#TuesdayBookBlog – How to Make an Author Insanely Happy

“A page-turner and moving journey filled with romance, Burges’s novel shows the possibilities of moving on beyond tragedy.” ~ Publishers Weekly

We authors are a sensitive breed. At least, I know am. Perhaps it’s because of my creative and open nature. Writers live in a world of words and pictures, with scenes floating around and playing out in our heads. Premises come and go; only the most compelling that take root in the depths of our imagination will be used for that next novel. Our heads are full of images: faces, voices, characters, traits, plots, places, descriptions, all coalescing and escalating to a breathtaking climax before breakfast. No, not that sort!

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As Ernest Hemingway said with a hint of satire: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Not literally I hope, but sometimes it feels like my head will explode. You craft your stories as best you can, edit them, get them read, incorporate feedback, edit and rewrite, get more feedback and go on until you’ve reached the end of your tether and just want to get the darn thing published.

You’ve probably gathered I don’t possess the patience of a saint!

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Some writers are blessed with quick minds, maybe if they have no other work or family commitments they can churn out a book every year. It took me five to finally publish my debut novel, The Virtuoso. It was a labour of love. But that doesn’t mean to say I don’t care about its journey out into the big, wide, literary world.

With upwards of a million books on Amazon and the empowerment Indie publishing brings to many aspiring writers, it’s tougher than ever to stand out among the noise as a first time author.

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I know if I could just get The Virtuoso featured on Classic FM or BBC Radio 3 I’d be in with a fighting chance of reaching many of my potential readers through the medium of music. After all, music is at the core of my novel, and so is an irresistible story. Sadly, I don’t have a large marketing budget to afford the advertising and an unknown author is a bit of a risk for the big radio stations.

And now to the question of how to make an author insanely happy: it’s twofold really, read their book and write an honest, constructive review. Social proof is the best way for a fledgling author to win new readers and build up a fan base so that they can hit the ground running with their next novel. Writers spend many hours obsessing over their ‘babies’ and want nothing more than to enrich readers’ lives with their work.

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I haven’t found the process of marketing my book entirely comfortable, I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but it is certainly easier to sound off someone else’s!

Hence my unashamed promotion of my first major book review; an awesome endorsement from industry giant, Publishers Weekly. When I submitted The Virtuoso for a review on their BookLife platform I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it. It was highlighted that many, many books were sent to them and only a select few would be chosen for a review.

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Imagine my delight when I received this email from BookLife yesterday!

Dear Ms. Burges,

The Publishers Weekly review for your book, The Virtuoso, ran on Nov. 14th:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-9930777-1-5

Thank you for submitting your book for review to Publishers Weekly. Of the hundreds of self-published titles received each month, only a handful of the very best are selected for review.

Thank you also for being a part of the BookLife community. We hope you will continue to use all of the resources at BookLife.com to support your work as an author.

Sincerely,

BookLife.com

Here it is:

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Dare I finish by saying that the thing that would send this particular author into the stratosphere, would be to have a film adaptation made of The Virtuoso.

My dream cast

My readers tell me they think it would make a fantastic film. My dream cast would be Keira Knighly in the main role as Isabelle Bryant, the heroine of my novel. She has the perfect blend of spirit, talent, vulnerability, courage and beauty, (both inner and outer) to play the beleaguered violinist. her Her box office appeal doesn’t hurt either!

Sharon D. Clarke is the only woman I can visualise as the larger than life jazz singer, Hortense Lafayette. I think Damian Lewis could bring the right amount of the narcissist and tortured soul to conductor Howard Miller’s character. I’m not sure about Daniel Carter. Maybe someone like Hugh Grant could fill his shoes.

There are some wonderful locations as well, such as Madeira, New York, Vienna and London.

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If you’ve read The Virtuoso, thank you, and if you’ve left me a review on Amazon or Goodreads, thank you from the bottom of my heart! Do feel free to share your ideal cast for the film adaptation, I’m open to suggestions…

I can always dream can’t I!?

At least the music soundtrack has already been recorded!

How to be More Motivated and Successful After Rejection

“Rejections slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.” ~ Isaac Asimov

You may ask, what can an author who’s sold more than 450 million books, as well as providing the content and inspiration for the behemoth that is the blockbuster series of Harry Potter movies, teach me about being rejected?

I would venture to say quite a bit actually. JK Rowling certainly inspired me to keep going, albeit not down the same path, but you’d imagine because of her stellar success she wouldn’t know anything about rejection – but you’d be wrong.

Rowling was rejected numerous times when she began approaching literary agents with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I’ll bet they’re kicking themselves now.

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The Christopher Little Literary Agency agreed to represent her, a decision which has more than paid off! The rest, as they say, is history.

Rejections under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith

Many of us are aware that JK Rowling didn’t have immediate success when she approached agents and publishers with her first Harry Potter adventure.

Despite those rejections, the best-selling author of the Harry Potter fantasy series and her first adult novel, The Casual vacancy, decided to go incognito for her first foray into crime fiction.

I recently read a newspaper article that highlighted her rejections when she was looking to become published as crime thriller author, Robert Galbraith. When she sent off The Cuckoo’s Calling she came up against the same response as before, and probably some of what you and I have also experienced.

At the request of a fan, only for inspiration purposes and not revenge, JK Rowling revealed some of the responses she received as Robert Galbraith. Here is the reply from publisher Constable and Robinson:

Dear Robert Galbraith,

Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to consider your novel, which we have looked at with interest. However, I regret that we have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we could not publish it with commercial success.

At the risk of ‘teaching my grandmother to suck eggs’, may I respectfully suggest the following: Double check in a helpful bookshop, on Amazon or in the twice yearly ‘Buyer’s Guide’ of the Bookseller magazine…who are the publishers now of your fiction category/genre. Call the publishers to obtain the name of the relevant editor…then send to each editor an alluring 200-word blurb (as on book jackets; don’t give away the ending!)…

Owing to pressure of submissions, I regret we cannot reply individually or provide constructive criticism. (A writers’ group/writing course may help with the latter.) May I wish you every success in placing your work elsewhere.

So why would an author who is reportedly worth £580 million put herself through that kind of torment? Rowling states: ‘I had nothing to lose and sometimes that makes you brave enough to try.’

