This week’s featured author is Roma Calatayud-Stocks. Ms. Calatayud-Stocks is the author of the historical novel “A Song in my Heart” which is accompanied by a CD with original music score. Read our interview with Ms. Calatayud-Stocks to see what inspired her to write and compose music.
Can you begin by telling us a little bit about yourself; where you grew up, where you currently reside, family upbringing, or anything you would like our readers to know about you?
I am a novelist and songwriter and I hold Bachelors and Masters Degrees from the University of Minnesota. I was born to Mexican parents who had a great appreciation for the arts. My mother is an aficionado painter with an extensive classical music collection that inspired me from a young age. At ten, I began to take piano lessons; and from then on I became interested in all genres of music including classical, jazz, and popular. In 1983, I moved to Minnesota to complete my academic studies, and in line with my life passion of honoring world cultures through history, music, and the arts, I volunteered for arts organizations. I turned to a professional career in music composition and historical fiction writing. I recorded and released my debut album “Carnival of Life” in 1998 which included my own original compositions.
What inspired you to write your first book? Was it your passion of music or writing or both?
It was my passion for music that inspired “A Song in My Heart.” In 2002, I created Latin Renaissance, a celebration of Latin cultures sponsored by the Minnesota Orchestra Volunteer Association at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. I also served as Artistic Director and Producer of this concert, showcasing the work of Latin composers from the 19th Century to the present. Inspired by the musical legacy of this period in history in Minnesota and other countries around the world, I came up with the idea to write a historical novel that would incorporate several objectives. The objectives were:
- To highlight the music of composers from around the world and the role of an orchestral conductor in performing the music of composers,
- To highlight cultural contributions through history, music and the arts,
- To address many of life’s challenges as the protagonist Alejandra Stanford pursues her dream of being a symphonic conductor, and as a woman trying to earn respect in a milieu that is mostly male, and
- To set music to the entire story and compose an original musical score to complement the narrative.
Was writing something that you always wanted to do or did this come later in life?
Yes, I always wanted to write either a screenplay or a novel that would connect my musical compositions to a story. As a young child, I often wrote short stories, but it was not until later in life that I turned to historical fiction writing.
When you wrote your book “A Song in My Heart,” what message were you trying to convey to the reader? What did you want your readers to take away after reading your book and listening to your music?
It was important for the novel to be written within a compelling period in history that people would enjoy while learning about music and the arts. The narrative highlights the artistic contributions of many cultures and dozens of individuals, artists, and composers from Minnesota and around the world. It was important to address many of life’s challenges, and to convey that anything is possible with conviction and determination, regardless of the odds.
The musical score complements the narrative, and it serves to express the protagonist’s emotions and creativity throughout pivotal moments in her life. The music also enhances the various moods of different story segments as they unfold.
Since the book is set in the early 1900s, how much research did you have to do to for this book?
I did extensive music history research of the United States and other countries during the early 20th Century, history of classical, jazz, and popular music composers, and art history. I enjoyed profoundly researching for the novel, and most of the events surrounding the characters’ lives are based on true events that happened in history from the creation of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, to World War I, to the Roaring Twenties.
What was the most difficult thing about writing your book or composing the music score? Were they equal in work required to complete or was one easier than the other?
Trying to balance how much history to include in the book while keeping the story of the main character Alejandra Stanford interesting, engaging, and moving along was difficult. Writing the music was easier than writing the narrative; although, they complement each other, yet also stand alone. Choosing all the music for the novel and the chapter titles was fascinating in the way that the music was weaved into the story of Alejandra.
If you had to go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your book that you would change?
No, all the elements that were important to the telling of the story were incorporated, including giving a brief background into the main character’s childhood and her family, as this would explain the kind of person she was; her upbringing and her talents.
What was your favorite section or chapter to write and why?
Part 2 of the book because this is where the character, as a young woman, shows her determination, her interests, her loves, and her choices. Alejandra travels to some of the greatest cities of the world in pursuit of her dreams, while discovering, composing, and learning from every experience and situation she encounters. Although, other turning points in the protagonist’s life happen in Part 1 and Part 3 that determine her destiny.
What do you find most challenging about the literary world and why? Is it the writing, publishing, or the marketing?
The most challenging aspect of the literary world is the marketing because there are thousands of books being published every year, and your book has to stand out and tell a story that captures the reader’s interest and emotions. The CD/soundtrack that accompanies the narrative is a feature that made “A Song in My Heart,” unique by merging literature and music in an innovative way.
If you could have dinner and a conversation with anyone in the world (dead or alive), who would it be and why?
It would be Ludwig van Beethoven because of several reasons. First, I would want to ask him questions about his creative process, his thinking about the world around him, his emotions and experiences that inspired him to compose his sonatas, symphonies, all his music, and his characterization of work as a composer versus his work as a conductor. I would want to know how his childhood, family situation, and becoming deaf affected his music, and what were his greatest weakness, his greatest strength, and his greatest love.
What writing advice can you give our readers as they begin their first writing endeavor?
To write from the heart no matter what anybody says – to be honest with their words and thoughts and to stay firm with their goals and dreams.
Can you tell us about any books or projects that may be coming in the near future?
I am currently writing book two of this trilogy “Striking The Right Note”, which will begin in 1933, Berlin, Germany. The story of Alejandra Stanford continues…
For reviews, awards, and news, please visit the author’s website.