to these songs in the early noughties, but it was more listening to them, while pushing a laden trolley around a suburban Safeway.

So much of this music seeped into The Near Daphne Experience. Most of the songs aren’t even favourites. ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ by The Avalanches breaks my strict rule of never listening to a song with spoken words. But these songs took me back to the Melbourne streets of 2001, where I discovered the elusive Daphne. I hope the book – and the playlist – takes readers back to a less germy time when our fashions may have featured velour and creepy-looking toe socks, but we could catch up on the latest hits on the new-fangled iPod.

Listen to Alison’s 2001/2002 playlist here.