Monday, August 4, 2014

An Unplanned Trilogy

AN UNPLANNED TRILOGY

As it happens – a very useful phrase for a writer, by the way – the three novels I have written/am writing are actually a trilogy, something I had neither expected nor planned.

How I Grew Up, my first novel, was based on an actual incident from my high school years, many decades ago. A close friend went through an unimaginable family tragedy: her estranged brother-in-law shot and killed both her parents, and mortally wounded her other brother-in-law. These things happened the weekend before Anita (she became “Melanie Stewart” in the book) was to audition for our spring musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Auditions for the show were delayed for a week, and “Melanie” was cast in the leading role of Julie Jordan. How her participation in the production helped her to work through her terrible shock and grief and deliver an inspiring performance is the essence of the novel. Though it is based on this event, the book is fiction, as are the characters.

One of those characters became a protagonist in my second book, Eli’s Heart. Melanie’s close friend Krissy Porter met a young pianist only a few months before the Carousel production took place. They became good friends, and might have been more but for the interference of Eli’s family. Krissy recounted that experience to Melanie in a chapter of How I Grew Up. When Eli’s Heart begins, Krissy is in college, and she and Eli manage to reconnect and eventually marry. The courage with which they deal with his congenital heart condition, the strong love they share, and the importance of music in their lives are the story told in this book.

Now I am working on a third book that again begins with that Carousel production. Working title You Are My Song, this is Jamie Logan’s story. Jamie played opposite Melanie in the show and they were drawn to each other, partly because of their friendship and Jamie’s sympathy for Melanie’s tragedy, partly because of the characters they were portraying. Jamie is a gifted singer, a tenor, who marries his childhood sweetheart and learns fairly quickly this marriage was a mistake. Five years after graduating from high school Jamie, now divorced, begins serious study as a vocal performance major in the music department of a state university. He wants to sing opera, a very difficult path for even the most talented and determined singer.

So I have a trilogy, unplanned and unexpected. The common thread is that all of these characters were part of that high school Carousel production. I will need some guidance at some point as to how to market what were three separate novels as a trilogy. Jamie’s story is proving to be a joy to write, as I revisit the world of music school and the world of opera.

Memory recall is fascinating. One memory opens up doors into other memories, some wonderful, some distressing, some very humorous. I walked this path with my tenor husband (who is NOT Jamie Logan, though some of Jamie’s experiences are based on those I have recalled) for several years. Opera is similar to musical theater, but there are definitely differences. Opera is a form of musical art, and in its truest – not necessarily purest – form it is a combination of extraordinarily wonderful music and great theater. Incidents can happen in an opera company that I don’t believe happen anywhere else. With many people, opera is an acquired taste. Jamie has the same experience I had: hearing the beauty of the music and the amazing ability of the singers to produce the sounds required by the art form, Jamie instantly fell in love with it, as I did at the age of thirteen.

I don’t want to project a publication date for my third book, because “there is no opening night” for a novelist (I’ve quoted my wise and extremely helpful friend Eric Mark before, but it’s something I always need to keep in mind. I’ve had many, many opening nights for musical theater productions!). I hope to have it in print within a few months, but I hope to make it my best effort to date, so I won’t release it until it’s ready. In the meantime – if you haven’t read How I Grew Up AND Eli’s Heart – you can purchase them on Amazon, paperback or Kindle. We authors who self-publish start to get very good at Shameless Self-Promotion!