Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Interview with writer/composer Johanna Craven

Today’s special guest is writer/composer Johanna Craven. She’s chatting with me about her novel, Music from Standing Waves.

Johanna Craven is an Australian-born writer, pianist and film composer. Johanna has recently published her debut coming-of-age novel, Music from Standing Waves set in the 1990's Australia. She is also an avid traveler and environmental activist and is currently based in London.

Welcome, Johanna. Please tell us about your current release.
Music from Standing Waves is the story of Abby, a young violinist growing up in a tiny country town in Far North Queensland, Australia. Desperate to leave home to pursue her career, Abby throws herself into her music at the expense of relationships with family and friends. At eighteen, she is accepted into the Melbourne Conservatorium and finally has the chance to follow her dream. But when she meets fellow student, Matt, she realises that love for a person can be even more powerful than love for music. Suddenly Abby finds herself questioning everything she thought she ever wanted.

Music from Standing Waves explores themes of sacrifice, self-discovery and many different types of love.

What inspired you to write this book?
Music from Standing Waves is a combination of my two biggest passions; music and writing. I believe music has the power to shape the course of people's lives and this is something I aimed to illustrate in the book.

Excerpt from Music from Standing Waves:
I lifted the violin to my shoulder and took a deep breath. I could smell the vanilla candles Hayley was burning upstairs. They mixed with the fragrant air that floated through the open window above our heads; a breath of frangipani and rain and the sea. They were scents that had surrounded me my whole life and only now, as I prepared to leave, did I realise how beautiful they were. I swallowed hard and gripped the fingerboard.

Count in when youre ready,said Andrew.

My fingers found the notes of the first movement and wove my melody through the piano accompaniment. The arpeggios strained skyward and this time I went with them. Melbourne may not have had snow, but it rained and hailed and the leaves changed colour and fell from the trees. And Melbourne had a place for me in their Arts College. I was grateful for the darkness. Andrew couldnt see the tears rushing down my face. All I had ever wanted was coming true and there I was crying like my world was collapsing. Music had lifted me out of my present so many times, but as the notes played their final encore, a part of me desperately wanted to stay forever in the past. To stay forever playing Elgar in Andrews basement.

The motifs from the first two movements twisted through the finale. I tried to cover my tears with a choked up cough. Andrew paused on the piano. He reached into the darkness and touched my bare arm.

“You okay?” he asked.

Keep playing,” I said. “Just keep playing.Music returned to the darkness and wove through the shadows. I closed my eyes and my hearing heightened. I swam in the sounds that had always made up the orchestra of Acacia Beach. Rain on the roof, croaking frogs and the Elgar E Minor.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My current book on submission is an historical drama set in the 17th century pirate boomtown of Port Royal. I'm also in the draft stage of a book centred around a dark and little-known incident from Australia's convict past.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I made the first sale of my book.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
In addition to my work as a writer, I am also a film composer and piano teacher. I teach in the afternoons and evenings, which gives me plenty of time during the day to write words and music. I am very lucky to have such a fantastic working life!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My books are set in the recent and not-so-recent past and I find myself adopting words and phrases from my characters' dialogue. While working on Music from Standing Waves, I ended a lot of my sentences with the 90s-esque "…not". When I'm writing historical fiction, it has been pointed out to me that I overuse the word "holler" and have a tendency to speak like a seventeenth century pirate wench…

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A ballerina.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Thank you! It's such a joy to know my stories and characters are being read and enjoyed by people across the world.


Thanks for being here today, Johanna!

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