Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Interview with Liesel Soley, author of Can You Be an Artist?

Liesel Soley, a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and Fulbright scholar in Paris, France, is a professional violinist. Soley has performed solo recitals in the U.S. and France and was the violinist in the piano trio, Trio Viva. She has taught violin at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City and violin and viola at St. Petersburg College and the Pinellas County Center for the Arts in St.Petersburg, Florida.

Presently, Liesel Soley shares her love for music with children, as well as adults in Clearwater, Florida where she teaches violin, viola, and chamber music privately and in an after-school program at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg.

Soley has found a welcome relief from the very disciplined, intensive, and time-consuming work with the violin in her other artistic means of expression; writing, painting and drawing.

Congratulations on the publication of your children’s book, Can You Be an Artist? What got you into writing?

My first writing was when I was in Paris on a Fulbright Grant. I was struggling with the violin and life, and one day when it was very difficult to approach the violin, I just started to write some poetry with no expectations or standards to meet. This took place over a period of about two weeks. It was a kind of a relief and my morale went way up. The poems remained in my violin case for 44 years! I couldn’t quite throw them away.

Then several years ago my family requested I send them personal things I had created which resulted in putting together CDs of some of my solo violin and piano trio performances, a book of my paintings, and Yes! – those poems mentioned above along with some very short stories I wrote up about playing violin in the streets which I had been telling for years! Yes, even though I am a Juilliard graduate, I have hit the streets and had some interesting and fun experiences in the streets of New York, London, and Paris! Some of my friends look aghast at some of the things I do. I just laugh!

So, this brings me to the children’s book I just completed. During the summer some of my students disappear, going to camps and on vacation, so it was either do something creative or sit around and mope because of a lack of work.
“Can YOU Be an Artist?” came into being!

What was your inspiration for Can You Be an Artist?

Working with my violin students and seeing total transformations take place, sometimes quickly and sometimes over a period of years.The violin is extremely challenging and it takes tremendous discipline and persistence to play well. To see the confidence, the self-esteem, the growth of students developing as a result of participating in the arts is rewarding and exciting. Taking part in orchestras, recitals, and competitions can give such a sense of accomplishment to these youngsters. Although I have mostly seen this as a musician, I know that students in all the arts tend to excel in other areas as well, such as in school. Individuals who express themselves through the arts, who create, are happier and more successful. I know this with absolute certainty and wanted to express this.

What message you hope readers will get from your book?

As indicated in my authors note, one can create in many ways, “— If one truly creates beauty and quality in what one does and if this translates to others one is actively being an artist.”

Also – Dare To Follow Your Dreams! Dare To Be Yourself! Dare to Be Free!!

Tell us about what your writing process was like for this book. Did you outline it first? Did you edit it as you went along?

The structure, using the three different art forms and the three kids just popped up. I mocked it up very quickly. As I have a number of Korean students I wanted one of the kids to be Korean. Each child was very real to me. Because I was able to be Freddie, or Honey, or Bae it was easy to write their feelings, about their families etc. Using the first person for them seemed very natural.The few word changes or added took place after the writing was done as a whole.

You also illustrated the book. Give us a glimpse into the mind of the author/illustrator persona? Did you write the story first and later illustrate it?

The writing was done first although I had illustrations in mind. There was an original mock-up of the book with far fewer illustrations than in the completed published book. A number of people had commented that there were too few illustrations, too many words per page, that the colors were weak and there were not enough details for kids. I agreed, so the next summer (2010) I decided to handle the things that were not ok and complete the book.

It was very difficult for me. I added 12 more drawings and totally changed all the existing ones except for 2, and even those I had to do all over because the paper was different!

I would lie awake at night mocking up the next illustration – hardly slept for 2 months. I was excited and determined to finish within two months before the school season started. The work was intense. I mocked up the illustrations easily but when it came to the execution of the drawings in terms of enough color it drove me nuts. I would create the drawing rather quickly then invariably at a certain point I would have exactly what I wanted but not enough color and I would stop and move on to the next illustration! I did not have the certainty and courage to do full color right off! I was afraid I would mess up on those tiny little lines or dots or whatever, like with expressions on faces, and that I would have to do the whole picture over again!

O Man, I ended up going over these illustrations three times – the entire picture 3 times – each time adding another layer of color, each time in more agony than the previous time! It was awful! I was an idiot!

I am laughing at the whole experience. Not being trained in painting, drawing, or illustrating, this was more than a learning experience! It was literally painful! I was doing these drawings leaning over the dining room table with a lot of weight on my left arm and hand pressing down on the table while I meticulously (and gingerly!) proceeded to work with my right hand. A little before the end of the 2 months I felt like a cripple! I could not play the violin for over 2 weeks! Next time it is full color on the first shot!!! and with a decent set up!

What made you decide to publish your book with Book Publishers Network?

I had used a POD place for the book of my paintings and although I was very happy with the results it was a lot of keeping at it to get exactly what I wanted. For my book with the poems and short stories about playing in the streets I used Apple. It was nice – but expensive.

I wanted a publisher that had a team of experts, someone with whom I could communicate easily and someone who would get the job done quickly. Sheryn Hara with Book publishers Network had been recommended by an author/illustrator acquaintance as being very good for first time authors with plenty of experience and expertise and she really cared for her authors. She sent me samples of children’s books which I really liked. She was exactly what I wanted. She was hooked up with a fine printer so my book was completed!

Also, I wanted a wider audience for this book- not just family and friends.

