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Krysten Lindsay Hager: YA Contemporary Book CECILY IN THE CITY & the Music that Inspired It (FREE in Kindle Unlimited)
Tuesday, September 5th, 2023

How do you write the third book in a YA pop star romance series? By listening to songs that bring feel good moments, inspire you, get you through hard times, and are perfect for working through those dramatic and angsty scenes. So, what songs did I use to inspire me during writing Cecily in the City? Read on!

In Cecily in the City, Cecily is still dating her favorite pop star, Andrew Holiday, but she’s now working as an actress and model. She gets to be in an up-and-coming pop star’s new music video, but she doesn’t realize that Dex is about to become Andrew’s biggest rival. Things get complicated when her star starts to rise as she begins acting on a soap opera and all eyes are on her. Then rumors begin that she’s actually dating Dex, which upsets Andrew. Add in a singer named Everly who wants Andrew for herself and drama occurs both on the set of the soap and off. Can Cecily and Andrew’s love overcome the odds?

So here are some of the songs that inspired Cecily in the City.

Kasey Musgraves’ Star-crossed album. I had the whole album on repeat for sooo long. “Simple Times” was on during writing the scenes where Cecily was trying to keep her head straight while one part of her life was exploding the same time another part was taking off. “Justified” was another perfect track to her and Andrew dealing with rumors and drama. “Camera Roll” also inspired me as I was writing. I don’t want to give too much away, but you already know I write happy ever afters, but let’s just say this one is a hard fought one!

Taylor Swift’s “Lavender Haze” & “Cardigan” both fit with Andrew’s indie pop star career and their relationship being tested by their big careers in the spotlight. (Here’s a sneak peek of the spinoff book’s inspiration: “Cruel Summer” has been playing a lot.)

Olivia Rodrigo’s “deju vu” &“good 4 u.” These songs were on repeat when I was working on the scenes where Cecily is on Instagram looking at Everly’s posts where she’s hinting she’s with Andrew now. So yeah, I needed angsty music!

Jon Connor’s “Selfish” & “Every Other Word.” When I was writing about the rumors of Cecily dating a new pop star (Dex), I needed to picture how the whole scene would appear to Cecily’s pop star boyfriend, Andrew Holiday. Andrew is a soulful singer/songwriter who writes about heartbreak and painful breakups, so I wanted to get into his character’s head of how he’d feel about not only having Cecily in the music video of this up-and-coming singer who is a rival of his, but then have to deal with rumors about Cecily and Dex dating. So, to get me into Andrew’s head space to write his dialogue and reaction, I listened to “Selfish,” before I’d start writing. It took me right into the feelings I needed to conjure up the right emotions for the scene. Note though that Cecily is NOT a toxic girl—I just needed a perspective of what Andrew might be feeling in that moment as the anxiety hit. And, if you follow me on Instagram, you know Jon’s song, “Every Other Word,” is one I’ve been talking about inspiring me as I was writing. Andrew and Cecily both they want a loyal relationship, but there’s so much drama in the celebrity world they’re in and this song fits that vibe.

Pokora’s “Tombe’” is what I was thinking of when Cecily was starring in Dex Doyle’s new video in NYC. So much of the Pyramid album was inspiring the vibe of the style for that shoot. Also, he’s become a new favorite singer of mine.

Marina’s “Complete.” MaRina’s a go-to of mine for song inspiration. “Complete,” was the uplifting and upbeat, happily-ever-after song I needed to inspire me as I wrote the feel-good ending to the book. Another song from her inspired me as I’m writing the spinoff book, Stars in the City, that’s coming next, so stay tuned!

I have Andrew Holiday sing a cover of George Michael’s “Waiting for that Day,” so if you’ve read the book, you already know about that inspiration! A few other songs that inspired me include: “Shawn Mendes’ “Wonder.” Ed Sheeran’s “Beautiful People,” and “Don’t.” There’s a link to the playlist on my Instagram as well to hear the other songs.

Find the bestselling book, Cecily in the City, here:

The entire bestselling series is free in Kindle Unlimited:

About the Author

Krysten Lindsay Hager is a bestselling author of YA and contemporary romance. Krysten writes romance because she loves bringing people swoony moments & hope-filled happily ever afters. Her books are known for making you laugh, cry, & swoon. Along with romance, her novels deal with self-doubt, finding where you belong, true friendship, & soulmates.

