Hello everyone! Today I am so excited to welcome some fabulous and talented folks to Joyfully Jay. I am joined by author Shira Anthony and cover artist Catt Ford. They were kind enough to agree to come chat with us about Shira’s Blue Notes series and the great covers. Shira also has a great giveaway to share as part of her Blue Notes Holiday Blog Tour. So please join me in giving them a big welcome!
Hi guys, thank you so much for taking the time to come talk with us today!
Shira, before we jump in to talking about the covers, can you tell us a little bit more about the Blue Notes series?
Of course! The Blue Notes series was inspired by one of my prior incarnations: classical musician. I was a violinist for 16+ years, and after that a professional opera singer (dramatic soprano) for about 14 years. My mother’s a harpsichordist and former pianist, and my sister is a former cellist. My dad is tone-deaf, but loves to joke around that he can play CDs with the best of them!
I gave up my music career when I started a family in the late 1990s, and that loss had always haunted me. In fact, I’ve come to realize that giving up music was very similar to the loss of a loved one, with definite stages of grief and recovery. Writing this series has been cathartic for me, in many ways, and writing about music has inspired my muse!
In 2010, while I was editing my first Dreamspinner Press book (The Dream of a Thousand Nights), I took a trip to Paris. I’d lived in France as a teenager, and while I spent a great deal of time editing, I also began to imagine a story about an American who runs away to Paris to escape the reality of his life (cheating fiancée, unfulfilling job, unresolved grief over having given up his dreams of becoming a classical pianist). He meets the love of his life in Paris: a jazz violinist he hears play with his trio. That story was Blue Notes, the first story in the series.
While I was writing Blue Notes, I had in mind a short story I’d co-written with my friend and fellow Dreamspinner Press author, Venona Keyes. That story eventually became Prelude (Blue Notes #4). I wrote the characters of David and Alex into Blue Notes, knowing I’d write their full story later. Then another character appeared at the end of Blue Notes (Sam Ryan), and I realized I was writing a series. Funny thing, how characters pull you in like that!
The Blue Notes novels are meant to be standalone stories and can be read in any order. Secondary characters often have their stories told in later books. In fact, I’ve backtracked chronologically in the latest two books in the series, to tell stories that took place before the original book. Each book takes place in what I call my “classical music universe” and each story is heavily character and relationship-driven. I try to write “real” men and relationships, and my characters are often based upon some of the men I knew when I was performing.
Although not all characters are musicians, they are connected in some way to some or all of the characters in previous books. It’s a wonderful way for me to revisit characters I’ve not wanted to leave behind (and readers tell me they like seeing their favorites turn up in other stories).
The exception to the standalone rule is the holiday novella, Symphony in Blue, to be released December 25, 2013. That novella is a direct sequel to the first four books in the series, and although I think I’ve added enough background that a new Blue Notes reader will be able to follow the plot, I recommend reading some or all of the first four series books before diving into it!
Wow, I can go on about these books, can’t I? *grins*
The newest book, Encore, has just been released. Can you give us some more details on this story and how it fits into the Blue Notes universe?
Encore, while the fifth novel in the series, is actually the first chronologically. So if you haven’t read any of the other Blue Notes series books, you can start with this one and work your way forward. In chronological order: 1) Encore, 2) Prelude, 3) Blue Notes, 4) Aria, 4.5) Symphony in Blue, 5) The Melody Thief.
Encore is my favorite book in the series so far, probably because the MCs in the story, Roger Nelson and John Fuchs, are so near and dear to my heart. Roger eventually becomes a violin teacher and teaches Alex Bishop (crossover violinist in Prelude). John becomes a world-renowned conductor and mentor to David Somers (conductor/composer in Prelude). The book spans about 40 years, starting from when Roger and John meet in high school in the early 1970s. It’s a coming of age love story and, later, an adult love story. Best of both worlds, I guess you could say!
Although they’re a little older than I am, John and Roger lived through much of the same history I did, including the war in Vietnam and the AIDS epidemic. I knew men like John and Roger. Some of them died far too young. Others were firmly in the closet and struggled to stay there. Others came out and suffered because of society’s hatred of gay men. Things in 2013 are far from perfect when it comes to gay rights and acceptance, but the 1970s and 80s were far more difficult.
Roger and John are modern day star-crossed lovers. The book chronicles their love and their struggles. There is a happily-ever-after for these two wonderful men, but it’s hard-won.
