TNA: Welcome to The Novel Approach, Shira, we’re glad to have you with us today. Why don’t we start by having you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Shira: Thank for hosting me today! For those who may not know, I was a professional opera singer for about 14 years, and a violinist before that. I come from a family of musicians. My mom is a harpsichordist and my sister was a professional cellist. I gave up singing for a new career as an attorney. Guess it’s not a big surprise that in addition to the musicians in my books, there are a few lawyers too! Oh, and if you’re planning on attending GRL this year in Chicago, you can hear me sing. I’ll be hosting an event with Lane Hayes and doing a mini-recital of opera, show tunes, and torch songs.
TNA: Joseph Campbell has been quoted as saying, “Love is a friendship set to music.” Would you say that describes your Blue Notes series fairly accurately? If you were to pick a song that best describes each of the romances in the 7 books, what titles would you choose?
Shira: What a wonderful quote! To me, music is an expression of emotion, so it’s a perfect fit with romance and love. That’s what the Blue Notes series is about: music as emotion and, in many cases, music as the cement that bonds two people together.
Wow, picking a song for each romance is a challenge, because I had so much music running around my brain as I wrote each. But there definitely is a theme song or musical theme to each, but there were also more modern jazz, rock, and pop songs that inspired me.
In Blue Notes, the theme was the Brahms Intermezzo Opus 118, No. 2, but I also heard the mellow sound of Ella Fitzgerald singing something bluesy like “Cry Me a River.” For The Melody Thief, the theme was the Dvorak Cello Concerto, but I also heard the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” For Aria, I heard opera singer Aiden Lind singingDon Giovanni, but I also heard “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. For Prelude, the theme was the Sibelius Violin Concerto, but one of the songs I heard as Venona and I were writing the story was “I Love You But I Don’t Know What to Say” by Ryan Adams. For Encore, the classical theme was the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, but the song that kept replaying in my mind was “Ghost,” by the Indigo Girls. For Dissonance, the theme song was the Rachmaninoff Vocalise, but the song “Blue Moon,” kept going through my mind as I wrote the story.
TNA: Let’s talk a little bit about that 7th book in the series, Dissonance. Cam comes from British nobility, Galen is a busker, yet these two seemingly opposite men find love. What is their connection? What is it they would each say they love about the other that not only brought but keeps them together?
Shira: For Galen and Cam, their first connection is through Galen’s music. For Cam, who has always loved music (and musicians), Galen’s music resonates with him in a way he doesn’t understand. In a real sense, Galen’s music is the key that opens the door to Cam’s heart and allows Cam to begin to explore what he’s hidden for years.They seem to be polar opposites, but Cam and Galen have far more in common than they realize.
Galen would say that he loves the Cam only he knows: the vulnerable heart beneath the playboy exterior. Cam would say he loves Galen’s strength and kindness.
TNA: Coming from a musical background yourself, what would you say has been the most gratifying thing about writing this series?
Shira: I’ve been amazed at the feedback I’ve gotten from readers. For those who were musicians or studied music, they’ve written to tell me how they felt the music in the words I wrote. For those who don’t know much about music, they’ve told me they understood and enjoyed the musical environment the stories are written in. I’ve had a few readers say they hesitated to read the books because they knew nothing about classical music, but when they did read them, they kicked themselves for thinking the stories wouldn’t be accessible and easy to follow. Which all boils down to the fact that for me, finding a way to share my music long after I’ve stopped performing professionally has been the most gratifying part of writing these books.
TNA: Of all the books in the series, do you have a favorite, one that’s particularly close to your heart? If so, which and why?
Shira: I knew you’d ask that! Oy! Choosing just one is impossible. Dissonance is definitely one of my favorites, though. I totally fell for Cam. He’s that perfect mix of messed up and wanting more from his crappy life that I love to write (and read). Taking him from point A to point B, growing him as a character, having him face his worst nightmares and hoping he’d come out on top of things…. I wanted to take him home with me and tell him it would be all right!
The Melody Thief is another of my favorites, because I got to do the same sort of thing with Cary. He had much different issues to face than Cam, but to see him grow to the point where he could be a good parent to his partner’s child (when Cary started the story acting like a grown-up child) made me love him too.
TNA: You made the leap from music to mermen with your Mermen of Ea series. Was it fun to make that creative leap? What inspired you create your own mermen?
Shira: Taking the leap had more to do with taking a chance and believing in my ability to write fantasy than anything else. I grew up reading high fantasy, and I’d always wanted to write it. But the worldbuilding scared the crap out of me! So when I was inspired to write about mermen after seeing a pod of dolphins from our sailboat at the Carolina coast, I hesitated.
I had this pirate story in mind—a captor/captive, love/hate sort of thing. I’d written a few chapters. And after that sailing trip, the main character, Taren Laxley, started telling me he wasn’t human. He was pretty insistent about it, too. So I contacted one of the best fantasy writers I know—Tali Spencer—and asked if she’d hold my hand. She did. And that little story grew into a 3 novel series with her support. I’ve had such a blast writing it that I’m working on another fantasy/supernatural series!
TNA: What’s your idea of a great protagonist? Would you say when it comes to the men you write, you have a “type”?
Shira: I have a thing for messed up men who are redeemable. Nearly every Blue Notes book has one. I love seeing characters grow throughout a story. The more multi-faceted a protagonist, the better. If they’re too “good,” I get bored. Nobody is perfect. Even better? Writing two messed up men in a story and having them grow because of their love for each other. I love getting inside characters’ heads.
TNA: What are you working on next? Do you have any works-in-progress you’d like to share a little bit of information about?
Shira: Sure! I’ve got a few projects in the works. First up is a vampire series. The first book, Blood and Rain, will be published by Dreamspinner Press in December or January. The series takes place in the U.S. in the present and in France in the late 1800s. Unlike the Blue Notes Series, which can be read in any order, the Blood Series will be a sequel/sequential series like my mermen. I’m also working on a May/December contemporary with the wonderful Michael Halfhill, and I’ve got a project planned with my friend Cody Kennedy, writing under his adult/MM pseudonym, Aisling Mancy. That last project is a story featuring a lawyer and a cop, and is set in coastal North Carolina.
TNA: Thanks so much for stopping by, Shira, would you tell us where we can find you on the internet?
Shira: Thank you so much for having me! It’s been a pleasure. Here are all the ways folks can find me on the web:
Dissonance Blurb: British lord Cameron Sherrington has hit rock bottom. The love of his life, opera sensation Aiden Lind, is marrying another man, and Cam knows it’s his own fault for pushing Aiden away. Then someone tries to set him up and take away his family business. Facing arrest by US authorities on charges of money laundering and with no money to return to London, Cam decides to run. But with no money and no place to stay, it’s not exactly the Hollywood thriller he’d imagined.
When Cam hears Galen Rusk play in a lonely subway station, he’s intrigued. But his assumptions about Galen are all wrong, and their unusual relationship isn’t exactly what Cam bargained for. Add to that the nightmares that dog him nightly, and Cam’s world is shaken to its core. Cam figures he had it coming to him, that it’s all penance due on a life lived without honesty. He just never figured he might not be able to survive it.
Note: Blue Notes Series novels are standalone stories, and can be read in any order.
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