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.

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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…