I recently read and reviewed The Memorist by MJ Rose. I have since been in contact with the author and she very agreeably answered a few of my questions about her novel and her career in the publishing industry.
1. The Memorist is an intricate story of past and present lives interweaving through forgotten memories, a love of music, and history. As a sequal to The Reincarnationist, what was the inspiration for taking the novel in this direction?
A. Once upon a time, my husband and I went to Vienna on a vacation and fell in love. Not with each other – we’d already done that – but with the city.
Growing up in Manhattan you don’t bump in to history on every street corner – mostly you’re bumping into other people or great shopping or eating experiences. In New York you have to go out of your way to find 18th century history bit it’s still alive on every block in Vienna. There’s so much of it you are literally breathing it in. Arts and sciences have flourished here for centuries and whatever your passion you can visit museums, monuments and memorials to art, music, architecture, literature philosophy and psychology.
And visit them we did including making visits to homes of many famous people who’d once lived there and since my husband is a musician the trip turned out to be what I now jokingly call our Beethoven pilgrimage.
There are several of the great composer’s residences in the city proper and its environs and we visited everyone of them as well as churches, cafes and music halls he frequented. We walked the streets he walked following the routes he took and spent one day wandering the woods he wandered during the summers he spent in Baden, a spa town an hour out of the city.
But it was in the Heligenstadt house that the idea for my novel, The Memorist was born.
The house at Probusgasse 6 is in a neighborhood called Heligenstadt at the bottom of the Kahlemberg, which in Beethoven’s time was outside the city and filled with vineyards that are still growing there. And it was here at the end of the summer of 1802 that the 31-year-old Beethoven wrote the heart-wrenching Testament to his two brothers documenting his anguish at the onset of his terrible deafness.
The upstairs of this small apartment is open to the public and we walked through the ordinary rooms where he lived. Wandering over to the window I looked down at a simple courtyard where there was a single tree growing.
I stared at the gnarled, twisted trunk and the rich healthy verdant green leaves and realized that Beethoven must have once stood there and looked down at that same tree. Suddenly the composer’s ghost was standing there with me looking out the window.
Later I told my husband what I had been thinking and he said: “You’re going to write about that aren’t you?” Until that moment I hadn’t thought about it but after he said it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
At home I read several biographies about Beethoven and in one discovered the great composer had been fascinated with Eastern philosophy which includes a strong belief in reincarnation. His own notebooks contain quotes a number of passages from Bhagavad-Gita. As well as a quote from William Jones that was included in his Hymn to Narayena, We know this only, that we nothing know.
And with that piece of information the idea at the heart of my tenth novel revealed itself.
The Memorist is not about Ludwig Van Beethoven although he does play a small part in it. Rather it’s a suspense novel about a woman on a search for her own ghosts but it was Beethoven’s spirit that inspired the book and his everlasting gifts to us are at the heart of the mystery I attempeted to unravel.
2. This book is full of historical and contemporary facts about Vienna, and Beethoven. Can you tell us about the research you did for this novel? Did you visit Vienna?
I think that I answered that in #1:)
3. One of my favorite scenes is when Meer is having a memory of Marguex having a memory of Ohana. Was that scene difficult to create?
Ha. You picked the hardest scene in the whole book. I tried to cut it four times but wound up leaving it in and hoping it worked because I couldn’t figure out another way to do it:)
4. While browsing through your website, I see that you are very active as an author, a mentor and a blogger. How do you manage to juggle all of these responsibilities?
I have no earthly idea. I don’t sleep much and I work too much!
5. www.authorbuzz.com is a fantastic resource for new writers to market their works. Can you tell the readers a little bit about the website, its purpose and why you decided to start such a great service?
I stared it because as an author I needed a marketing service to help me. And since my background was in marketing I figured I’d better start it. AuthorBuzz is a marketing service that puts authors directly in touch with readers, reading groups, booksellers and librarians allowing them to offer excerpts, phone chats or visits with reading groups, material for newsletters, info about contests and freebies, mentions of new reviews — anything and everything authors want to buzz directly to the people who buy, read and sell their books.
6. Your numerous websites and blogs, Buzz, Balls & Hype as one, seem to be designed to help beginning authors really market their novels and make a name for themselves in the publishing industry. I’ve only recently started dabbing with writing, and I think your websites are great resources and answer many of the small questions that you just can’t find online. Why the strong interest in helping other writers succeed?
I think because I had such a hard time getting started and no one helped me. I think this is my karmic path 🙂