Welcome please my friend and fellow author, Shira Anthony, who's going to talk about music, in relation to her newest release, Prelude, which is already on the bestseller list at Dreamspinner. Shira, make yourself at home, why don't you, while I find us something sweet to nosh on. Go ahead and start.
Stranger in translation? Shira Anthony talks about translating music into words.
Thanks, Julie, for hosting me and letting me gush about the intersection of my two favorite things: music and writing. Thanks also for letting me share a bit about the fourth book in my Blue Notes Series of classical music-themed gay romances, Prelude, which was just released by Dreamspinner Press on May 6th. Prelude is Book 4 in the Blue Notes Series. Each book is a standalone story and the series books can be read in any order. Prelude is chronologically the first, even though it’s the fourth book in the series.
I’m a former professional musician (violinist and opera singer). Music is in my blood, in my bones, and my gut. I hear music and I get an ear worm. You know, like when you hear “It’s a Small World” at Disney and the stupid song repeats over and over ad infinitum in your mind? Yep. That’s me. The protagonist in Prelude is me times a thousand. David Somers, the fictional conductor of the Chicago Symphony, hears music in every person he meets and in every deep emotional reaction he has. David’s connection to music is the focus of the story, because it’s what allows him to connect with violinist Alex Bishop.
So how does a writer translate music—an auditory experience—into words? How do I express David’s deep emotional connection to music with only words on paper? The answer is: it isn’t easy.
Of all the Blue Notes Series books so far, Prelude probably has the deepest connection to the music itself. Being able to convey how David thinks about music was integral to the story. To figure out how to do that, I had to dig within myself and think about how I process music in my brain.
For me, music is so much a part of my everyday life that I almost forget it’s there. I told you about my little earworm problem. There are days I literally wake up hearing music in my mind. When I’m writing the Blue Notes books, it’s usually a piece of music that’s connected to the story (in the case of Prelude, it was the Sibelius violin concerto). Readers often ask if I listen to music when I write. The answer is that I can’t. If I listen to music, my brain focuses on the music, and I get nothing written. Maybe it’s the years of musical training, maybe it’s just the way my brain is wired. I’ll probably never know. When I listen to music, I automatically analyze the piece: key, harmony, rhythm, history (I’ll place it in the era it was written, be it classical, romantic, modern, or baroque periods). Total distraction.
That’s where I started when I was writing David: looking inside of myself. But for David, I went a bit further than just my own experiences. I gave David a sixth sense: music. David hears music in what he sees. He looks out at Lake Michigan and it has a certain music to it, in how the waves move and how the sunlight dances on the water. He hears music in the sounds of traffic from his apartment. He dreams about music (and about Alex and the music he hears when he thinks of Alex).
As you read Prelude, you’ll see all these musical connections. You’ll also notice that I incorporate musical terms into the narrative when the story is told from David’s point of view. You’ll hear color and texture used to describe music. One of the most wonderful comments I’ve received from a reader about the series was how the reader wasn’t a musician and had no musical background, but she understood the music in the story and felt that it enriched the story. Made me smile.
The Blue Notes books are about more than just music, but it’s music that forms their emotional “heart.” Music as pain. Music as joy. Music as promise. Music, as the bridge between human beings.
PS: Want to win some Blue Notes swag? I’ll be giving away winner’s choice of a paperback or ebook of one of the Blue Notes novels as well as a Blue Notes Series t-shirt (winner’s choice of cover) at the end of the Blue Notes blog tour. To enter, comment on this post and the other blog posts to win! I’ll be drawing winners at the end of the blog tour.****************************
Summary: World-renowned conductor David Somers never wanted the investment firm he inherited from his domineering grandfather. He only wanted to be a composer. But no matter how he struggles, David can’t translate the music in his head into notes on paper.
When a guest violinist at the Chicago Symphony falls ill, David meets Alex Bishop, a last-minute substitute. Alex’s fame and outrageous tattoos fail to move David. Then Alex puts bow to string, and David hears the brilliance of Alex’s soul.
David has sworn off relationships, believing he will eventually drive away those he loves, or that he'll lose them as he lost his wife and parents. But Alex is outgoing, relaxed, and congenial—everything David is not—and soon makes dents in the armor around David's heart. David begins to dream of Alex, wonderful dreams full of music. Becoming a composer suddenly feels attainable.
