Oh, book-loving friends. I have such a treat for you today. And by treat for you, I really mean a treat for me that I’m sharing with all of you! 😉
If there is one thing in life I enjoy as much as books, it’s music. Especially the classical variety. So you can imagine how much a story featuring a conductor and a violinist in Vienna might appeal to me. As soon as I began reading this book, I knew I had to ask Rachel McMillan to share a little bit about these characters and the music that becomes part of their story, and so here she is, in what is possibly one of my favourite ever interviews! ❤
~ About the Book ~
Rose McNeil is rising the ranks at the Mozarteum in Salzburg as a violinist to watch. Her musical Nova Scotian heritage has loaned an unparalleled technique to her interpretation of some of the most beautiful compositions in the world. The opportunity of a first chair assignment to the Rainer Quartet under the baton of Oliver Thorne is a dream come true— until her visa expires and the threat of leaving Vienna looms. As much as she grieves the prospect of leaving Vienna and the quartet, it is Oliver—with his dry sense of humour and unexpected charm- she will miss most.
British ex-pat Oliver Thorne’s recent appointment as conductor to the Rainer Quartet make him the youngest in the role during its prestigious history. But it wasn’t the path he wanted. A tragic accident years ago forbade him from ever playing his beloved cello again. Now he spends his life teaching and guest conducting for premiere orchestras at the Musikverein. When he first hears Rose McNeil play, all the dreams he left by the wayside are reborn with her unexpected talent. When Rose learns she may have to leave Vienna, Oliver has to come up with a solution. Losing his first violinist is unfortunate, losing her is unimaginable.
So he comes up with a crazy idea: A marriage on paper only. She’ll take his name and his citizenship. They’ll split rent money and coin toss to decide who takes the bed or the the futon every night. They’ll keep their secret from the orchestra. She’ll play and he’ll conduct and, most importantly…she’ll stay.
Unbeknownst to each other, Rose is in love with Oliver and Oliver is in love with Rose. They might even find a happy ending, if only their pesky marriage doesn’t get in the way.
~ About the Author ~
Rachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.
~ Interview ~
Thank you so much for joining me today, Rachel. Although I think it’s difficult to say who got more enjoyment out of this interview! 😉 Let’s start with Rose and Oliver. What inspired their characters and story?
I have always wanted to write a marriage of convenience story. Always. It is my favourite romantic trope. I have read Vienna Prelude by Bodie Thoene, The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson and The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery to shreds. All of which are marriage of convenience stories. The first two are set in Vienna. When I plotted my Three Quarter Time series, I thought this would finally be the right avenue to pursue this. I truly wanted to create two genuinely good people who belonged together. Who were soulmates. Who found a once-in-a-lifetime-friendship with each other and watched it blossom into love. In so many stories, I feel that there is some mandate for a dark or sordid history or a bunch of mistakes and hurt. I didn’t want that. Rose and Oliver are lovely humans who deserve each other.
I’m a Zion Covenant (Vienna Prelude) fan from way back, but I haven’t read The Morning Gift, and it’s far too long since I read The Blue Castle. Just excuse me while I add those to my TBR…
Music is central to the lives of both Oliver and Rose. Has music been a big part of your own life?
Yes. I come from a family of musicians and musically inclined people. I don’t remember a time in my life without music: mostly through church. I grew up a minister’s kid and from the time I was five I was singing in church. Hymns and church music were a massive part of my life and I was in my early teens when I started noticing that the musical setting to so many of the hymns we sang in church was attributed to great composers.
Do you play an instrument yourself?
I am a classically trained vocalist. I theoretically can sing opera. But I am very much out of practice. I also studied flute and piano (though I do both very poorly. Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice would never want me to entertain at the pianoforte in Rosing’s Park.) Indeed, I studied voice with the intention of pursuing it professionally. Turns out I like books more 🙂
Goodness me! This is like having my life story told back to me. Lol!
What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?
I listen to everything. EVERYTHING! I am a huge fan of Baroque music—especially Corelli (my favourite composer). I LOVE Broadway tunes. I am a Broadway fanatic. I listen to Broadway while writing. Dear Evan Hansen and the Broadway cast of Hunchback of Notre Dame have seen me through several drafts of my Van Buren and DeLuca series. I also love Billy Joel (he’s such a story teller). Stevie Wonder is another favourite. I always have some old-timey Gospel on my iphone playlist. I just love music!
