The Virtuoso’s Play List

For each book featured in a newsletter, I’d like to answer a question that either came up frequently on the blog tour for that book, or should have come up frequently and didn’t. The Virtuoso being about a musician, I expected to be asked if I listen to music when I write. It doesn’t say so on the website, but I have a Bachelor of Music degree in music history and my instrument was piano.

When Lord Valentine was acquiring his skill at the keyboard, the entire repertoire of Mozart, Haydn, Handel, CPE Bach, and some J.S. Bach would have been available to him. Over in Vienna, Beethoven would have written all but his ninth symphony, and pianist and composer Muzio Clementi would have been touring to packed houses.

So what did I listen to when I wrote “The Virtuoso?”

Unless you count the contented snoring of my bull mastiff, I listened to silence.

In hindsight, I think I would have been happier had I pursued a college degree in composition rather than musicology, because even more than I liked to create music, I liked to listen to it being created. When I listen to music, my ear is not passive. I take apart what I’m hearing the way an art historian might assess a painting, even the mass produced art hanging in a hotel room.

You hear a string quartet, I hear a cello getting too bossy and a viola hiding under the second violin. I hear magnificent close harmony, or a bass line going muddy as the tempo picks up. In other words, I listen analytically.

I cannot turn this off any more than I can turn off the senses of taste and touch. It’s work for me to listen to music, just as it’s work for me to write. I enjoy both—enjoy them tremendously—but both take focus and effort.

Composer G.F. Handel

So, no, I do not listen to music when I write. That would be like trying to dance and write at the same time—nigh impossible for me. But—and you knew there would be a but—when I was writing “Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish,” time was of the essence, and a Christmas feel for the book was also of the essence. To help me get a sense of Christmas into the book, I listened to Handel’s “Messiah” (the Christmas portion) almost incessantly when I wasn’t writing. I hummed it, I sang it, I whistled it—and happily “lost” the CD once the book was written.

The neat thing about that work is that even in the Regency period, it was popular Christmas music. Hearing the oratorio over and over, knowing my Regency characters would have been thoroughly familiar with it, helped the story flow more easily.

If there’s a question you’d like to see addressed in a future blog, send it along and I’ll try to work it in. If YOU had written the Virtuoso, what might you have listened to (beside my snoring bull mastiff)?

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5 comments on “The Virtuoso’s Play List

  1. Could u post a listing of who the cast of characters are and who they are related to? I’m reading the Virtuoso and came to a familiar name ‘Nick & Leah’. I’m going to have to go back through the other books to find them and their relationship to the others.

  2. Beverly, I’m working on it! Because you’re the first to ask for such a thing, I’ll start with “The Virtuoso’s” dramatic personae. You won’t meet Nick or Dare in any of the previous books, they’re introduced in Val’s book for the first time.

    As a quick explanation, Valentine is friends with Nick from long association. Nick is married to Leah, and because Nick could not personally keep an eye on Val, he sent his wife’s brother, Darius, to be Val’s “buddy/duenna/bodyguard.” Nick and Darius both eventually get their own stories, and as I recall, Val gets some scenes in both.

    A cast of characters for my books is probably a good idea on general principles–wish I’d thought of it four books ago.

  3. Like you, I can’t listen to much music while I work. I tend to type the words of the music if there are words! I like to listen to music while I cook or clean (yuk) as the time passes faster. Like you, my favorite Christmas music is The Messiah and I’ve been attending a performance every Christmas that I can remember! Puts me in the Christmasy mood….

    Thank you so much for writing this series! I’ve been enjoying each one! My favorite character is The Duke of Moreland 🙂 He’s just a manipulative, yet lovable dude!

  4. Thanks, Barb! I honestly did not like His Grace until I saw his devotion to Her Grace and (in Gwen and Douglas’ story, to come next spring) to all of whom he’s protective. I’m hoping Their Graces will tell me their story soon, too.