12 January 2014

Author Interview: Beverle Graves Myers

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Beverle Graves Myers  with her latest novel, WHISPERS OF VIVALDI. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. The author will offer a free hardcover copy of Whispers of Vivaldi to a lucky blog visitor - this giveaway is open only in the continental U.S.  Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Here's the blurb.
Venice, 1745—an age of reckless pleasures, playful artifice, and baroque excess.

An accident has reduced Tito Amato’s glorious singing voice to a husky croak. A tragedy—but also an opportunity. Tito can reinvent himself as a director of his beloved Teatro San Marco, staging operas to entertain the fickle Venetian populace. With his theater losing subscribers to a rival company headed by an unscrupulous impresario, the San Marco’s Maestro Torani charges Tito with locating the perfect opera to fill the seats in time for the opening of Carnival.

Surprisingly, a second-rate composer provides the very thing—an opera so replete with gorgeous melodies it might well have been written by Antonio Vivaldi, Venice’s greatest composer, dead these past four years. “Perhaps the Red Priest did write the opera,” whispers the gossip snaking through coffeehouses and cafés. Equally as disconcerting are the rumors swirling around Angeletto, a male soprano that Tito imports from Naples to sing the lead. Is this exquisite being truly a castrato? Or is he a female soprano engaging in a daring but lucrative masquerade? More terrible: Maestro Torani undergoes a series of increasingly vicious attacks ending in his murder. And Tito is accused of killing the distinguished maestro so he can become the principal director of the San Marco. Tito’s own life as well as the future of Teatro San Marco now depends on his skills as a sleuth.

**Author Interview with Beverle Graves Myers**

What led you to write historical novels? 

I’ve always been fascinated by people’s life stories, especially people in distant times and places. I was drawn to history in college, not to the political aspect, but to learn what daily life was like for villagers who lived through the Black Plague or Parisians who struggled to survive the French Revolution. I dreamed of teaching by day and writing by night, but I was also interested in psychology and the forces that pushed people toward mystifying behavior. A stint in medical school and a ten-year career in psychiatry followed. Unfortunately, I found psychiatry more interesting in theory than in practice. It took a while to work back to my original dream of writing. 

What has your career in mental health brought to your writing? 

If everything is truly grist for the mill, I certainly stored up a lot of grain practicing psychiatry in a public mental health clinic. I took care of patients suffering depression, psychotic breaks, and paralyzing anxiety attacks, as well as simply coping with the stress of today’s world. Destructive family relationships were everywhere, so it’s no accident that my protagonist has a host of relatives that bedevil him at every turn. Each of my books has also ended up including at least one character that has a full blown psychiatric problem. My protagonist’s sister has Tourette’s syndrome, a condition that my 18th-century characters find deeply disturbing and mysterious.  

Tito Amato is certainly an unusual sleuth. What gave you the idea to use a castrato soprano? 

I fell in love with Anne Rice’s CRY TO HEAVEN back when it first came out in the 1980s, in her pre-vampire days. I always thought what a great mystery novel I could do with the same milieu—the castrato singers who were forced into unimaginable sacrifice to preserve their golden soprano voices and entertain the rich and powerful. The idea stayed with me even though it was a good ten years before I began writing INTERRUPTED ARIA, Tito’s first adventure. That decision also allowed me to indulge my longtime love of opera. 

Why Venice? 

Venice, Naples, and Rome were the three great centers of early opera. No contest—Venice won! In the 18th-century, Venice had lost her lucrative trade routes and reinvented herself as the pleasure capital of Europe—the Las Vegas of the era. Foreigners flocked to the six-month Carnival and reveled in the anonymity its masks provided. Romantic pursuits and frivolity existed alongside the darkest intrigue. I couldn’t think of a riper setting for a murder mystery. And Tito was right in the middle of it all, because opera and its stars were THE popular entertainment of the day. His status as a castrato singer also gives him a unique perspective. He is both feted and marginalized because of his condition. 

Have you been inspired by any particular authors? 

For a long time, my favorite historical mystery authors were Elizabeth Peters and Steven Saylor. I love the way their sleuths, accompanied by friends, family and associates, grow and change throughout their series. I also enjoy learning about Egyptology and the ancient Roman Republic in a painless, enjoyable way. Lately I’ve been enjoying Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series and the Dido Kent mysteries of Anna Dean. 

Is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers of Unusual Historicals? 

Only an invitation to get to know Tito Amato. You don’t have to be an opera fan or even a music lover to enjoy this series that now runs to six books. If you like well-plotted historical mysteries with an engaging sleuth and a vivid setting, give Tito a try.

Beverle Graves Myers is the author of the Tito Amato Mystery series and co-author (with Joanne Dobson) of Face of the Enemy, a mystery set during World War II. More information can be found on her website: 

She’s also on Twitter and Facebook: