Blue Notes Holiday 2013 : Blog Tour
Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour
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A big hello today to Rainbow Award winning author Shira Anthony. Yesterday saw the highly anticipated release of “Encore”, book 5 in Shira’s wonderfully captivating Blue Notes series. She is also the author of “Stealing The Wind”, and “The Dream of A Thousand Nights”. In addition, Shira has co-authored “The Trust” with Venona Keyes, and “Lighting The Way Home” with EM Lynley.
Shira also has a holiday release coming out soon, “Symphony In Blue”, which will bring together all of the Blue Notes couples. I’m not excited about that, oh no, not at all 😀 Stay tuned for ordering info and buy links….
♬ Thanks for being here with us Shira and answering a few questions. It’s no secret to the LYLBTB crew and all of my friends that I’m a huge fan of your writing (and of you!), so hopefully these questions will make sense and not sound as if they came from an OTT fangirl!
Thanks, Dianne and crew, for hosting me today! Fangirling is totally okay, since I’m a total fangirl when it comes to certain writers (and more noisily about certain musicians!). I really appreciate it!
♬ Hah! OK, fangirling right off the bat… I love that you are giving us all of the Blue Notes couples together in “Symphony In Blue”, a story coming out for the holidays. Was this long planned, or off the cuff this year?
I guess you could say it was a little planning and a little off the cuff! I had always wanted to revisit some of the Blue Notes characters, especially since I left readers with a little bit of a cliffie at the end of “The Melody Thief.” I also have such a hard time saying good-bye to my characters. (Maybe that’s why I wrote Blue Notes as an interconnected series?) But as far as the novella, “Symphony in Blue,” it was my publisher’s suggestion. I was bouncing ideas off of Dreamspinner’s fearless leader, Elizabeth North, and she suggested a Blue Notes holiday story. Didn’t have to convince me!
♬ Please share with us how your experience as an opera singer, and your love for boating off the Carolina coast, have inspired your writing.
It’s no secret that I like to write about what I know. So after I spent ten days in Paris (in winter!) a few years ago, I came back with the inspiration for the original “Blue Notes.” I had lived in France, and I’d been a violinist for 16+ years. I had also giving up my opera career, and still felt a great deal of pain for having done that. So in Jason Greene, I created a character who has a great deal of my history in his background. Each Blue Notes book has some of my past and my experiences in it. “Encore” is no exception. In fact, in the character of Roger, I’ve explored a few more of my demons and my feelings of loss over having given up music. The violin Roger and his grandfather pick out? That was my gorgeous violin.
As far as boating? My husband and I have a 36’ catamaran sailboat near Oriental, NC, and we love to spend weekends sailing the inner and outer banks. I wasn’t a sailor growing up, but I’ve learned a lot from my husband. So when I was thinking of writing a fantasy novel, I thought about setting it on the high seas. With pirates. Oh, and mermen. (Who can resist hot mermen?) I often run battle scenes and maneuvers by my husband. And what better place to write a story about mermen than on the water?
♬ As an avid reader, I’ve rarely found a series that I haven’t felt was best read in the order released, even if the author and other readers say they flow just fine when read in any order. You make that statement with the Blue Notes books and I must say…. it is so true, they can be read in any order (just please everyone, do yourself a favor and read them all!!). Did you approach this series with that in mind, and wanting each book to be “stand alone” material, or did that occur to you after you started writing?
Oh, I’m so glad! I really try to make each book its own contained universe. The idea for an interconnected (spin-off) series came to me as I was writing the first book, “Blue Notes.” I had co-written a short story about a conductor and crossover/classical violinist (which later was rewritten as “Prelude”), and I loved the David Somers and Alex Bishop characters. So I wrote them into “Blue Notes,” knowing I wanted to write their story later on. Then another character appeared who I really loved (Sam Ryan), and by the end of the book, I knew it was going to be a series.
I grew up reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Darkover” series, so I knew it really was possible to create many different stories in one universe. Reading those books, I realized that having characters who know each other and appear in various books helps a reader invest in the characters (and the writer as well, by the way!). The key, in my opinion, is having a stable universe and interesting characters, but not to rely upon those characters when creating new stories. It’s fine to tie them together, though, and layer them with “color” by using reference to other characters. But you can’t just stick old characters into new stories just for the hell of it—you need to be sure it enhances the new story.
