– Faren Miller, Locus Magazine
Is available to purchase now:
I always knew, from the time I was seven years old, that I wanted to be a writer. But I also knew that I’d have to have a day job to keep me going…and at thirteen, I finally figured out what I loved almost as much as writing: music!
So I decided to be a musician, as my practical, sensible day job.
Hahahaha. Yes, I know. I do! I was not a practical-minded teenager. But I was a determined one…
…So I went to conservatory as a French horn performance major, and I added on a music history double major, two years in, when I realized that I didn’t really want to be an orchestral musician after all. Then I spent several years as a postgrad musicology student, first at the University of Vienna on a Fulbright scholarship, then in Pittsburgh, and finally in Leeds as a PhD student there, shifting closer and closer to what I liked best by studying opera history… and then I finally got an actual day job for two years, working at an opera company.
Now here I am, as a full time writer after all. And quite often, people ask me: how did music affect your writing?
Usually, my answers are a little vague… or at least, they’re based on larger principles. This is the one I usually fall back on:
Music taught me discipline. When you have to practice your French horn for three hours a day on top of rehearsals (and coursework), you really do have to learn self-discipline, and the art of forcing yourself to sit down and get it done.
Honestly, that’s a skill whose value can’t be overestimated, as a freelance writer.
But finally, with my new book, I can give a better, more specific answer… because in my new book, Masks and Shadows, all my love of music finally found a full outlet in my writing.
Masks and Shadows is set at the Hungarian palace of Eszterháza in 1779, when Joseph Haydn was the Kapellmeister there, creating beautiful operas for his royal employer, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy. Not-so-coincidentally, my own PhD research focused on opera and politics in late-eighteenth-century Vienna and Eszterháza… and the drama in Masks and Shadows all swirls around the jewelbox opera house at Eszterháza, as Haydn and his singers work to create a sparkling new opera in time for an Imperial visit, a superstar castrato singer visits the palace and falls into a forbidden love affair, a maid finally finds an outlet for her own voice… and a secret society plans a terrifying, alchemical finale.
But my musical background didn’t only come out in the subject of this book. I wrote the book itself as an opera. It’s divided into acts, not parts, and characters weave in and out just as they would in an eighteenth-century opera, experiencing love and fear and betrayal and passion, all building up to a massive Act III finale.
As I wrote, I listened to all of my favorite Haydn operas, as well as the soundtrack to the movie “Farinelli” (in honor of my castrato hero). But I could also feel a new opera thrumming through me as I wrote… an opera in the form of a novel.
I hope you guys enjoy it!
Many thanks to Stephanie for her post - go buy her book!