I’m thrilled to welcome Lynette Erwin to my blog today. Not only is she a telented author, I’m happy to now call her a friend, as well. You can read my review of her book, So Faithful a Heart, here.
Truth is Better Than Fiction
Over the course of the last year, I’ve been asked by several people how So Faithful a Heart came about. How did I choose the subject, and why? It seems to be the question foremost on most of my readers’ minds. I usually go into a long explanation of how Nancy Storace was the subject of my master’s thesis (my master’s degree being in music—vocal performance & pedagogy), and how, during my extensive research of her life and career, I kept running into all the evidence and innuendo from several Mozart historians regarding a short-lived but torrid love affair between she and Mozart, and how after ten years of research and study, I landed on the idea of writing a novel about it. That, however, is only part of the story.
The whole truth is that this magnificent story captured me. It literally grabbed me by the hair and dragged me kicking and screaming into a ten-year obsession with the 18th century in Europe—the music, the fashions, the politics, the culture and the history. I combed websites about the clothing, food, and customs. I read books about musicians such as Mozart, Handel, Haydn and Bach. I listened to the music and performed much of it myself. I watched period films set in 18th century Europe. I read about the French Revolution and the events leading to it. I read about the Habsburg Empire and the Seven Years War in Europe (the French & Indian War in North America). I read about 18th Century European Catholicism and English Protestantism. I combed websites and BBC transcripts, dug through piles of musical articles and books on 18th century theater in London and Europe, and I even traveled to Vienna and Salzburg (with my partner, Steph, who is also a musician, writer and Mozart historian), where we were filmed for a 2006 Canadian documentary about Mozart for his 250th birthday celebrations. I saw the places where Mozart and Nancy lived, worked, played and loved. I stood in the window of Mozart’s music room in his apartment known today as the Figarohaus and looked up at the elegantly carved marble ceiling, and I traveled to Laxenburg and stood in the massive outdoor pavilion known as Diana’s Temple where Mozart and Nancy would have entertained Emperor Joseph and his noble guests. For ten years I lived like this—one foot in this century and the other in theirs. I didn’t go into this intending to write a novel, but in the end, I knew that this story had to be told and I had been the one chosen to tell it.
This story, for lack of a better description, is the quintessential love story. Shakespeare couldn’t have done better in finding a subject more worthy than this. It’s the 18th century version of Romeo and Juliette, only it’s about real people—not fictional characters, situations, and/or events. In So Faithful a Heart, I was meticulously careful to stay with the actual documented facts and events in these people’s lives. These events and facts were the framework or skeleton around which I fashioned the flesh—the organs, muscle and skin—creating a story that even the most knowledgeable Mozart historian could not dispute the factual content, and would have a difficult time telling the facts from the “fiction”. For me, this is the best kind of story—the kind that you know really happened, but in which the author has melded the facts with the fiction so effectively, that you don’t know that you’re actually reading an historical account of these people and events.
I’ve been asked if I will write another book. My answer is always, “I don’t know. I spent so long researching this one and immersing myself in it, that I don’t know if I have another one in me.” We’ll see. It depends entirely upon if I can find another true story that captures me as completely as this one did. I seriously doubt it.