Friday, November 26, 2010

Time Travel and Mozart With Author Brendan Carroll

Please welcome today, the prolific Brendan Carroll, author of more than thirty novels, including his series, The Assassin Chronicles, and the novel of time travel and Mozart, Tempo Rubato.  With my background in music and a novel including time travel under my own belt, I was especially drawn to Tempo Rubato, and recently finished reading it.  I am so glad to hear a little more from Brendan about his writing, music, and time travel. 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?  How long have you been writing?

I suppose I've been writing seriously since high school in English Comp classes.  I liked telling good stories and writing them down made it possible to pass them around to my friends.  Then when I was in the Navy, I found an old book in my desk called The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I had never heard of him!  By the time I had read it five or six times and then went on to read the complete LOTR series five or six times, I decided that if ever I could write something vaguely similar to Tolkien, I would truly be a writer.

What genre do you tend to write?

I lean toward science-fiction/ fantasy.  Since I am a Libra with Venus as my planet, I am a bit of a romantic, so I always have to have a lovely lady and a little romance thrown in.  Unfortunately, Mars is also in my first house opposite of Venus and that makes rather volatile.  Since I'm pulled in two opposite directions, I write dark humor and violent romance that is almost pure, almost good, but not quite right.

Where do your ideas come from?

I have a Bachelor's Degree in education that started out as an Environmental Science major with a geology minor and I learned a great deal about researching in the campus library.  Whenever new things caught my attention, I would head off to the library and research them.  I love astrophysics, but was born without a math gene.  Nuclear physics, astronomy, time travel, Einstein, all those sorts of things led me to read a great deal about science outside my major.

I was in the band in high school and grew up with a great interest in music.  When I heard Mozart, I fell in love with his music.  I thought how wonderful it would be to have listened to him in person or met him. Naturally, I would have to have a time machine for that, hence the book Tempo Rubato.

Tell us a little something about your typical day as a writer.

A typical day starts out between 6:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., depending on how long I stayed up the night before.  I generally make a pot of coffee that sometimes lasts till 4 p.m. before it's all gone.  I start out with checking email and sales from Amazon and my first cup of coffee while listening to the morning news.  I move on to forums and Facebook to see if anything of interest is going on or happened overnight.  I then check my list of things to do and decide what I need to do before the day is over.  Things like writing or updating blogs, answering emails, doing interviews (like this one if I'm lucky) and another cup of coffee.  Once I've determined what I need to work on, I may have to do some research or take some notes from a reference book about subjects included in short stories or current works in progress.  Sometimes I drink a third cup of coffee before these things are done.  Then it's time for more mundane things.

Let the Puglet out for her business and feed the cats.  Maybe feed the birds, do some laundry or clean something inside or out.  Take something out of the freezer or decide what is up for lunch/ dinner.  Around 11:00 a.m., I put the radio on Rush Limbaugh for good background noise and get back to my computer.  I might do a bit of surfing the web, paying bills or checking bank accounts or answering more email.  If an interesting thread pops up on Facebook or Kindleboards forum, I might make some posts there.  By noons, I'm working on editing a completed manuscript or writing a blog or working on a short story.  I spend a couple of hours editing and formatting completed works.  then it's time for late and something to drink.  If things go well, I won't have to go to town (which is an ordeal) for anything and can get back to work until my beta reader gets home from her day job.

In the afternoons, I talk on the phone sometimes and watch a little television while I wait for my beta reader to call.  Once that happens and we talk together a read a chapter or a section or two of a completed manuscript for an hour or so, it's time to call it a day.

I complete a few more household chores, pet the Puglet and play with her and the cats a little.  Finish up supper, clean up and then check Facebook and the forums again while the evening news is on.  After that, I talk on the phone to friends, read, or watch television.

How did you go about honing your writing skills?

I like to read other writers' work with an eye out for artistic embellishment.  I won't say that I steal from other writers outright, but rather I look for ideas and then make them conform to my own ideas handwriting style.  I am always on the lookout for new ideas, new words, and new ways to put them together.

What is your most productive time of day?

I'm a morning person.

What are your goals with writing?  What is your goal as a writer?  To entertain, inspire, change the world?

I want to entertain, inspire a thought of elicit a giggle or even a moan from readers.  to make enough money to take nice vacations perhaps or buy new gadgets.  I think I would like to inspire others to think and wonder while entertaining them.

Describe a couple of your favorite characters.

Of course, Wolfgang Mozart is my favorite character in Tempo Rubato because of his mysterious origins, his exceptional talent, his eccentric personality and his personal charisma.  in my series, The Assassin Chronicles, I am quite fond of a number of characters.  There is the main character of course, his friends and Brothers of the Order, some of the magickal creatures, genies, faeries and dragons are quite dear to me.

What is your favorite of all the books you have worked on?

Tempo Rubato has to be my favorite book, although I do have an unedited manuscript done in the manner of Henry Fielding, author of the English classic Tom Jones that ranks up there with Tempo.

Your first book  Tempo Rubato is set in the world of music, covering Mozart, and students and professors of music.  Can you tell us what inspired this book?

Mozart's music inspired me to write about him.  I wanted to bring him to life and him up close.  What better way to do that invent some way to bring him into my life other go back in a time machine and rescue him before he died in 1791?  The idea that evil persons may have actually murdered him for various reasons, also inspired me to do a bit of speculative fiction about his demise and I wanted him to have a happier life, I suppose.