What would you say has been your most, or one of your most memorable musical experiences to date?
Here are two: my sister lives in Abu Dhabi, and I went to visit her there and we saw the Middle Eastern Premiere of my favourite musical Les Miserables at the Dubai Opera House, which is the most state-of-the-art venue I have ever been in. I could delineate every last oboe! What was neat was that the composers were actually at the performance that night and as a theatre geek, I nerded out so hard. It was also lovely to listen to a musical about grace performed in a country ruled by so much legalism.
During my last trip to Vienna, I scored the last ticket to a performance of Handel’s Messiah in the Goldener Saal at the Musikverein. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my entire life.
All I can say to that is ‘Wow’. 😍
You’ve mentioned elsewhere that it was important that Oliver have a composer who would be a “perfect obsession” for him. Why?
Oliver is a really deep feeler. We know he loves epic things (Gladiator) and we know that he can love completely at great sacrifice to himself. Shostakovich is a composer who has a wide range of works from cinematic to waltzes to gorgeous cello pieces. A universe of music. I figured that Oliver would love a composer that made him feel so deeply in so many different ways. Also, Oliver is kind of stuck in the archaic world of Baroque music due to his tenure at the Rainer. Baroque compositions tend to be pretty measured and often predictable. A 20th Century composer with some really modern flair seemed perfect for Oliver. Shostakovich balances classical tendencies while breaking out and doing a lot of experimental stuff.
I also chose Shostakovich because he, too, knew what it was like to be torn apart, which keeps with the theme of Oliver finding cracks in the structures of Vienna’s beautiful buildings that mirror his own devastation at losing his hand. Shostakovich lived in Nazi-occupied Russia, and his Symphony 7 in C Major was first performed during the Siege. Because of the devastation of the siege on the city and its rampant loss of life from starvation, its premiere featured an ill and depleted orchestra amidst horrible devastation. Yet it became a theme of resilience for the city. The city survived, as did Shostakovich. I can see Oliver at his lowest points really using this story as a force of strength and resiliency.
You actually “auditioned” a number of composers for the role of “perfect obsession”. Talk us through this audition process. Which composers did you audition, and why did you eventually chose the composer you did?
I have to tell you that listening to all of this music was just so much fun! There were a few people in the running for the role of Oliver’s prime obsession, and in each case I refreshed my knowledge of the composer’s backstory as well as their works to get an idea of what might fit. For a long time, I thought it might be Edward Elgar, who is an Edwardian British composer who composed a lot of pieces full of pomp and promenade. Marches. Upbeat grab-your-gear-and-go tunes. But it just never seemed right. For a while, I thought Haydn, because when I was playing around with arranging this Brigadoon piece, I found a really good concerto it would fit into. But thank heavens for Shostakovich and his wide range!
I needed a composer with a wide range to encompass what I wanted to do in the story with music as a character. I needed someone with a range that had a Three Quarter Waltz (the title is Rose in Three Quarter Time so I wanted to have a really wonderful piece for her first time seeing Oliver in his element), a composer who had a piece I could arrange to include Brigadoon in (I am so crazy, who does this stuff? LOL) and a composer with just a lush and varied sequence of music so different from the style Oliver conducts in the Rainer.
There are a number of pieces of music that play a significant role in this story—and not all of them are classical! Can you introduce us to a few of these pieces and explain their significance and why you chose them?
Can I just say how ECSTATIC I am that someone paid attention to the music!? I put so much thought and preparation into the music that I am going to introduce them all. Because the music in this book was as intentional as Oliver and Rose’s friendship (readers will have to read the book to see that intentionality. LOL)
(Clicking on the titles will take you to a performance of the piece being discussed.)
It is just so pretty and light and requires interpretation and skill and I love it. I knew my Rose would play it beautifully.
Bonus Bach: at one point in the book (in a very key moment!) Oliver is arranging a Bach score in his hotel room: BWV 169 Gott Soll Allein Mein Herze Haben (God Alone Should Have my Heart): this is one of the first pieces that Elisa Lindheim and John Murphy hear together in Vienna in Vienna Prelude by Bodie Thoene. I am a huge fan of that book and so I had to throw that piece in here somewhere.
