Broken Chords, Bayliss, and Ballads

Hello, darlings!


It’s been far too longed since I’ve graced this graveyard. I had an unfortunate turn of events that knocked me off kilter for a while, but I’m back. And what better way to return to the crypt than to bring a touch of fresh meat with me? Though she’s no stranger to the dark side, I’m still absolutely thrilled to have her grace our little corner of the woods. Welcome, Jessica!

^^That’s Jessica Bayliss ^^

Let’s get things going, shall we?


What inspired you to write Broken Chords?

BROKEN CHORDS was born because I had to pee in the middle of the night while camping on Martha’s Vineyard with my husband. Hahaha! I get my best ideas at the weirdest times. If you’ve ever gone camping, you know the bathrooms are never conveniently located. The fastest route from our site was through the property’s playground. So, there I am, wee hours of the night (no pun intended—okay, pun intended), and it’s all cold and misty; and I think: If those swings start moving right now, I’m so out of here.

Lucky for me (and my bladder), that didn’t happen, but once I was safely back in my tent, I knew I’d write a story about a haunted playground someday. The other major inspiration is a bluegrass festival we like to attend. The layout, the campgrounds, the crepes and gyros, the pirate truck, even the creek behind the clearing in the woods—it’s all inspired by that festival.

Another huge inspiration was traditional acoustic music. Once I decided on that the book would take place at a music festival, certain songs just called out to be included. I mention three bands in particular in BROKEN CHORDS: Crooked Still, Nickel Creek, and The Greencards. They’re probably best described as New Grass or Progressive Bluegrass, and OMG, all three are awesome!

The two songs that were my biggest inspiration are Wind and Rain, and Undone in Sorrow. Wind and Rain is actually based on ballad that is literally hundreds of years old (here’s a great article about it). It’s had different names: The Twa Sisters, Rollin’ a-Rollin’, Binnorie, and it’s just SO creepy. Basically, it’s about two sisters, and the older one pushes the younger one into a river. Not surprising, the sister drowns, which is twisted by itself. But, then a fiddler comes out of the woods, and he takes the drowned sister’s bones and makes a fiddle out of them. One line goes like this:

And he made fiddle pegs of her long finger bones.

Oh, the wind and rain.

I mean, SHIVER. Right? That song is the anthem of some of my creepiest entities in BROKEN CHORDS (actually, the very ghost children who haunt my playground). Probably the most chilling version is THIS ONE, by Gillian Welch, David Rawlings & David Steele. (But if you want to hear the one Crooked Still did, which also features a fiddle—I mean, apropos—you can hear that HERE.)

The other song that features in this book is Undone in Sorrow, which was originally written by a woman named Ole Bell Reed. That one is still under copyright, so I couldn’t use the words in BROKEN CHORDS, but when you read the book and Lenny and Jeb talk about playing their song, that’s the one. Crooked Still’s version is just so haunting and sad. There’s a cello in their band, and the cello solo is one of my favorite musical moments of all time. Then the fiddle comes in and it literally sounds like the embodiment of a tortured heart.


What about a favorite line?

Gah! I’m terrible at that, but here’s a favorite (brief) excerpt. And I haven’t shared this with anyone, so it’s an exclusive. This takes place when Lenny first becomes aware of one of the consequences of her astral projection. This entire scene is maybe one of my favorites of all time. I rarely give myself feels from my own stuff, but this scene definitely does. In it, Lenny & Jeb are playing their song, Undone in Sorrow, and she suddenly feels a (maybe magical) connection between them.

Every twitch of his lips became a kiss. Every motion of his hands, a caress. He touched me with his sound, tickled me with his breath – breath that was my breath too.


But you guys came here for the scares, so here’s an exclusive peek at the entrance of BROKEN CHORD’S main entity, the demon:

What do you like most about this book?

What I love most is how all these little parts—the music, the festival, the astral projection, my creepy kids on a scary playground—all came together. This book ended up having so many layers and there are themes that are so prominent, and it just makes me happy. I can’t say any more than that, though, because I don’t want to give anything away. BROKEN CHORDS is definitely a scary, creepy ride, but readers will be getting something that has depth and true emotion too.

Thanks SO much, Jenna and all The Midnight Society writers, for having me and featuring my new release. I am in love with this book, and getting to talk about it with you has been so much fun.


No, thank you! You can check out Jessica’s book here.


Congratulations on the release, Jessica!!!

  • Victoria Nations
    October 26, 2017

    Broken Chords sounds chilling! Thank you for sharing the musical inspiration – it’s haunting and makes me want to read it even more. I would totally have listened for squeaking from those campground swings.

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