What is your own background in music?

I played trombone in school from 5th to 9th grade and then taught myself to play the French horn over the summer vacation.  After that, I payed French horn in the high school band (the band director was convinced that I had tutoring over the summer, but I didn't.)  I also taught myself to play the flute for fun when in college, but did not join a band.  I wrote a few tunes and some songs in Spanish for my Spanish classes.  Those were fun, but I have since lost them.

I took piano lessons when i was seven, but didn't have a piano at home, so that was kind of futile.  In 1996, I bought myself a piano and some of Mozart's music, determined to play one of his piano sonatas before I died.  I learned to play well enough to suit myself and to know that I could have been an excellent pianist if I would have had the training at an early age.

I also own a harmonica (ha!), a Celtic drum and a genuine Stradivarius replica (ha!ha!)  None of which I can play. 

I can do pretty well on a kazoo.

How much research went directly into Mozart?  I was curious, for instance, as I read the letter written by him, in the opening pages of the book, a letter that experts say covers his grammar and vocabulary excellently, did you research actual letters written by Mozart, or letters from his time and place, to copy the style?  Or is it pure fiction with a bit of old-world flavor?

Mozart's extant letters are published.  Every one of them (600+)  I have them in my closet in two binders and I read each and every one of them probably three or four times and several of them many more times.  I believe that the letter I wrote for him would be very close to what he might have written himself.  (I also practiced his signature until I could sign his name and fool anyone with the exception of a real handwriting expert.  just another of my little idiosyncrasies, studying handwriting.)

I own six biographies, his letters, most of his music on CD, and I had a replica painted of the famous portrait of him in his red coat, which now hangs in my den.  (Incidentally, that particular painting was done from memory several years after his death.  I have another pencil/ line replica of a 'spurious' painting of him that is rarely seen wherein he is actually smiling.  If it is not him, it should be.

I also watched the movie Amadeus over and over while writing the book and would like to point out for those who do not know, the movie is largely fictitious or historically-based fiction.  Much of what happened in the movie did not actually occur or did not occur in the same manner as portrayed in the film.  however, the idea that Antonio Salieri, court composer for Emperor Jozsef of Austria and one of Mozart's leading critics and rivals, actually had a hand in his death did circulate in some circles, though I doubt it has any basis in fact.  Salieri was very successful in his own right in his time, but his genius, unlike Mozart's was not eternal.  His music is still played in classical venues.  The movie shows Salieri actually helping him finish the Requiem Mass on his death bed with his wife Costanza only arriving moments before his death.  This is pure fiction.  His assistant actually finished the Requiem Mass after his death using his notes on the compositional pieces and he was well attended by Costanza and her sisters during his final illness.

Would you consider yourself an expert on Mozart?  Would you have before writing this book?

I do not consider myself an expert on Mozart, but rather more like a 'groupie.'  i studied him quite a bit before writing the book, so I was a 'groupie,' before Tempo Rubato.

Authors are often asked if there is a healthy dose of themselves in their characters.  You seem to capture Mozart's humor effortlessly.  Do you feel there is a bit of him in you, or you in him?

I feel that my sense of humor is fairly base at times (I think they used to call it 'outhouse humor.'  I can laugh easily at political satire as I can laugh at a bunch of cowboys sitting around a campfire passing gas, and I think Mozart was like that in a sense.  he had a dark sense of humor and at the same time, he was able to hobnob with emperors and royalty without losing himself in the grand scheme of things.  Personally, I believe he rather preferred the common gaffs and silliness like the humor he wrote into two of his operas Cosi Fan Tutti and The Magic Flute.  Any true expert can write reams of speculation and opinion on his operas alone.

Experts believe that he was severely affected by his father's death and that the ghost in Don Giovanni is a manifestation of his feelings for his departed father, but I disagree.  I have listened, read and watched Don Giovanni and though it may seem dark and forbidding, I can see the humor there.  Dark, yes, but not sinister.  Mozart wrote one of his beautiful piano sonatas shortly after his mother's death.  Surely, his music was affected somewhat by the events occurring in his life, but I believe that he wrote his music when he was in 'the zone,' just like most authors write their novels.

No writer can truly separate himself/ herself from his/her characters.  They can try, but it is like a fish trying to imagine living on land or a man born blind trying to imagine what red looks like.  Can't be done.

Can you tell us a little about your other books?

My little series The Assassin Chronicles, is an all-consuming project that has taken up the bulk of my writing endeavors for the last fifteen years.  If ever any writer ever created a world for their characters to live, I have created a world for my characters.  The main characters is a grumpy Scotsman, a little over 800 years old when the series starts out.  He is an alchemist/ assassin for the order of the Red Cross of Gold, which a is branch or off-shoot of the Poor Knights of Solomon's temple.  These Templars have survived intact from the time of the Crusades and they carry on their work as 'God's Executioners' behind the scenes on a global scale.  As the story unfolds, a new mythology is born and the reader is drawn into the world of magic, swords, and sorcery.
Thank you so much for your time, Brendan!  Best of luck with your writing!  I look forward to reading more of your work in the future.

Coming Monday: a review of Tempo Rubato.

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