For example, in “Encore,” you’ll meet a very young Cary Redding (“The Melody Thief”) and Alex Bishop (“Prelude), as well as a young David Somers (“Prelude”). But other than David, who plays a larger role at the end of the novel as John’s successor at the Chicago Symphony, the glimpses of the characters are fleeting and meant to ground the reader in John’s work as conductor of one of the best symphonies in the world. Readers who don’t know Cary, David, or Alex, will get enough of an introduction that they may want to read more about them, and readers who do know them will probably enjoy seeing them before their stories were told. Too much reliance on other characters, and a standalone becomes a sequel. It’s a tricky balance!
♬ So, do you have a Blue Notes strategy room in your house, complete with storyboard, timeline, which couples met where and when? You must be incredibly organized to balance all the characters in your writing with your day job, family, etc..
I’m laughing, because sometimes I feel like a chicken without a head! I’d call myself “semi” organized. I have an office in my house where I have story ideas pinned up. I even have multiple timelines written out, but I still haven’t had the time to put together a “master” timeline/storyboard for the series. I know it would be easier than going back and checking to make sure the stories fit together, but I never seem to be able to find the time.
Thank goodness I’ve got great betas (some of whom kick my timelines to see what shakes out!) and a great bunch of editors at Dreamspinner, who keep asking me questions about how it all fits together.
Mostly, I’ve got the “big picture” in my brain. I’ve gotten to know these guys. I see them in the present as who they’ve come to be, so I know where I am in time when I write a new story. It’s worked so far, but going forward, it may mean sitting down and putting that big picture view together, before I lose my mind!
♬ “Encore” spans several decades in the lives of Roger and John. While all of the Blue Notes books tackle tough relationship issues, it sounds as though this one is really going to be influenced by societal views of the past, as well as the catastrophic effects of AIDs. How emotionally challenging was this for you as a writer?
This was the hardest book for me to write from an emotional standpoint. I also think it may be my best writing of the series. Roger and Jon are based on the men I grew up with, performed with, still hang out with. They’re only a few years older than I am, so they lived the same history I did. I remember the protests over the war in Vietnam. I knew people who lost brothers in that war. I lived in New York City during the 1980s and knew men—wonderful, talented, beautiful men—who died of AIDS. I watched men I knew waste away.
I was so fortunate to grow up with parents who had openly gay friends. But the reality is that most people my age weren’t as fortunate. Society was cruel. People were cruel. A gay baritone once told me he wasn’t sure he and his partner would stand the test of time. He said he had no role models of successful gay relationships. There were so few.
Of all the Blue Notes books, this one really made me cry and ache inside. There were days I had to put it away and give myself a bit of distance before picking it back up again. More than anything, I love a good happily ever after. But these two men go through so much, put up with so much from society, and from their families… I wanted to skip to the HEA. I wanted to forget about all the pain that AIDS brought to the music community and the larger world. Roger and John truly are star-crossed lovers (as one of my beta readers pointed out). They are meant to be together, but they just can’t quite make it work because of all the background “noise.” Yes, they get their second chance at happiness, but it’s after a great deal of loss and pain, and a lot of growth. For me, character growth is the key to these books, and in this particular book, the changes in the main characters make their HEA all the yummier!
♬ I see you have a vampire hunter book coming up in the future (yum!)…. You have written a mix of contemporary, historic/fantasy and sci-fi/fantasy. Do you enjoy writing one sub-genre in particular more than the others?
I love them all. I don’t really think about genre when I have an idea. I go where my imagination and my muse take me. Honestly, my muse is entirely undisciplined! “Encore” was supposed to come out in August of 2013. If you may recall, that’s when “Stealing the Wind” was released. I remember writing to my publisher and saying, “How would you feel if instead of the next Blue Notes book I’ve promised you, I sent you a book about pirate/mermen/shifters?” Fortunately, she didn’t laugh at me!
♬ Speaking of “Stealing The Wind”– that is the first book in your Mermen of Ea series and it is really popular. Is there a release date for the sequel….”Into The Wind”?
Thank you! I’m so happy my slippery men are popular—you know me, I totally fell in love with them and I’m so glad I don’t have to say good-bye to them for several books! “Into the Wind” is due to my publisher on December 1st. Tentative publication is late spring, early summer 2014. Book three, “Running with the Wind,” is on the December 2014 schedule. And, of course, my muse is itching to write a spinoff series! We’ll see who wins that fight! Though I’m pretty sure I won’t. *sighs*
♬ I was astounded a while back when you told me you had no idea of the existence of the popular and uber talented violinist, David Garrett, before writing any of the Blue Notes books prior to “Encore”. Did you have readers assuming he was an inspiration for Alex?
