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ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: BEETHOVEN IN LOVE; OPUS 139
Author: Howard Jay Smith
Genre: Literary Fiction/Biographical Fiction
At the moment of his death, Ludwig van Beethoven pleads with Providence to grant him a final wish—one day, just a single day of pure joy. But first he must confront the many failings in his life, so the great composer and exceedingly complex man begins an odyssey into the netherworld of his past life led by a spirit guide who certainly seems to be Napoleon, who died six years before. This ghost of the former emperor, whom the historical Beethoven both revered and despised, struggles to compel the composer to confront the ugliness as well as the beauty and accomplishments of his past.
As Beethoven ultimately faces the realities of his just-ended life, we encounter the women who loved and inspired him. In their own voices, we discover their Beethoven—a lover with whom they savor the profound beauty and passion of his creations. And it’s in the arms of his beloveds that he comes to terms with the meaning of his life and experiences the moment of true joy he has always sought.
The Death of Beethoven
Vienna, 5:00 pm, March 26, 1827
Outside Beethoven’s rooms at the Schwarzspanierhaus, a fresh measure of snow from a late season thunderstorm muffles the chimes of St. Stephens Cathedral as they ring out the hours for the old city.
Ein, Zwei, Drei, Vier… Funf Uhr. Five O’clock.
Beethoven, three months past his fifty-sixth birthday, lies in a coma, as he has now for two nights, his body bound by the betrayal of an illness whose only virtue was that it proved incurable and would, thankfully, be his last. Though his chest muscles and his lungs wrestle like giants against the approaching blackness, his breathing is so labored that the death rattle can be heard over the grumblings of the heavens throughout his apartment.
Muss es sein? Must it be? Ja, es muss sein. Beethoven is dying. From on high, the Gods vent their grief at his imminent passing and hurl a spear of lightening at Vienna.
Their jagged bolt of electricity explodes outside the frost covered windows of the Schwarzspanierhaus with a clap of thunder so violent it startles the composer to consciousness.
Beethoven’s eyes open, glassy, unfocused. He looks upward – only the Gods know what he sees, if anything. He raises his right hand, a hand that has graced a thousand sonatas, and clenches his fist for perhaps the last time. His arm trembles as if railing against the heavens. Tears flood his eyes.
His arm falls back to the bed… His eyelids close… And then he is gone …
INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
What initially got you interested in writing?
My love of reading as a very young child fueled my passion for “story” and ultimately writing. I was often 3 or 4 years ahead of my grade level as early as Kindergarten. Stories fascinated me and I simply could not get enough. I read everything from “Dick & Jane,” and the expected children’s books to the New York Times and hardbound monthly editions of Horizon Magazine and American Heritage.
How did you decide to make the move into being a published author?
I had always wanted to be a working writer and was fortunate enough to be able to publish magazine articles, short stories and a book on my mentor, the novelist John Gardner, not long after finishing graduate school. My early works earned for me several scholarships to Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference as well as three Washington, D.C. Endowment for the Arts Fellowships – but none of this was enough to earn a living. A few years later I moved to Hollywood, attended the American Film Institute as a Screenwriter Fellow and spent the next fifteen years working, writing and producing there. I also taught both screenwriting and the craft of short story writing at UCLA. Those classes became the basis for my second book, “Opening the Doors to Hollywood,” published by Random House. “Beethoven in Love; Opus 139” a novel, just came out this year but has its roots in a work I was drafting back then.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
Whether we are conscious of it or not when writing, (and hopefully one is always conscious) a book, a story, an article is always about something, it always presents a world view, an attitude, a philosophy of life. In simple terms, you want the reader to finish your book, and feel as if they have not only been thoroughly entertained but that they have also learned something about life and the way of the world. If a character does something, it has its roots in their behavior and thoughts and there are consequences that occur because of those attitudes and actions – and this is what I would not only want my readers to reflect upon when they finish but to also consider how those situations, behaviors, ideas might impact their own lives
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I learned a long time ago that if you want a reader to take the time and effort to read your book and find your work compelling and engaging, you must also be equally passionate about what you create. I absolutely love the entire process of crafting a story, from jotting down ideas and doing research when necessary, to shaping each line, each paragraph, each character, each scene. I want to transport the reader into a vivid and continuous dream that is so powerful, so all-encompassing that the next thing they know is that someone is calling them to dinner.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
Not writing! I hate those times in my life when I am unable to work. Over the years I have been distracted or pulled away from my desk by other loves and necessities including the press of family, career or community involvement. I have served on many non-profit boards and even now I chair the Development Committee for the Santa Barbara Symphony – “The Best Small City Orchestra in America.” I tend to be fully engaged with whichever activity I get involved with and thus have to spread my energy and time around.
What advice would you give to people want to enter the field?
Don’t! Unless you do it with an all-consuming passion for the art and craft of writing. Writing, especially as a career, can be frustrating, difficult and ever demanding work. One should never do anything unless they are totally committed and passionate about what they are doing. And if you go into writing for any reason other than love, you will fail miserably and painfully.
What ways can readers connect with you?
I love connecting with readers, especially Book Clubs, and have gotten wonderful responses from people all over the world in regards “Beethoven in Love; Opus 139.” I have a website www.BeethovenInLoveOpus139.com and a Facebook page and also but less frequently use Twitter. Readers can check those out or they can email me as well at Smythe1313@gmail.com
Readers can also buy my book through Amazon or Goodreads or through my webpage.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Howard Jay Smith is an award-winning writer from Santa Barbara, California. BEETHOVEN IN LOVE; OPUS 139 is his third book. A former Washington, D.C. Commission for the Arts Fellow, & Bread Loaf Writers Conference Scholar, he taught for many years in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and has lectured nationally. His short stories, articles and photographs have appeared in the Washington Post, Horizon Magazine, the Journal of the Writers Guild of America, the Ojai Quarterly, and numerous literary and trade publications. While an executive at ABC Television, Embassy TV, and Academy Home Entertainment, he worked on numerous film, television, radio, and commercial projects. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Symphony – “The Best Small City Symphony in America” – and is a member of the American Beethoven Society.