Amazon page:



National Play Your Ukelele Day! (Contest)
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…Cindy Bartolotta!

Never heard of this holiday? Me neither, but with the kids at home due to ice storms, what better time to pull out the old ukelele and strum a few songs? The 18-year-old has several ukeleles hanging on her wall. I wish I could share the video I have of her singing while strumming her chords, but couldn’t figure out how to do that, so I’m sharing a picture of her playing in March 2020—yes, near the beginning of the lockdown. She had plenty of time to practice back then.

Then because I thought we should enjoy some actual ukelele playing, I found this: “Somewhere over the Rainbow” performed by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole. It’s my favorite ukelele piece, and he sang it like an angel.


My question to you today, do you (or did you ever) play the ukelele? Or any musical instrument? Share for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card! I never played the ukelele, but I did play the piano, guitar, and clarinet. 🙂

Krysten Lindsay Hager: Music and My Pop Star Romance Series Inspiration
Thursday, December 8th, 2022

When I created my young adult Cecily Taylor Series, I knew I wanted to give a teenage girl all the things she’s ever dreamed about like her dream career (acting) and a chance to date her favorite singer/songwriter, Andrew Holiday. I thought it would be interesting to see how Cecily would react to getting the life she thought she wanted and how she would actually handle it. Honestly, who hasn’t thought about what it’d be like to date their celebrity crush?

When writing the books, I imagined a realistic way where Cecily could not only meet Andrew (at an audition) but develop a relationship with him while on the music video set. Writing those early scenes where Cecily is falling for her pop star crush, while still trying to act normal was a lot of fun. She’s gushing and freaking out on the inside but trying to appear calm and cool on the outside. On a date, she slips and reveals she recognizes a watch that she’s seen on social media that is his grandfather’s, and then she feels like a complete stalker when she realizes she’s outed herself as a mega fan. I kept imagining how a date with my favorite singer would go and I realized it would be awkward knowing so much personal history about him. Where is that line for Andrew between a fan and a person he could see himself really dating?

As a kid I was obsessed with George Michael, and you can definitely feel George’s influence in Andrew Holiday. However, recently my mom reminded me of a crush I had when I was a toddler! Yes, you read that right, I said toddler. I was laughing as she told me I would sit in my toddler car seat bopping along to Andy Gibb. It’s not important who else I had a poster of on my wall next to the Holly Hobbie pictures…ahem. I went on YouTube and looked up some old interviews of Andy, and you can definitely see his influence as well. Readers always tell me they see Shawn Mendes in Andrew and while he wasn’t on my radar when I first started the series, I can see what they mean. As I’m working on book three in the series, (Cecily in the City will be out in March), I have been listening to Shawn and reading his interviews.

While writing the books, I always make a playlist that goes along with the story. Some are songs I listened to while writing or editing, while others are ones that came out after the books released and they work so well with the storyline. Some of the artists on the playlist include: Ed Sheeran, George Michael, Mac Miller, Matt Pokora (his music inspired some scenes in the upcoming book), Shawn Mendes, Kasey Musgraves, Jon Connor, Marina, Clark Manson, Kylie Minogue, Lauren Alaina, and Johnny Gill among others.

George Michael’s song, “Waiting for that Day,” is just one of the George songs I imagine Andrew singing that Cecily relates to. In fact, the box set of Andrew that has all heartbreak songs on it about exes which Cecily refers to as paying “Fifty bucks to hurt my own feelings,” is based on an album of his that I got as a kid! “One More Try” is another of his songs that inspired me while writing. Clark Manson’s “Track 9” is another song that’s perfect on the playlist for the book. Marina’s song, “Flesh and Bone,” inspired a scene in In Over Her Head: Lights, Camera, Action and well as scenes in the upcoming book where you see Andrew and Cecily both dealing with being in the public eye.

Kasey Musgraves’s Star-Crossed album has been in the background while I’m working on book three and it was also the soundtrack as I worked on the updated version of my other book, Dating the It Guy. Jon Connor’s “Every Other Word” is one I have on repeat while working on book three, too. Lauren Alaina’s “Painting Pillows” is also in rotation as I work on book three, so stayed tuned.

Here’s a link to the playlist on Spotify. Let me know what you think!

