Find Me On FaceBook!

RSS: Blog FeedSubscribe to
Posts [Atom]

April 2007May 2007June 2007July 2007August 2007September 2007October 2007November 2007December 2007January 2008February 2008April 2008May 2008July 2008September 2008October 2008November 2008December 2008January 2009February 2009March 2009April 2009May 2009June 2009July 2009August 2009September 2009December 2009May 2010October 2010March 2011

History Buff is a site for history lovers everywhere. It is also a site very interested in women of the past. Although I (sadly) no longer have time to continue these interviews, here is an archive of Q&As about women's lives in history. And please feel free to stop by History Buff's sister site for archaeological discoveries making news today. Enjoy!

Michelle Moran
Historical fiction author

As an historical fiction writer I am fascinated by news stories featuring the past as it's unearthed and reimagined and brought to life. I spend a
large quantity of time searching for news in archaeology and history. Once in a great while a new archaeological discovery will act as an inspiration for what I'm currently writing. But most of the time the news stories I read are simply interesting tidbits of history. Unfortunately, I have disallowed comments because I travel so frequently that I can neither monitor nor respond to them. But I would still love to share the history that I find fascinating each day. So welcome! And feel free to visit my website at or contact me at authormichellemoran at hotmail dot com.

Logo designed by Shaun Venish

Blog designed by Mia Pearlman Design


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Q&A With Historical Fiction Author Rita Charbonnier

* In your debut novel MOZART'S SISTER, your protagonist, Maria Anna Mozart (nicknamed Nannerl), is denied the spotlight in favor of her talented brother. What drew you to Nannerl's story?
I was immediately struck when I found out that Mozart had a sister who, from an early age, had been a musical prodigy. I think that it was my sister who first brought her to my attention; we were both studying music and she came across Nannerl in the Maestro’s biographies. I found it both fascinating and saddening to think that two children had been born into the same family, one male and one female, musically gifted alike, but that only the boy succeeded in expressing his talent; the girl child did not get the chance.

Later, finding myself working on “Shakespeare’s Sister” by Virginia Woolf, I had something of a revelation. I was writing an article for a magazine and in preparing an historical digression I went back to the essay A Room of One’s Own that I had read some time before. In it, Woolf sketches the biography of William Shakespeare’s imaginary sister-poetess in order to demonstrate that had Shakespeare been born a woman, not only would he not have known success but he would also have come to a bad end.

Suddenly the figure of Nannerl flashed before my eyes; Shakespeare’s sister had never existed but Mozart’s sister had! I decided that I absolutely had to tell this story.

* How much of your novel is based on fact and how much is fiction?
The main characters are all based on real people, with the exception of one female character who is fictional. Otherwise I have changed some dates and made up a lot of events but essentially have kept to documented facts. The inventive part above all concerns the characters’ psychology; the ways in which they react and their reasons for reacting like that.

For example, in the novel I have created a relationship between Wolfgang and his father, Leopold Mozart, that becomes closer and closer as the years go by. When Wolfgang leaves Salzburg and goes to live in Vienna, he does so with the full approval of his father, who even organises the journey and the move. In reality, the event took place in a very different manner; Mozart remained in Vienna against his father’s wishes; and he probably could not wait to be permanently away from him. However, I needed to create a dynamic between them that was coherent with the emotional web of my story and create a sort of male alliance against the protagonist, who at this point is completely crushed.

* Tell us something surprising about women in 18th century Europe.
The process of researching that period brought me into contact with various musical women, and many more than I would have imagined; among them even women composers. When I could, I brought them alive in the novel: Mademoiselle Jeunehomme, Princess Maria Antonia... Naturally, they were infrequent cases, and they were not usually ‘normal’ women; if a princess wants to compose, no-one would be very surprised and certainly no-one would mock her for it, which means a lot.

One aspect that made me smile was discovering the foul-mouthed language used by Anna Maria, Mozart’s mother. The same taste for obscene jokes that has made some of the Maestro’s letters so famous can be found in his mother’s letters too; there is even one, addressed to her husband, in which she composes a sort of rhyming poem about excrement. Nannerl’s letters, on the other hand, contain nothing of the sort, she was a very well-mannered woman and probably somewhat inhibited when it came to expressing her emotions.

* Parts of your novel are told through Nannerl's letters. What made you choose to tell some of the story in this way?
I suspect that it was reading Mozart’s correspondence that led me unconsciously in that direction. I initially wrote various letters but had not yet had the idea of making the first part of the novel the ideal account of her life that Nannerl gives to the man she loves, through a correspondence.

When the character’s psychology became more clear I understood that Nannerl is a woman whose extreme sensitivity is hidden beneath a thick carapace that is simply a reaction to the pain she has suffered. The private and emotional dimensions to the love letters allow me to express this hidden sensibility.

* How did you research MOZART'S SISTER, which draws heavily on Nannerl's passion for music?
As soon as I had decided to work on Nannerl’s story, I left for Salzburg. I wanted to go to the Mozarteum library and above all to visit where Mozart was born and lived, in the hope of absorbing the feeling of the places. It is a mania that I have always had, even before becoming a writer. My love for history is not fed by the study of facts, dynasties and wars but by interest in the human world of the past; often when I visit historical places, I begin to fantasize about who lived there in times gone by. I feel the bond with former generations and sometimes indulge in thought that every ancient place conserves a scintilla of the people who have gone before, and that we can feel that spark.

As for music, I did not have to do a great deal of research because I had the fortune of studying the piano from when I was a small child. For a while, when I was an actress and singer, music was my profession, and even now it is a fundamental part of my life, and one that I could not do without. To tell of Nannerl’s feelings as she plays, or doesn’t play, meant essentially drawing on my own past feelings, when I was on the stage, and then when I decided to come off the stage... probably for the last time.

Thank you Rita! And feel free to visit Rita Charbonnier online for more information about Mozart's Sister: A Novel.