What was the publishing process like?

Things moved along very well. Sometimes there would be suggestions but my needs and wants as an artist were totally respected. It was suggested I use some kind of border around the pictures and a number were shown to me but I really did not want that and that was totally accepted. I groaned when Sheryn Hara said the cover of the book which I had done needed to be jazzed up. I told her I did not want anyone else doing any of the art work. She immediately said none of the art work would be disturbed – just the background would be made more alive. I was sent a number of possibilities and love the one I chose. I find it very aesthetic and am glad my publisher pushed me in that respect.

I was glad not one word of my writing was changed. There would have been a fight if changes had been wanted. Punctuation had to be handled! No problem! Book Publishers Network is hooked up with a fine printer and the book was completed!

What is your schedule like? How do you balance your violinist, music instructor, artist, and writer personas?

At this time in my life I am primarily teaching violin, viola and chamber music, but my involvement in my other arts has increased considerably! I teach privately at my home 7 days a week and 3 afternoons in an after school program at Shorecrest . There are music teachers meetings to attend, and recitals and competitions to arrange. Add to that violin presentations and now book signings and work on PR. I also have arranged to have some of my young students perform at book stores and libraries where I have book signings. Things are busy! The short answer to your question is – I am very focused on what I am doing at any given moment, and I work hard 7 days a week. I thrive on lots of fast action!

Do you have tips for unleashing and nurturing one’s creativity?

Sure – find something you have really wanted to do and START! Be true to yourself, maintain your integrity and do not let others throw you. Go at your own pace, keep it light and have FUN! If it is not always fun -well, so what!

Are you working on another book? What’s on the horizon for you?

Not at the moment, but I have a couple in mind. I am not setting a timetable. I have a way of doing things spontaneously at the right time for me. The future looks interesting, challenging and fun. And there are definitely unknowns! I like it that way.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers?

Yes, I would love to hear from you – to know if my book has inspired you or your children or your grandchildren. Also, I would be delighted to have you visit my web site and be in communication with me.

Meet Violinist & Author Gerald Elias

Gerald Elias is author of the award-winning Daniel Jacobus mystery series, published by St. Martin’s Press. Elias brings over thirty-five years as an internationally recognized concert violinist, conductor, composer, and teacher to his novels that take place in the murky recesses of the classical music world. He draws upon his intimate familiarity with the unseen drama behind the curtain to shed an eerie light on the deceptively staid world of the concert stage. A native New Yorker, Elias now resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, and West Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Congrats on the release of Death and the Maiden, the third instalment in your violinist mystery series. What was your inspiration for this particular story?

If you’ve ever played in a string quartet, you’ll know it doesn’t take very long before everyone wants to kill each other. That makes it slam dunk material for the setting of a murder mystery. Then, given that the titles of my books are also the names of classical music pieces having to do with death, I would have been a knucklehead to overlook Schubert’s masterpiece, the Quartet in D Minor, Death and the Maiden. He transcribed the music for the quartet from a song he composed, in which a young woman struggles against the figure of Death, who has come to take her with him to the beyond. The maiden, of course, is anguished, but Death tries to convince her that he is there to provide comfort. In a way, he’s almost like a lover. The story in my book was inspired by that encounter.

Are you a fan of Agatha Christie?

Not only dear Aunt Agatha, but many of the other English mystery writers as well: Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Dick Francis, John LeCarre, and of course the grand-daddy of them all, Mr. Conan Doyle.

Tell us about your amateur sleuth protagonist, Daniel Jacobus. I hear he’s quite a character. How did he come to be how he is?

Daniel Jacobus has about as flinty an exterior as one can imagine, but deep down inside he has a heart of pure gold…maybe. As a young man his career as a concert violinist started with great promise, but with the onset of blindness he became increasingly reclusive, embittered not with music itself, but with the professional world around which it is created. Now, in his old age, he has to be dragged kicking and screaming to solve mysteries in the very world that he shunned.

Having been a concert musician for most of my life, I’ve taken the frustrations that most of us in my profession have do deal with, in which compromises to musical integrity are sometimes imposed upon us, and have consolidated those vexations into the persona of Jacobus to an inordinately bitchy level. The reason I’ve made him blind is two-fold: first, by being blind his other senses, especially hearing, are extraordinarily enhanced, enabling him to solve mysteries that those with sight cannot; and second, in an almost metaphorical sense, by being blind, he perceives music the way it should be—with his ears—and isn’t distracted by the superficial ostentation.

How long did it take you to write the novel? Did you plot it in advance?

In a way, writing is like playing a musical instrument—they are crafts that need to be learned in a disciplined way, and that takes time. Once one reaches a certain level, the understanding of the craft becomes ingrained, though the artistry, fortunately, always remains a wonderful challenge, full of surprises, and needs to be constantly honed.

With Devil’s Trill, it took ten years from the time I first put pen to paper until it finally found its way into print. I could write a thriller based just upon that saga! Danse Macabre took a year and a half. Death and the Maiden took a year. That’s about as fast as I want things to be because not only do I want to make sure I maintain the quality of the books, I want them to get even better.

The general plot for Death and the Maiden came quickly enough. The idea of each member of a string quartet mysteriously vanishing was the easy part. (That idea, no doubt, has entered the mind of most musicians who have ever played string quartets over the past three hundred years.) Deciding upon the means and the chronology was a challenge, because once one or two members disappear, how do you keep the quartet going so that the remaining members have the opportunity to be offed as well?

