With World War 1 as part of its concluding backdrop, I have decided to dedicate A Motif of Seasons to Private Charles Alfred Lawrence of the 9th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment. The Royal British Legion gave me his name as part of their programme to have members of the public remember individually every British and Commonwealth soldier killed in the four year conflict.
Lawrence was killed one hundred years ago today, 15 September 1916 – the same day as Lieutenant Raymond Asquith, son of the then serving Prime Minister Herbert Asquith – in an offensive against German lines during the Battle of the Somme (1 July–18 November). He has no known grave but his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in northern France.
I visited the memorial on Sunday 10 June this year during a short tour of the Somme battlefields with a military expert to check facts about the battle, and saw Lawrence’s name inscribed on one of the sixteen pillars. It was a moving moment.
The performance of music in all three books – either by a fictional chamber orchestra or by fictional soloists or singers – is an integral part of each story line. It not only reflects my affection for classical music but has been a literary tool occasionally used to help convey the context of a scene I am writing about. To put it another way, I seek to translate into words the music which depicts what I see in my imagination.
For example, the second movement of Ludwig Abeille’s piano concerto for four hands underpinned a sexual scene in Fortune’s Sonata. It was equally the case with the second movement of Bacarisse’s guitar concertino to convey in the same book a scene in Andalusia of impending and poignant finality.
In short, for me there are times where music has provided inspiration for the conveyance of particular images in words.
Portrait of Frederick the Great of Prussia, believed to be by the painter Christian Friedrich Ziesenis (1729–1792)
August has been an incredibly busy month for me. The final manuscript for A Motif of Seasons has been sent for production, and the publicity machine is preparing for action. This has given me time to reflect on my journey as an author over the last few years.
I originally intended for The Music Book to be a one-off historical romance story written for fun. Covering the years 1764–1766 it would be woven around fictional characters in England and Prussia, sparked by an 18th-century portrait of Frederick the Great and a 19th-century British passport in our family’s possession. I did it as a welcome antidote to decades of writing Foreign Office policy papers, briefs and speeches, writing for my own enjoyment and then to share the outcome with others if they so wished.
Once written I felt the characters nagging me to continue the story. Buoyed by some excellent reviews and feedback, I decided to do so in the sequel, Fortune’s Sonata, which covers the much longer period 1767–1816 and is set against the backdrop of the later years of Frederick the Great, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.
Passport issued on 3 October 1853 to Mr Robert Whitfield, his wife and son for the purpose of “travelling on the Continent”
It seemed only fitting to then conclude the chronicle of the two families I introduced in The Music Book, following them from 1853 to the First World War in the final novel A Motif of Seasons.
Though I had access to many sources, the stories stem entirely from my imagination. After dark, during the long winter nights in Norfolk, I was able to shut out the modern world and imagine these families struggling with the bitter legacy of an ancestral marriage in 1766 against a background of looming war. Writing was like driving a car alone late at night across an inky black landscape absent of landmarks – with the way ahead illuminated only a short distance by the two shafts of light from the headlights. Everything else either side or beyond was in darkness, providing ample scope for invention of what might be there. The Herzberg Trilogy is the result of that long dark journey.
I want to express my gratitude and thanks to all those who attended the London and Norfolk launches of Fortune’s Sonata. I hope you enjoyed yourselves as much as I did. If you didn’t manage to pick up a copy of the book, you can purchase one from The Holt Bookshop, Waterstones in King’s Lynn (click and collect here), or Amazon UK (where you can also find the Kindle edition – if you already bought the paperback from Amazon, then you will be able to purchase the Kindle edition at a significant discount).
To further celebrate the release of Fortune’s Sonata in paperback and Kindle editions I am offering the Kindle edition of Book 1 of the Herzberg Trilogy, The Music Book, free to download for a limited time, to introduce new readers to the series.
As a still relatively new author, I rely on interested readers reading and reviewing my books, and I hope by making these titles available in these ways, you will be encouraged to read and then rate/review them.
I’m pleased to announce that The Music Book is now officially published and available for purchase as an eBook for the Amazon Kindle (and smartphone/tablet/PC via the Kindle app). Purchase links can be found on the ‘Where to buy’ page.