The Blue Notes Series: Growing Characters, by Shira Anthony
Let’s face it: romances are wonderful, but how realistic are they really? The answer to my way of thinking is, “It depends.” I’ve been reading romances for as long as I can remember. I started out reading Harlequin romances when I was a teenager, later graduating to some of the steamier stuff by Sidney Sheldon and even later, science fiction and fantasy with a romantic twist (Marion Zimmer Bradley and Anne Rice, to name a few). So when I started writing my own original fiction, it only made sense that I’d write romances.
My first published romance was a smutty pirate novella that was a bit like an x-rated Harlequin. It was fun, and it challenged me to push my limits when it came to writing explicit sex. In the end, though, I realized I didn’t want to write another book like that. I wanted something more. My next novella, “The Dream of a Thousand Nights,” went a step further than my first. It was gay romance, a genre I loved but which I’d never tried to write, and it had more character development and growth. But realistic? Not so much. More like my personal fantasy (dub-con, angsty forced-separation, sweet HEA). So when I was looking for a new project to get started on, I decided to try something different: contemporary romance. Boy, was that a revelation!
I started writing “Blue Notes,” the original book in the Blue Notes Series, after a trip to Paris, my favorite city in the world. I lived in France as a teenager, studied music at a conservatory in Grenoble (violin), and my parents still spend half the year in the French Alps to this day. So when I created the character of Jason Greene, the successful American lawyer who runs away from his “perfect” life to spend a few months in Paris, I drew on all my life experiences. A little bit of reality as the foundation. From there, I thought about what a man who thought he had everything might feel if he realized it was all a lie. I tried to imagine what someone in his shoes might feel. Lost? Confused? Sad? Angry? I thought about how Jason might grow—what might make him grow as a man. What if he’d had a sexual experience with another boy in high school, but he hadn’t really followed through on exploring his sexuality? What if he met someone who could show him the way and help him come to terms with unresolved pain from his past? That’s how Jules Bardon, the young jazz violinist who rocks Jason’s world, was created.
By the time I started writing “The Melody Thief,” the second book in the series, I decided I wanted each book in the series to be about personal growth through romantic relationships. In Cary Redding, I created a man whose childhood ghosts continue to haunt him. Cary has never really grown up. He’s plagued by addictive behaviors (anonymous sex, alcohol), he’s insecure, but he wants to be loved (although he’d be the last person to admit it). He meets the catalyst for his growth in Italian lawyer Antonio Bianchi, who shows Cary that he deserves to be loved. It’s not an easy journey for Cary, but by the end of the book, he’s an entirely different man.
“Aria,” Book #3 in the Blue Notes Series (tentative publication December, 2012), is a story about moving on from the pain of loss. Sam Ryan, a Philadelphia lawyer, still grieves the loss of the love of his life after six years. Part of him is ready to move on, and yet he’s also afraid to. When he meets opera singer Aiden Lind in New York City the year after losing his long time lover, Sam lets Aiden go, in spite of the great promise of their relationship. They meet again at a party in Paris, and this time, Sam begins to let himself fall in love again. Sam and Aiden struggle, and the long distance nature of their relationship is a huge challenge, but with Aiden’s help, Sam begins to move past his pain and open his heart again.
Are there fantasy elements in the Blue Notes books? You bet. I still love romantic fantasy, and I think those elements are so important to the enjoyment of romance. Readers (and I count myself as one!) want to escape a little when they read. The stories in the series are set in exotic locations, revolve around musicians, many of whom are at the top of their profession, and have some of the traditional romantic situations (mistaken identity, miscommunication, and “bad guys” who try to interfere in the love relationship, among others). But at their core, the Blue Notes Series is about real men with real issues to surmount, and how the love of a good man helps them grow and overcome those issues.
In her last incarnation, Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.
Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 30’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.
Shira can be found on Facebook, Goodreads, or on her web site, http://www.shiraanthony.com. You can also contact her at email@example.com.