How do you go about plotting your mysteries? Do you do a chapter by chapter outline?

I start out with the overall concept, and from there try to visualize a basic story line that would strongly support the concept and grab the reader’s imagination. Then I decide how I’d like to begin and end the story, gradually creating a straight line between the two. That doesn’t necessarily mean the chapters progress chronologically, because sometimes it creates more suspense to jump forward or backward in time, but I need to have an orderly progression in my head or else my brain can get hopelessly addled. Once I have that I add intersecting lines of plot and new characters that have organically sprouted up from the main story line. Finally, of course, I have to figure out how Jacobus is going to solve the mystery!

With my fourth book, Death and Transfiguration, that I’m working on now, I’ve taken to writing a brief summary at the beginning of each chapter, a service a lot of the English writers used to provide their readers back in the nineteenth century (“In which Jonathan is thrown from his Horse and discovers, quite by Accident, a fair Maiden”), but for me it’s simply a way to expedite my writing process and will be deleted in the final product.

What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your teaching and music career?

I’d love to have a regular writing schedule—to sit down from seven to eleven every morning with a cup of coffee and write, gazing out the window from time to time for inspiration. But neither my life nor my brain works that way. For one, I’m always juggling music projects with writing projects, and there are times when I’ll have an idea for a book (not necessarily the book I’m currently working on) while driving or at a rehearsal or concert. On those occasions I’ll keep the idea—which might be as little as a single line of text—in my head until the first opportunity to write something down so that I can remember the idea. Then as soon as I get home, whenever that might be, I’ll write it out in full. I have lots of little pieces of paper on my desk.

One big change for me is that in May, after more than thirty-five years of playing in symphony orchestras, I retired from my position as associate concertmaster of the Utah Symphony. This will give me a lot more freedom not only to write but also to concertize on my own.

Do you have any events coming up in the near future?

I recently returned from a two-week trip to Ecuador, where I conducted the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Ecuador, did some performing on the violin, and gave master classes to groups of young string players. It was a gratifying concert tour in all ways, and I even had a chance to do a concert/book event for my first two books, Devil’s Trill and Danse Macabre, at the American Embassy in Quito.

This summer I’ll be performing with the Boston Symphony at the Tanglewood Music Festival in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts (home to Daniel Jacobus). At the end of the summer I’ll be driving back to Salt Lake City for a book tour, the specific events for which are just now being finalized. I greatly enjoy those book events because in addition to the usual Q&A I play excerpts on my violin of some of the significant music talked about in the books.

Do you have a website and/or blog?

My website is www.geraldelias.com. One of the special features I’d like to mention about the site is in response to many readers who wished there was a CD to go with each book. I think the solution we’ve come up with is even better. If you go to the website, there’s a page called Music To Die For. On this page you can click on any of the important pieces talked about in the books and listen to a live performance I’ve given over the years. So it’s free, it’s easy, you can’t break or lose it, and you can listen to music from all the books.

Where is Death and the Maiden available?

Death and the Maiden will be on the bookshelves August 16. It can be purchased at any bookstore or online, and can be found at local libraries as well. If you don’t see it, ask for it!

Is there a fourth book in the horizon?

I mentioned I’m working on Death and Transfiguration. This is the title of one of Richard Strauss’s greatest orchestral tone poems, about a dying man’s physical and emotional struggle for redemption, and his glorious vision of the hereafter when he dies. Strauss composed the music as a young man, and—never one to be called modest—as an old man on his deathbed he said to his daughter-in-law, “You know, death really is a lot like the way I composed it in Death and Transfiguration.”

My story is about a world-famous, tyrannical conductor named Vaclav Herza, who just about everyone would like to kill, but the great maestro always seems to have the upper hand—until he meets Daniel Jacobus, that is.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to my readers?

Since my first book, Devil’s Trill, came out two years ago I’ve received a lot of mail from readers who often have flattering comments to make about the books, but who also occasionally provide some choice, piquant criticism. I welcome both kinds of responses equally (well, maybe not quite equally) because while I like to hear I’m making most people happy, it’s good to be kept on my toes!

Interview with Kathi Baron, author of SHATTERED

What was your inspiration for Shattered?

In the past, as an occupational therapist, I worked with teens who have experienced horrific abuse. As they each worked to heal, it was inspiring to witness their transformations. I wanted to do a novel to honor their resiliency.

Why the violin and not something else? What about this instrument got your attention?

I started really liking the violin when I discovered the Dixie Chicks. I enjoy all the different ways Martie Maquire uses her violin within their different songs. I’m especially attracted to the versatility of this instrument and enjoy hearing and seeing it played classically as well as alternatively. Plus, I love the way it looks. I thought it would be interesting and fun to write about a teen violinist and it was a wonderful experience to get to enter a musician’s world via the writing of Shattered.

Tell us three words that describe your protagonist.

Cassie is passionate, gifted, and resilient.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this novel? Did you have to do a lot of research about violin playing?

The most challenging part of writing this novel was trying to figure out a structure for it. Since it’s about intergenerational child abuse, it’s Cassie’s story, her dad’s story, and also, her grandfather’s story. It was difficult for me to write it so the reader could experience it as Cassie’s story, but also learn about her father and grandfather. I wrote it in several formats and it wasn’t “nailed down” until I received guidance from my publisher, Evelyn Fazio.

