When you write fiction set in an environment where you used to work, you get a lot of questions about “whether or not it’s true.”
The Underwriting is not true, in the sense that the events didn’t actually happen and the characters do not actually exist. But I want to believe it is true in the sense that my characters’ feelings and struggles and temptations are real and an accurate reflective of the modern world they’re meant to represent.
Making that claim, however, is a terrifying thing: what if I’m wrong? What if my observations and sense-of-things is not correct, and putting it out there does nothing more than expose my ineptitude?
Enter Dom Hammond. Dom was an old pal of Si’s, the good pal of mine who is half the DJ duo who put together the (extraordinary) TUW playlists (check them out here: LINK). Si and I were musing about a theme song for The Underwriting and Dom - who gave up his corporate career to pursue his music – seemed like the perfect person talk to about it.
Dom and I met and chatted about our own paths – his in England, mine in the States – and they felt surprisingly similar. I sent him the first draft of The Underwriting and we talked about what I was hoping for for the theme song and I flew back to New York and he got to work.
A few weeks later he sent me the cut of the piece I’d asked for, but he also threw in another, with a caveat along the lines of: “I know this isn’t what we talked about, but I was thinking about Tara and this world and it just kind of came to me….no pressure but maybe there’s a place you can use it.”
The song was “Looking Glass.” I remember sitting in my apartment listening to it and feeling not only overwhelmed by Dom’s talent and the funny-way-life-works that you find people like him, but also a huge sense of relief that a sentiment I tried to express in The Underwriting - one of the ones I wasn’t sure was true, or just me - came through to him in reading it.
You see, I think it’s really easy to write characters like Tara and Nick off: they have privilege and opportunity and, from the outside looking in, don’t exactly warrant a lot of concern. But for them, their paths are lined with pressure and expectation and fear-of-never-being-enough. When I wrote Tara and Nick, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make anyone feel empathy for them, but Dom’s song captures their struggles with such kindness and care. He got it, and understood, and then turned into a new medium, and I felt so relieved that the truth was true to at least two of us.
It’s also just a listen-twelve-times-in-a-row worthy tune, so check it out here and keep an eye on Dom Hammond – I’ve got all my bets on him as the next British singer-songwriter hearththrob.