An Interview with RRBC’s “Rave Waves Buy the Book”

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Yesterday I was honored to be interviewed by author Beem Weeks for one of the weekly online radio shows of the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC). Entitled “Rave Waves Buy The Book,” the show features a different author for a half-hour each week, highlighting their latest work and taking questions from Twitter.

It’s one of the many resources for authors that comes as part of membership in the Rave Reviews Book Club. For more information on how to join RRBC, click here.

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The “Raves Waves Buy the Book” show yesterday centered on my novel, “Bravura,” which I’ve shared about on this blog previously. The book follows a group of young classical musicians in 1960’s London and beyond.

But the show gives some insights into the book and my writing process which I hadn’t shared on the blog before. So I thought it would be great to have the interview speak for itself as my post this week.

Enjoy! And onward.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ravereviewsbookclub/2016/04/16/rrbc-rave-waves-blogtalkradio-buy-the-book-with-lisa-kirazian

 

 

 

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What I Learned as a #RRBC Book of the Month

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I had the distinct honor and pleasure of my novel Bravura being selected as a Book of the Month by the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC) in October.

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It was a tremendous month. I saw sales of the book increase. More reviews of the book came in on Amazon and other sites. Increased attention on Twitter came in the form of new followers, retweets, and so on.

But more than gaining numbers, I also learned a great deal from the Book of the Month process. The lessons will stay with me far beyond the month of October 2015:

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RRBC Back to School Book and Blog Block Party!

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HELLO FRIENDS!

So happy to welcome you to my blog today, from San Diego, California! Thanks to the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC) for the opportunity to share more about my work! The RRBC Back to School Book and Blog Party in September has been a blast of inspiration so far, visiting so many great author sites, and I’m so happy to be involved! Click here for all the other participants this month so you can visit their blogs too. And if you’re not one one already, consider becoming a member of RRBC!

I would love to receive your comments — not only because writers encouraging writers is the BEST thing, but also so that you can be rewarded! Anyone who leaves me a comment today (9/21) is eligible for these prizes:

My GIVEAWAYS today are:

1. One Amazon $25 gift card!! (WINNER: John Fioravanti)

2. One Starbucks $15 gift card! (WINNER: Amy Reece)

3. One Hard Copy of BRAVURA, first novel in “The Music We Made” series (WINNER: Michael King)

4. One Kindle E-Book Copy of BRAVURA, first novel in “The Music We Made” series (WINNER: clynsg)

Total Winners: 4 (Will ship anywhere!)

THANKS RRBC!

I’ve been an RRBC member for just under a year but have been blessed to meet many of you and read your fine work as a result. I look forward to getting to know you better. RRBC founder Nonnie Jules recently encouraged me to engage more, helping me see the difference between support (which I had been doing with reviews, tweets, etc.) and engagement (discussing authors’ works on the RRBC website, commenting on blogs, getting to actually know some of you, and sharing more about my own writing, which I hadn’t been doing). It was an A-Ha! Moment I truly appreciate. It’s made my experience even deeper and more satisfying, and I can’t wait to keep going “Onward!” (as I like to say at the end of all my blog posts).

Earlier this year, I was also very fortunate to have a piece in the first volume of the RRBC anthology, Rave Soup for the Writer’s Soul (available here) and to have my blog win “Best Blog – Third Place” in RRBC’s contest! That was a real affirmation, since I’ve only been blogging for about a year and a half. Thank you! I appreciate your inspiring examples and kind support.

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My Website

My Amazon Author Page

Twitter: @kirazian, @TheMusicWeMade, @ReflectionDay1.  Instagram: lisakirazian

A BIT OF BACKGROUND!

I’m a longtime writer and director of plays and films and a more recent fiction author. I’ve also edited books for publishers and audiobook producers for several years and have published numerous nonfiction articles. All of these experiences — plus growing up an avid reader, the daughter of an English professor, and studying writing/literature at Stanford — truly informed me when I finally started writing fiction seriously.  In all forms, however, I love writing about women, artists and anyone who is facing a crossroads of character or faith. I feel I was put on this earth to encourage people to learn more about God, themselves and each other, through my writing, speaking and relationships. (Bio at end of post).

MY BOOK SERIES

A longform television script I wrote years ago became the basis for my first novel series, The Music We Made, about three generations of the Driscoll family of musicians in London. From 1960’s London to the present, we follow siblings Kate Driscoll (an inspired violinist) and Neil Driscoll (a troubled pianist) and their circle of friends and loves — from childhood auditions to conservatoire to the world stage, and the challenges they face onstage and off.

For me, the series is a love letter to music, a valentine to musicians.  Its theme quote is TS Eliot’s unforgettable line: “You are the music while the music lasts.”

