They say all first novels are part memoir, and indeed I did grow up in Belleville, New Jersey, my family did spend our summers on Cape Cod, and I had a marvelous cello teacher who very much resembled Alphius Metcalf. It took me a long time to write WATER MUSIC; in some ways, my whole life.
Growing up with parents who were both musicians, I set out, with a little goading from my father, to be the best cellist I could be. In fact, I was lucky to have had a number of remarkable teachers: Orlando Cole, revered cellist and pedagogue, who saw enough early promise in me to accept me to his class at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where I received my Bachelor of Music degree. It was an incredible break for an unsophisticated girl from New Jersey. I remember him and his generous sense of decency and gentlemanly kindness with great affection and gratitude.
My luck continued when I spent two years studying in Germany in the Master Class of the renowned Italian cellist, Antonio Janigro. Since then I’ve spent my musical career with the Minnesota Orchestra, where I met and married the handsome fourth horn player. And where my formidable colleagues, incredibly, only get better and better and better.
I’ve spent my summers with the Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming, renewing ties with musician friends from around the world (and catching up on industry gossip). There, over the years, I also learned the pleasures of backpacking. I came to fancy myself a mycologist, but in truth I’ve become so rusty that I now limit myself to store-bought and the occasional Morel foraged on a really good day.
The first book I truly fell in love with was Blue Willow by Doris Gates. I must have been in grammar school. I believe that the beloved china plate in that book finds its echo in WATER MUSIC. A college boyfriend got me reading The Lord of the Rings, which I uncharacteristically found bewitching, and T.S. Eliot, which I tried with only marginal success to memorize. Around that time I discovered The Lives and Times of Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis. And Mahler’s Tenth. Yes. Eclectic.
My own writing life snuck up on me. It first manifested as a journal after my daughter was born. She tolerated my reading to her for a charitably long time, but she put her foot down when I suggested Watership Down, which by then she was perfectly capable of reading herself. Two of my favorites from her early days: Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger and A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams.
Books I’ve loved as an adult…way too many to name. But The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy made a huge impression on me. And A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I used to go on kicks: John Gardner, Wallace Stegner, Steinbeck, the ancient Greece novels by Mary Renault. Now the stack grows higher and higher.
Pet peeve: incorrect direct object pronouns. In fact my friends would call me a grammar nerd, but I still get lay and lie wrong.
Growing up, I was a cat person. But I’ve learned to love dogs—even the naughty ones, maybe especially the naughty ones.
All in all, I look for the rhythms and sounds of music echoed in language and aspire to transpose some of that into my writing.