Find the bestselling series here:

About the Author


Krysten Lindsay Hager is a bestselling author of YA and contemporary romance. Krysten writes romance because she loves bringing people swoony moments & hope-filled happily ever afters. Her books are known for making you laugh, cry, & swoon. Along with romance, her novels deal with self-doubt, finding where you belong, true friendship, & soulmates.

Amazon page:

Candice LaBria: Falling Hard (Contest & FREE in KU!)
Thursday, September 30th, 2021

“Music is to the Soul what Words are to the Mind.”
~Modest Mouse

As I started writing the short story, The Homecoming, music was an obvious component. It’s a bonding experience for my couple. It sets the mood for a romantic night. I listened to music as I wrote. Songs inspired feelings I wanted to convey. Lyrics prompted dialogue. It’s a second chance at first love. Lauren and Beck shared their first kiss at the homecoming dance just minutes before he broke her heart. Twenty-plus years and two failed marriages pass before Lauren—OM Goodness, I’m so sorry, I’m so ahead of myself. Sorry.

I’ll start over: I have loved music since I was a child. I remember finding a single of Three Dog Night’s Joy to the World when I was five and playing it over and over. Suspiciously, my record player disappeared one night. Hmmm. Thanks to the internet (and lack of parental control!) I don’t have that problem now. I stream music constantly. The array of genres means no matter what my mood, feeling or occasion, I can find the perfect song.  How many times have you been experiencing a major life event and suddenly come upon the song that captures that moment? It has gotten me through heartbreaks, made the road trip memorable, created lasting friendships, and elevated a celebration to an unforgettable party.

My first boyfriend and I would talk on the phone every night. He was a bass guitar kid. He would play albums and delve into structure and composition. Me – I just knew I liked it or not. It frustrated him because I always got the lyrics wrong. (Still do. And still don’t care. Mine are way better.) Music created that bond between us. Decades later, we had a discussion about Rush’s 2112 album. I hated it as a kid. I watched it on YouTube last year. I got it. And I realized the lost art of listening to an album; how the musicians craft a series of songs to tell a story or address issues. I now have a record player again. When was the last time you listened to an album?

I shared a desk with an employee in the late 90s. I worked days and he worked nights. He would leave me funny notes, we barely knew each other having only met once. One day as Christmas approached, our paths crossed. I asked if he wanted to help me do some shopping for the office. We headed to the mall. A song came on over the sound system. He swept me up in his arms and waltzed me around the store. It was beautiful and magical. There was a smattering of applause. A woman commented how lucky I was to have such a spontaneous guy. I thanked her. Our friendship was cemented in that moment. We traveled through Europe together. I attended his wedding and have watched his children grow. Have you ever made a friend over music or lost one?

My son taught me how innate the emotional response is to music. He was barely two months old when I was dancing him through the house to the soundtrack from Braveheart. We came to the death scene track. His expression changed and he started crying. It took me about five times to realize it was the song that was doing it, not hunger or a need for a diaper change. Something in the composition spoke to his soul at that young age. Studies conducted on the powerful effects of music on your mood support this. What song has evoked an emotional response from you?

My daughter taught me the power of the musical group experience. She loves music more than I do. As I struggled to bond with her as she entered her teens, I bought concert tickets to One Direction. At the time I wasn’t familiar with their music. She had an iPod and earbuds, so I didn’t have to listen to it like the torture I inflicted on my parents. I was excited to be spending an evening with her. We joined the thousands of girls, moms, and the occasional dad, in the football stadium. I fell in love with the opening act, 5SOS, but that is another story. The boys appeared. The energy in the stadium was astounding. 78,000 people standing and singing every word along with One D.  We were a united group. My daughter and I have traveled the US chasing bands and catching shows. How I miss that with Covid and look forward to pursuing that again. What was your favorite concert?

As I started writing the short story, The Homecoming, music was an obvious component. It’s a bonding experience for my couple. It sets the mood for a romantic night. I listened to music as I wrote. Songs inspired feelings I wanted to convey. Lyrics prompted dialogue (yes, I verified they were correct—thank you, internet). It’s a second chance at first love. Lauren and Beck shared their first kiss at the homecoming dance just minutes before he broke her heart. Twenty-plus years and two failed marriages pass before Lauren, filled with liquid courage, makes a date to reconnect with her lost first love. Drinks in a cozy Manhattan bar turn steamy, and their old spark is rekindled, but Beck leaves her wanting more. Still haunted by the heartbreak of homecoming, Lauren doubts the budding relationship after his sudden cancelation. Can Beck convince her to give him another chance? Or will the distance, both in time and location, keep them apart? “Old Me” by 5 Seconds of Summer spoke to me for the story. What’s your romance and music story?