Catt, you have designed the rest of the covers in the series after the first (Anne Cain did Blue Notes). Was it difficult to pick up and follow the style and design concept set out by another artist?
It’s always a challenge to do so, particularly if you don’t have the opportunity to interview the original (and very talented) artist to see what she had planned for the series, should she have known it was going to be one. I analyzed the elements of the first cover, from graphic design to emotional impact and that helped me form guidelines to proceed.
Even when the men depicted have quirky or mischievous smiles, there is a poignant, wistful quality to these covers that I like. It’s always a challenge creating something from stock photography because you can’t art direct a photo shoot to get exactly what you want.
Shira is a great author to work with because she supplies insightful suggestions that are very valuable in the photo search.
What originally inspired this interview is the cover for the Encore. I was intrigued by the photo that shows the younger version of Roger and John. I was so amazed at how similar the younger men in the photo and the older models look to one another and I assumed the images had been manipulated to look alike. Can you tell us more about this particular cover, how it was developed, and your inspiration?
Shira is the one who found the photos and she did a great job selecting models with similar bone structure and proportions, without even knowing she was doing it! I overlaid the photos with the opacity reduced so I could compare the models. They matched so well in proportion and facial structure the only manipulation required was to the hair and clothing.
Shira had requested that I show the models both at younger and older ages. The challenge to me was how to communicate at a glance that they were same couple at different stages, not four random people hooking up.
Because the story covered a long history, I thought of using an older looking photo frame to communicate that we were looking into the past. I desaturated the colour of the teenage boys so it would look like a treasured snapshot that had faded but brought back memories of a time when they felt the first flush of attraction and love. A happier time leading to the time apart and then finally, back together where they belong.
Catt, you are an author as well as a popular cover designer. Can you tell us a bit about balancing the two different roles and you got started designing?
I find it difficult to balance the two. Cover deadlines have to be met and graphic artists are so ingrained to meet deadlines that covers tend to come first.
I love to write. It’s fulfilling and creative in a different way. And bossy stories are always coming to me and demanding to be written. Although there is a lot of crossover with right and left, writing and designing use different parts of the brain and sometimes it’s difficult to make the switch. If I’ve been shoveling through endless photos of men giving me the cheerful thumb’s up and finger guns, my vocabulary tends to shrink to impatient expletives.
Shira, what is next for you going forward? Do you have more planned in the Blue Notes series? How about your mermen?
As long as I have ideas for more books, I’ll keep writing the Blue Notes series. My next project is the 6th book, tentatively titled Dissonance. It features one of the secondary characters from Aria. I also have a 7th book on my radar, which features Guy, Jules Bardon’s (Blue Notes) younger brother.
I’m currently wrapping up Into the Wind, the second in the Mermen of Ea series. I’ll be submitting it to Dreamspinner Press by December 1st. The third and last book in the series, Running with the Wind, is already outlined and will be my next project after Dissonance. I have some ideas about a spinoff series as well, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. At least not yet.
If my readers would like to learn more about any of you guys, how can they find you?
- Website: www.shiraanthony.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shira.anthony
- Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4641776.Shira_Anthony
- Twitter: @WriterShira
Thank you guys so much for joining me today!
Cool kid violinist Roger Nelson doesn’t give a damn about anything. Wannabe conductor John Fuchs is awkward, effeminate, and just figuring out he’s gay. Despite their differences, they become friends—then lovers—and after college, they try to make it work. But it’s the 1970s, and Roger can’t bring himself to admit he’s gay. Worse, after his brother is killed in Vietnam, Roger tries to live up to his memory and be the perfect son. Then after suffering one tragedy too many, he makes the biggest mistake of his life: Roger pushes John away.
Through the years, they dance around the truth and in and out of each other’s lives, never quite able to let go. Twenty years later, Roger still carries the pain of losing his dream of a brilliant career with him, while John is a superstar conductor with a wild reputation. John’s off-stage antics get him plenty of attention, good and bad, though deep down, he wants only Roger. Finally determined to hold on to what really matters, Roger asks John for another chance, and when John panics and runs, Roger has to convince him to listen to his heart.
Note: Blue Notes Series novels are standalone stories and can be read in any order. “Encore” is chronologically the first in the series.
Shira is here celebrating her Blue Notes Holiday Blog Tour and has brought along a fabulous giveaway. Follow the link below to the Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to enter.
Prizes (U.S. Only):
- Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
- 1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
- 2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
- 3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choice
The contest closes at midnight on December 31st. Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. Shira will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.