Excerpt: The Melody Thief (Blue Notes, #2), now available on Dreamspinner Press, Amazon and AllRomanceEbooks
Blurb: A Blue Notes Novel (Note: Each Blue Notes Series novel is an independent story, set in the same classical music universe. Books can be read in any order.)
Cary Redding is a walking contradiction. On the surface he’s a renowned cellist, sought after by conductors the world over. Underneath, he’s a troubled man flirting with addictions to alcohol and anonymous sex. The reason for the discord? Cary knows he’s a liar, a cheat. He's the melody thief.
Cary manages his double life just fine until he gets mugged on a deserted Milan street. Things look grim until handsome lawyer Antonio Bianchi steps in and saves his life. When Antonio offers something foreign to Cary—romance—Cary doesn’t know what to do. But then things get even more complicated. For one thing, Antonio has a six-year-old son. For another, Cary has to confess about his alter ego and hope Antonio forgives him.
Just when Cary thinks he's figured it all out, past and present collide and he is forced to choose between the family he wanted as a boy and the one he has come to love as a man.
Excerpt: Chapter One: The Melody Thief
He screwed up his face, trying to ignore the bright lights at the edge of the stage, which burned his eyes and left multicolored imprints on his retinas. Cary Redding was barely fifteen years old, but he sat straight-backed, schooling his expression to reveal only calm resolve. Unlike some of the well-known performers he had watched on video, he did not move his body in time to the music, nor did he bend and sway. The cello became a physical extension of his body, and he had no need to move anything more than his fingers on the fingerboard and his bow over the strings.
When he played, he was transported to a place where it didn’t matter that his face had begun to break out or that he seemed to grow out of his shoes every other month. When he played, he forgot his fear that he was different—that he was far more interested in Jerry Gabriel than in Jerry’s sister Martha. When he played, he felt the kind of warmth he had horsing around with his brother in the backyard, chasing after a football.
For the past three years, he had studied the Elgar Cello Concerto, a soulful, intensely passionate composition, and one he adored. His cello teacher had explained that it had been composed at the end of World War I, and the music reflected the composer’s grief and disillusionment. At the time, Cary hadn’t been really sure what that meant, but he felt the music deep within his soul, in a place he hid from everyone. In that music, he could express what he could not express any other way, and somehow nobody ever seemed to understand that although the music was Elgar’s, the sadness and the melancholy were his own.
At times he was terrified the audience would discover his secret: that he was unworthy of the music. But then his fingers would follow their well-worn path across the fingerboard, and his bow would move of its own accord. The music would rise and fall and engulf him entirely, and the audience would be on their feet to acknowledge the gangly, awkward teenager who had just moved them to tears.
Tonight was no exception. The Tulsa Performing Arts Center was packed with pillars of the community come to hear the young soloist The Chicago Sun-Times had proclaimed “one of the brightest new talents in classical music.” Cries of “bravo” punctuated the applause, and a shy little girl in a white dress with white tights and white shoes climbed the steps to the stage with her mother’s encouragement and handed him a single red rose.
He stood with his cello at his side and bowed as he had been taught not long after he learned to walk. The accompanist bowed as well, smiling at him with the same awed expression he had seen from pianists and conductors alike.
In that moment, he felt like a thief. A liar. The worst kind of cheat.
“Young man,” the woman in the red cocktail dress with the double strand of pearls said as she laid her hand on his shoulder, “you are truly a wonder. You must come back soon and play for us again.”
He knew how to respond; he’d been taught this, as well. “Thank you, ma’am.” His voice cracked, as it had on and off for the past six months. His face burned. He was embarrassed he could not control this as well as he could his performance.
“He’s booked through the next year,” his mother told the woman, “but if there’s an opening, we’ll be sure to let you know.” She would find an opening, no doubt, even if it meant sacrificing his one free weekend at home. His mother never passed up a chance to promote his career.