This piece is sooooo sad. But also really gorgeous. I settled on it for the following reasons:
a) it was British, like Oliver… so reflected what he left behind along with his cello in the Barbican.
b) it’s a cello heavy piece (I liked having cellos in my head while writing Rose because that was so much of Oliver’s identity).
c) it has such a nostalgic sound to it. It almost sounds like a memory. Listen to it sometime and close your eyes and see if you aren’t trapped in a wave of memory.
This was the piece that “won” our friend Shostakovich his role as Oliver’s composer. I knew one of the key scenes in the book had to be Rose finding herself as attracted to Oliver seeing him on stage as he found her when he first saw her perform. It had to be a whizbang of an AWESOME piece. Vienna is known for its waltzes, especially by Strauss. I wanted Oliver to conduct a three quarter time piece to reflect this part of my series and the city and also because it is such a key moment in our eponymous Rose’s life. The waltz kind of has a melancholy undercurrent to it but is very vibrant and very alive and that suits Oliver and his life so well. She truly meets a new side of him when she watches him conduct this piece and it’s the first buzz in her that shifts from “This guy is my pal” to “Whoa. I think he’s kinda cute.”
It’s also very different than the stuff Oliver conducts at the Rainer. Out of that element, just like Rose brings him out of his element.
First off, I am not a great arranger. I just like music. I am not a professional. But I knew metrics enough to know how ten bars of From This Day On would fit and searched for a piece that would allow that to happen. Tempo. Key. Feel, etc. The pulse of this piece just worked for it. Also, it was Oliver’s favourite composer and a cello piece. So two things VERY important to him that he is bending to show how Rose has infiltrated his life and the one thing he still feels he has control over: music.
Wow I listened to a lot of Shostakovich this year. Here’s some geeky music stuff for you: The first movement in this piece follows the Sonata form which is a popular form for a first movement. It features an exposition, a development on said exposition, and a recapitulation of that exposition: a beginning, middle and an end. Like a little story within a larger symphony. Oliver and Rose’s story is told through music: loving music, marrying for music. I wanted to give them a little story for what I think is one of the sweetest scenes in the book.
This is a song I have always loved (I am a huge musical theatre nerd! HUGE!) and one I always wanted at my own wedding. I haven’t had that wedding yet, so figured it might be time to loan it to Rose and Oliver. It’s really a beautiful song.
When this album first came out, I remember hearing a lot of people refer to it as “Chamber Pop” because it had a Baroque feeling to it. It would actually be a neat piece to hear without the rock vocals and everything, just the strings. It’s also a cello heavy piece (a recurring theme because that was Oliver’s instrument) which worked super well. Also, a key line is “I used to rule the world.” And our pal Oliver really was on top of the world at the top of his game and now feels he isn’t so much and so I could see him really connecting to that part of it.
True story: I have never been to a European city where I have not heard Barry Manilow at least once! Confession: I am not really a fan; but he is a bit of an inside joke in my family. My aunt Annette (to whom this book is dedicated), a classical pianist, has on occasion called me, put me on speaker phone and played me Manilow. It just had to be Manilow for Annette, and it had to be their song. Something they hear when they first meet and then something that would play at that big Hollywood moment when something truly epic happens in their relationship. I listened to a lot of Manilow. LOL.
There is a lot of orchestration in his stuff. Clearly the guy is super musically inclined. I wanted something that had an orchestral sound that reflected Oliver and Rose’s world, a big sweeping bridge and key change and crescendo for this momentous moment. Oddly enough, Manilow got a short list. So many pieces would fit. But in the end the words… “When will our eyes meet.” I was, like, these are two people who are just not truly seeing each other even though what’s in each other’s eyes is SO obvious. It’s also about a shift and a change in a relationship and that suited them well. Oh, Manilow. You did us well.
Thank you so much for chatting with me and writing a gorgeous story that I can nerd out over!
~ Giveaway ~
Rachel is offering one lucky reader an eBook copy of Rose in Three Quarter Time. Comment below and let us know what music we would find in a book about you, and then go to the Rafflecopter form to enter your name in the giveaway! http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/bd61d44b37/?
The giveaway is open internationally! And you can find full terms and conditions for the giveaway here.