I’ve always admired writers of historical fiction. To be able to place one’s imagination in the ambience of another decade, or another century, another country, even, where one may or may not have visited – is a skill I never conceived of possessing.
WAM: Quite frankly, my dear, I do not find that to be an unusual talent. I composed my Turkish “Janissary” music, never having traveled to Turkey, and never having met a Janissary, either.
MM: Yes, Amadé, but in truth, it was your conception of Janissary music, not necessarily an actual reproduction of the form.
WAM: Still, I believe I did a most excellent job of it, did I not? My Turkish Rondo most certainly captures the flavor of that musical style – even though I never encountered personally the invading forces of the Ottoman Sultan.
MM: I might just interject here that the Janissaries were not only bodyguards of the Sultan, but also players of fearsome brass instruments that were intended to scare off the enemy before the Turkish troops actually reached their lines.
But getting back to truth in writing, particularly historical fiction, I’ve come to believe that truth (or fact) is not so important as atmosphere and ambience. Which is basically what my friend, Mr. Mozart is implying.
WAM: Yes, but I must also point out that I took offense at the film, “Amadeus.” Certainly it was entertaining, and brought my life and my work to the attention of millions who might never have played one of my sonatas on the fortepiano, but it bore no relationship to the truth. Salieri poisoned mois? Ridiculous. Salieri and I were friends and often attended the opera together. Why, he even conducted my music! The only transgression he committed against me was to recommend to the Emperor that he need not pay me the same salary he paid my predecessor, Christoph Willibald Gluck.
MM: Well, here’s the point I’m trying to make. I’ve screwed up my courage and I’m writing an historical novel, after years of feeling intimidated by the form.
WAM: Brava, my dear!
MM: Thank you. Yes, my new work, an historical murder mystery, takes place in Vienna in the 18th Century –
WAM: Eighteenth Century Vienna, you say! Am I perchance involved in this work?
MM: Most certainly Amadé. You are the protagonist. I have a clear storyline, which is total fiction, but I want the surrounding facts to ring true. So as I write, I’ve also been doing my homework, researching daily life in your Vienna, and of course, studying your life, (which I’ve been doing for many years now).
Google has been a tremendous help in my research. But I’m thinking that perhaps I should walk the streets you walked, visit the venues where your music was performed, soak up the atmosphere of your adopted city…
WAM: (CLAPPING HANDS) Are we traveling to Vienna?
MM: Yes, my dear Mozart, we are traveling to Vienna!