Posts Tagged ‘violin stories’

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!)

Review of Shattered, by Kathi Baron

Shattered
By Kathi Baron
WestSide Books
ISBN: 978-1-934813-08-9
Young Adult

Shattered is the compelling story of a violin prodigy teenaged girl who runs away from home after her father shatters her beloved violin in front of her eyes. Thus, the word ‘shatter’ has a dual meaning in the novel. As Cassie learns to survive in the streets, she gradually learns the reason her father, a former violinist, behaved so explosively. While away, she meets a series of interesting—and sometimes dangerous—characters that indirectly help her grow and become a more mature and understanding human being. Cassie also searches for her elusive grandfather in an effort to learn more about her own father.

Human emotions are brought to vivid life in this first novel by talented new author Kathi Baron. Baron writes from the heart, with passion and sincerity. The prose flows beautifully and the story kept me engrossed all the way till the end. Cassie is a genuine protagonist most teenaged girls will identify with, especially young violinists. One aspect of this book that got my attention is that the descriptions of music and the violin sound very real even though the author isn’t a musician. This is a peeve of mine with violin novels: if the author isn’t familiar with the violin, the writing comes out as fake. But this didn’t happen with Shattered, so I have to congratulate the author on her research.

Shattered is a coming-of-age story. It is also about the healing power of music and the complexity of family relationships. A must read for young violinists, especially girls!

Review of The Musician’s Daughter, by Susanne Dunlap

The Musician’s daughter
By Susanne Dunlap
Bloomsbury
2008
978-1599903323
Young adult/historical

Music and violin enthusiasts who love mystery and adventure fiction will relish Dunlap’s latest novel, The Musician’s Daughter.

The story takes place in 18th Century Vienna and begins on Christmas Eve, as 15-year old Theresa Maria’s beloved father is brought to her home, dead. Though Maria is stunned and devastated by the event, her practical nature soon takes charge and she becomes the head of the household. Her mother isn’t able to help, as she is pregnant and dazed by her new widowhood. Theresa’s other family member is her little brother, and they need money soon if he is going to become a luthier’s apprentice, as it had been planned from the beginning. But who would hire a 15-year old viola player, anyway, in a time when musician women were frowned upon? Thus Theresa seeks the help of her father’s dear old friend, composer Franz Joseph Hayden. All along, however, Theresa is keen on investigating her father’s death. Why was her father’s dead body found near a gypsy camp? Why was his violin missing? Her instincts tell her there’s more to it than a vulgar petty crime.

Indeed, as Theresa begins working with Hayden, she begins to suspect a conspiracy, a mystery reaching the high levels of the government. Was his father a simple violinist in the orchestra of Prince Nicholas Esterhazy, as she always thought he was, or was his real job more sinister?

Music, mystery, espionage and a light touch of romance will keep readers turning the pages. Dunlap’s prose flows beautifully and I loved Theresa’s strong yet sympathetic character. She’s smart, resourceful and independent in a time where women were expected to behave just the opposite. The gypsy element adds an exotic, sensual flavor to the story. Musicians will particularly enjoy the musical descriptions. The story has an ambitious plot and I think Dunlap did a good job in tidying up all the loose ends. This is a novel to be enjoyed not only by teens but also by adults.

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New featured book: SHATTERED, by Kathi Baron

Shattered
by Kathi Baron

Book description: Teen violin prodigy Cassie has been tiptoeing around her father, whose moods have become increasingly explosive. After he destroys her beloved and valuable violin in a sudden rage, Cassie, shocked, runs away, eventually seeking refuge in a homeless shelter. She later learns that her father, a former violinist, was physically beaten as a child by her grandfather, a painful secret he’s kept hidden from his family and the cause of his violent outbursts. With all of their lives shattered in some way, Cassie’s family must struggle to repair their broken relationships. As Cassie moves forward, she ultimately finds a way to help others, having developed compassion through her own painful experiences. Written in lyrical prose, Shattered tells the moving story of how one girl finds inner strength through music.

Praise for Shattered:

“This is a novel about picking up pieces, told in a voice that is both poetic and compelling. Kathi Baron’s Shattered has perfect pitch.”

—Kathi Appelt, author of The Underneath, a Newbery Honor Book and National Book Award Finalist

“It takes a special kind of author to create an emotional journey that opens our hearts. Kathi Baron is that kind of storyteller and Shattered is that kind of book.”

—Louise Hawes, author of The Vanishing Point and Waiting for Christopher, both New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age, and Rosey in the Present Tense,
a YALSA Popular Paperback

More information from the publisher, Westside Books.

Review of GOOD ENOUGH, by Paula Yoo

Book Description

How to make your Korean parents happy:

1. Get a perfect score on the SATs.
2. Get into HarvardYalePrinceton.
3. Don’t talk to boys.*

Patti’s parents expect nothing less than the best from their Korean-American daughter. Everything she does affects her chances of getting into an Ivy League school. So winning assistant concertmaster in her All-State violin competition and earning less than 2300 on her SATs is simply not good enough.