It’s thought that twelve publishers turned down Harry Potter in 1996 until Bloomsbury took it on. Rowling pointed out that the same publisher who first rejected Harry Potter had sent the ‘rudest’ response to The Cuckoo’s Calling.

Eventually it was published by Sphere, the same publisher who accepted The Casual Vacancy in 2012. It was released in April 2013 and sold around 450 copies in Britain and a further 1,000 worldwide before the author’s true identity was made public.

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Rowling has penned two further novels under the Galbraith pen name: The Silkworm and Career of Evil. So even one of the most successful authors of all-time continues to be rejected!

“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” ~ Ray Bradbury

Most authors have suffered many rejections. Rejection is part of a writer’s life; it’s how you deal with it that matters.

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So if you’ve been rejected you’re in great company!

Having been told by an editor that he couldn’t write about women, Stephen King set about penning his grisly epistolary tale of a lonely teenager, Carrie, a vilified misfit with telekinetic powers. King actually rejected himself by binning his first few pages of Carrie, (his fourth novel but first to be published), but his wife Tabitha rescued the pages from his waste paper bin!

Margaret Mitchell had Gone with the Wind rejected 38 times before it was published and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937. The movie of ‘Gone with the Wind’ became the most successful film ever made up to that point, and remained the highest earning film for a further 25 years after it was released in December 1939. It won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress.

It’s still the most successful film in box-office history after monetary inflation has been taken into consideration.

Other celebrated and successful authors that were rejected include: Mark Twain, DH Lawrence, Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway, Dan Brown, Beatrix Potter, Agatha Christie, James Redfield, William Golding, George Orwell, John le Carré and Rudyard Kipling to name but a few.

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Although it’s unpleasant, it seems par for the course that at some point you’ll be rejected, either as a writer, or in any other endeavour you undertake.  If you have the right attitude about it, rejection can inject you with the essential determination and strength of character needed to succeed, as well as helping to hone your skills where appropriate.

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”  ~ Neil Gaiman

When I was ready to put my debut novel, The Virtuoso out there, it was a nerve wracking time. I was a first time author, my confidence was growing but I felt vulnerable and self-conscious. I didn’t know if I had it in me to become a published author or if people would enjoy my book.

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These fears have been banished since publication and the growing body of healthy reviews.

Needless to say I had many ‘thanks, but no thanks’ type of replies to my submissions, and some didn’t even bother to respond. After a few months of this soul destroying process I decided to self-publish. Independent authors comprise a significant share of the publishing industry. In this 2015 article, The Bookseller attempts to highlight the size of the self-publishing sector within the industry.

John Lock was the first author to sell over a million ebooks on Amazon. It can be done. There are many avenues an author can pursue, which I’m not going to go into here.

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Once I took my future into my own hands I felt better about myself. I was no longer at the mercy of literary agents; I could determine my own path.

The key point is to take positive action and don’t stop believing in yourself. Reading is highly subjective, and as Stephen King rightly pointed out, you can’t please all of the readers all of the time, you can’t even please some of the readers all of the time, but you really ought to try to please at least some of the readers some of the time.

If you can do that, you’re up there with the best of them.

I spent years working on my manuscript alongside working and raising a large family, I wasn’t about to ditch my dream because an agent or publisher didn’t feel my work was quite right for them at the time.

In fact, some of my rejection responses spurred me on. I’ll share a couple with you but I won’t say which agents they came from:

Thank you for bearing with me while I took a read of this. The Virtuoso is a window into a fascinating world, and you obviously know your subject very well. I’m afraid I don’t think it’s one for my list – I have to be very selective about what I take on, and to me the focus on relationships and dialogue just felt a little far towards the commercial end of the market for my tastes. Do keep trying it with agents – perhaps have a look in the acknowledgements sections of books that you think are for a similar readership, and see who represents them?

Very best of luck with it.

Dear Ginny,

Thank you for sending me THE VIRTUOSO and for giving me the opportunity to consider your work.

Unfortunately I am not able to offer you representation for your work. Although I thought the premise of the story was engaging, I’m afraid I did not fall in love with the writing, itself, the way I would need to in order to take it on in today’s tough non-fiction marketplace. I am sorry for this response but I feel that an agent must be wholeheartedly and unreservedly behind a book if she hopes to sell it to publishers. These judgements are always subjective and you may well find someone who feels very differently.

Thank you for giving me the chance to consider your work and I wish you luck in your search for a suitable agent to assist you.

Dear Ginny,

Many thanks for sending us this proposal, which I read with interest. I considered it carefully but I’m afraid on balance it just doesn’t quite grab my imagination in the way that it must for me to offer to represent you. So I must follow my instinct and pass on this occasion. I’m really sorry to be so disappointing, but thanks for thinking of us. Of course this is a totally subjective judgement, so do try other agents and I wish you every success.

Dear Ginny,

Thank you for sending in your material to us. We have read and considered your proposal carefully but do not feel it is something we could place successfully in the current publishing climate. Please bear in mind that this is the opinion of one agency alone and that others may feel differently.

We are extremely sorry to disappoint you but we wish you the very best of luck with your future writing.

Dear Virginia

Thank you for sending me your submission. I found your writing engaging, as you do write with real energy and imagination.

Having said that, I am afraid it wasn’t really something that I am currently looking for but I do wish you every success with your submission.

You may be reading this and thinking, ‘But I’m not an author so this isn’t relevant to me.’ However you can still apply the principles of not giving up, determination, re-evaluation and persistence to whatever project you’re working on.

Here’s a great motivational video by Prince Ea if you need help in that department!

We can all take a leaf out of Scarlett O’Hara’s book – after all, tomorrow is another day!

“I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.’“ ~ Saul Bellow

5 Valuable Lessons I Learned From Writing a Novel

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” ~ Philip Pullman

When someone reads a book they are going on a journey. That person has invested hours of their life travelling in the mind of the author, wanting nothing more than to reach the end if it’s an exciting adventure…

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The fictional dream is a powerful phenomenon. There’s been many a time I couldn’t stand not knowing what was going to happen next because I was totally engrossed in a story. Equally there were moments when my imagination was in overdrive and I was writing so fast there must have been steam coming off my keyboard.

Just as the benefits of reading impact on the reader, the action of writing imbues blessings on the writer.

I’m willing to bet even famous and seasoned novelists still get a rush of joy when they read a good review of their work. It’s a kind of validation that the thing they love doing and can’t live without is somehow contributing to another person’s life in a positive way.