The Homecoming is included in Passionate Ink’s Falling Hard anthology being released TODAY!  Get your copy here!

Falling Hard is a collection of 7 steamy short stories with all the proceeds going to ProLiteracy,,  a leading organization working to promote adult literacy.  I made a playlist for my story. Take a listen:

I asked the other contributors about music.  For Jordyn Koss’ story, Open Enrollment, Ed Sheeran’s All the Stars has meaning for her characters and to the story. Cher’s anthem of All or Nothing inspired Ryan T. Osborn’s character in Claiming Papa.  As Michal Scott was writing Who can Find a Virtuous Woman, Rick James’ Super Freak was playing in the background. Deni Dawson’s says, “Time is an important theme in my short story, so I wanted songs that embody the futility of time, that when time is all you have, it becomes meaningless. Until you run out of it.” Check out Lord Huron’s When the Night is Over.

If you want to read the full story on the Playlist behind Passionate Ink’s Falling Hard Anthology, find it on my blog . Interested in hearing the songs, check out them out here:


I would love to hear about how music has played a part in your life. Drop me a comment and share the experience. Have a playlist that inspires you? Drop the link. I am always looking for new music. Comment, and Delilah will pick one lucky winner to send a copy of FALLING HARD to someone who isn’t a KU subscriber!

A huge Thank You to Delilah Devlin for giving me the opportunity to write about music.

Happy listening and reading.

About the Author

Candice LaBria is the author of The Homecoming and a member of Passionate Ink. She is currently working on a Mardi Gras-themed short story and a novel about a couple that is stuck rut. Can they get past it and save their marriage or is the chasm insurmountable? Connect with her on Instagram and Twitter @bria_writes, Facebook Candice LaBria, newsletter. Follow the story and music at www.

Sunday Morning Song — Enjoy!
Sunday, September 19th, 2021

How about some vintage No Doubt? Just because every day should start with a fun song…

Enjoy the last day of the weekend! Get some rest, watch a movie with family or friends, eat a good meal!

Pssst. The spaghetti-food-fight would’ve really bothered me if they hadn’t been eating outside! Also, did he make a fresh batch of spaghetti sauce or did he really scoop it off the floor?

I’m still building my workout playlist! (Contest)
Friday, August 13th, 2021

UPDATE: The winner is…pat!

It’s been a busy week, and I didn’t have time to review ALL the songs you ladies previously mentioned on my first request for playlist recommendations! So, here’s one more chance to win another $5 Amazon gift card! All the Queen songs were spot on, BTW. I’m thinking AC/DC, too. (“The Jack” is my fave!).

This one’s quirky and fun and perfect for the start of a workout (which for me is all about housecleaning—don’t you dance with the vacuum cleaner?). Thanks to Christine for reminding me this song exists!

Help me build my “Workout Playlist” (Contest)
Sunday, August 8th, 2021

UPDATE: The winner is…Jennifer Beyer!

So, it’s time to shed some pounds!!!! Not because I want to be slim. I don’t. I’ve done that, and it’s too much work to maintain. I just want to feel better, less sluggish. Simple as that. I figure 30 pounds ought to do it.

I loaded the Weight Watchers app on my iPhone. I filled the fridge with healthy, nutritious snacks like celery, hummus, cottage cheese, eggs… There are sardines and crackers in the cabinet. I like snacking, so I try not to sabotage myself with chips and nuts (Gawd, I love nuts!). I’m a salt person, not a sweetaholic. My dd already cooks nutritious dinners, so I just have to navigate every other meal throughout the day. I’ll count the points!

What I have to do is up my activity. Yeah, I love the pool, but I like to float. I can do some lunges, some kicks holding onto the pool noodle…all that…no problem, but I figure if I add music to my housecleaning/organizing, I’ll be more apt to dance while I do it. You know, something fun instead of the old treadmill.

So far, I have “Walk This Way” by Run DMC and Aerosmith, “Happy” by Ferell, and “Wild Things” by the Troggs. So, help me fill out my playlist to get my a$$ in gear to work up a bit of sweat.

I love Heavy Metal, Classic Rock, and some Pop. Suggest away for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card, and if you have suggestions for low-impact exercises, feed those to me, too!