This month, on the five year anniversary of the publication of my first novel, Blue Notes, I thought I’d share a post I wrote five years ago about the inspiration for my professional writing career. It was a painful exploration, but writing Blue Notes was cathartic to me. Since that book was published, I’ve embraced the musical side of myself again. Sometimes it still hurts to talk or write about it, but I now listen to classical music again (maybe even more than other musical genres), and I don’t hesitate to talk about my career as a professional opera singer. If you want to hear what I sounded like when I was singing, you can find an excerpt from a live performance of Tosca here, on my website: “Vissi d’arte”
Also, to celebrate the five year anniversary of Blue Notes, I’m giving away an ebook or audiobook copy (winner’s choice). Comment on this post, and you’re entered! I’ll choose a winner on December 31st. Good luck! -Shira
They say, “Write what you know.” But what do you do when what you know is something that hurts to write about? You avoid writing about what you know and you write fantasy. And the result isn’t bad, but it isn’t the story that you know your readers will connect with in the deep, emotional sense that you yourself crave. So you keep writing. Until one day, you decide that maybe—just maybe—you can dip your big toe in the pool of pain just a little. You try to write about what you know. And a strange thing happens, you find that the pain is there, but that there’s something else: joy. And a bit of understanding as well.
I will always be a musician. It’s in my blood, in my brain, in my genes and in my heart. It’s in the fingers I used to use to play my violin. It’s in the voice that I was born with—the voice that once received a rave review from the San Francisco Examiner for a performance of “I Pagliacci.” But the talent, the gifts you’re born with, aren’t always enough. Music is also sacrifice and self promotion, and I was always terrible at those things. So fourteen years of singing opera and a lifetime of music behind me, I became a lawyer. And I do fine. I do good work to protect children. And yet the pain in my heart was always there, like the loss of a lover, a parent, even a child. My soul ached when I heard music on the radio. I avoided concerts, especially opera. I lost touch with my musician friends because it hurt too much to remember.
I’d always loved to write: fantasy stories never completed, angst-ridden poems of adolescence that I hid from my parents in embarrassment. But four years ago, I finally completed a story. Another followed, and then another. Finally, I published one. Fluffy, erotic pirates. Happy ending. And then I published another, a fantasy two men—a prince and a Jinn. Sweet, sexy, angsty romance. It’s a good story. It was published by a wonderful publishing house. But it wasn’t my story.
It was after a trip to France in early 2011 that the story I was afraid to write lodged itself in my brain and refused to be ignored. A romance, to be sure—some things never change!—but a story about a man who left behind the musician he dreamed of being and who still hides the pain of that loss. There are many things I can point to in “Blue Notes” that are not “me.” But the story, and the main character are, in many ways, the “me” that I’ve hidden away for the past fifteen years. The musician who cannot let go of her music, but dreams about moving forward with sort type of music in her life, even if she knows she will never perform professionally again.
“Blue Notes” is the story I’ve needed to write. I’d just been afraid to do it. Just as my main character, Jason Greene, runs away from his not-so-perfect life to spend two months in Paris, I have been running away from my own grief. And yet in writing this book, I was able to share my love and my pain, just as Jason is able to move forward and learn to accept that his future isn’t necessarily the one he had planned. And in that bittersweet resolution, I have found my own peace. Jason needed the love of Jules to help him let go. I needed another means to express myself, and I have found it in writing.
So when “Blue Notes” is released on December 30, 2011, my heart will already be on its way to healing. And as I re-read what I struggled to put into words, I will hear the music in my heart and I will see it there amongst the pages. My “voice” still sings, if only on the paper and through my words. But the music is still there. I’ve just learned to express it through a different medium.
Blurb: Blame it on jet lag. Jason Greene thought he had everything: a dream job as a partner in a large Philadelphia law firm, a beautiful fiancée, and more money than he could ever hope to spend. Then he finds his future wife in bed with another man, and he’s forced to rethink his life and his choices. On a moment’s notice, he runs away to Paris, hoping to make peace with his li…moreBlame it on jet lag. Jason Greene thought he had everything: a dream job as a partner in a large Philadelphia law firm, a beautiful fiancée, and more money than he could ever hope to spend. Then he finds his future wife in bed with another man, and he’s forced to rethink his life and his choices. On a moment’s notice, he runs away to Paris, hoping to make peace with his life.
But Jason’s leave of absence becomes a true journey of the heart when he meets Jules, a struggling jazz violinist with his own cross to bear. In the City of Love, it doesn’t take them long to fall into bed, but as they’re both about to learn, they can’t run from the past. Sooner or later, they’ll have to face the music.
About Shira: I’ve always been a complete sucker for a happily-ever-after. But at some point I remember thinking, “What comes after the happily part?” I think that’s why I’ve always been drawn to stories that focus on what happens after the two main characters realize they love each other. How do they make it work? How do they stay together? Why do they stay together? Those are some of the questions that inspired me to write the Blue Notes Series.
Each Blue Notes Series novel is a relationship-driven story that seeks to answer the question of how real men make relationships work. Each story can be read independently of the others and in any order, but all of the characters inhabit the same, classical music universe and connect in ways that are often surprising. There’s a little bit of me in each of these novels, and many of the storylines are inspired by my own experiences as a classical musician (violinist and opera singer).
If you’re looking for a change of pace from contemporary romance, you might want to check out my high fantasy, sexy pirate shifter/mermen trilogy, The Mermen of Ea. The series is complete, although I’m considering a follow-up story about two of my favorite secondary characters.