A musical masterpiece becomes the central focus of a novel
What sparks an author to write a book? Especially a novel-cum true story like Musick for the King.
Is there something the author wants the reader to know? Is it that we yearn to tell a story?
In my case, my entire career in journalism, broadcasting and public relations has been spent telling other peoples’ stories. I began my novel-writing career so I could tell my stories; the ones I wanted to tell and, more specifically, the ones I wanted to read.
After writing three all-fictional suspense thrillers, I knew I had to tell the story of the musical genius who’d fallen from the heights of fame and fortune to the depths of illness, poverty and despair and how he struggled, fighting internal and external demons to climb back to the zenith and public adulation once again. It was a combination of both telling my story and telling someone else’s story.
Musick for the King is the dramatic tale of George Frederick Handel one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time. He was the King’s favourite (King George II) and his rise from the pits back to the zenith is the story of his greatest composition and masterpiece, Messiah.
Messiah is one of the most famous and beloved classical music pieces. People who don’t know or appreciate classical music, still are familiar with the Hallelujah Chorus and some of the other powerful numbers in the oratorio. It is performed by choirs and orchestras around the world. It has become a Christmas staple. For many, Christmas would not be Christmas without mistletoe and Messiah!
There are so many interesting pieces to the incredible true story. A very dysfunctional Royal family, a huge public sex scandal, obstinate opposition from the official church, treacherous attempts to destroy his reputation and so much more. I wonder if it doesn’t reflect our own society—stars created, destroyed and then restored, shunning those you disapprove of and trying to undermine them, a fickle public that bounces from one “like” to another. It’s all there.
When such a dramatic story is handed to you, it is difficult to create a fictional piece around it. The old saying that truth is stranger than fiction is most certainly true in this case. So the fiction in this story is the byplay around the central characters; the juicy real people as well as the supplemental—but equally juicy—fictional individuals who populate Musick for the King.
I wanted to create a book that takes you back in time not just with words, but with a feel. Thus, like Messiah, the book is broken into three parts. Each part and chapter follows the old-fashioned approach of previewing (as I did in the header to this blog).
It created an interesting challenge for me as an author. I had to be true to the known facts, to deal with historic people, situations and times. I had to tell a compelling story with real and fictional characters, that would interest and hopefully move and inspire the reader.
From reader responses so far, it seems I have achieved that, and I am pleased and grateful.
The trouble is that with research, writing, re-writing and editing, Musick for the King took several years, crammed as it all was between my other writing projects.
Handel however, took only 24 days to compose his masterpiece.
I’ve got a long, long way to go!