This week’s other featured books, “Be the thing of memory,” by Carrie Olivia Adams and “Cold Blessings,” by Maxmilian Werner, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the First Tuesday Replay. Or, just click the author’s name on our Authors page.
THE BOOK: Witches’ Dance
PUBLISHED IN: 2019
THE AUTHOR: Erin Eileen Almond
THE EDITOR: Christine Neulieb.
THE PUBLISHER: Lanternfish Press
SUMMARY: Witches’ Dance explores the charged relationship between a teenage violinist named Hilda Greer and her teacher, Phillip Manns, a former prodigy who believes he is the reincarnation of Niccolo Paganini. When Phillip becomes romantically involved with Hilda’s mother, it causes Hilda to question her own feelings for her teacher, as well as her belief in him as Paganini. The climax of the novel takes place in Genoa, Italy, as Hilda prepares to compete in the prestigious Premio Paganini, the contest where Phillip’s career — and, perhaps, his madness – began.
THE BACK STORY: I started playing the violin in my elementary school’s music program when I was nine years old, and I studied it pretty seriously until I got to high school and gave it up for heavy metal guitar. (My parents were duly horrified.) But, even as a terrible lead guitarist for bands with names like The Virgin Saints, I was obsessed with virtuosity. And eventually that obsession led me back to the violin, because violinists – especially the 19th century virtuoso Niccolo Paganini, who was obviously a big inspiration for Witches’ Dance – were the original rock stars. I enrolled in a professional program at the Hartford Conservatory when I was nineteen, with the intention of becoming a violin teacher and performer. But that experience essentially confirmed what I’d long suspected – that I just didn’t have the talent, or maybe even the confidence, to really go for it as a professional musician.
When I started writing seriously, violinists started appearing almost immediately on the page. My first published story was about a violinist who had to stop playing because he’d broken his hand, and you probably already know enough of my background to have a sense of where that story came from in my own life. So I think, in a way, writing Witches’ Dance was a way to process my own grief about not being able to accomplish this thing that I’d really, really wanted, and had devoted many hours to trying to accomplish, but ultimately couldn’t pull off.
WHY THIS TITLE: Witches’ Dance is actually the title of a piece by Niccolo Paganini – in Italian it’s Le Streghe, which translates literally as “The Witches.” This piece of music plays a significant role in the novel – Phillip Manns performs it before announcing to the world that he is the reincarnation of Paganini, and it’s the piece Hilda plays when she first auditions for him. It has an irresistible melody – one Paganini actually “borrowed” from Franz Sussmayr, the composer most famous for finishing Mozart’s Requiem – followed by increasingly virtuosic variations that push the violinist’s technical skills to the limit.
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: You don’t have to love the violin, or even classical music, to enjoy this novel. Although my main characters are violinists, their struggles are ones I think many people can relate to: the search for identity, the pursuit of artistic ambition, and the exhilaration and confusion of sexual awakening.
Witches’ Dance is a symphony of genius and insanity, love and danger. It is a novel about the secrets we keep and the dream of acceptance. Intricate and beautifully complex. —Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty and Awayland
“Erin Almond’s moving tale of brilliance and madness illuminates the power of music and the challenges of nurturing genius. A love story, really—love for another being and for music, the two so interwoven they are almost fatally inseparable. Witches’ Dance is mesmerizing, with characters both flawed and sympathetic who captivate to carry us toward a dramatic conclusion.” —Daphne Kalotay, award-winning author of Sight Reading and Blue Hours
“Witches’ Dance elegantly explores the desire for immortality through art, the desire to lose one’s body to music, to lose one’s private miseries to something greater. It’s a matryoshka doll of identities—psychological, supernatural—secret mothers, hidden wolves—and it’s a treat to travel alongside these enchanting characters as they reveal yet another power, yet another vulnerability in their striving for success, love, triumph, oblivion.” — Whitney Scharer, author of The Age of Light.
AUTHOR PROFILE: I grew up in East Hartford, CT, and spent most of the nineties renting instruments, setting up drum sets, and restringing guitars at my local music store. My fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in The Boston Globe, Colorado Review, Literary Mama, Normal School, WBUR’s cognoscenti column, and The Rumpus.net. I’m a graduate of the UC-Irvine MFA program and Wesleyan University, a recipient of a St. Botolph Foundation Emerging Artists Grant, and a finalist for the Barbara Deming Money for Women memorial fund. I live outside Boston with my husband, Steve, our three children, and two shy black cats.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: Although you don’t have to be a fan of the violin to enjoy this novel, I do hope that readers will come away from the book curious about classical music. That’s one of the reasons why I included a list of recommended recordings at the end for all of the major pieces mentioned in the book. I also hope readers appreciate the complexity of what all my main characters are up against: Hilda, in her quest to establish her own artistic identity, Phillip, in his struggle with the double burden of virtuosity and madness, and Claire with her maternal ambivalence and broken dreams.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). Sample pages are available to read on Amazon.com.
LOCAL OUTLETS: Witches’ Dance can be ordered from your favorite local independent bookstore, and is also available on bookshop.org. Two of my favorite local indies in the Boston area are Belmont Books and Harvard Books.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, , and directly from Lanternfish Press.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: I can be reached through my website at: https://erineileenalmond.com