Laura Barnett, author behind debut novel The Versions of Us (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), is collaborating on her forthcoming second novel, Greatest Hits, with Mercury-nominated singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams, to move her protagonist's music "beyond the page".
Greatest Hits will be published on 15th June 2017 alongside a new album by Kathryn Williams "Songs From The Novel Greatest Hits".
The book tells the story of Cass Wheeler, a fictional singer who enjoyed huge success from the early 70s, only to retire mysteriously at the height of her fame. Two decades later, she is spending a single day in her recording studio, picking out tracks for a very personal Greatest Hits album. Each chapter of Greatest Hits opens with one of these songs and takes the reader back through Cass’s life, from her childhood, through her earliest days as a singer, to the terrible crisis that caused her to flee her own life.
The original songs are written by Williams, with lyrics by Barnett and Williams, and will be released as an album named "Songs From The Novel Greatest Hits" through London-based independent record label One Little Indian.
One of the songs is previewed in a video featuring Barnett and Williams here. They will do joint publicity for the book and album in the months leading up to and after publication.
Barnett said: "From the very earliest moment of coming up with the idea for Greatest Hits, it was clear to me that I wanted my character's musical output to have a life beyond the page. I've been a fan of Kathryn's music for years, and am so thrilled to be working with her - she's an absolute magician, and I'm so excited about the creative possibilities posed by drawing literature and music together in this way. I'm also so grateful to all the booksellers - Waterstones, W H Smith, and all the amazing independents - who've been so supportive of The Versions of Us. I can't wait to introduce my new novel to them, to readers, and to listeners."
Williams said: "After making my album 'Hypoxia' inspired by The Bell Jar (which was born out of a commission to celebrate Sylvia Plath) I didn’t think that I would be collaborating with another author so soon – and a living one to boot!
"I got a call from Laura after she had heard me on Cerys Matthews’ BBC6Music show talking about 'Hypoxia'. She asked me if I was up for working on a parallel project to bring her fictional songwriter’s songs to life. Since then, we have co-written a group of 16 songs, cried, laughed and become close friends. It has been a joyous project of immersing ourselves into the character, the ups and downs of her career and her personal life.”
Barnett, from south London, is a Cambridge graduate and studied newspaper journalism at City University before becoming a freelance arts journalist. Her debut novel, The Versions of Us, was published in May 2015. It was nominated for the 2016 BBIA Award for Debut Fiction, and won the Richard and Judy Spring 2016 Book Club. It was also selected by Waterstones as a Book of the Month and Book Club choice. TV rights have been optioned by Trademark Films.