That was the weirdest thing! When Venona and I wrote the short story that eventually became “Prelude,” I had NO idea who David was! Later, I saw a You Tube vid with him playing “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and thought, “Eh, so what?” After “Prelude” was published, my good friend Cody Kennedy shared a photo of David on my FB wall. I asked, “Who’s the model?” He answered (paraphrasing here), “Dummy, that’s David Garrett. He’s not a model, he’s a violinist!” I about fell over. Other than the fact that David is straight, he could have walked right off the pages of “Prelude!” Long hair, tattoos, GREAT classical musician (his Tchaikovsky violin concert was my inspiration music for “Encore,” by the way), great rock musician…. Since then, yes, I’ve had a few readers ask if he was the inspiration. I tell them my cock-eyed story and we usually both end up laughing.
♬ Reviews…do you read them? What are your thoughts in general regarding them? Review sites vs. general reviews on GRs or Amazon?
Yes, I read them. *quakes in her boots* Reading reviews of my own books makes me incredibly nervous! But there are a few reasons why I read them anyhow…. First, if a reader takes the time to review, I feel I should take the time to hear what s/he has to say. Sometimes they nail things I wasn’t able to fully grasp when I was writing a story—both the good and the bad. Bad reviews can sting. Good reviews can make you smile. I’ve always asked for open and honest critique from my betas and my editors, regardless of the sting. It makes me a better writer. No doubt about it.
Second, I read reviews because it helps me connect with readers. Unlike opera, where I was in front of an audience and got immediate feedback, writing is a very lonely profession. 99% of the time, I’m holed up with my computer. So any contact with readers, at conventions, though reviews, or in emails, is WONDERFUL!
Last, and perhaps most importantly, reviews and review websites help writers! Websites like LYLBTB that focus on MM do a great service to the MM genre. They help readers find new writers and new subgenres. Do I totally rely on reviews when I’m choosing a book to read? No. But I definitely check them out and consider what they have to say. On more than a few occasions, I’ve found great writers and series by reading them.
Now for some lighter questions, but hey, inquiring minds and all!
♬ What is something you never leave home without?
My Kindle! I’m addicted to it for reading and editing (I listen to my manuscripts on the text-to-speech feature).
♬ What grounds you, gives you peace?
It’s going to sound corny, but my husband really grounds me. He’s supportive of my writing and my juggling a million different things, but he can also give me a swift kick in the behind when I need it! He’s a very Zen kind of guy.
♬ What is your favorite recent read?
I loved the most recent of Jordan Castillo Price’s PsyCops books! I adore that series. I can’t believe I didn’t get to meet her at GRL this year. That’s going on my next year’s to-do list. Item One: Fangirl Jordan!
♬ When you do get to see David Garrett perform live, are you hoping for a meet and greet? Backstage pass, stage door autograph? 😉
Oh, I WISH!!!! But seriously, I’ve always been a bit tongue-tied around celebrities, so if I really did meet him, I’d probably just drool all over him. He might not appreciate that!
Shira, thank you so much for stopping by, it has been a real treat!
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Series : Blue Notes
Author: Shira Anthony
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: November 11, 2013
Pages: 296 pages
Available at Dreamspinner Press:
B L U R B : Cool kid violinist Roger Nelson doesn’t give a damn about anything. Wannabe conductor John Fuchs is awkward, effeminate, and just figuring out he’s gay. Despite their differences, they become friends—then lovers—and after college, they try to make it work. But it’s the 1970s, and Roger can’t bring himself to admit he’s gay. Worse, after his brother is killed in Vietnam, Roger tries to live up to his memory and be the perfect son. Then after suffering one tragedy too many, he makes the biggest mistake of his life: Roger pushes John away.
Through the years, they dance around the truth and in and out of each other’s lives, never quite able to let go. Twenty years later, Roger still carries the pain of losing his dream of a brilliant career with him, while John is a superstar conductor with a wild reputation. John’s off-stage antics get him plenty of attention, good and bad, though deep down, he wants only Roger. Finally determined to hold on to what really matters, Roger asks John for another chance, and when John panics and runs, Roger has to convince him to listen to his heart.
Note: Blue Notes Series novels are standalone stories and can be read in any order. “Encore” is chronologically the first in the series.
About the Author :
Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer in her last incarnation, 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.
Check out what Shira is up to now by visiting her site shiraanthony.com
There will be a total of FOUR lucky winners, selected randomly across the entire BlogHop (Details and T/C’s listed below). For a chance to win one of these great giveaways be sure to click on the link to enter >> Rafflecopter giveaway!!
Blue Notes Series Holiday 2013 Giveaway Info:
♪ Begins on release day for “Encore,” November 11, 2013
♫ Ends on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, at midnight
♩ Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. I will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.
• Prizes (U.S. Only):
♪ Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
♫ 1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
♩ 2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
♬ 3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choice