The event that changed everything happened while I was standing in the Mozart family home in Salzburg in the summer of 2004. In truth, I was only half-listening to the guide, being very close to tourist-information overload. Yet one statement ignited my weary brain: Most people don’t know this, but Mozart’s sister was just as talented as he was, but because she was a woman, she had little chance to fully develop her talent. That one statement stayed with me all the way home to the States.
At the time I was putting together a proposal for a contemporary novel. Because of the tour guide’s comment, I got the idea to have one of my characters write a book called “Mozart’s Sister”. My agent sent the proposal to publishers.
Within days we got a call from Dave Horton, who was then the lead editor at Bethany House Publishers. “I don’t want the contemporary book, I want the book the character is writing: Mozart’s Sister, an historical book about the sister’s life.”
“I want Mozart’s Sister. In her point-of-view.”
“But I don’t write in first-person, in one person’s point-of-view throughout an entire book. I write big-cast novels in third person.”
“I want Mozart’s Sister.”
“I hate research.”
“I want Mozart’s Sister.”
Well then. He seemed so sure, so excited. I couldn’t ignore him—actually, I could, but I didn’t.
The rest is . . . history, and over the next few years I was blessed to delve into the lives of Nannerl Mozart, Jane Austen, Martha Washington, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Also, as often happens when God offers us an opportunity and we say “yes”, it turned out to be the best experience of my writing life. And, irony of ironies, as I sat in my office with four reference books opened before me, I even found that I enjoyed the research. Imagine that.
Interesting thing about research. To find out a simple fact—like what a telegram looked like in 1896—I’d come across all sorts of neat tidbits. For instance, some people believed telegrams could be miraculous. One woman in Prussia in 1870 came to her town’s telegram office with a dish of food and wanted it telegraphed to her son who was a solider fighting against France. She was, of course, told it was impossible. But she countered that she’d heard of soldiers being dispatched to the war’s front lines via a telegram, so why couldn’t they send sauerkraut.
That’s priceless—but also not usable in my story. In comparing notes with my dear friend and fellow writer Stephanie Grace Whitson, she too had loads of fun facts of history. And so… here we are, sharing those footnotes from history with you, and also sharing the pieces of history that have inspired us to write our novels in the first place.
"For most of history, Anonymous was a woman."