Rufaro Faith Mazarura’s Let the Games Begin inspired playlist and giveaway

"Making playlists for my characters was one of my favourite parts of the writing process"

This post was written by Rufaro Faith Mazarura, author of Let the Games Begin.

From the title of the book to the very last line, my favourite songs really shaped the process of writing Let The Games Begin. It’s a story I wrote to the soundtrack of the kind of songs I love listening to at summer parties, in the car with the windows rolled down, and while riding a bike around the city as the sun beats down on my skin. Making playlists for my characters was one of my favourite parts of the writing process, so here are the songs that inspired the story and represent the main characters Zeke and Olivia the best.

One by Amber Mark

“I’ve got to lighten up, stop being so tough, but will I make it up the way I dreamed of?”

I listened to this song for the first time a few months after finishing the first draft of the novel and I was taken aback by just how perfectly the lyrics reflected both Zeke and Olivia’s journeys. It’s a song about ambitiously striving towards a goal but spending the whole experience wracked with anxiety about whether or not you’re actually equipped to ‘make it’. That idea is something I write about throughout the novel, so whenever I listen to this song, I imagine all the work both of the characters did to get to where they are at the start of the novel. If the book was a movie, this would be the song playing in the first three minutes as we’re introduced to both of their lives.

Ivy by Frank Ocean

“I thought that I was dreamin’ when you said you love me”

This song is summer personified. Whenever I hear it I imagine long summer sunsets, walking on the beach at golden hour and two people passing each other a gentle ‘I think I’m in love with you’ look. I listened to this song on repeat for most of the summer I spent writing this novel so whenever I read back my favourite scenes, I imagine them playing out with this song in the background. It captures the yearning that my main characters Zeke and Olivia are always getting swept up in, so this is the perfect summer love song.

August by Taylor Swift

“Back when we were still changing for the better, wanting was enough, for me, it was enough”

When the novel begins, the novel’s main character Olivia is still living in the aftermath of a summer heartbreak from a few years ago. Without spoiling the book, she got “August-ed” and that heartbreak altered the way she views both love and the summertime. I love the tinge of sadness that comes with nostalgia and so much of the novel subtly alludes to both character’s longing for the innocence of their past selves. So, this song feels like it perfectly encapsulates the hope and romance they spend the entire novel reluctantly longing for.

Bigger by Beyonce

“If you feel insignificant, you better think again, better wake up ’cause you’re part of something way bigger”

This is probably the song that Zeke would put at the top of his playlist and listen to at the start of every morning. It’s all about believing that you’re part of a bigger story and reminding yourself that you have a uniquely special contribution to give to the world. And while I love that sentiment, it’s the feeling at the heart of so many of Zeke’s worries. It’s an idea that’s empowering until it feels like too much pressure, so this song is on the playlist as a representation of Zeke’s inner monologue, for better and for worse.


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Going on A Feeling by Bailen

“I’m just going on a feeling, for the first time in my life…gonna get it wrong before I get it right”

One thing about Olivia and Zeke? She does not allow herself to go on a feeling, she is all about her five-year plan and achieving the goals that she’s been striving towards for her entire life. But if there was one song I wish I could slip into her morning playlist, it would be this one. It’s a song about just allowing yourself to follow your heart, be spontaneous and go on a feeling with the belief that things will ultimately fall into place. It also has the perfect bridge to sing along to in the car with the windows rolled down: “Not what I ought to be, but better than I used to be, getting better all the time,” because aren’t we all?

True Blue by boygenius

“And it feels good to be known so well, I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself, I remember who I am when I’m with you.”

One of my favourite micro genres of music is Platonic Love Songs and this is one of my favourites. It’s a romcom novel but my favourite relationships in the story are those that Olivia and Zeke have with their closest friends. Their friends are like family to them, they uplift them, call them out and see the best in them even when they’re spiralling or spinning out of control. So, I wanted to dedicate a song to their best friends who play a significant role in their journeys and guide them through one of their favourite summers.

July (Later On) by Lily Williams

“We can let July just be July”

I think sometimes we go into relationships, jobs and experiences mourning the end before it even begins. As if allowing ourselves to enjoy a good beginning puts us at risk of a painful ending. But sometimes, to quote this song, you have to just allow ‘July to be July’. To appreciate each moment for what it is without trying to force it to last forever or sabotaging it in order to control the ending. Sometimes I get to the end of a good book and crave an epilogue or some sort of reassurance that everything worked out in the end, and I feel that way with this book. But this song is a great reminder to just allow July to be July and the end of the book to be the end.

Want more? Follow the instructions in the tweet below for your chance to win a copy of Let the Games Begin by Rufaro Faith Mazarura: 

Get your copy of Let the Games Begin by Rufaro Faith Mazarura here.

Terms and Conditions
1. No purchase necessary. A purchase will not increase your chances of winning.
2. This giveaway is open to residents of the United Kingdom only.
3. This giveaway opens Monday, 9=8th July at 12:00 and closes on Wednesday, 22nd July at 21:00
4. Three (3) winners will be selected at random from all applicable entries. The prize consists of one (1) copy of Let the Games Begin Rufaro Faith Mazarura. Prize has no cash value and no alternative prize is available.
5. Winners will be contacted via Twitter direct message by @unitedbypop after the giveaway closes. Winners must provide United By Pop and Penguin with their full name and mailing address to receive their prize. If winner fails to do so within 24 hours of being contacted, winner forfeits their prize and a new winner will be selected.
6. United By Pop is not responsible for prizes that are lost or damaged in the post. Prizes may take up to 90 days to arrive.
7. This giveaway is in no way sponsored by or affiliated with Instagram and/or Facebook.
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