The first book in the series, years in the making, is BRAVURA, released December 2014. It was inspired by my experiences as a violinist. How this book came about is detailed in my blog post, “The Journey of an Idea,” (click here).

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BRAVURA on Amazon

You can read the first chapter of BRAVURA here.  It’s been featured on Literary Fiction Book Review here. And you can watch the book trailer to BRAVURA here:

The next book in the series, APPASSIONATO, comes out this Winter in late 2015/early 2016. It continues the story of the next generation: Jenny Driscoll, a composer and conductor, navigating her personal and professional life in London in the 1990’s.

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You can read the first chapter of APPASSIONATO here. And you can watch the trailer to APPASSIONATO here:

The final book in the series, CADENZA, will come out in Fall 2017.  It takes the series to America in the present day, where Jenny Driscoll’s grown son, opera tenor Brian Martin, travels to find out what he never knew about his grandmother, the famous American soprano, Maggie Crawford.

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The entire Music We Made series of books is also being adapted for television, which I’m thrilled about. As all writers know, it’s a marathon to get our work to be the best it can be — and to get it to the right audience, but I’m willing to stay the course! I hope you are, too.

OTHER WORK

Just for a little change, I also wanted to share about my most recent film, REFLECTION DAY, which I wrote (adapted from a stage play) and directed:

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REFLECTION DAY is about an African American woman with Alzheimer’s and her young male caregiver. It screened at several film festivals last year across the US and is being used as a teaching tool for nurses and caregivers at various schools and facilities. I was proud to be a part of this production. You can watch the trailer here.

RDHallJohnsonAndre                                                          Rich Pierre-Louis and Edythe Davis in “Reflection Day.”

We never know what direction our creativity will take us, but all I know is that we have to follow it, no matter what the risk or challenge. That’s all for now, Friends! Keep going, keep writing, and don’t forget to leave a comment! Thank you!

ONWARD!

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I’m proud to say that the fantastic artist Natalie Kaldjian designed all my book covers and can be reached at http://www.nataliekaldjian.com.

LISA’S BIOGRAPHY

Lisa Kirazian is a writer of plays, screenplays, articles and a new novel series.  Her scripts have been produced and published nationwide and she directs for stage and screen.  Her articles have also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Performing Arts Magazine, NPR/KPBS Radio, Student Leadership Magazine, and the San Diego Union Tribune.

Lisa was born and raised in San Diego and is a graduate of Stanford University.  Her writing mentors have included Anna Deavere Smith, Paul Peterson, Janet Tiger, and Paula Vogel.

She resides with her husband Steve in San Diego, California, and their two daughters.  Lisa serves on several arts boards, is active in her Armenian community, and is a popular speaker.  She blogs weekly about writing and creativity and is currently at work on a new play, a new novel, and a book about mentorship.

First Chapter: Appassionato

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Appassionato, the next novel in my series, “The Music We Made,” continues the story of three generations of the Driscoll family of musicians — from London and beyond.

After the first novel, Bravura, brought siblings Kate and Neil Driscoll and their circle of friends and loves, from the 1960s to the early 1990s, Appassionato begins as Neil’s daughter, composer/conductor Jenny Driscoll, begins her own professional career. The book will follow her from the 1990s to the present day, from young adulthood into middle age.

The Appassionato trailer can be seen here, with the first chapter following:

Chapter One

Jenny waited in the wings, her baton in hand. The orchestra tuned. Her Aunt Kate had always told her that in these few moments before stepping onstage, she would hear voices, sometimes even see an image flutter before her. So many things pulse through a performer before they step into the light. Jenny sometimes sensed these things too. Tonight, however, she saw and felt nothing. She only saw the conductor’s podium ahead, empty, surrounded by grey metal railing, ready to receive her without fanfare; the full symphonic orchestra, complete with all woodwinds, percussion, string basses, even piano.

When the concertmaster finished tuning, the audience ceased their murmurs, a moment of silent pervaded Royal Albert Hall.

Most in the seasoned audience did not know this young woman about to complete her graduate studies at the Royal School of Music — only 24 but seasoned beyond her years. Most saw at first only that she was stunning: trim and taller than average, brown, wavy hair long but fastened in part near the top, arms chiseled from now-four years of intense study in conducting, piano and composition.

Composition, the one thing that had eluded her famous musical family. Somehow, the heavens gave Jenny Driscoll this gift. Not her father Neil Driscoll, the seasoned pianist and instructor at Royal; not her late mother Maggie Crawford, the star American soprano gone too soon; not her surrogate mother, Kate Driscoll Andrews, the violinist and near-household-name who still toured the world; nor others in her circle of family and friends.

