A former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her musical works.
Haydn Series: ntustin.com
Haydn Blog: ntustin.com/blog
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in India, which also means that I was raised on a staple of British and European Literature. I suppose that's one of the reasons I can identify with the curious notion that the city is the center of life. I can sympathize with Haydn's desire to be in Vienna rather than in the backwaters of Eisenstadt, a small town in Royal Hungary, or Eszterháza, practically a village, some twenty miles distant from Eisenstadt.
Being married to an American now, I also completely understand Haydn's employer's aversion for the city. Prince Nikolaus Esterházy liked nothing better than to stay in the tiny, remote, marsh-ridden village of Eszterháza. The hunting lodge he owned there was converted into a magnificent palace with its own opera house. The Eszterháza Palace is still known as the Hungarian Versailles. That's the backdrop you see on the cover of A Minor Deception.
When did you begin writing?
I suppose from the age of about six. Creative writing—spontaneously writing a story or essay based on a prompt the teacher gave you—was a weekly, if not daily, activity at the school I attended. And I loved it. My stories, essays, and poems were frequently read out in class. I was published in the school magazine, and served as its editor in my last couple of years.
Later as a graduate student at UConn, I began selling freelance articles and short stories and wrote articles promoting events for the Von der Mehden Recital Hall. A few years later, I began working for CNBC, and then Reuters.
I'm not sure I'd ever have considered writing novels if it hadn't been for two people I encountered at UConn. One was the author Scott Bradfield. He taught a creative writing workshop that I took, and although we work-shopped short stories, he suggested I consider writing novels. That advice stayed with me, although for the longest time I had no idea what to write about.
And if it weren't for Janice Law, another mystery writer and one of my professors at UConn, telling students that we ought to write what we love, I doubt I'd have considered writing a mystery. I'd still be trying to write the Great American Novel!
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
I have three young children—the oldest turns five on the 24th of January—and the youngest is about 18 months. So, I write when I can. I've often woken up at 5 a.m. to write for an hour before getting the kids ready for preschool. Sometimes, I write after the kids go to bed. At other times, I'm writing while the rest of the family is eating dinner. And then there are times when my muse insists I ignore the temper tantrums around me, and just write.
What is this book about?
Set in December 1766, A Minor Deception is a biographical mystery that features the composer Joseph Haydn as the protagonist. Although winters were usually spent in Vienna, the winter of 1766 is unusual. The Empress Maria Theresa will be visiting Eisenstadt instead.
But things threaten to go awry when a virtuoso violinist, recently hired for the imperial visit, disappears from his post. Replacing Bartó, however, is the least of Haydn's problems.
Both palace and town authorities are surprisingly reluctant to track Bartó down. And when Haydn begins his search, he comes to realize his violinist was a man with a deadly secret. What seemed like a minor musical mishap could turn into a major political crisis unless Haydn can find his missing virtuoso.
What inspired you to write it?
I'd been reading a number of biographical mysteries—Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen series, Susan Wittig Albert's Beatrix Potter mysteries, and Bruce Alexander's series about John Fielding. And I'd just come out of a Ph.D. program, and, as a new mother, was pretty much confined to the house with a baby with severe acid reflux disease.
Researching a historical mystery seemed the best way to keep boredom at bay. I love classical music, so researching a composer appealed to me. It was a way of keeping up with my music—by reading about music history and studying theory—at a time when I had very little time for the piano.
Haydn's story and his personality quite simply captured my heart.
Who is your favorite character from the book?
Apart from Haydn, I'd have to say Rosalie. She's a completely fictitious character, a palace maid who along with her friend Greta helps Haydn solve the mystery.
Like Venus rising from the sea, Rosalie sprung from my imagination, fully formed. Not content with the rather minor role I gave her in the first draft of A Minor Deception, she demanded and received her own POV (point-of-view) and scenes of her own.
Her role provides the cozy element in A Minor Deception, and the downstairs dynamic the book gets as a result enables me to portray the complexity of eighteenth-century society. Social mobility wasn't quite as impossible as we consider it to be. Haydn himself rose up the ranks by virtue of his talents. His mother was a cook, and his father a wheelwright.
