My new novel, Moonlight on the Thames, to be published by Aria on 4thSeptember 2018, is first and foremost, a love story. I hope that you will fall in love with Nicola and Dmitri, and enjoy reading their story as much as I enjoyed writing it. The book is also, however, a love affair with music, told through Dmitri’s highs and lows, the agony and ecstasy, of his interrupted career as a concert pianist.
The music was, for me, a big inspiration in writing this book. If you are reading the book and want to ‘follow along’ with the music, I have put together a playlist on Spotify. The link is here: http://www.goo.gl/JCWbpV.
Purists may question some of the choices of music I’ve included or referenced in the book, and I also know that there are those out there who question any sort of descriptions of music in words, which, I agree, can’t do justice to the real thing. But even so, I see Moonlight on the Thamesas a celebration of some of the world’s greatest music, and the strong emotions that it can evoke.
I was lucky to have been exposed to classical music from a very early age. My dad played music on the record-player almost every morning when I was growing up. He was partial to light, happy music, like Mozart and Strauss waltzes. But as a teenager, I quickly found my own taste, which was for Russian composers, music that told a story, and music that was complex, dark, and perfect.
Though Moonlight on the Thamesis purely fictional, for a long time I’ve wanted to write a novel that deals with music, musicians, and the creative personality. The subject is one that is personal to me. At university, I spent a year studying oboe performance. Most people thought I should study something sensible like maths or English, so that’s one reason why I did it. But the main reason why I chose to have a go, was because it felt like a ‘now or never’. All those sensible things could wait, but I felt like I needed to test myself to see if I could make it as a performer.
The answer was no. I quickly learned that real musicians spend most of their waking hours practicing and rehearsing, not the world’s greatest music, but boring scales and exercises. It was also highly stressful being in the company of a very competitive lot of musicians, all vying for an incredibly small number of places in performing groups. I did quite well that year, but I was a nervous wreck. It was kind of a wake-up call when I realised how much more I looked forward to going to calculus class than any sort of musical rehearsal.
That year, I did rub shoulders with some people whom you could tell were going to ‘make it’. People with an incredible focus, for whom nothing mattered other than music. People who didn’t mind the fact that life was very narrow, and one-dimensional. People with a certain kind of personality to handle the stress and the constant self-doubt that creative people face.
I quit my studies after a year, and ended up with a degree in something sensible (law). In fact, after burning myself out, I have only dabbled with oboe-playing since, though music is still a big part of my life. Now, my children both play instruments, and I am trying to create in them a love of classical music. I’m not sure, though, that they ‘feel’ it yet the same way I do. I hope that someday, they will have the experience of sitting in a orchestra, and feeling the music so deeply that it hurts. Something so powerful that even years later, it resonates inside. But as a career, I hope they choose something else.
In the end, I’ve found a kind of ruthless creative focus in my writing, rather than as a musician. It can be just as isolating, just as narrow, and just as frustrating at times. But ultimately, for me it’s proven to be more fulfilling.
I hope that you will enjoy Moonlight on the Thamesand the music I’ve chosen for the soundtrack. Though romance novels come and go, the music of the great composers will live on. My words may not be able to do it justice, but I am confident that the music can speak for itself.