But Jenny had it. She heard music when she was stuck in traffic. When a lover breathed deeply beside her in the small hours of night and morning. She heard it in the buzz of a television when the Emergency Broadcast System invaded a show; she heard it when her computer and MIDI piano keyboard booted up in the morning. Jenny heard melodies and rhythms in the obvious and not at all obvious places — so much so that people at times wondered if she was listening to them when they opened up to her. Something about her wide brown eyes, her easy smile, made people want to talk to and be with Jenny; something in her face and body relayed the presence of a heart ready to embrace, ready to hear, ready to love, and yes, ready to attack if necessary. Very little drove her to that these days, like in her youth when she railed against a fate that she did not choose. Over the years she worked hard to fight her teenage demons. They were not entirely gone, but they were, for the most part, at bay. For now.

Tonight, Jenny would premiere her symphonic poem, Appassionato, her piece de resistance as she concluded graduate school, her final — composed in a form hearkening back to Liszt, Berlioz, Strauss — a continuous single movement inspired by another piece of art or triumph of nature. It was her tribute to all the influences that came before her — but its style, its pace and array of motifs were entirely of the current, the 1990’s, truly a transitional time in modern classical composition, she had come to learn from her professors. “Anything goes now,” they told her, “but your foundation and direction have to have their proper roots, their full understanding of the range of music.”

Appassionato was not based on a poem or novel, a painting, sculpture. Rather, it focused on the spiritual Passion of Christ, a tip of the hat to Handel and Bach, but in modern terms, as if Jesus walked the streets today and heard the chants of gangs, hung out with the homeless, heard the shots of guns, sat in urine and spit in an under-funded county jail, with inmates ready to have their way with him; endured the noise and chaos of a municipal courtroom, and an unjust execution by vigilantes in the woods fancying themselves righteous, carrying out ungodly acts where no one would see. The percussion section, for the first time they could recall, would have to slash whips and chains, stab truck tires, bang a car door, and slam a gavel repeatedly — alongside strings and winds pouring out passages of pain and love and sacrifice.

A single male voice, The Son, and a single female voice, The Mother, stood upstage center, and would be called on at key moments to vocalise wordless tones — groans of prayer, of agony, and eventually, of praise. A modern retelling, reliving, of his horror, which fascinated her ever since she first had to wrestle with death and God as an eight-year-old. And she had never been the same since.

Her choice had raised a few eyebrows among the agnostic faculty, but Jenny didn’t care. Once a creative idea entered her, it took hold and wouldn’t let go until she gave it everything she had. And even then, even on a night like this, it was still hard for her to let it go or consider it ‘finished.’

In that moment of silence in the wings, where so much raced through her mind, Jenny took a deep breath to push down the knots churning her insides. With no ghosts or murmurs in her ear or eye, she strode onto the stage.

Reaching the conductor’s podium, Jenny grabbed the grey square railing, turned toward the audience and bowed to them all, drinking in the spotlight and cascading applause. She waved her hand acknowledging the orchestra, shook the hand of the concertmaster, whom she knew from school, then resolutely turned around and stepped onto the podium, about eighteen inches from the stage floor and about three feet square. Her black music stand had been placed at the top middle of the square, her printed score atop it, full of handwritten notes she no longer needed to be reminded of.

With her eyes and slightly-elevated chin, she commanded the orchestra’s silence and respect. She raised her baton and began the downbeat, never needing to look at the score. Jenny knew this piece like every sunspot on her forearm, every scar from childhood, every high school diary entry. She knew when the woodwinds needed to breathe, when the violinists would change direction in their bow strokes, when the brass needed to wet their lips and reapply them to their mouthpieces for their solo transitions.

Although she wouldn’t always be on this pedestal when her works were introduced to the world, this was where she needed to be today, to complete her thesis at the Royal School, or RSM as many called it: onstage at Royal Albert Hall, enticing and entreating the notes out of the veteran musicians, who all had seen everything and perhaps didn’t care so much about the newbie leading them tonight. But the new girl, they had noted during rehearsal breaks the prior weeks, was an old soul; she had decades — centuries, really — of music in her bones, her cells and sinews. Look at the family she came from, they added.  She lived and breathed her composing and could stand her own with any of them, most of them admitted. Except the composer herself – even she, with all the pedigree in the world – found her insides thorny with self-doubt on many, many days.

Thirty minutes later, when she finished leading them through Appassionato with a flourish, Jenny turned back to the crowds, luminous in the hot light and bowing.

