Why I Wrote What I Wrote… by Anstey Harris
My main character, Grace, first appeared in a very different novel about ten years ago. Even in that very first incarnation – when Grace was very different to how she is now – she had Nadia by her side (and Nadia was always fierce, loyal, and furious – just as she is now). Mr Williams invited himself to the party. One day, when I was writing The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton, he knocked on the door of the shop. I had no idea who he was, I just knew that Grace needed to open the door to him – needed him – and he grew from there.
I love the way that Grace, Nadia and Mr Williams all live surrounded by music, that classical music fills all their days and marks all their special moments. I think that sometimes we don’t know where to ‘start’ with classical music and that can exclude us from it. Like so many things, if it wasn’t in our homes growing up or it wasn’t presented well to us at school, we don’t engage with it. I think there’s nowhere better to start than a playlist. It’s as simple as going onto Radio 3, Classic FM, or Google, and typing in ‘best classical music’. The same pieces will come up over and over: Pachelbel’s Canon, Air on a G String, Eine Kleine Nacht Musik. They pop up because they’re considered to be the best – we don’t need to ask why or who by. And here’s the thing: you don’t have to know what they are to enjoy them – or who wrote them – any more than anyone would expect you to name every top 40 hit for the last twenty years. For me, the best tunes are the ones I can hum along to: they’ve been in films; adverts; pop songs. That makes them a part of our everyday culture and means that the days of elitism in classical music – our picture of people in tail coats or fancy dresses – is over. Classical music belongs to us, all of us, and it always has. We’ve put together a playlist for Grace’s favourite music. Have a listen, it’s as good a place to start as any.
I believe Grace when she says that Paris, more than any other city, knows about love. There is something so special about that city, about the way that it exists in the imagination of the world and is linked – so permanently – to romance. Perhaps it’s the architecture and the art, maybe it’s the food and the music, or perhaps it’s just the way the river runs through it, constantly changing, but always there. The history and passion of Paris is written on its walls, is in the chatter of the people and the rumble of the traffic. The food, the language, the biting cold and hot sun: there is so much to fall in love with in Paris.
Cremona is such a contrast. It is a tiny city, subtle and quiet, but its history reaches every corner of the world. There is a brilliant exhibit in the new Museo del Violino in the city that shows the violin’s slow leak out of northern Italy and how it began to pop up all over the world. Violins and stringed instruments, just as much as Paris, are a universal symbol of romance, love, and art. Putting the three together – Paris, violins, music – was an instant prompt to write about lost love, broken hearts, and – due to the support of friends – a triumphant resurrection.