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Laurie Buchanan on Her Writing Playlist

Laurie Buchanan writes the Sean McPherson series of thrillers. You can find out more about her on her website, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and see her books here.

When asked about the details of my preferred writing environment—the setting and the ambiance—I share that I’m a bare-bones writer who enjoys solitude. As a dyed-in-the-wool minimalist, I appreciate nothing more on my desk than a laptop and lit tea light—my “contract” to show up, stay put, and write.

To avoid distraction, I turn off my cell phone and limit my writing screen to two ingredients: a white page and a black background. When there are noise distractions, I put on headphones, turn the volume low, and listen to music.

One of my favorite things about music is that it’s transportive. Irrevocably tied to our memories, it’s able to instantly take us back to a specific age, moment, or place.

When my husband and I take road trips, we make playlists. We want a soundtrack to accompany us on the road that provides the perfect backdrop to the area we’re visiting. We discovered long ago that not only does this make our trips more interesting, it also provides a way for us to relive the experience once we’re back home.

Inspired by the misty grey skies and casual vibe so iconically associated with the Pacific Northwest, the playlist I created for travel in that region—home of the Sean McPherson novels—evokes the feeling of the area: chill, atmospheric, and lo-fi.

Picture yourself sitting in a Seattle coffee shop on a gray, drizzly afternoon or driving through a misty forest of mossy, towering pine trees on the Olympic Peninsula, or maybe walking the puddle-lined streets of Portland or Vancouver in your rubber rain boots. That’s the inspiration behind this playlist. It’s a real vibe that feels wholeheartedly like the Pacific Northwest.

If you want to create a Pacific Northwest playlist, you needn’t look further than artists like Bon Iver, Beach House, Vancouver Sleep Clinic, Barrie, Misc.Inc, Sufjan Stevens, Damien Jurado, Novo Amor, Charlotte Day Wilson, and The Shins. Whether it’s for a road trip, writing, or listening for the sake of listening, you’ll fall in love with their music.

And if you want to travel to the Pacific Northwest without leaving the comfort of your chair, I invite you to read the Sean McPherson novels. They’re available at your favorite bookseller and from the local library.

Laurie Buchanan

Laurie Buchanan is the author of Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth, and The Business of Being: Soul Purpose In and Out of the Workplace. You can find out more about her on her website,, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 30 Comments

  1. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Thanks for your inspirational post, Laurie. Like your books, even your playlist is well researched! I usually find that sounds of any kind distract me while writing, but I might have my Google assistant play a bit of haunting music while I spin some Edgar Allan Poe elements into a mystery for my Book 5.

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      Sherrill — I love that now and then you listen to a bit of spooky music as you write The Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries series.

  2. Tracey Phillips
    Tracey Phillips

    Laurie, I love the idea of creating a destination playlist for trips! Never thought of that. I’m going to plug your destination playlist next time I head to Washington–or maybe sooner.

    I find music distracting while I’m writing, so I like you, tend to write in distraction-free silence. On rare occasions, like when we were getting the kitchen remodeled, I plug my headphones into meditative chants and relaxation music (aka sleep inducing, Oms). It’s the only thing that keeps my mind from wandering.

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      Tracey — The meditative chants you mentioned bring to mind my “Insight Timer” app. It’s wonderful to listen to while falling asleep. You can listen to chants, meditation music, or even a good old thunder storm.

  3. Margaret Mizushima
    Margaret Mizushima

    Love this post, Laurie! And also love your books set in the PNW. Will take a trip there soon by reading Iconoclast!

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      Margaret — I’m so glad you’ve got Iconoclast on your reading list. Woop Woop!

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    Jackie Vick

    What a clever idea, Laurie. Next time I’m driving to Arizona, I’m going to look up the local musicians to play as I zoom through the desert. 🙂

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      Jackie — Mark my words, you’re going to become addicted to road trip playlists!

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    Audrey B Denecke

    Love the destination focused playlist idea. I did something similar when traveling to a friends home (from way south Wisconsin to St. Paul, Minnesota). I pulled out CD’s from years we lived close by in Chicago; and music festivals we attended in West Virginia with a larger group of friends. It made the long drive so much more enjoyable. I’d forgotten about that joy. I have plans to attend a wedding in Colorado in a few months. I hear a playlist coming together.

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      Audrey — More enjoyable, indeed! And like you, I hear a playlist coming together for your Colorado trip. Woohoo!

  6. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Love the idea of a destination play list. I usually do the “destination book list,” finding authors from there or books set there, and buy a local book while there.

  7. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Christine — Oh, I love the idea of a destination book list. Henceforth, that shall become part of my traveling bag of tricks!

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    Avanti Centrae

    Nice idea to have a vacation Playlist. We love alternative 80s music!

  9. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    Fun post, Laurie! I love a good playlist when I’m on a road trip. Unless, of course, I’m listening to a mystery novel. But I’m with Tracey on music while writing – my brain always goes to the music first, everything else is secondary. I need quiet to write and music as my reward.

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      Sharon — A good audiobook piped through the car speakers is fantastic, too! One of my favorite book series for road trips is Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache.

  10. Avatar

    I just returned from a trip and never considered assembling a playlist. Will have to try it the next time. Meanwhile, I love your Sean McPherson novels, and whatever you do to create them, that’s a successful formula!

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      Sara — Give a playlist a try the next time you take a road trip. You’re going to love it. And thank you for the high praise regarding the Sean McPherson novels. They’re so fun to write!

  11. gpgottlieb

    I hadn’t thought about writing a playlist, but what a cool idea. Challenging though, since I don’t listen much to contemporary stuff, the kind that works best for reading a mystery. Good to have your list as a starting point!

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      Galit — I’m glad you’re considering using my suggestions as a jumping-off point for creating a playlist.

  12. Avatar
    Laurie's Story

    Thanks for the unique post. I love the way you tied the music vibe in with your writing. I sometimes need absolute quiet in which to write, and other times I find music helps me frame and create impact in a scene. I also find that listening to classical music makes my prose more flowery!

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      Laurie —So, THAT’S the secret to your flowery prose. Classical music! Yes, indeed. That’ll do it.

  13. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe

    You’ve inspired me to make a playlist for an upcoming road trip with my sister to add veracity to the paranormal book I’m writing. We’re going to Big Sur, which I haven’t visited since I was 18 (that’s a looong time).

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      Sheila — I love Big Sur! I will have to live vicariously through you and your sister’s road trip. Woot Woot!

  14. Anne Louise Bannon
    Anne Louise Bannon

    I can’t listen to music while I’m writing. Well, sometimes, if it’s an instrumental. OTOH, one of my favorite tapes was a mix-tape a friend made for me and another friend for our road trip to Washington, DC. It was called Music You Won’t Fall Asleep To. We played that tape for years after the initial road trip.

    1. Laurie Buchanan
      Laurie Buchanan

      Anne — “Music You Won’t Fall Asleep To” sounds like a toe-tapping, knee-slapping, good old time. It would be fun for you to recreate it.

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    David de Felice

    I can feel the music in your words, Laurie. I know of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, a Wisconsin singer-song writer. Bon Iver’s music is uncannily evocative of the Pacific Northwest. I’ve lived in Alaska and experienced the spirituality of the forest, the ocean, and the animals. I’ll have to check out the others on your list. Thanks.

  16. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    David — I’m going to check out your recommendation right now. Thank you!

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