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That’s certainly the case for me as a newbie author. But beyond those feel good factors there are some profound and deep things I discovered about myself in the process of writing and publishing The Virtuoso, that go way beyond recognition or financial success.

It may not be a literary masterpiece in the same ilk as Hilary Mantel’s, or as epic as War and Peace, but it’s my story, told with my ‘voice’.

In the spirit of sharing I thought it would be helpful to list my personal lessons, in case you were thinking of writing your magnum opus or best-seller this year! It could equally apply to any large project that you have decided to undertake in 2016.

  1. I’m a finisher. The first time I wrote the words The End a feeling of euphoria swept over me, but alas, it didn’t last very long! When I saw the quality of my first draft I was less than impressed and soon realised that it was going to take an awful lot of hard work to produce something of a respectable standard. After umpteen late nights, a further three drafts and two professional edits my 100,000 word manuscript was ready to go out into the big wide world.  So what if it took a few years of consistent effort alongside my daily life; what means more to me is that I completed it.
  2. I have more courage than I thought I did. Sending your carefully crafted words out there is scary as hell! What if people don’t like what you’ve written? Neuroses plagued me. But I reasoned that ultimately it wasn’t important what people thought of me as a writer, the only thing that mattered was the book. The message not the messenger. After my book was published I did three radio interviews, which the thought of doing absolutely terrified me at first. I spent most of last year way out of my comfort zone. But action cures fear. I was doing things I had never done before and conquering them, which is incredibly liberating and expands one’s horizons and confidence.
  3. The act of writing made me believe in myself. Although I visualised my book in print, I didn’t dwell on thinking about writing, I just did it. That created a real shift in my perception and before long my abilities. My creativity blossomed under the hat of hard work. I met and worked with two incredibly talented people as a result of my ‘creation’. The wonderful violinist Adelia Myslov and film composer Tim Johnson collaborated with me to write and perform a unique classical soundtrack to accompany The Virtuoso. Creativity begets creativity…
  4. I developed patience and perseverance. That lesson didn’t come easily either. I’ve had to work at becoming more patient and my book tested me to the limit! The time it took to write the thing, then get feedback, then polish and get more feedback and so on seemed interminable.  Had it not been a labour of love I never would have stuck at it. Even the submission stage was a lengthy process, never mind how long it took to build up some reviews. They were worth waiting for as it turned out.
  5. I learnt to trust my instincts and to forgive myself for my mistakes. Perfection is great to aim for, but in reality we sometimes have to settle for our best at the time. Our maiden voyage in any endeavour is likely to be a little awkward and unsure. Can you remember the first time you rode a bike, drove a car, made love, played a musical instrument or learnt a new skill? Maybe you fell off a few times, fumbled nervously, dropped a few notes and irritated another driver with that daring manoeuvre at the roundabout? So too it is with writing and publishing a book. No experience is ever wasted; you just don’t always get what you expect from it, but rather what you need instead.

Ultimately your lessons will be unique to you, depending on where you’re coming from and they’ll probably surprise you.

Somehow the right people came into my life at the right time, and the support was there when I needed it. I’m very grateful to Satin Publishing for unleashing my words, and everyone who’s been a part of my writing/publishing journey.

Above all, I’ve managed to widen back and go with the flow a bit more. On the other hand, if you do feel inclined to read The Virtuoso I’d be very happy indeed!

And if you also wrote a review I’d be ecstatic!

I’ll leave you with the music that only exists because of the dream that was The Virtuoso

So, whatever you’re planning to achieve this year, go for it!

“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” ~ J.K. Rowling

Chatting about #NaNoWriMo, Writing and #TheVirtuoso Live on Marlow FM

I’m going to let my voice do all the talking on this post!

I’d like to say a big thank you to Jean Wolfe (@jeanspark) for having me as her guest on Friday 6th November to talk about writing on her BizBuzz show. Jean broadcasts every Friday afternoon at 2 pm on Marlow FM.  She was such a warm, welcoming and knowledgeable host and I really enjoyed our conversation.

Jean at Marlow FM

The goal of NaNoWriMo is write 50K words in a month! I’m using this month to get my next trilogy of novels off the ground.

I don’t want to repeat everything we discussed on air, so without further ado here is the link to the interview which will be available with all the music interludes for the next three weeks.

I was delighted to be on my local radio station Marlow FM (@MarlowFM), especially as there are a few scenes in The Virtuoso that take place in the town!

in the Marlow FM studio

And before I forget, here is Schubert’s marvellous String Quartet ‘Death and the Maiden’ (same title as my next trilogy) that we discussed in the interview:

Thanks for listening! I’d appreciate any constructive feedback, I did make an effort not to um and ah too much…

An Evening of Words, Music, Celebration and Chocolate: The Official Book Launch for The Virtuoso

“You can’t please all of the readers all of the time; you can’t please even some of the readers all of the time, but you really ought to try to please at least some of the readers some of the time.” ~ Stephen King (On Writing)

Virtuoso Book Launch-019 (1)After weeks of planning my big day was finally here: 25th June 2015 – Book Launch Day.  My stomach had been in turmoil all week, but I was strangely calm on the morning of the event. It felt reminiscent of planning a wedding and I didn’t want to turn into the literary equivalent of bridezilla!

After all, my launch party was meant to be fun, a celebration of getting The Virtuoso into print, and an acknowledgement of the many years of hard work that had gone into its creation. But I still felt I had a lot riding on it. I didn’t want to mess up in front of my family, friends and esteemed colleagues who were waiting expectantly, all dressed up in their glad rags, except for my brother!

It was my chance to let the world know why they should read The Virtuoso, and I had to get over the fact that I wrote it and just be the messenger…

I had lived and breathed my labour of love for the last few years, and now it was time to unleash it on the lovely people who came to support and celebrate with me.

I planned the event as meticulously as I could amidst my busiest month of the year so far. I’d had an extremely manic time with my family; two birthdays, one delayed birthday treat, one school trip to Waterloo, one book launch and a trip to the Royal Albert Hall all within days of each other.

Inevitably, some key people couldn’t make the event and I had to roll with it. At one point I was panicking that I’d just be speaking to my mum! In the end there were about forty guests, so my fears were unfounded.