I did do a lot of research about the violin which was my favorite part of writing this book. I knew absolutely nothing about the violin and had to start very basic, like learning the names of its parts. Very early on, I realized I wouldn’t be able to write this story unless I had a violinist to consult. I got very lucky when Jenny Cappelli of the Cappelli Institute agreed to help me. She’s a violinist and teacher of performers in the Chicago Youth Symphony and allowed me to email her any and all questions. She invited me to observe a lesson with one of her students and I took a lot of notes. I also visited a violin workshop at Kagan and Gaines Music Store to see the many ways a violin can break. (That was a sad day). The owner, Joseph Kali researched and chose the Carlo Bergonzi violin for Cassie. I also read a lot of bios of violinists on their websites and listened to a lot of different kinds of violin music. I attended a Chicago Youth Symphony concert and swear I saw Cassie on stage! I read Violin Dreams by Arnold Steinhardt and The Soloist by Mark Salzman, as well as a lot of issues of Strings magazine.

What is your writing schedule like?

Currently, I work part-time in an outpatient behavioral health program for adults. I’m there Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. So I view Wednesday and Friday as my work days as well, except that I’m working at my writing. I try to journal every day to keep my mind in practice. On my “writing days,” I tend to work for 6-8 hours on these days. I’m not always writing though. Sometimes I’m researching, or interviewing a consultant, or reading craft or fictions books to support the work. I have been known to steal away to a hotel for a weekend so that I can totally immerse myself in the process. It allows me to get some momentum going or to do the real detailed parts of a novel that require intense focus/freedom from interruptions.

Please share with my readers a bit about your road to publication. How did you find WestSide Books?

My journey to this book took 13 years. Before Shattered, I wrote 2 novels, 5 short stories, 2 picture book manuscripts, many, many poems and a non-fiction essay. I’ve submitted all of these pieces to publishers, contests and literary journals over the years. None of them have been accepted for publication. However, each piece offered me opportunities to learn about pacing, page turning, plot, point of view, tense and dialogue.

After the 2 novels were rejected, I decided to attend the Vermont College MFA Writing for Children and Young Adults program. During the 2 years that I was there, I focused on writing Shattered. After graduation, I revised it and submitted it to 15 publishers and received rejections from all of them.

My classmate, Angela Morrison, had also written a novel that didn’t sell either. She invited me to join her in revising and so over the course of 6 months, we swapped manuscripts each month until we completed a new version of our novels. Around this time, WestSide Books sent a letter to Vermont College inviting alumni to submit young adult novels. From the description of the type of novels they were looking for, Shattered was a good fit. I almost didn’t submit it though because I didn’t want to deal with rejection. Angela encouraged me to send it and I did. Within a few months, an offer came from WestSide and within three weeks, Angela sold her novel, Taken by Storm, to Razorbill. It has been a pure thrill to see both of our books on shelves in bookstores!

What is your greatest challenge as an author?

My greatest challenge is choosing which details or scenes to use. As an occupational therapist, I’m a trained observer. In a therapeutic process, I never know which detail or situation that a patient shares with me will have meaning to the future process, so I tend to absorb as much as I can about a person as I work with them. This gets in my way as a writer, making it difficult for me to figure out which things are relevant to character development, scene creation, or the overall plot. So initially, I tend write a lot of words and eventually, I end up doing a lot of deleting.

What is the single most important tip of advice you’d give new writers?

Focus your energy on developing your craft—on doing your best work—and not on getting published.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

“Focus on doing your best work and not on getting published.”

What’s next for Kathi Baron?

I’m currently working on a young adult novel that I’m hoping to submit to WestSide Books in a few months (after I figure out what to delete!)

Interview with Paula Yoo, author of GOOD ENOUGH


Thanks for this interview, Paula. It’s not often I get to interview a violinist who’s also an author. Why don’t you start by telling us a little about Paula, the violinist.

I have wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. I was inspired after reading “Charlotte’s Web” in the first grade – I started writing my own stories after reading that book. My first “novel” was a 75-page handwritten book entitled “The Girl Called Raindrop.” (Hey, I was only seven years old at the time!) I actually mailed it in to Harper & Row because they published my favorite series, the “Little House on the Prairie” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They wrote a very nice letter back saying I should try out for their children’s writing contest. I remember being upset and tearing up the letter because I felt I was not a “child” writer – I was a “real” writer! So I think of that as my first rejection letter! LOL!

Fast forward many years – I was an English major in college, and then received my M.S. in journalism and an MFA in creative writing. I spent the first ten years after college working as a newspaper and magazine journalist. Journalism taught me how to write on deadline – it was a great experience. I then taught for a little bit before switching over to being a full-time TV screenwriter for dramas. During that time, I sold my first two picture books and first YA novel.

Tell us about your books. Are they violin related?

My first two children’s picture books are not violin-related, but I still feel the lessons learned in these books are very similar to what a violinist learns. My first picture book was SIXTEEN YEARS IN SIXTEEN SECONDS: THE SAMMY LEE STORY (Lee & Low 2005). It was a biography of the Olympic gold medalist diver Dr. Sammy Lee. My second picture book, SHINING STAR: THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY (Lee & Low 2009), came out in July 2009. It is about the ground-breaking actress and first Asian American female movie star Anna May Wong. In both books, Dr. Lee and Anna May Wong worked hard at perfecting their art (for Dr. Lee, it was mastering difficult dives and for Anna May Wong, it was learning the craft of acting). They also struggled to come to terms with their own artistic dreams versus their parents’ dreams for them to have secure lives. Often times, parents want their children to have “regular” jobs and financial security. Pursuing sports or the arts is a very risky dream. I identified with Dr. Lee and Anna May Wong for those same reasons.