But Patti’s discovering that there’s more to life than the Ivy League. To start with, there’s Cute Trumpet Guy. He’s funny, he’s talented, and he looks exactly like the lead singer of Patti’s favorite band. Then, of course, there’s her love of the violin. Not to mention cool rock concerts. And anyway, what if Patti doesn’t want to go to HarvardYalePrinceton after all?

Paula Yoo scores big in her hilarious debut novel about an overachiever who longs to fit in and strives to stand out. The pressure is on!

*Boys will distract you from your studies.

My review:

GOOD ENOUGH is about a brilliant Korean-American teenaged girl who has a dilemma: should she attend an Ivy League school and pursue a career in law or medicine–as her strict and ambitious parents want her to do–or should she follow her heart and go for what she loves most, playing the violin. This last choice may not bring her much money or success, but it may bring her joy. So the novel has an universal theme: Money and status doesn’t necessarily define success and happiness.

The story begins when Patti is in her senior year of high school. She’s in the process of applying to universities and preparing for her college entrance exams, all the while trying to keep up with her demanding classes and position as the second violinist in the All-State orchestra. Her parents only add to her stress. Though it’s clear they love her, they push her to the extreme, afraid she won’t ‘make it’–and to them, the only way to ‘make it’ is to be admitted to Harvard, Yale or Princeton.

Then she becomes infatuated with a boy at school. Though she’s enough focused on her work not to be too distracted by him, their friendship sends her parents into utter panic, especially when she escapes Sunday church club to play in his rock band!

Finally Patti has to make a decision: will she live her life or the life her parents want her to live for them? Will she choose happiness over money and status?

I enjoyed reading this young adult novel so much, I finished it in two days. Not only because the protagonist is a violinist, but because of the way the author brings her to life with all her struggles and dilemmas and also because the writing is, put simply, very good.

The writing is clever, witty, yet emotional and sensitive at the same time. I laughed out loud many times. The protagonist comes across as a genuine person. I’m not not surprised, since in my previous interview with the author she mentions that the story is based on her own life growing up. Another great aspect of this book is that all references about music and violin playing are so real. When the author is a violinist herself, that makes all the difference. The prose shines with authenticity.

GOOD ENOUGH is a light, fun read–but it also has the substance of a serious work of fiction. Perhaps this is what impressed me most about this book.

Violinist of all ages will surely enjoy Patti’s story. Highly recommended!

Purchase the book HERE.

Review of Tenderwire, by Claire Kilroy

tenderwireHi all,

Though I read this novel a few years ago, I never had the chance to review it. I remember it being an intriguing, strange read about a young violinist. Though the author isn’t a violinist, I recall the writing had good ‘violinist’ insight.

You might enjoy reading some reviews on this book at Mostly Fiction, Curled Up With a Good Book, and Steph’s Book Reviews.

About the author:

Claire Kilroy was born in 1973 in Dublin, Ireland and was educated at Trinity College. Her first novel, All Summer, was the recipient of the 2004 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and was short-listed for the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. She lives in Dublin.

Happy reading!

Review of FourEver Friends, by former violinist Erica Miner

foreverSet in Detroit in 1960, FourEver Friends is an engrossing story for those readers interested in music and the violin. Written in first person from the point of view of the protagonist, Jessica, the story spans three years as she is admitted into a competitive, prestigious high school at the age of fourteen and later graduates at seventeen.

When the story begins, Jessica lives with her Jewish, conservative family. Though she has a nice, caring home, she’s not too open at communicating with her mother and father. She is encouraged to play the violin, but her father always reminds her to see herself and her future as a concert violinist and never as a soloist. But, from the beginning, Jessica questions the adults around her. She’s ambitious and has her own mind. Why should her father decide whether or not she should become a soloist? He’s also controlling in other ways, especially with boys, and when Jessica begins to date a German boy, more tension arises.

But for Jessica, studying music and practicing the violin come first, so it’s no surprise when she gets a full scholarship at a very competitive, prestigious high school. There, she learns how tough it is to stay on top surrounded by talented, hard-working students. She must prove herself and this isn’t easy. The stress pulls her into the vortex of anorexia, among other things. Fortunately, she has her best friends to support her.

The novel takes the reader through all the ups and downs a violin student goes through in order to excell. Jealous friends, insensitive teachers, and lack of a proper social life are just some of the things she endures. Is Jessica strong enough to survive all obstacles, or will she give up?

FourEver Friends
is partly a story about friendship but although the book cover shows four friends, I feel the story is more about two friends: Jessica and Marg. The two other characters, though they also share their love of music, stay mostly in the background and only come up once in a while. The novel can be considered ‘coming of age’ because it shows Jessica’s growth during those three years. Mostly, though, it is Jessica’s story. The book has a ‘diary’ feel to it, as it is written using mostly narration and not so much dialogue. I would also like to point out that this work is focused on characterization and not so much on plot. Very little happens plot wise, so the reader won’t find any twists and turns. It is simply a well-written first person account of what a violin student goes through in a prestigious school. I particularly loved all the references to composers and musical pieces; the novel is filled with them and this is one thing musicians or music students who read this novel will enjoy.

I recently asked the author what the inspiration for the book was and this is what she had to say:

“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!”

Visit the author’s WEBSITE.

Read my INTERVIEW with the author.