The Mayor: Playlist

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that as of early Sunday morning there is a new page on my website underneath the section dedicated to my WIP, The Mayor. It contains a playlist.

Yes, as is fashionable nowadays (cheers, Stephenie Meyer) I have decided to share with you the music and songs that have either heavily inspired The Mayor or remind me of certain characters. I’ve had this playlist for years and years now (The Mayor has been brewing since roughly 2008). The other night I rediscovered it and made the dreadful mistake of putting it on at 1am thinking that it might help me sleep. Two hours later I was wide-awake, buzzing with ideas, scribbling frantically in my Evernote and cursing myself because I had to get up in a few hours to help walk my boyfriend’s dog. I think this means the playlist does its job…

I’ve put the songs in some form of vague chronological order so that you might be able to glean elements of the plot just by listening, although some songs e.g. ‘Identity Tokens’ and ‘Happy Birthday (My Olde Friend)’ don’t even correspond directly with the plot, they just conjure up a very particular atmosphere or character’s plight that inspires me to write. Others are more explicit e.g. ‘Trust Me’, ‘Electioneering’ and ‘In All My Dreams I Drown’ relate to very specific scenes. Others simply tell of a character’s motivations e.g. ‘Building Ships’ is Jaspher’s theme, ‘The Night’ is John’s and so on. The most important song on the playlist for me is without a doubt Rasputina’s ‘The Mayor’, which is the song that inspired the book in its entirety as well as its title. Rather unfortunately I could only find the live version on Spotify, but it serves the same purpose.

The playlist is largely devoid of my usual metal fare and is instead littered with baroque-goth sea shanties. It should hopefully successfully transport any listener to an 18th century shipping town riddled with pirates, sex-scandals and political corruption.

Click here to listen, and enjoy!

S.E. Berrow


La Pomme D’Or

I was asked by my writing partner K.F. Goodacre the other day if I knew of any old English or Irish female given names that meant ‘hero’. She asked me this question because she was looking to name a new character, whom I supposed she wished to embody heroic traits, but in actual fact was named for the Greek myth of Leander and Hero (see here). The husband of this new character’s full name is Oleander, which itself means ‘poisonous shrub’ and is rather befitting of his personality

Unlike parents naming their newborn child, writers have the advantage of knowing their characters inside out, thus can have a bit of fun when assigning names. It provides opportunities for clever foreshadowing, referencing other words or sharing an in-joke with those in the know.

Or, if you’re like me, you just pluck or steal names from all over the shop – friends, colleagues, other people’s characters, gravestones etc. – stick ’em on your character’s forehead like a post-it note and hope that nobody notices your crippling lack of imagination.

Such is the case with The Mayor. I struggled so much with naming these characters that I even had to ask K.F. Goodacre to name one for me (Jaspher, if you must know; there’s no way I could have come up with something that original on my own). When it came to naming my protagonist, Melora, I literally just named her after the woman who inspired her into existence: Melora Creager of Rasputina. Fortunately, when I spoke to Melora Creager about this, she was very excited by the prospect and didn’t mind that I’d essentially stolen her identity; the point is that there was no thought process when it came to giving Melora her name at all.

~ WARNING: Major spoilers for The Mayor to follow ~

John (Tuomas Holopainen)4 APPLE!The same was true of another one of my characters: Melora’s best friend and lover, Jonathan “Redcoat Jack” Carson. John was named after the pirate that inspired his storyline: Jonathan “Calico Jack” Rackham (are you seeing a pattern here? It’s actually quite embarrassing how little creativity I have). When I first started writing with John, I am not sure how or why, but it soon became apparent that he bloody loves apples, especially red apples. He steals them from fruit stalls, swipes them from the family fruit bowl and complains if he has to travel somewhere where he can’t get any.

I didn’t plan for it, it just happened, until it became an integral part of his character to the point that other characters also associate them with him. Whilst the love of the fruit was accidental, the colour I chose was not, as the red foreshadows the colour of the coat he becomes famous for wearing during his piratical exploits. Also, given John’s propensity for hedonism and the passion and love he and Melora share, I also deliberately take every opportunity I can to draw on the historic symbolism of apples and their association with seduction and temptation. After their first night together, for example, the last thing Melora remembers is Redcoat Jack scooping up an apple and taking a bite out of it as he leaves the room.

The point I am trying to make here is that, off the back of my conversation with K.F. Goodacre, I looked up the meaning of the name ‘Melora’. To my surprise and absolute delight, I discovered that it means…

‘Golden Apple’.

The Golden Apple Tree and the Nine Peaheans - Arthur Rackham 1916

Now there’s some accidental subconscious genius for you.

S.E. Berrow


The man with the red apple pictured is John’s ‘faceclaim’: a young Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish.

The painting is The Golden Tree & Nine Peahens (1916) by Arthur Rackham.



Corvus Brachyrhynchos

This evening whilst taking a break from writing – and whilst K.F. Goodacre cooked me a delicious meal of mediterranean chicken and honeyed banana for dessert – I sat down to watch one of my absolute favourite shows, BBC Two’s World’s Weirdest Events (formally known as Nature’s Weirdest Events). The series basically does what it says on the tin and uses science to explore incredibly weird and often flesh-crawling phenomena that occur in the natural world, such as starfishes tearing off their own limbs, giant flowers that bloom once every ten years and smell like corpses, toads whose offspring hatch beneath their skin… and gift-giving crows.

This latter segment was of particular interest to me, as one of the main characters in one of my works in progress, Salt – who goes by the name of Saline – has a complicated relationship with the Crow; a big black bird with questionable motives who nonetheless serves as her guardian and fierce protector.*

I’d never heard of this phenomenon before, so I’m definitely going to try and find a way to weave it into my story!

The segment of the show is available to view via BBC Two’s YouTube page here:

If you get a chance to watch the full episode, do. I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of the freaky, eerie, esoteric weird like me!

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

*Incidentally, the characters of Saline and the Crow were originally inspired (with permission from the artist) by a song called Saline The Salt Lake Queen by Rasputina.

World’s Weirdest Events official page:

Melora Creager of Rasputina’s official page:

There’s also a good article on the phenomena of gift-giving crows from Psychology today here: