Sunday, May 19, 2013

Interview with Shira Anthony

How did you start your writing career?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, although I never finished more than a short story until about five years ago.  My first original story was a smutty pirate romance (heterosexual) that I wrote to see if I really could write explicit sex.  It’s an X-rated Harlequin style romance.  Romantic, but explicit.  But what really got me hooked?  When a good friend and fellow author (my Prelude co-author, the lovely Venona Keyes) suggested we write an MM story together.  That was it:  I started writing gay romances exclusively and have never looked back!

Tell us about your favorite character from your books.
I have a few, but hands down one of the two main characters in my brand new release, Prelude, is my absolute favorite.  David Somers is the fictional conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  He’s the heir to a Wall Street investment company and is fabulously rich.  On the surface, he’s sophisticated and poised.  A world-class musician.  Underneath it all, though, he’s a total mess.  He’s insecure and afraid to take a chance at a relationship even when he knows violinist Alex Bishop is a “keeper.”  It was so much fun writing David’s slightly stilted way of speaking and the way he navigates fancy donors’ parties, and then showing the reader what he’s really like underneath the polished veneer.  Fortunately, Alex is sharp enough to figure David out.

Where do you dream of traveling to and why?
I’ve traveled all of the United States and Europe.  I lived in France when I was a kid (I write about those experiences through my Blue Notes Series characters).  I’ve also been to a good portion of the Caribbean (I got my open water scuba certification last year).  But I’ve never been to the Far East.  I find Japanese and Chinese culture amazing, and I love exotic foods.  I would love to spend a few months traveling around Asia and exploring.  Maybe even take a trip across China, like Rob Gifford describes in his book, China Road

Does travel play in the writing of your books?
Yes.  Definitely!  My classical music series, Blue Notes, features musicians who travel the world over in their careers.  Each book is set in a different city.  The original book in the series, Blue Notes, was inspired by one of my trips to Paris (my favorite city).  It features a former musician turned lawyer who runs away from his cheating fiancée to find himself in Paris.  The second book in the series, The Melody Thief, is set in Milan, Italy.  With each story, I try to incorporate what I know about the city so that the location is a bit like a character of its own.

Tell us about your current release.
Prelude is the fourth book in the Blue Notes Series of classical music themed gay romances from Dreamspinner Press.  Each of the Blue Notes books is a standalone novel, and the novels can be read in any order.  Secondary characters in one book may become main characters in another, and all the characters inhabit the same “universe” of musicians.
Prelude is the story of David Somers, who appears in all the other Blue Notes novels.  David is a superstar conductor who underneath the smooth exterior is lonely and unhappy.  David hears music in everything he experiences, and always dreamed of being a composer.  But he can’t seem to translate the music in his head onto paper.  When David meets crossover violinist Alex Bishop, David hears amazing music.  Alex is warm and outgoing where David is aloof and insecure.  But underneath it all, the two men have far more in common, and through their music, they connect in a way David never thought possible.
Prelude was written with my good friend, Venona Keyes, and was published by Dreamspinner Press on May 6th.

Tell us about your next release.
My next release is a “and now for something completely different” kind of story!  Stealing the Wind, the first book in the Mermen of Ea series (also from Dreamspinner Press), will be released in August or September of this year.  Unlike the Blue Notes Series, the Mermen series is a sequel series, meant to be read in order.  The books in the series are more plot-driven/adventure stories than my Blue Notes romances.  Fantasy/supernatural genre and set in the Age of Sail in an Earthlike place. 
Stealing the Wind is the story of Taren Laxley, an orphan who is sold into indentured servitude when he’s a baby.  He grows up learning to rig the great sailing ships that sail into the harbor and dreams of going to sea.  When he’s kidnapped by pirates, he finally realizes his dream.  Later, he is taken captive aboard the Phantom and meets its captain, Ian Dunaidh.  Taren is surprised to discover that Ian and his crew are not human—they are Ea, mermen shifters who can transform and live beneath the waves.  More surprising is that Taren learns he, too, is Ea.
Stealing the Wind is a bit sexier than my contemporary romances.  It features a ménage (MMM) sexual initiation and a bit of dubcon at the beginning, although it is strictly a MM pairing.  It also gave me the chance to imagine what merman sex might be like.  But that’s a story for another day!