My first YA novel, GOOD ENOUGH, was published in 2008 by HarperCollins. This book is based on my own life growing up as a “violin geek.” I have often read books about violinists that come off as very “well-researched,” but do not have the authenticity and “insider knowledge” that a real violinist would have. I tried to bring that authenticity across in my novel. In addition, although my novel is about a Korean American teenaged girl who pursues her love of music despite her immigrant parents’ academic pressure on her, I wanted my novel to strike a universal chord among all teens. So I focused on the universal theme of how teens come of age by learning that sometimes, it’s not about being successful. It’s about being happy. It’s a difficult decision to make, and one that requires a lot of courage for a teenager to make.

How do you divide your time between being a violinist and an author?

I love playing my violin and can’t give it up! I have found the perfect balance in Los Angeles, where there are many freelance music opportunities for professional musicians. Of course my writing deadlines come first – but I try to always make time for music gigs. I have played with the Torrance Symphony and also given chamber music recitals with my friends. I also specialize in electric rock violin and country fiddle/folk music, so I have also had a chance to play with many cool and diverse groups, from the Scottish Fiddlers of Los Angeles to country singer Buck McCoy to the famous No Doubt! I currently am playing with a King Crimson tribute band called THE GREAT DECEIVERS. Our website is here: http://www.myspace.com/tgdkingcrimson We have a gig this Friday Feb. 19th at Paladino’s in Tarazana, CA. I love playing this challenging prog rock music – it’s like a mix of heavy metal, jazz, rock, classical, and experimental music.

I understand you’re the founder of NaPiBoWRiWee (National Picture Book Writing Week). Tell us all about it!

NaPiBoWriWee happened by accident. I was feeling frustrated last year because I hadn’t written another picture book in several months and wanted to keep up the moment I had going with two published picture books. So I decided for one week I would imitate the famous NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) contest and write seven picture books in seven days. I know that writing picture books is a very complex and difficult process – so my goal was to at least come up with seven very rough drafts of seven different stories and then I would pick the best one and work on developing it more. It was totally a silly and fun idea I had to motivate myself. I decided to blog about it, and I invited anyone who wanted to participate to join me on my quest. I also wanted to promote my latest picture book, SHINING STAR: THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY, so I also had a contest where I would pick a participant by random in a drawing to win an autographed copy of my book! To my shock, HUNDREDS of people emailed me, saying they wanted to participate! What was supposed to be a fun, intimate silly thing ended up becoming a huge event that inspired people who had never written a picture book before. I had people join SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers & Illustrators) because of NapiBoWriWee. I was very proud and happy to have helped all these promising writers finally take that first step on their own writing journeys. It was both touching and humbling. So of course I will have another NaPiBoWriWee this May 2010!

How can one register?

There is no official “registration.” NaPiBoWriWee participants can either email me at paula at paulayoo dot com to request to be put on the list of names I will be collecting for the end-of-the-week prize random
drawings. Or they can register on my website at http://paulayoo.com so they can participate in the comments section and forums during the NaPiBoWriWee week. I also collect the names of everyone who registers on my website to include in the prize drawing.

For more info, go here:

http://paulayoo.com/content/help-and-faqs

And for info on last year’s NaPiBoWriWee, go here:

http://paulayoo.com/content/natl-picture-book-writing-week-may-1-7-2009

I will announce the official dates for NaPiBoWriWee 2010 shortly. In
addition, I have a store with NaPiBoWriWee paraphernalia:
<a href="http://www.cafepress.com/paulayoo“>http://www.cafepress.com/paulayoo

Where are your books available?

My books are available at your local bookstore. If they’re not in stock, please request them! You can also purchase my books at amazon.com. My YA novel GOOD ENOUGH is also available as an e-Book on Kindle and other e-reader devices. The official website contacts for these books are listed
below:

GOOD ENOUGH (HarperCollins 2008)
http://www.harperteen.com/book/index.aspx?isbn=9780060790851

SHINING STAR: THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY (Lee & Low 2009)
http://www.leeandlow.com/books/368/hc/shining_star_the_anna_may_wong_story

SIXTEEN YEARS IN SIXTEEN SECONDS: THE SAMMY LEE STORY (Lee & Low 2005)
http://www.leeandlow.com/books/109/hc/sixteen_years_in_sixteen_seconds_the_sammy_lee_story

Do you have a website and/or blog?

My website is http://paulayoo.com. I blog on it regularly. You can also
find me at www.myspace.com/paulayoo and my music violin page at
www.myspace.com/paulayooviolin

What’s in the horizon?

I am currently Co-Producer on the SyFy original TV series, EUREKA. My previous TV credits include NBC’s THE WEST WING and LIFETIME’s SIDE ORDER OF LIFE. Right now I’m swamped with TV work-related deadlines and responsibilities. So whenever I have some precious free time, I spend that working on a couple new novels and picture book ideas I have that are works-in-progress.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers?

Thanks for reading my books! 🙂 And if you play the violin – KEEP PRACTICING! 🙂 Thank you so much for this fun interview!

Thanks for the interview, Paula!

Interview with Susanne Dunlap, author of The Musician’s Daughter

It is my pleasure to have as my guest today writer Susanna Dunlap. A native of Buffalo, NY, Dunlap is the author of The Musician’s Daughter and several other music-related novels for adults and young adults. In this interview the author talks about her life, her inspiration for The Musician’s Daughter, and writing and publishing, among other things.