‘This is what you wanted for me,’ Jenny thought. ‘All those years of practice and training, harder than I’ve ever done anything. It all led me back here. Oh, Mom! I wanted so much for you to be here tonight! Some nights I still feel I could almost touch you, but then I can barely breathe. You make me fall to pieces, even now. Nothing, no one, will ever heal me of that.’

She bowed, deeply, holding the railing, squeezing her eyes shut, flooding with memory — the last birthday, the last letter, the last embrace.

Only Neil, her father in the audience, noticed and knew she was thinking of Maggie: his Maggie, to whom he still kissed the sky every day. He — and one other — noticed Jenny’s flush face holding it all back as she took her last bow and strode off the stage into the wings to catch her breath.

———————-

Onward. Appassionato will be released in Winter, 2015.

True That: Fiction vs. Nonfiction

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I can’t believe how much this issue has come up in my life and work.

Acquaintances and distant relatives of mine still say, “Yeah, I prefer nonfiction because it’s TRUE!” And I wince.

Sometimes our kids ask, when they read a book or watch a movie: “Mom, is this real? Is this true? Did this really happen?”

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Or in the wonderful film Sideways, when Paul Giamatti’s character meets his friend’s future in-laws (Armenian, I’m embarrassed to say) and they tell him they prefer nonfiction to novels like his, because nonfiction is true, based on real life.

And fiction isn’t based on life?

What is true about anything a writer writes?

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My Worst Trip Ever and Why I Loved It

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I currently chair a national Armenian women’s organization that helps sustain our cultural heritage, develop Armenian women leaders and support Armenian families around the world.  Some would call it a sorority, but I consider it much deeper and stronger than that. However, one similarity is that fellow members call each other ‘sisters.’

And let’s just say that my fellow ‘sisters’ and I had an interesting travel adventure this past week, to say the least. As I write, we national officers are on the final leg of a very long trip across multiple cities and airlines.

In two weeks, we visited five chapters of our organization across the east and midwest. On our most recent trip, we had to travel through seven cities to visit three chapters. We missed two flights due to weather and plane delays. We were twice told the planes would be held for us, only to see the plane slowly back away from the gate the minute we got there, after we ran — yes, ran — through multiple terminals.

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The gate agent on one end said, “Oh yes, we called already; they’re holding the flight for you; go, go, go!”

The gate agent on the other end said, “We never got a call…”

These and other snafus resulted in two unexpected overnight stays in two different, non-visitation cities.

“But you can get your luggage at Terminal E….” And a half hour later:

“Oh, no your luggage isn’t at Terminal E; it’s at Terminal C, and you can’t access it until tomorrow.”

Then we were delayed 2.5 hrs on another flight because the pilot never showed up and the airline had to search for another pilot last minute.

In another case, our flight was delayed 4.5 hours because Vice President Joe Biden was landing at the airport on Air Force Two for a last minute visit, grounding all scheduled flights for the entire morning.

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Sometimes, our luggage made it to our destinations when we did; in other cases it did not. At one point, we got our luggage after being redirected multiple times, only to open two suitcases to find the contents soaking wet — apparently left out in the thunderous New England rain. Two of my officers caught colds and also injured their back and shoulder. And I’m not sure we ever slept more than 4 hours on any given night — and not always in a bed.

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Those who have seen the film, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, about a frazzled father and his unexpected friend, overcoming hurdle after hurdle, trying to make it home for Thanksgiving, will certainly understand the frustrations we felt.

But we love our ‘sisters.’

That’s what kept coming back to our minds.

But we love our sisters, our fellow members. And we did not want anything to get in the way of our visiting them, after they had been planning and preparing for weeks with warm anticipation.

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Sure enough, the visits to the gals of Worcester, Providence, Boston, Milwaukee and Chicago, were some of the loveliest, laughter-filled times we’ve ever had in the organization. Truly, we will never forget them. Those loving times of warm welcome and fellowship, celebration of common history, partnership in a shared vision — and laughter about all our craziness, into the wee hours — are what our organization is all about. They are what service and friendship are all about.

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When our relationships, life situations, or writing projects take us on all sorts of unexpected delays, detours, or outright stoppages, we have to remember:

But this is who I love; this is what I love; this is why and how I love.

And that sense of love-centered purpose is what enables us to keep going, to see the journey through to completion — and to be grateful, especially as Thanksgiving nears. The pockets of love that we open along the way of a disjointed journey are worth all the headaches. Most of the time.

But don’t get me wrong: I’m still writing a few letters to United Airlines and US Airways. Soon as I finish this blog. They’re gonna have to show me some love too.

Onward!

P.S. My book BRAVURA is out on Kindle — the first in the “The Music We Made” series about a group of classical musicians in 1960’s London.  You can order it here. Downloads are free through 10/20!!