Gluck was another musician of the period who did very well for himself. And Ditters, a virtuoso violinist and friend of Haydn, was knighted, and came to be known as Ditters von Dittersdorf.
Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?
Surprisingly less rocky than I would have expected, although anything worth having, I think, involves some pain. When I prematurely queried the first draft of A Minor Deception, based on what I'd heard, I expected to hear. . . crickets. Seriously! Imagine my surprise when I received requests for my manuscript within minutes of sending out my query.
One agent was kind enough to call, and tell me what was going wrong with the manuscript. I took down notes as she spoke, but her advice was rather cryptic. And it took some weeks of watching the Murdoch Mystery Series on television before I realized what she meant by beginning with the "story."
We tend to be less tolerant of extraneous scenes in television shows than we do in books. And I'd begun the novel with backstory!
I used the agent's advice, a developmental editor's identification of plot holes, and Kris Neri's course on plotting mysteries to re-write the novel, and knew I had a winner. That impression was confirmed when I started re-querying agents. Even agents who thought the book wasn't for them, predicted it would be a huge success.
I hope it will. I feel so blessed to have endorsements from my favorite authors: Emily Brightwell, Kate Kingsbury, and Amanda Carmack. My very first Netgalley review was resoundingly positive. So, I think I've been very fortunate.
If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?
I'm actually glad I knew nothing about the publishing world when I started out. I never would have embarked on this journey if I had. Just as I would never have had children if I'd known how tough it is to be a parent.
But I can't imagine life without my children, and I can't imagine not being a writer.
There are some hard truths you have to accept when you become a writer—that it's a business and you need to market and promote your books in addition to writing them. I accept this part of it just as I accept my children's temper tantrums and frequent bouts of ill-health. No matter what the trials and tribulations, some dreams are still worth having.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
Print copies are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Ebooks can be purchased from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks.
Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?
No. What I have is a text trailer, by which I mean a series of 10-12 excerpts that I worked on for another blog tour. I think it's a fun way of giving the reader a tantalizing glimpse into the book. Selecting scenes from a book is rather like selecting scenes from a movie to create a trailer. The excerpts still need to form a narrative of some kind. I enjoyed working on this, and I hope readers will enjoy it, too.
What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?
The biggest challenge facing a new author is exposure. People can't buy your book unless they know it exists. There are a number of effective strategies available to authors: Goodreads Giveaways, a Netgalley listing, and guest-blogging for fellow authors.
But the most enjoyable one, I think, is going on a blog tour. This is probably the best way of meeting new readers short of having an event in a bookstore. And it's so much fun. Amy Bruno, who organized this tour, has been such a pleasure to work with. And I do like blogging.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
I was going to say: "Don't give up!" But a better piece of advice I think would be to join Sisters in Crime, and then to join the Guppy Chapter. I'd never heard of either until Susan Wittig Albert mentioned them to me. I'm so glad she did. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for that very sage piece of advice.
What is up next for you?
Aria to Death, the second novel in the Joseph Haydn series, is complete. It delivers a double-dose of history with Haydn on the track of a dangerous killer as well as the lost operas of Monteverdi.
I've now begun researching Prussian Counterpoint, the third book in the series. We'll meet C.P.E. Bach, the man Haydn counted as his mentor and Frederick of Prussia.
I also want to get some composing done before it's time to launch Aria.
Is there anything you would like to add?
For readers more interested in Haydn and his life, I'd suggest taking a look at my blog: ntustin.com/blog. I share snippets of my research and anecdotes from his life. I also share music and research in the Haydn newsletters. You can sign up from my web site: www.ntustin.com. And for anyone interested in listening to my music, the sheet music tab on ntustin.musicaneo.com has audio samples.
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, January 16
Review at Bibliotica
Tuesday, January 17
Interview at The Book Connection
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, January 18
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Thursday, January 19
Guest Post at A Literary Vacation
Friday, January 20
Interview at Dianne Ascroft's Blog
Sunday, January 22
Review at Laura's Interests
Monday, January 23
Review at Luxury Reading
GiveawayTo win a paperback copy of A Minor Deception, please enter via the Gleam form below.
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A Minor Deception