Does your significant other read your stuff?
Sometimes he does.  He’s a pretty busy man, so it’s been hard for him to keep up with my books.  He is instrumental in helping me with my characterizations, though.  He’s got great insight into human behavior and he’s helped me develop many of my favorite characters.

Do you have critique partners or beta readers?
I do!  I have a circle of wonderful authors who also write for Dreamspinner Press who I beta read for and who beta read for me.  They’re tough, but they’re wonderful.  I rely on them for substantive help, and they do put me through my paces!  I also have a wonderful senior editor I work with at Dreamspinner who is a gem.  I have no doubt my books are successful because of my editor and my beta readers.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Just that I’m so thrilled that my books connect with my readers.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it’s been to know that there are readers waiting for the next book in my Blue Notes Series, and that they have come to love my characters as much as I loved writing them.  I have the best readers!  I really do. 

Blurb for Prelude:  World-renowned conductor David Somers never wanted the investment firm he inherited from his domineering grandfather. He only wanted to be a composer. But no matter how he struggles, David can’t translate the music in his head into notes on paper.
When a guest violinist at the Chicago Symphony falls ill, David meets Alex Bishop, a last-minute substitute. Alex’s fame and outrageous tattoos fail to move David. Then Alex puts bow to string, and David hears the brilliance of Alex’s soul.
David has sworn off relationships, believing he will eventually drive away those he loves, or that he'll lose them as he lost his wife and parents. But Alex is outgoing, relaxed, and congenial—everything David is not—and soon makes dents in the armor around David's heart. David begins to dream of Alex, wonderful dreams full of music. Becoming a composer suddenly feels attainable.
David’s fragile ego, worn away by years of his grandfather’s disdain, makes losing control difficult. When David’s structured world comes crashing down, his fledgling relationship with Alex is the first casualty. Still, David hears Alex’s music, haunting and beautiful. David wants to love Alex, but first he must find the strength to acknowledge himself.
Bio:  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 35’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.
Shira’s Blue Notes Series of classical music themed gay romances was named one of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Word’s “Best Series of 2012,” and The Melody Thief was named one of the “Best Novels in a Series of 2012.” The Melody Thief also received an honorable mention, “One Perfect Score” at the 2012 Rainbow Awards.

