The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Virginia Burges

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Virginia Burges


Summary: Rebecca thought that The Virtuoso was a sensitive portrayal of a life in transition. She had quite a few questions when author Virginia Burges popped into Bookbag Towers.
Date: 12 February 2015
Interviewer: Rebecca Foster
Reviewed by Rebecca Foster

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Rebecca thought that The Virtuoso was a sensitive portrayal of a life in transition. She had quite a few questions when author Virginia Burges popped into Bookbag Towers.

  • Bookbag: Close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Virginia Burges: I see people of all ages, backgrounds and interests, who share a love of captivating stories, and especially with an appreciation of classical music, (at least with my debut novel). Story telling has inspired human beings for millennia, and is a fantastic medium for imparting experiences and knowledge. Even my children love their bedtime story and won't let me say good night before I've read to them! Emotions, like music, are a universal language, and so writing felt like a natural way for me to contribute my talents to society and hopefully add something valuable to readers' lives.

  • BB: You, too, have been a classical violinist. To what extent is Isabelle's story also your story – or perhaps your dream?

VB: I think there's probably a small amount of vanity at play - I would love to have had the talent to be able to enrapture audiences from the stage as a soloist - but as that's not my reality, I had to make it up! Unfortunately I didn't start to learn the violin until I was eleven, which was too late really to make a go of it as a career. But it became a passion for me and has always been with me in my life, through good times and bad. To a large extent Isabelle's story is my story, only I ramped up the ante massively for Isabelle. In a recent blog post (The Path to Publication) I told the story of a childhood accident, namely losing the top of my right index finger in the hinge of a door at school, and how that experience surfaced many years later to give me the idea of the premise for The Virtuoso.

  • BB: Isabelle goes through some rather awful experiences. Did you ever feel guilty or godlike for putting so much on your character?

VB: That's a great question. Being the creator of a story definitely feels like playing God to your characters, you get to decide their fate. Fiction requires that the main character has to deal with conflict and tension, and it has to be a big enough challenge for people to be able to relate to and remain interested in, during the journey to resolution, or at least some sort of closure. I don't feel guilty, because the greater the suffering the greater the victory. It was quite a cathartic experience for me though, as I translated my own past troubles into fiction for Isabelle.

  • BB: Do you share Isabelle's love for Beethoven, or is there another composer who has a special place in your heart?

VB: I definitely do share Isabelle's love for Beethoven! For me, he is the greatest composer that ever lived. You could say that I imbibed Beethoven's music from a very early age, as I was exposed to his music in my mother's womb! My mum played the piano (mostly the Moonlight Sonata, plus other piano works by Beethoven, Chopin and Schubert), when she was pregnant with me, and I grew up listening to classical music. I also have a love of Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi and Rachmaninoff.

  • BB: Parts of the book take place in Madeira, Vienna, New York City, and Australia. How did you choose these particular settings?

VB: They are all places that I have visited at some point in my life, and have special significance to me. Vienna in particular has a special place in my heart. I'm actually half Australian, and I worked for Qantas from the mid nineties until 2001, so I travelled to Australia many times. I wanted to be able to do justice to the locations in the novel so I chose ones that I knew and loved.

  • BB: Hortense is such a fun character. What was your inspiration for her?

VB: Thank you! I wanted Hortense to be a larger than life character, the embodiment of all that I aspire to be. She's much more extroverted than Isabelle. Elements of her character have also been based on some of my closest friends.

  • BB: Isabelle decides to pour her love of music into a charity foundation to help underprivileged children take up an instrument. What difference do you think music can make in people's lives, especially children's?

VB: Music has such a healing power. Precisely because there are no words, only tones consisting of a mixture of pitches and silence that carry a listener into a kind of meditative state, creating relaxation, inspiration or many different moods, depending on the type of music and the individual's subjective experience. The same notes filtered through our own perception means we all get what we need from music. Studies have shown that listening to classical music (and especially learning to play an instrument) is vital to a child's all-round development, citing improvements in concentration, learning ability, creativity, academic performance self-esteem and happiness. I wrote a blog on this very subject! The Importance of a Musical Education

  • BB: The novel's conclusion is presented through a radio show set one year after the main events. Why did you decide to end the book this way?

VB: I felt it was important to have some space between Isabelle and her trauma, for her to be able to look back on how far she had come and also leave some ongoing story for the reader to fill in.

  • BB: What other books might you recommend for classical music lovers, or for those who would like to learn more about it?

VB: I really enjoyed Vikram Seth's beautiful novel, An Equal Music. His prose is incomparable. Other musically themed books are Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, Disturbance of the Inner Ear by Joyce Hackett, Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty and Canone Inverso by Paolo Maurensig. The films The Red Violin, Immortal Beloved, The Pianist and The Soloist are also very appealing for music lovers.

  • BB: What's next for Ginny Burges?

VB: I am currently collaborating with the concert violinist Adelia Myslov and the film composer Tim Johnson on a unique 'theme' for The Virtuoso, to create music that captures the essence of Isabelle and her story. Once it has been recorded it will be available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon, along with the novel. Once the first paperback print run is done my next task is to organise a book launch. Aside from my marketing for The Virtuoso I blog regularly on and I have now begun work on my next novel, which will be a taut psychological thriller...

  • BB: There's lots for us to look forward to there, Ginny. Thank you for taking the time to chat to us.

You can read more about Virginia Burges here.

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