Thanks for this interview, Susanne! Please tell us a little about your background in music.

When I was 3 or 4 and people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, “Mozart”, I think mainly because I had a wonderful children’s book, Mozart the Wonder Boy. And my mother played the piano, my father loved opera and would play records on weekends.

I started playing the piano at the age of five, and got very serious about it. I went to Smith and majored in music, doing a lot of performing. 13 years after I graduated from Smith I went back to do an MA in musicology, then on to Yale for a PhD in music history. I loved those years. I loved researching in libraries in Europe and touching manuscripts by Handel, Traetta, Salieri and many others.

From music studies, to writing… How did that come about and what was your inspiration for The Musician’s Daugher?

After I finished my studies, circumstances combined to make it difficult for me to get a job teaching. But I had all this wealth of knowledge and a true passion for the stories hidden in the places research couldn’t take you. Plus, I’d been writing all my life anyway—poetry, bad novels, advertising copy (day job).

The Musician’s Daughter, like all my books, came from a “What if?” question. What if a young girl wanted desperately to be a professional musician, but her circumstances or the times wouldn’t permit it? And then, I love a good mystery. Plus I’ve been to Vienna more than once for research purposes, and I loved the idea of setting a novel there.

I understand this story is very close to your heart. What is the novel about?

It’s about a young girl whose father, a violinist in Haydn’s orchestra for Prince Esterhazy, is murdered on Christmas Eve. His valuable violin is missing, and he’s wearing a mysterious medallion Theresa (the heroine) has never seen before. With her mother about to give birth and indisposed, Theresa decides she must solve the mystery of her father’s murder, and in the process is able to pursue her music—and find the beginnings of true love.

You may wonder, why a violinist? I have a very good friend who is one of the finest Baroque violinists in the world, now doing a lot of conducting with her own orchestra: Elizabeth Wallfisch. I thought of her a lot when I was writing this—and my old friend Peter Oundjian!

Did you plot in advance?

I always have a sense of where the book is going, but I hate writing to outlines. I let my characters take their twists and turns, and then nudge everything into place and tie up loose ends in the editing process.

How long did it take you to write the book?

That’s a difficult question to answer. Writing the first draft doesn’t always take a lot of time. This one I think took about six weeks. But I worked on it, editing and honing it, for months after that—and that was before the editing process that begins with the publishing house.

How was your schedule like while writing the novel? Do you have another job besides writing?

Yes, I do have another job, as an Associate Creative Director at a small advertising agency in Manhattan. It’s very demanding, so I write whenever I can in my spare time: on the subway, at home in the morning, on weekends.

How was the publishing process like? Did you search for an agent first?

First, you have to write a book! I’ve been with my agent since 2003, when he started working on my first adult book, Emilie’s Voice, which was published by Simon & Schuster in 2005. I would say that anyone looking to be published needs to write the best book they can, get good feedback, and get it as near to perfect as possible, then start looking for an agent. Agents open doors, and also can be very helpful in guiding your career—as my agent has been.

I hear you have another book coming out soon. Tell us all about it!

Anastasia’s Secret will be my fourth book. My first two were adult books (Liszt’s Kiss was the second). Anastasia’s Secret is my imagining of the youngest grand duchess of Russia growing up during the Russian revolution. It’s more a romance than The Musician’s Daughter. It comes out March 2.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to my readers?

Just thank you! Without readers, we novelists would be in deep trouble. I’m so grateful whenever people read my books, and hope that they get some enjoyment and insight from them.

Thank you, Susanne!

Interview with Gerald Elias, author of Devil’s Trill

Please welcome my special guest Gerald Elias, musician author of the mystery novel, Devil’s Trill, recently released by Minotaur. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions about writing and publishing. Visit his website at www.geraldelias.com. To read my review of Devil’s Trill, click HERE.

Thanks for the interview, Gerald. You’re a concert violinist, conductor and composer. What got you into writing?

I remember in second grade we had an assignment to write a comic strip, and I did one of a horse doing pushups for JFK’s national physical fitness program. My teacher, who seemed to be impressed with my work, asked “Is this original?” I didn’t know what the word meant, so I somberly shook my head and said, “Oh, no!” My father loved writing as an avocation and in his later years became famous for writing letters to the editor of his local newspapers. He also enjoyed writing poetry–only the kind that rhymes–so I guess writing is in my genes.

Tell us how your inspiration for Devil’s Trill came about? I understand the story was based on lessons you had developed for your violin students?

Some of the most boring stuff I had to read as a violin student were pedagogical tomes about music and the violin. I decided I wanted future generations of musicians to be able to stay awake while learning about some of the challenges thrust upon us in the music world, so while each chapter of my book was a violin lesson of sorts (it included subjects such as how to choose a violin, how to audition for an orchestra, and the esthetics of music, there was an interweaving, fictional story about a legendary Stradivarius that had been stolen from Carnegie Hall. Initially “Devil’s Trill” was called “Violin Lessons” and the story line was somewhat superficial and the main character, the blind violin teacher Daniel Jacobus, not fully developed, but as years passed the book was transformed into a full-fledged who-dunnit, maintaining those aspects of violin-playing and music necessary to move the story along.

Was the story fully plotted and outlined before you sat down to write it?