Excerpt from Prelude
Chapter Two
Chicago, Present Day
David Somers had a headache.  He’d hoped it would pass, but it had only gotten worse in the past fifteen minutes.  He waited stage left as the orchestra finished tuning. 
Deep breath.  Focus.
The concertmaster sat back down—the signal for David to walk onto the stage of Orchestra Hall.  His hall.  His orchestra.  He breathed in slowly before walking onto the stage, his expression schooled, utterly focused.  The Armani tux he wore was perfectly pressed, his posture faultless, and his stride confident.  The orchestra stood as he entered.  The hall, filled to capacity, rang with polite applause. 
But David’s disinterested poise was merely a sham—he was irritated to the extreme.  Only his strong sense of duty had brought him back to the stage tonight for the second half of the program.  That, and the potential sponsors of his modern music series whom he knew sat in the center box seats—the box that had been owned by Somers Investments for more than sixty years.
He glanced stage-left to where the soloist waited to make his entrance.  David had seen him for the first time only moments before, and he'd been left with the distinct impression of a street thug.  Tattoos, indeed.  There was no place for such a thing in the refined world of classical music.  True, the soloist had worn the traditional tails of an artist making a solo appearance with the Chicago Symphony, one of the finest symphony orchestras in the world.  But that was de rigueur, expected of him, regardless of his personal tastes.  No, it had been the telltale ink visible at the other man’s throat as he buttoned up his shirt that had taken David by surprise.
"Lastislav Voitavich is ill," his personal assistant, James Roland, had told him as he arrived at the back entrance to Symphony Center that afternoon, "but we've managed to find a replacement."
David hadn’t been concerned.  Such last-minute substitutions were rare, but not unheard of.  He knew there were plenty of violinists who would give their eyeteeth to take the stage under his baton and with such a prestigious orchestra.  There were few conductors on the classical music scene with his reputation, let alone as young as he.
"Has the replacement performed the piece before?"
"Of course, Maestro," James assured him. “Several times, I’m told.”
"That will be sufficient."  It would be just that—sufficient—nothing more and nothing less.  That was the way of all last-minute substitutions.  The evening would not be a memorable one, but David would make sure that his audience did not leave disappointed.  The orchestra’s performance would, at least, be outstanding.
"There is one thing you should know, though," James added in a quavering voice.  It meant little that they’d worked together for nearly five years; David had never been an easy man to please.  But then, one didn’t get a reputation like his by having lax standards.  David was a perfectionist and proud of it.
He glared at James—he didn’t appreciate being troubled with such nonsense before a performance—he needed time to prepare, to focus on the music, and review the score.  "What do you wish to tell me?"
"Th… the… the soloist… he… ah—"
"I don’t care who he is, as long as he can play the Sibelius."  David ran a hand through his hair in frustration.
"He… he can, of course.” Beads of sweat appeared on James’s forehead.
Five minutes before he’d taken the stage for the second half of the concert, when he read through the bio James had handed him, David realized what a mistake he’d made by not pressing the issue further.   It’s a concertNothing more.  There will be time to kowtow in apology to the board tomorrow, if need be.  He detested kowtowing, but he also knew he did it quite well.
David rarely made any sort of public speech, let alone an announcement in the middle of a concert.  He despised public speaking, but there was nothing to do for it—the substitution had been too eleventh-hour to print something to add into the programs.
“Good evening,” he began with a practiced smile.  “There has been a slight change in tonight’s program. Our featured soloist, Lastislav Voitavich, has taken ill.”   There were murmurs from the audience, so David waited until the hall was silent before continuing, “Alexander Bishop has graciously agreed to perform the Sibelius.”  Instead of voicing their disappointment, the audience applauded with surprising enthusiasm.  “Thank you.” David was unsure what to make of the response.   He nodded toward the wings.  There was renewed applause as the violinist took to the stage. 
Alex BishopA rock star masquerading as a classical violinistTattoos and groupies.  He didn't doubt that the man was competent—his assistant was young, not stupid.  Still, David loathed this "new breed" of musician who all too often graced the covers of magazines like Time and, more recently, Rolling Stone.  Tattoos, indeed.  In David’s estimation, the term “crossover artist” was a mere marketing tool, intended to exploit an artist’s good looks and increase sales. 
He signaled for the concertmaster to provide the soloist with an opportunity to tune before turning to face the orchestra, his back to the audience.  The Sibelius Violin Concerto was a challenging but not an overly taxing piece, and he’d rehearsed his orchestra well.   The orchestra will shine, despite any deficit in the quality of the fiddle playing. He raised his baton and did his best to ignore the auburn hair that fell onto the soloist’s shoulders in a tumble. 
Alex Bishop was attractive enough.  Tall and muscular—taller than David himself.  David was surprised he even noticed, but then there was something about Bishop that commanded attention.  Still, in spite of his apparent ease in front of the large crowd and his undeniable stage-presence, David knew Bishop was no more than a pretender to the world of classical music.  All hype and no substance—a creation of Hollywood agents and a second-rate player, no doubt.  He’d heard so-called “crossover” artists perform before, and he hadn’t been impressed.