I went to the hairdressers early in the morning; I didn’t want to risk a bad hair day! Mum and I got to the venue as early as we could, I had lots of helium balloons to inflate, tables to decorate, books to display. It was a real treat having my makeup done for me just beforehand.

The Location

Danesfield House Hotel is the sort of hotel that my protagonist, Isabelle Bryant, would have frequented! It’s nestled on a hillside between Marlow and Henley with magnificent views over the River Thames.

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The hotel has an interesting history, as well as having played host to George and Amal Clooney for their UK wedding celebration last year. Me and my gang weren’t Hollywood A-Listers, but they still gave us a warm welcome and treated us with impeccable service.

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It was a happy moment for me when my family arrived to join me. My youngest, Ruby, was just so sweet, she couldn’t hide her excitement and was galloping around the grounds.

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“Mummy, this hotel is really posh. Even the bushes are posh.”

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On arrival my guests were greeted with a hug and served with chilled Prosecco. The doors of the Chiltern Suite open out onto the terrace, and luckily the weather was amazing so everyone was able to sun themselves in warm, balmy air and relax a little before the formal part of the evening got underway.

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I was doing anything but relaxing! I had to get through a 20 minute presentation…

Robert Clay did a brilliant introduction for me, and then it was time to step on to the stage. I made a joke of my knees knocking together under my long black gown with exaggerated movements, which got a few titters, and then I was off! I was mighty relieved to get a hearty round of applause at the end. Luckily everyone seemed to find it interesting and enjoy themselves.

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After that canapes and drinks were served and the audience were treated to a rendition of the music soundtrack which was written especially for the book. One guest even took the score home to play on her piano.

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The music is now available to download and stream on Amazon, iTunes (listed under soundtracks on the store) and on Spotify. Search for Tim Johnson – The Virtuoso (feat. Adelia Myslov).

Then the beautiful, large and mouthwatering chocolate cake was cut and I became engaged in signing books…

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Not bad for a girl who only wanted to take up the violin because her best friend at school had started lessons, having quickly discovered that she loved it! Out of accidental encounters passions can grow…

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However – as is usually the case with life – as soon as you find yourself on a high there is someone ready to take you down a peg or two!

Only a few days later I had the absolute worst review on my Amazon page.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and this person didn’t hold back about how bad they thought the book was. I felt devastated. But, like most authors who I’m sure at some point have endured a cruel slur about their work, I just had to pick myself up, dust myself off and try not to feel like giving up.

They made a point about the price differentiation which I can explain. It was not done deliberately! When I originally set the price my publisher was in favour of £8.99 but I wanted to keep it below £8. However, when I made the book available in paperback with Amazon the minimum price they allowed me to charge was $15.99/£8.67.

A bigger book means higher costs. The Amazon paperback version is over 400 pages in length. So the cover will now be amended to show a price of £8.99. I hope you’ll read it and agree it’s worth the money, but I won’t hold it against you if you don’t…

I’m in the process of uploading the photo gallery onto my Facebook page.

It just remains for me to thank my family, friends and everyone who helped to make my book launch a really special evening filled with joy and excitement!

As well as the thanks I owed to everyone who helped me with the book, mainly my publisher, Nicky Fitzmaurice at Satin Paperbacks, and Gary Smailes at Bubblecow and Caroline Jacques for her fabulous cover. I’m also grateful to Liz Britnell for the tasty three tiered chocolate cake, Alison Oswald for making me feel like a movie star, Becky Rui for her amazing photographs of the event, Joanne Howe for her help with my press release, Anke Exnor for some pre-book launch encouragement, Sylvia Baldock and my Athena colleagues for their kind support and Robert Clay for all his mentoring over the years and for giving me a wonderful introduction!

If the majority of reviews remain positive then it will give me the impetus to continue with my next project; a trilogy of psychological thrillers.

There may be a radio interview coming up soon too…

I’m going to finish with a quote from James Patterson, an author who has sold 300 million copies of 130 novels worldwide:

“One of the nice things about books as opposed to television and movies to some extent, is it’s not a passive entertainment. People really do get involved, and they do create, and they do have their own visions of what different characters look like and what should happen. It’s great – it means their brains are working.”

#TheVirtuoso – First the Book, Now the Music!

“When you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller, and you’re telling a story.” ~ Joshua Bell

I’ve been itching to write this post for weeks….

Paradoxically, now the time is here I’m slightly lost for words. I have many superlatives for the work of film/TV composer Tim Johnson and virtuoso violinist Adelia Myslov, and to tell the truth, I feel quite emotional…

In a good way I hasten to add!

Whenever I listen to the superb soundtrack that Tim and Adelia created I can hardly contain myself. The music is playing on a continuous loop inside my head alongside the events of the novel.

After I finished writing The Virtuoso I knew I wanted to have an original piece of music written for it. To tell the story of a violinist and not have a musical narrative to complement it seemed somehow incomplete.

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The journey so far…

Adelia and I met last summer after one of her concerts – she had just given a tear-inducing performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin concerto – and I was bowled over by her talent. We met briefly afterwards, and I wrote about her in one of my early posts: Gem of a violinist illuminates Church Concert. We hooked up on Twitter, and Adelia read my book prior to publication.

I was quaking in my boots, I can tell you. Luckily she enjoyed it, and endorsed how ‘real’ it was, so I was relieved that a virtuoso violinist had authenticated the musical aspects of my story. I suggested it would be wonderful if she could play the ‘theme’ for it, and to my absolute delight Adelia agreed!

We met up to discuss the project, and Adelia put me in touch with Tim (who she met while studying at the Royal College of Music), and the rest, as they say, is history!

About Tim

Tim began playing classical guitar at the age of 9, then moved to electric shortly after. He has always enjoyed music that was loud and fast, regardless of the genre, be it punk, metal, drum and bass or Bach.

Tim JohnsonOn track to study as a sports scientist in college, Tim did a U-turn and decided he wanted to be a professional musician. He completed his music technology A-level in just one year (instead of the usual two), alongside a traditional A-level; after which he gained a place at the University of Hertfordshire to study for a B.Sc. in commercial music composition and technology. During that time he discovered a love for writing film music.  He always enjoyed listening to it, but it was during his time at university when he decided that it was the career for him. Tim left Hertfordshire with a 1st Class Honours degree.

Despite fierce competition in the world of film composition Tim managed to write for a few adverts and other jobs when he started out, but in light of how tough it was to get hired he decided he should continue his education. He was accepted into the Royal College of Music to study Musical Composition for Screen under Francis Shaw.