Quite the contrary. I had a general idea of where I wanted it to go, but being my first book, it was only after many rewrites that everything came together. In the meantime, more characters were added, more plot twists, and of course everytime you make a change like those, everything else that came before has to be reconciled with the new material. I’m just glad that I had a full-time job as a musician while I wrote the book, which gave me the luxury of learning as I went.

The protagonist, Jacob, is quite quirky and volatile. It is certainly a distinctive character. How did you go about creating him?

Initially he was much less so, though I always conceived him being blind. There were two reasons for his blindness. First was the notion that when lacking one sense, the other four are enhanced. This of course enabled him to hear music and perceive the world around him with greater clarity. The second reason was more metaphorical. Music, obviously, is something that is heard, yet so often in the music profession the visual takes primacy. By being blind, Jacobus had the ability to perceive the “truth” of the music in a way those with sight couldn’t. His more cantankerous qualities, however, were the result of conversations I had with friend and author, Katharine Weber, who suggested that a character like Jacobus needed to be not only multi-dimensional, but also to develop throughout the book’s course. You may notice that his crotchetiness is slightly less edgy at the story’s close.

I love the way you include bits of information about violins and violinists in the story. Was this a conscious decision? Was your purpose to educate as well as entertain the reader?

I think the mark of a good mystery writer is to welcome the reader into the author’s own special world. Whether it’s a story by Walter Mosely, Donna Leon, Dick Francis, or John LeCarre, the reader may learn a great deal about that world, but it’s not a conscious effort. I tried to write “Devil’s Trill” in such a way that even people who have never experienced the world of classical music can enjoy the story. Certainly I hope that millions of people will buy and enjoy the book, and I don’t mean to sound like a missionary, but if after reading “Devil’s Trill,” people take the opportunity to go one step farther and listen to the music discussed in it, they’ll have a far more enriching experience for having done it.

How long did it take you to write the book?

Ten long years!

How was your schedule like while working on the novel?

I began the book in 1997 in Italy while on sabbatical leave from my job with the Utah Symphony, so that year I had plenty of time. Thereafter, I did most of my writing in the morning before going to work and spent the rest of the day daydreaming for improving it.

Would you share with my readers a bit about the publishing process? How was that like? Did you find the agent searching stage easy?

When I finished the first draft of the book I knew absolutely nothing about how to get it published. Some people told me you had to have an agent. Others said the hell with the agent; go directly to the publisher. Others said self-publishing was the way to go. I ended up sending the manuscript to random agents and publishers and the response was unanimously negative. I was about to give up when one day I read “The Music Lesson” by Katharine Weber and saw on the jacket that (at that time) she was teaching at my alma mater, Yale. So I wrote her and asked if she would be kind enough to read my book. Miraculously, not only did she consent to do that, she offered wonderful constructive criticism, and between her and MJ Rose, I was connected to a wonderful agent, Simon Lipskar, at Writer’s House.

That’s not the end of the story, though, because even though Simon and I reworked the book, we still received unanimous rejections from publishers, at which point Simon, also a musician, felt he was too close to the subject matter and handed me over to his mystery specialist, Josh Getzler, now with Russell and Volkening. After further rewriting we resubmitted “Devil’s Trill” to publishers, and voila! a positive response from St. Martin’s Press. That was a nice day.

I hear you play the Devil’s Trill in your book signings. Tell us about that and what you’re doing to promote the book.

I thought it would be a novel experience (no pun intended) for readers who took the trouble to go to the book signing to get a special glimpse into the book, and I was delighted to be able to provide that. The Devil’s Trill Sonata by Giuseppe Tartini is one of several pieces I played at the book signings, and I explained how each of them played a significant role in the plot. Tartini’s sonata is given the title for the book for a very special reason. Back in the 18th century he told of how, when he woke up in the middle of the night, the devil was sitting at the foot of his bed. He gave the devil his violin who then played with such astounding virtuosity that Tartini was dumbfounded. He tried to write down what the devil had played and ended up with the Devil’s Trill Sonata, perhaps the greatest thing he ever wrote, though he felt it was inadequated compared to what the devil had played. So, whereas Tartini confronted the devil at the foot of his bed, Daniel Jacobus, 250 years later, confronts his own personal demons in the form of the diabolical Piccolino Stradivarius.

When is book II coming out?

“Danse Macabre” will be released the beginning of September 2010. It will again feature Daniel Jacobus and his friend, Nathaniel Williams, as they try to unravel the mystery of beloved violinist who, having just performed his swansong at Carnegie Hall, is brutally murdered by a young rival. Or was he?

Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

Having devoted most of my life to being a professional musician, I feel deeply honored and blessed to have received such a positive response to my writing. There is a common thread here. Both music and literature as forms of communication can bring us together in a world where more and more barriers seem to go up daily. It is my goal to help bring us together.

Thank you and good luck with your book!

Interview with Erica Miner, author of FourEver Friends

Bio: Violinist turned author Erica Miner has had a multi-faceted career as an award-winning screenwriter, author, lecturer and poet. A native of Detroit, she studied music at Boston University ericaheadshotand the New England Conservatory of Music. After experiencing a variety of highs and lows in her quest to forge a career in New York City, Erica won the coveted position of violinist with the Metropolitan Opera Company, a high-pressured milieu but the pinnacle of her field.

When injuries from a car accident spelled the end of her musical career, she drew upon her lifelong love of writing for inspiration and studied screenwriting with authors and script gurus Linda Seger and Ken Rotcop. Erica’s ten screenplays, one of which is based on her award-winning debut novel, Travels with My Lovers, have won awards and/or placed in such competitions as WinFemme, Santa Fe and the Writer’s Digest.