Bishop glanced over to David, his instrument tucked under his chin.  Their eyes met for a brief moment.  Bishop’s dark brown eyes simmered with passion and focus.  David raised his baton higher, the signal to the orchestra for the downbeat.  One deft flick of the baton later, the orchestra began the first measures of the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor.
As a conductor, David had always preferred the less emotional, modern repertoire to the sweeping romanticism of Brahms, Mahler, or Sibelius.  Tonight's program had been a nod to the wealthy patrons who kept the orchestra’s finances in the black.  It was a tedious thing, to be required to accommodate the common musical tastes of his benefactors, but David tolerated it, knowing he'd been able to include a less tonal, more challenging piece of music later in the symphony's performance schedule.  In David’s opinion, the Sibelius concerto was no exception.  He was unmoved by its soaring and plaintive melodies, although he knew that his audience would respond to it with enthusiasm.
David glanced over at Bishop.  Their eyes met again as Bishop began the first few notes of the solo line and the heady tones of his violin filled the concert hall.  With practiced concentration, David returned his focus to the score that sat on the podium in front of him.  He didn't need to read the music to conduct the piece—he had committed every measure to memory—but he sought the distraction. 
StrangeHe’s better than I expected.  Far better, really, although David would hardly admit it to himself.
Bishop finished the opening phrase of the movement with obvious ease.  Again, David found himself taken aback by the intensity of the other man's playing, as well as the natural musicality and the warm tone he was able to coax from the fiddle.  The violin Bishop played was serviceable, but it was no Stradivarius or Guarneri.  Still, David found it remarkable that the instrument sounded nearly as resonant the as finest instruments he had heard through the years.  “A good instrument can make the performer,” his old friend and predecessor, John Fuchs, had once told him.  “But without talent, it is only an instrument.” 
As the evening progressed, Bishop began the second movement: a slow and sensual adagio.  Once more, David found himself transported by the artistry with which Bishop conveyed the depth of the composition, and again David found himself struggling to maintain his focus and not lose himself in the music.  After the third and final movement, the crowd jumped to its feet.  Amidst the enthusiastic applause were resounding calls of "Bravo!" from some of the patrons.  Including, David noted with pleasure, the two men and one woman seated in the Somers’s box.
The audience was satisfied with no fewer than four bows, each time calling back both soloist and conductor to the stage with more cheers and applause.  As they walked back and forth across the stage for each bow, David watched with interest, half-expecting Bishop to react as a rock star might and toss an article of clothing to his adoring fans.  He did nothing of the sort, instead bowing with surprising grace and maintaining the decorum expected from a soloist performing with a world-renowned symphony orchestra.  David noticed that rather than basking in the glow of the audience’s response, Bishop appeared slightly ill at ease with the adulation, although he smiled personably and with genuine appreciation.
After the final bow, David followed Bishop offstage.  He had intended to retreat to his dressing room, but several fans already crowded the wings, blocking the way.  Irritated by the lack of security, David attempted to walk around the gathering crowd by taking a path through the wings instead of directly out to the corridor.  Several orchestra members milled about, clearly anxious to congratulate Bishop on his performance.  Seeing David, they nodded in a formal manner—they had long since learned that the he did not wish to be disturbed after a performance.  David returned each gesture with a curt nod, sidestepping the approaching fans before slipping out the door and into the hallway.
He closed the door behind him and looked up into a pair of dark eyes.  Bishop, it appeared, had also sought to avoid the backstage chaos.  He smiled at David, holding his violin and bow in his right hand.  “Maestro,” he said.  Transferring his instrument to his left hand, he offered his right hand to David.  The casual warmth of the gesture took David aback—he was used to being the one to initiate such contact with the orchestra’s guest artists.
They shook hands in silence.  There was a moment’s hesitation before David withdrew his hand and said, "We appreciate your willingness to fill in at the last minute."
"It was my pleasure," the violinist murmured.  He watched David as if unsure what to make of him.  "I've played the concerto a few times, although never with such a skillful conductor."
David, accustomed to compliments, remained unmoved.  "Thank you."
Bishop shifted inelegantly on his feet.  "Listen," he said, "we're having a little party at my place.  Just a few friends, a couple of beers, that sort of thing.  Nothin' fancy.  Would you like to join us?"
"I appreciate the invitation, but I’m expected at a donors’ party in a few minutes."
"No problem." Bishop smiled and nodded.  "I understand." 
Was that disappointment David saw in the other man’s face?  Unlikely.  He’s relieved.  Besides, can you see yourself at a party with a few friends and a ‘couple of beers’?  He’s just trying to be kind.  Then, realizing that his response had been quite rude, David said, "Perhaps another ti—"  His words were cut short by shouts and giggles as two teenage girls launched themselves at Bishop, nearly knocking his violin from his hand. 
David stepped backward to avoid the onslaught and almost collided with a woman with long blond hair who swooped in to protect Bishop from the girls.  The girlfriend, no doubt.  Time to leave.  He turned and strode quickly down the hallway to his dressing room, closing the door and taking a deep breath on the other side.

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