Along with a good friend, Konstantine Pope, Tim was the first student to be allowed to use the main concert hall for a live electronic concert, with full orchestra, rock band, electronics and a cinema screen with visuals.

“They obviously saw enough potential in me. The experience was incredible and I learned a colossal amount, about how to write good music, about the industry, about networking and communicating with musicians… respect for musicians and their talents.”  ~ Tim Johnson

Since then, Tim has written music (or created sound design) for AAA games, trailers, movies and of course, for The Virtuoso!

The Brief

I explained to Tim that I wanted a unique theme with a classical feel to it, perhaps a little Beethovenesque (due to his part in the novel), that would serve three aims: to dramatise the story, give the listener an idea of Isabelle’s character and also a musical experience of the overall essence of The Virtuoso.

After we recorded the music Tim told me about how he initially struggled with the concept of a virtuosic piece, and the idea of playing notes for the sake of playing them. He confided in a respected colleague; the conductor and film composer, Nic Raine, who advised him that just a single note can sound virtuosic; it’s how the musician plays the note that matters, it’s their interpretation that makes the difference. He said that Tim should concentrate on a memorable theme. His advice clearly paid off!

Tim has done that and more, with a divine melody that Adelia has brought to life on her 18th Century Lorenzo Storioni violin, crafted in Cremona.

Adelia's Storioni Violin

Adelia’s Storioni Violin

As an aside, I recently learned that Arnold Steinhardt (the leader of the legendary Guarneri Quartet), also plays on a Storioni violin.

The Music

The theme has three distinct parts, akin to the novel. The beginning has a very upbeat feel. You immediately hear Isabelle’s virtuosity on the violin, as well as a sense of her personal struggle, culminating in a flurry of semiquaver passages ending with the dramatic chords synonymous with her terrible accident. It then proceeds in a minor key with the most heart rending melody. This is my favourite part of the composition.

Adelia plays this movement incredibly soulfully. Her performance is laden with powerful vibrato and a profound palette of emotional colours, reflecting the time of deep sadness, devastation and introspection for Isabelle; delivered with flawless intonation in a smooth legato style. The tone she gets from her Storioni is so full and resonant.

The finale returns to the opening theme and changes key into C major. There are some incredible semibreve and minim high notes (she makes her Storioni sing, even at the top of the fingerboard in 8th position), which has the effect of fully immersing the listener in Isabelle’s fateful journey before ending on a similar note to the novel.

The Recording

Adelia in action2We got together over the May Bank Holiday to record it. I’m full of admiration for Adelia; both as a person and as a musician. She had the difficult task of playing a demanding piece alongside a backing track with a large microphone in front of her. To play normally is one thing, but to play so beautifully and at a fast tempo wearing chunky headphones is quite another!

Eat your heart out Jascha Heifetz!

As a much in demand concert violinist, her energy and enthusiasm during the recording process – and indeed for the whole project – has been nothing short of miraculous.

“I am grateful to have met Virginia and to have been part of Isabelle’s story through music. Her novel, The Virtuoso is powerful, beautiful, and very human; and sure to touch many hearts like it did mine.” ~ Adelia Myslov

I couldn’t imagine anyone else telling the musical story of The Virtuoso quite like Adelia does.

We were able to take sections of the score and make sure we were happy with the result before moving on to the next phrase. Tim, in his sound wizardry, was able to take all the best bits and put it together in this finished version.

The Official Soundtrack

In a few weeks the official soundtrack to The Virtuoso will be available to purchase on Amazon and iTunes alongside the novel.

I put together a You Tube video to showcase the music, but please do support the artists by purchasing the track if you like it as much as I do!

When I started writing The Virtuoso I could never have imagined that Isabelle’s theme would be so exquisite and encapsulate so perfectly the story I have written. Bravo Tim and Adelia!

I’m so grateful to them for working with me and sharing their immense talents on The Virtuoso.

I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts on the music, please do leave a comment or get in touch. I know it would mean a lot to Tim and Adelia as well.

I now have a book launch to organise! Until the next time folks…

The Path to Publication

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.” ~ Virginia Woolf

When I was eleven I had a nasty accident at school. It was positively gruesome. I remember the day vividly; my class had just come back from a P.E. lesson and we were making our way into the changing rooms. I wanted to tell my best friend something (I can’t even remember what it was), and in my haste to talk to her I placed my right hand next to the hinge of the door as she was closing it. Only I didn’t quite have my finger out of the way…

PhotoFunia-The Virtuoso2The ensuing carnage must have been quite a shock for my head teacher, who was greeted by a very pale screaming girl, with the end of her finger missing and copious amounts of blood flowing everywhere.  The trail of blood running from the girls changing room to the classroom must have been redolent of a murder scene. The whole of Bledlow Ridge Primary School knew that something quite grisly had just happened.  He duly picked up the top of my finger and wrapped it up (I never asked what in), and I was driven straight to hospital. The car journey was awful, I was clutching my tawdry severed finger, and as the initial shock wore off the pain grew in intensity.

It wasn’t a clean separation, and I was told that they would try and sew it back on. My mum and my family came to see me before the anaesthetic to reassure me. I had never been under before, and I was terrified I would never wake up again, as the anaesthetist counted down from ten. By the time he reached five I was out cold.

When I regained consciousness my finger was throbbing in agony and I felt groggy. The wonderful get well cards made by my classmates helped to cheer me up in the aftermath of my surgery. The only consolation was that I’m left handed, so it could have been worse, and I got to have quite a bit of time off school.

My mum dug those handmade cards out of her loft recently. They still bring a smile to my face. I remember I couldn’t play netball for months, (which I was absolutely gutted about) and when the bandages eventually came off I was shocked to see that the top of my right index finger wasn’t actually recognisable as a finger. The nerve endings gave me hell in the cold. It was like needle points stabbing my flesh until it went numb.

Needless to say, I have a thing about fingers and doors, and my kids have received several lectures about the dangers of getting a digit caught!

In the midst of my trauma little was I to know that the experience would surface many years later from the depth of my psyche, to provide my muse with inspiration for the misfortune of my first heroine and protagonist of my novel, The Virtuoso.