Inspired by her journals written during her travel adventures in Europe with and without her children, Erica penned Travels With My Lovers, winner of the fiction prize in the Direct from the Author Book Awards. Erica has written both the novel and screenplay of her suspense thriller, Murder In The Pit, which takes place at the Met. Currently she is working on the next novel in her ‘FourEver Friends’ series chronicling a young girl’s coming of age in the volatile 60s.

Erica has also developed a number of writing lectures and seminars on writing, which she has presented at venues across the West Coast and on the High Seas, where she is a ‘top-rated’ speaker for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Topics range from “The Art of Self Re-Invention” to “Journaling for Writers: Mining the Gold of Your Own Experiences” and “Opera Meets Hollywood.” Her writings have appeared in Vision Magazine, WORD San Diego and numerous E-zines.

Thanks for this interview, Erica, and congratulations on the release of your new book, FourEver Friends. Tell us a bit about it.

Thank you for the kind wishes, Mayra. I’m excited about this story. It’s about four teenage girls at a high school for gifted students in Detroit in the 1960s. They bond through their passion for classical music and forevertheir raging hormones – quite a combination! Set against the background of the social and political unrest of this volatile decade, that’s definitely a recipe for intrigue.

What was your inspiration for the story?

It’s loosely based on my teenage journals and my experiences at the real high school where the story takes place, Cass Technical High School. This school, kind of like a combination of New York’s High School of Music and Art and the Bronx High School of Science, with a plethora of other specialties added to the mix, was a unique opportunity for kids of that age to ‘specialize’ in their field of interest, and ‘major’ in a curriculum of their choice. Some of the students in the Music Curriculum went straight from high school to the Detroit Symphony; that is an example of the extraordinary level of education afforded by this school. College was almost a let-down for me after that. In four years being in that orchestra, whose conductor was my mentor, an amazing Russian man who was totally devoted to his students, we studied and/or performed all of the major symphonies and other symphonic works of the great masters: Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky – I could go on ad infinitum. It was a life-altering experience for me. Even now, whenever I hear a piece I had played there, the first thought that occurs to me is: ‘I played that at Cass Tech.’ What a wonderful foundation for my subsequent musical life! AND the three closest friends I bonded with during those years – my ‘FourEver Friends’ – well, we’re still each other’s closest friends. The book is a love letter to them, and I wanted to share our story with the world. There’s so much love there!

Do you think music has the power to bond people?
Absolutely! Life is all about music, when you think of it. Music pervades our lives, influences us, whether it is classical, spiritual, jazz, blue grass or rock. Do you know anyone who doesn’t have a passion, or at least an admiration, for some kind of music? It is at the essence of our being; it’s what humanizes us.

I love books with references to classical music and detailed descriptions of violin playing. Is your book of this type?
Oh, Mayra, you can hardly imagine how huge a part classical music plays (no pun intended) in this story. The music itself is a character in the book. When preparing for my book launch last week in LA, I prepared some CDs of excerpts from the book to play at the event. I put together three CDs, and I barely scratched the surface of what is included in the book. And I have vivid descriptions of violin playing, practicing, studying, performing, you name it – from the perspective of the main protagonist, Jessica, who is a violinist in her heart and soul and the others she performs with. I’ve also written episodes describing orchestra playing, band playing, choral singing. The list goes on. I’d better stop here, or I’ll get carried away. But what an immense pleasure it was for me to write about that music that I hold dear, and all of the friends who shared it with me during that time!

What have you been doing to promote the book? Any strategies you’d like to share with our readers?
One thing I learned from my first novel (see next question) is that promotion and marketing needs to be started way before the book is published. Everything I learned from my previous experience informed my promotion so far with this one. I contacted bookstores and libraries about book signings, got the word out about the book to all of my ‘fans’ of the previous book (that’s how I was able to arrange for a book launch venue for this one), and have been tirelessly getting the word out in online networks from Facebook to my high school Alumni ‘nings’. I consider myself first a musician, second a writer, and third a business person. Some advice I remember from before was that writing is 5% writing and 95% promotion. Truer words were never said. I’m planning on going back to Detroit to do a book signing at my high school. So it’s as if things have come full circle.

This isn’t your first book revolving around music, is it? Can you tell us about your first one, Travels With My Lovers?
FourEver Friends is almost a ‘prequel’ to Travels With My Lovers, in the sense that the former gives background about the woman who has become a musician and seeks her musical roots on her European travel adventures. Having grown up and matured into a woman with a passion for music, her fervor is expressed through a passion for the opposite sex. In her travels she discovers just how international the languages of music and of love are. I think that’s appropriate, don’t you?

How has your music background influenced your writing?

Everything I’ve ever written has been informed by my musical background. Every novel and screenplay, either its characters or setting or background, centers around music in a major way. It’s who I am – and they say write what you know. So it was inevitable that music be the basis for my writing.

Anything else you’d like to say?
Part of my path in life, I believe, is to try and spread the word about classical music to as much of the world as I can. It’s my passion, everyday of my life, from the moment I wake up in the morning till the time I go to sleep – and sometimes even in my dreams. I think the lives of people who know at least a little about classical music are enhanced and enriched by it. So I’d like to continue to make sure classical music remains an important part of people’s lives – in any way I can! (Murder In The Pit, anyone?)

Thanks, Erica! I look forward to reading your book soon!