David’s fragile ego, worn away by years of his grandfather’s disdain, makes losing control difficult. When David’s structured world comes crashing down, his fledgling relationship with Alex is the first casualty. Still, David hears Alex’s music, haunting and beautiful. David wants to love Alex, but first he must find the strength to acknowledge himself.
Seventeen Years Ago
ALEX BISHOP huddled under the stairs that led up to the ancient Chicago graystone as snow danced and drifted about the deserted street. Even in good weather, there were never many people around this neighborhood. That’s how he liked it. More people around meant more adults wondering what he was doing by himself, more adults who might ask questions.
He’d been running for weeks, trying to hide from the police who patrolled the streets. He’d done nothing wrong, but he knew that if they found him they’d take him back into protective custody. He wouldn’t go back again. He couldn’t go back—the bruises from the last beating from the older boys at the group home had just begun to fade. He’d always been a strong fighter, with broad shoulders and powerful arms, but he’d been surprised and outnumbered.
“Fag!” one of the kids had called him before the first blow struck him on the chin. Two other kids had grabbed his arms and restrained him as the largest of the gang punched him in the gut. Over and over.
He didn’t care what the other kids called him. He was pretty sure they didn’t know he really was gay. They called all the misfits at the home that. He also didn’t care about the bruises. Bruises healed, given time. But the boys had taken his violin from him, and he’d barely gotten it back in one piece. A small crack now ran from the f-hole on the left side of the instrument toward the fingerboard—a constant reminder of the close call. He wouldn’t let them take it from him again. He’d rather freeze to death than risk it.
It hadn’t been the first time he’d been the subject of other kids’ taunts. He’d been moved from his last foster care placement to the home because he’d been jumped by some of his classmates on his way to school. That particular fight had landed him in the hospital with knife wounds to the chest, and he’d nearly died.
“We’ll find a placement for you,” his social worker, Tori Flynn, told him when he woke up in intensive care a few days later. But he’d seen it in her eyes—she knew it wasn’t going to happen. Nobody was interested in taking in a fifteen-year-old boy, especially one who got into fights as often as he did.
Six months later, he was still in the same group home. So with school out for the Christmas holidays, he’d spent most days at the local public library. Nights, however, were far more challenging and a lot colder.
Just six more months. That’s all he needed before he might be able to qualify to live as an emancipated teen. He could find an apartment, go to school, and nobody would hunt him down.
A strong gust of wind blew, nearly knocking him off-balance. He shivered and looked down at his frozen feet, his threadbare socks visible through the holes in his ancient basketball shoes. Even here, under the relative shelter of the stairs, Alex knew he wouldn’t survive the night. He needed to find somewhere warm to sleep.
He peered out into the blizzard, looking for any sign of movement. The streets were too snow-covered for anyone to venture out in cars, and the neighborhood beat cop was nowhere in sight. Alex stepped out from under the stairs and onto the sidewalk and, slipping and sliding on the icy concrete, ran down the street toward the warehouses that lined the train yard. It would be safe inside one of the vacant warehouses.
Ten minutes later, he was dizzy and frozen to the bone, his torn sweatshirt nearly soaked. Still, he kept going. It wasn’t much farther now. Crates lined the sidewalks near the abandoned storage buildings, and he hopped up onto one of the smaller ones, ignoring his numb feet. He reached for the ledge underneath the cracked window.
I have to get inside, he thought with growing desperation as he pushed on the window. It was frozen shut. His head felt thick. His brain refused to cooperate. I have to get inside.
With renewed determination, he reached once more for the window and set his foot against the edge of the crate. There were no treads left on his soles; his foot slipped. As he fell, he clutched his backpack in an effort to keep it from flying out of his hands. He landed on his side in the snow. Sharp pain lanced his head as he hit the unyielding metal of a fire hydrant.
The world went dark.
NOTE: Each Blue Notes novel is a standalone story and books in the series can be read in any order.
Want to buy the Blue Notes Series books? You can find them all here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=54_673
In her last incarnation, Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.
Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 35’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.
Shira can be found on:
Thanks so much for stopping by, Shira! Always a pleasure! I look forward to reading Prelude. You have such a beautiful way with words, and I love classical music! Come back soon!
Until next time, take care!