So you could say the idea has been brewing for a good many years!  Eleven was also the age when I started learning to play the violin. I can’t help thinking that the foundations of the path to publication were laid in 1981…

Stepping Out Onto the Worldwide Amazon Stage

New Kindle Cover

New Kindle Cover

I’m happy to announce that The Virtuoso has now been published on Amazon Kindle today, Monday 15th December 2014 at a launch price of £3.59. There will also be a paperback version available on Amazon next year. (US Link)

I’m sure I’ll feel a certain amount of satisfaction that I made it this far, for persevering over the seven years it’s taken me (on and off) to complete The Virtuoso, so that I can finally say my work in progress is now a work in print!

I’m now at the stage where I’m excited that my work can open the door to other related creative pursuits. I was fortunate to meet and hear the violin virtuoso, Adelia Myslov in the summer. She played a stunning performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. I asked her if she would be interested in playing a specially composed unique ‘theme’ for The Virtuoso, and to my delight she said yes! The music project is still ongoing and I hope it will be composed and recorded in the not too distant future. Eventually it will be available on iTunes and Amazon.

There is also a book trailer that has been produced for The Virtuoso by 13Media Arts in Daventry. Along with my voice, words and pictures, and Kevin and Darren’s digital jiggery pokery (I mean expertise), I am hoping it will prove to be a successful team effort!

During these years I’ve battled my demons of self-doubt that I could actually be a writer, and a half decent one at that. Well, I’ll leave the judging to my readers (I do hope I have some soon), after all, my daughter Emily is telling everyone she knows: ‘my mum is an author.’

The path to publication hasn’t always been like the yellow brick road! At times I had so many other ‘distractions’ beckoning for my attention; mainly life happening around me. But I found that the more time and effort I put into it,  the more I got sucked into my characters’ world of make-believe, and the more I felt as if I was becoming a proper writer.

“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” ~ Stephen King

Guarneri (del Gesù), Stradivari and Nagyvary – The Debate over Ancient Violins vs. Modern Masterpieces

“’Tis God gives skill, but not without men’s hand: He could not make Antonio Stradivarius’s violins without Antonio.” ~ George Eliot

When it comes to the value of violins, (and for that matter violas and cellos); provenance matters. The allure of such revered names is enough to send any stringed player into a frenzy…

Ultimately, the quality and rarity of Amati, Stradivarius and Guarnerius violins will render them more expensive than their modern counterparts, no matter how good and comparable the modern violins may be. With only around 600 Stradivarius instruments left in the world not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to play on one, (at least all of the time), let alone own one. And of course, the provenance greatly affects the asking price. Who has owned it, and when, who has played on it, what music has been written for it, the condition, these elements all add to the mystique and desirability of the instrument. Much like a work of art, a painting is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. And in many instances they pay millions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPaganini’s violin, the priceless ‘Il Cannone’ was made by a contemporary of Stradivarius; Giuseppe Antonio Guarneri of Cremona, in 1743, and is famed for its power and resonance. Interestingly, when it needed maintenance and repairs, these were undertaken by luthier Jean Baptiste Vuillaume in Paris, who constructed a replica violin so precise in every detail that even Paganini could not distinguish one from the other! Eventually he came to recognise the slight differences in tone, and was able to tell the original by sound. The violin and its replica are kept on display in Italy at the Genoa Town Hall. Occasionally it’s lent to performers.

The Devils’s Violinist (trailer) – A film about Paganini, played by violinist David Garrett:

Jazz violinist Regina Carter recorded an album on his beloved ‘Il Cannone’ (Paganini: After a Dream). Here is the track After a Dream arranged from Faure’s classic:

The debate over the sound quality of ancient Italian violins compared with each other and mostly to their modern counterparts has endured for years. Virtuosos past and present, such as Fritz Kreisler, Jascha Heifetz, Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, Nigel Kennedy, Midori and Sarah Chang have owned, or played, and in some cases preferred, Guarneri over Stradivari.

Amati violinWho can say exactly what that special ‘je ne sais quois’ is, that elevates the Cremonese creations from all other violins? There are so many aspects to making a stringed instrument, and to me it makes sense that skill in every area of construction affects the finished product.

I think it’s worth making the point that for most musicians it’s the relationship that they develop with their instrument that’s the most important thing. After so many hours of practice and performance the feel and touch and memory of every curve and angle is interwoven into your psyche, and it can feel like part of your body!

My own violin is Hungarian, (late 19th Century), and to me its tone is amazing, considering it’s probably a gypsy violin. That’s why I was so interested in the story of the Hungarian born Dr. Joseph Nagyvary.

As the violinist and heroine of my novel, Isabelle Bryant does get a little caught up in this debate. In my story, she plays the Nagyvary violin that was once played by Yehudi Menuhin.

Here’s a brief excerpt that touches on this subject from chapter 1 of The Virtuoso. The protagonist has just given a masterclass at the Royal Academy of Music:

She made her way south on the underground from Baker Street to London Victoria. The dreary grey sky hung like a heavy cloak over the platform. As the train jolted to halt she quickly found a seat by the window, and nestled her case vertically between her feet and knees. As more passengers entered the carriage she touched the edge of her violin case lightly, smiling with resigned humour as a passing stranger made a joke about her carrying a machine gun.

Her violin represented another limb to her, it was that precious. It felt so natural, like an extension of her body. She gently rubbed her neck which was feeling a little sore. The rough, red patch of skin on her neck just below her jaw was often mistaken for a love bite, when in fact it was what she affectionately referred to as a violinist’s hickey. Many hours of gruelling practise had left their marks.

Her mind drifted to her earlier private viewing of the Academy’s museum, where she had been shown round by the curator in person. She had spent a blissful afternoon paying particular awe and reverence to their recent acquisition of Italian virtuoso Giovanni Battista Viotti’s 1709 Stradivarius, renamed as the Viotti ex-Bruce to honour its British donor, which the Academy extolled as one of the most important and well preserved Stradivarius violins in the world.

She had studied the sheen of the dark, pinky brown maple, picturing the old master craftsman huddled in his workshop in northern Italy; surrounded by the distinctive wooden shapes that would become so valuable over three hundred years later. Sadly there were so few of them remaining.

Her own violin, a modern Nagyvary, was crafted by the eminent Hungarian professor Joseph Nagyvary, who had spent his life studying the craftsmanship of Cremonese violin makers; namely Stradivarius and Guarnerius.

