Please join me in welcoming Suzanne Tierney to Tessa Talks Books with her insightful look at the importance of music in her writing.
LOVERS BENEATH A HARVEST MOON
by Suzaane Tierney
I once read that Agatha Christie plotted her novels in her bathtub while eating apples. Another author, I want to say it was Hugo or Kafka, but I honestly can’t remember, used to have his wife TIE HIM TO HIS WRITING CHAIR. I am pleased to report, I neither eat in the bathtub nor need to be tied down. What I do need, however, is a song. Not just any song, I need the PERFECT song. For every key scene. And sometimes, I need more than one version of the song. Admittedly, I spend a lot of time falling down rabbit holes in search of inspiration. But I never regret it, because when I find the right song, everything – words, images, dialogue, emotions, all flow.
In Blooms of War, the hero and heroine, Nick and Vera share two dances, one that marks the beginning of their romance, one that marks the end. Their first dance takes place in the woods, beside a lake, beneath a full moon:
“Truly. I have never known a creature to move like you. As if you only have two speeds. Full-tilt run and absolute stillness.” He bows to me, a gallant gentleman in coattails kind of dip. “I should like to know, Miss Vera-not-Vera, do you have any other speeds?”
According to the beat of my heart, I do not. “We have no music.”
“We have the moon.”
His answer makes no sense. The moon does not have a bow and strings. It makes no sound that reaches the ears of mere mortals. And yet. . .
The song that brought me fully into this scene was Melissa Greener’s version of “Harvest Moon.” It is sweet and soulful, it speaks of beginnings and hope.
The second dance Nick and Vera share takes place in the dankness of a prison infirmary, the day before Nick will be sentenced for murder. Vera at last understands Nick’s choice in confessing to the crime and between them grows an aching sadness. This moment may be their last together. What do you say when there is so much you need to say? And so much you can’t?
“I want to dance.” He takes my right hand into his, spins me around.
My left hand comes up to rest on his shoulder. I inhale the sour scent that comes from living in dank prison quarters and caring for influenza-stricken men. I hold on, tight, tight, tight. “We have no music.”
“We have the moon,” he answers.
Less than a year ago, we danced thus, beside a lake on a warm summer’s night, where I pointed out we had no orchestra and Nick joked the moon was our music. Nonsensical then, nonsensical now. Still, our bodies move to the memory of a song created by the shuffle of our feet on forest earth, the breeze through the trees, the giving over of our hearts.
For this, much sadder and painful scene, I went back to “Harvest Moon,” but this time, relied on the throaty, achy, Neil Young version. I wrote through tears.
But I would much rather cry through a scene than be tied to a chair!
If you’re interested, I’ve compiled the songs behind Blooms of War into a Youtube Playlist for your listening pleasure: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZAQzR8c7tFQOGTMCkrrNWrAt7yC5qoFh
About the Book
In war, she fell in love.
Vera Betts shouldn’t be falling in love with the enigmatic doctor she suspects of espionage. Reeling from her family’s betrayal, she’s faked her nursing credentials, invented a new name, and run away to the frontlines of the French battlefield. Four years into the Great War and she knows who she is and what she’s meant for—to save the living and sit vigil by the dying. When the cagey-yet-earnest Dr. Nicholas Wallace arrives, so do mysterious explosions destroying hospitals. Even as Nick raises her suspicions, he lowers her defenses. He wants the war to end. Are his acts of sabotage politically motivated or a desperate attempt at peace?
In peace, she fell apart.
A year later, Vera is back with her oppressive family, living under her real name, and Nick is on trial for murder. Trapped in grief and guilt, she cannot speak about the past and does not believe in the future. With Nick refusing to defend himself, she ventures to London to understand why he is so willing to embrace the hangman’s noose. Who is he trying to protect? What secrets does he plan to carry to his grave? And why does Nick insist upon hiding her true identity? To save the man she loves, Vera must tear open the past and confront the tragic price for peace.
About the Author
Writer of lush, historical happily-ever-after tales, Suzanne Tierney believes in true love. But she takes delicious pleasure in making her characters fight, flutter, and find their way to each other. Her books have won numerous awards and she has twice been a Golden Heart Finalist® with the Romance Writers of America.
Suzanne grew up in Oregon, adulted in the San Francisco Bay Area, and somehow ended up in Florida, where she is very much a cold-water fish learning to navigate humid, salty seas. She loves chatting with readers.
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