Nagyvary violins were made as closely to those of the ancient genius as possible, and there had been many debates about whether or not they actually sounded as good as those of the master. Isabelle adored its sonorous tonal qualities and projection power. If a Nagyvary violin had been good enough for Yehudi Menuhin to play for fifteen years, then it was good enough for her. Gerry, in his nothing is too much of a challenge for me attitude, had managed to do a deal with Joseph Nagyvary to loan Isabelle the instrument indefinitely.  It was her most precious possession – except that she didn’t own it.

Here is an interesting article in Scientific American

Can you tell the difference?

Dr Nagyvary discovers what preserved the violins from Cremona and Venice:

The Stradivarius Mystique – By Joseph Nagyvary

New York Times Article: What Exalts Stradivarius? Not Varnish, Study Says

Smithsonian: Scanning a Stradivarius

List of Stradivarius Violins and their provenance

Wonderful video from the Library of Congress with Peter Sheppard Skaerved, an award winning British violinist, who has performed on ‘Il Cannone’ five times.

An Introduction to Stradivari:

The mystery and romance of centuries old Italian violins has filtered into film making, with the brilliant 1998 movie, The Red Violin. The actual violin that inspired the Red Violin is Stradivari’s 1721 ‘Red Mendelssohn’, currently owned by Elizabeth Pitcairn, heiress to the PPG fortune, whose grandfather purchased it for her 16th birthday at auction for $1.7 million at Christie’s in London.

And on that note, I will leave you with the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack to the film, composed by John Corigliano and performed by Joshua Bell on his Gibson ex-Huberman Stradivarius:

Vienna – The City of Music

004Vienna is the world’s foremost classical music city, indeed of the arts in general, and is one of my favourite places. For music and culture it can’t be beaten. During its musical zenith it was home to great composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Brahms and the father and son waltz kings, Johann Strauss I and II.

It’s no surprise therefore, that Vienna is the setting for part of my novel, The Virtuoso.

In addition to its musical pedigree Vienna was the birth place, and or base, of artists such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, as well as some of the world’s most respected and ground breaking writers, thinkers and psychologists such as Franz Grillparzer, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Viktor E. Frankl, and more recently, Hans Asperger, Konrad Lorenz, Ludwig von Mises, and Peter Drucker. It was the seat of the mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire and home of the Habsburg dynasty for many centuries. Vienna became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001.

093I have been to Vienna in both winter and spring. My first visit was in 2005, which also incorporated a trip to Salzburg and Innsbruck. On my second trip in April 2011, I was focussed on consolidating my research for the venues to be featured in my novel, plus my mum and I had tickets to go and see Joshua Bell perform at the Wiener Konzerthaus! He played beautifully, alongside Jeremy Denk on the piano, and I was thrilled to have met him afterwards and he signed my newly purchased CD.

This superb BBC documentary gives a wonderful overview of the ‘City of Dreams’ and its history:

Vienna has it all: the beautiful Danube river, palaces and parks, museums, galleries, concert halls, churches, coffee houses, baroque architecture, modernism, a rich history, warm and friendly inhabitants, and not forgetting apple strudel to die for. It’s an easy place to fall in love in and with, and that’s exactly what my heroine does!

In chapter nineteen Isabelle Bryant travels to Vienna to do some research on her hero Ludwig van Beethoven, so that she can write about his life and music for an article in High Notes magazine.  During her stay she has a fortuitous second meeting with enigmatic publisher Daniel Carter, (who has already awakened intensely amorous feelings in her at their first meeting), and they begin a passionate love affair amidst the wintry splendour of the city.

I hope this small section of the chapter gives you a flavour of the musical legacy and delights of Vienna:

The day started out brightly. From her small balcony Isabelle peered over the numerous rooftops, her eyes sweeping over the narrow pavements lined with historical houses, each with their own unique story she pondered. Snow lay undisturbed on the pavement below her in Kirchbergasse, still fresh from the heavy fall the night before. She filled her lungs with the wintry air and then made her way to the lounge for breakfast.

Suitably filled with rolls and orange juice she pulled her handbag across her shoulder and waited for Hans in the hotel lobby. It was dead on 9am. A tall dark figure stood erect and patient by the front door. She smiled at him. He smiled back at her, and in a few strides he was by her side greeting her with an outstretched hand.

‘Good morning Frau Bryant, my name is Hans Moser. I am your guide for the day. I understand you wish to visit some of Beethoven’s Houses?’ His slow and clipped accent immediately warmed her heart. She looked up at his strong features. His wide set jaw, olive skin and dark moustache gave him a strangely Latin appearance, and his large brown eyes were framed by substantial eyebrows. Isabelle guessed he must have been about forty.

‘Good to meet you Mr. Moser. That’s right. I’m researching the composer for an article I’m writing.’

He signalled towards a smart black Mercedes waiting at the entrance and pulled open the rear door for her. ‘Is this is your first visit to Wien?’

‘Not exactly,’ she mumbled, clambering into the seat.

‘I used to be a concert violinist, Mr Moser. I’ve been to Vienna once before, I was on tour playing with the Vienna Philharmonic, and most of my time was spent at the Wiener Musikverein. It was just for a couple of nights and unfortunately I didn’t get to see anything of the city. I spent large chunks of my time rehearsing and preparing. I- I had an accident recently, so I can’t play anymore.’

Hans’ eyes caught hers through the rear view mirror. He had already noticed the dressings on her left hand, and bowed his head.

‘I am sorry for your loss. I wish I had been able to see you play. I am a great lover of classical music and especially of Beethoven. I will do my best to make an enjoyable day for you. Also, please call me Hans.’

‘Thank you Hans, I really appreciate your help. I probably could have made it round the city on buses, trams and by foot, but I’m on quite a tight schedule and I don’t really have time to get lost.’ She raised her left arm. ‘My injury isn’t too good in the cold weather either.’

‘It’s a pleasure for me to assist you in such an important task,’ Hans replied.

Isabelle showed him her scribbles of some of the venues she wanted to see and he looked thoughtful.

‘I will take you to the Beethoven Platz first,’ he said, ‘followed by the famous Theater an der Wein, before stopping at the Memorial Rooms in the Pasqualati House, and perhaps the site of the Schwarzspanierhaus, where he died. Beethoven moved house over eighty times during his time in Wien, so there aren’t many houses that we know of left standing. Also in the city is the Palais Lobkowitz which houses the Eroica Saal and the Palais Pallavicini which is opposite the Spanish Riding School of the Hofburg Palace.’

‘That’s great. If there’s enough time afterwards I’d also like to visit the House of the Heiligenstadt Testament, and the Church of Holy Trinity where Beethoven’s funeral was held.’

Hans gave an accommodating nod. ‘I am at your service, we can go wherever you would like.’

They drove in silence as dark clouds gathered in the sky above. Hans pulled the car into a lay by and proudly pointed towards an imposing statue of Beethoven sternly surveying his eponymous Platz.

Isabelle got out and wandered up to the statue. He looked regal and rightly honoured in pride of place in his own little square. Groups of young students came and went as Isabelle took in the scene. To her left was a gothic building containing a performance hall and rooms, and on the opposite side of the square the view was dwarfed by the towering Intercontinental Hotel, and next to that was an ice rink and some construction cranes. The wind whipped around her like a mini tornado but she felt exhilarated.

She took a few pictures and climbed back into the warm interior of the waiting car, brushing her hair away from her face, and Hans sped off further into the city.

Their next stop was the Theater an der Wien, a relatively innocuous looking building amongst the classical finery of the city. Its early nineteenth century yellow façade appeared a little shabby, but the theatre had seen thousands of Viennese concert goers through its green doors during its history. She studied the guidebook to see that it had been built in 1801, and the statues above the doorway were in fact depicting Papageno, from Mozart’s Magic Flute. Reading further she saw that it had also premiered Beethoven’s Fidelio in 1805.

‘It’s hard to believe Hans, but his violin concerto, which was my favourite, premiered in this very theatre on the twenty third of December 1806, after a rushed completion and next to no rehearsal. The Viennese didn’t take to it, and it wasn’t performed for about another four decades. These days it’s in every soloist’s repertoire as one of the great violin concerti, and has even been transcribed for the piano.’

‘It seems even the best of us sometimes have to wait for success,’ concurred Hans.

Isabelle studied her book. ‘Luckily his grand Symphony number five in C minor fared a lot better in December of 1808. His pastoral Symphony and the fourth piano concerto were also premiered in this unremarkable looking building. What I find amazing is that it’s still in use for concerts in the twenty first century.’

‘The concert hall interior is magnificent.’

‘Can we go in Hans?’

Hans disappeared into a small door around the back of the theatre. Isabelle could hear lots of banging and drilling going on inside. He emerged a few moments later shaking his head.

‘I’m so sorry, but unfortunately they are doing renovations ready for Mozart’s two hundred and fiftieth birthday celebrations in the New Year, and so it is closed to the public.’

Isabelle’s shoulders dropped as she sighed. ‘What a shame.’

Hans led her back to the car and she obediently followed him as he opened the door for her. This kind, tall, strong Austrian man had a grace of movement that was masculine and yet gentle.

The snow began falling again as the engine roared back to life, and they drove towards the Palais Lobkowitz.

‘Hans, I understand Prince Lobkowitz was a great patron of the arts one of Beethoven’s strongest supporters?’

‘He was indeed, Isabelle, along with Prince Karl Lichnowsky, Count von Fries and Archduke Rudolph. If you like, I have an interesting anecdote to tell you, about when Beethoven was making a reputation for himself in Viennese society as virtuoso pianist.’

‘Oh Hans, yes please, do tell, I need insider information for my article. I’d love to know what happened.’ Isabelle leaned forward slightly, stretching her seatbelt.

‘You may know it already, but Prince Lobkowitz organised an improvisation contest between Beethoven and a Prussian pianist popular in Vienna in 1800 called Daniel Steibelt.’

‘I’ve never heard of him, Hans. How cool, a salon duel on the ivories. Please go on.’ Isabelle strained her neck a little closer to Hans.

‘In fact they met twice, firstly at the von Fries residence, the Palais Pallavicini. Steibelt was already an established virtuoso on a tour of European capitals and wanted to make his mark in Vienna. He was known for his, how do you say, tremolandos. The first time they met I’m afraid Steibelt apparently impressed the aristocracy more than Beethoven with his fancy performance of his own Piano Quintet. By all accounts he was condescending in attitude towards Beethoven, who refused to play again on that occasion.’

‘Knowing what an irascible temperament Beethoven had I’m sure his blood must have been boiling after that,’ Isabelle said.

‘Most certainly, Isabelle. A rematch was planned a week later at the Palais Lobkowitz.’

‘Oh! The anticipation! What happened Hans?’

I’m pleased to tell you that Beethoven got his revenge on Steibelt at their second meeting. The aristocracy must have been on the edge of their seats under such an atmosphere of hostility. It is said that Beethoven parodied his precious tremolandos and indeed Steibelt’s entire composition. He imitated Steibelt’s Quintet for the ordinary piece it was, and exposed it in a humiliating fashion. He then began to improvise on it with such brilliance that the audience could barely believe what they were witnessing.’

‘Bravo Beethoven!’

‘Steibelt stormed out of the salon while Beethoven was still playing, indeed, mocking him.’

‘Game set and match Ludwig,’ replied Isabelle.

‘Beethoven was known for having small but very intense and bright eyes. They must have surely been blazing that night,’ Hans concluded.

‘Wow. It would have been incredible to have seen him in full flow, going hell for leather against an opulent backdrop with all his unrefined clothes and mannerisms, trumping some posh, over inflated big wig,’ Isabelle said.

‘Yes. He so comprehensively showed up Steibelt that he left Vienna with his pride in tatters and went straight back to Berlin, refusing to ever play in Vienna again if Beethoven were present.’ Hans pulled the car to halt. ‘And here we are, in front of the very building where it all happened.’

You will have to read the novel to become immersed in the rest of Vienna and the raunchier scenes! These chapters of The Virtuoso are a love letter to Beethoven and Vienna.

I wonder if other writers also worry that they haven’t got enough information on a real place to do it justice? In my case I had to work from old memories and photographs, but my emotions at the time made a big impression on me.

Heiligenstadt Testament

I found this piece of music written to evoke Beethoven’s Heiligenstadt Testament by Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin:

I have included a small gallery of photos mostly taken on my 2011 trip.  Just click on a picture to enlarge.

Vienna truly is the ‘City of Dreams’ as well as the ‘City of Music’.