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When a symphony musician is murdered—bashed with her own bassoon—flute player Emily Wilson becomes the prime suspect. To save herself and secure justice for her murdered friend, she must find the killer.
In the close-knit, unforgiving environment of the symphony orchestra Emily makes her way through the tender egos and warped relationships of her fellow musicians to find tantalizing clues. Blackmail, the victim’s abusive ex-boyfriend, an angry neighbor, and a shifty Symphony Board member all lead her to feel she is on the right track.
With the dogged Lieutenant Gordon on her trail, she must flee from the police so she can continue her search. She unexpectedly finds a loyal female friend and the possibility of a new man in her life. But she must learn to trust again after her failed and abusive marriage. With time running out, will she be able to evade the lieutenant, face her personal demons, and clear her name?
I am excited to be joined today by B.J. Bowen, author of a new cozy mystery series, The Musical Murder Mysteries, the first of which, Music is Murder, will be coming out June 9.
Q: I understand you are quite the musician yourself. Tell us a little about that:
A: I started oboe at 11, and played oboe and English horn for nineteen years in a symphony orchestra. Many of the ideas for character quirks and the more normal situations in my book came from there. However, there was never a murder in the symphony, although occasionally there are reports of fistfights, in other symphonies of course, and feuds.
Q: I assume the “real” orchestra is much more mundane than the series. Tell me what a normal period was like leading up to a concert.
A: People assume musicians have lots of rehearsals, but professional symphonies are expensive to run. That means there is very little time for practice. The most rehearsed programs are the regular season concerts, which may have as many as three rehearsals. For Pops, Western, Halloween and New Year’s, the rule is one rehearsal. For Summer Symphony and Fourth of July, musicians may have at most one rehearsal, or be expected to sight read. For this reason, auditions emphasize good sight reading.
Q: I imagine not everything is as classy and well-rehearsed as what the audience sees on stage. Will you share a favorite story about the behind-the-scenes life of a musician?
A: Truthfully, this happened to a friend of mine in another Nutcracker Ballet. She was playing celeste. Rather than bring in an actual celeste, management had provided a synthesizer with many settings—celeste, chimes, flute, brass, etc. The orchestra broke for intermission. While my friend was gone someone either bumped or purposely reset the synthesizer. So, when she went to play the dainty and magical accompaniment to Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, what came out was a robust chorus of Norwegian women singing unknown syllables. Too afraid to reset the synthesizer—what might come out? Barking dogs?—she finished the piece in the company of the Norwegian women while the orchestra rolled in the aisles.
Q: So, tell us what inspired you to write this series. Why did you choose a cozy format?
A: I have loved cozies since I read Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, and Sherlock Holmes when I was a teenager, so I was very familiar with the form. For me, writing is a form of escapism. I hadn’t read many cozies set in the orchestra, however, so when I started writing, it just seemed natural to set cozies in the symphony. “Write what you know,” they say.
Q: Who is your favorite character in Music is Murder?
A: I would have to pick KC. She is a good friend of the protagonist, Emily Wilson. She has a checkered past, an unusual outlook, and a kind heart.
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: Besides school assignments, I really started writing seriously twenty-seven years ago. I discovered I could escape to a world of my own creation, and I developed good friends in my writing groups.
Q: Besides this cozy series, you have written several published articles. Which would you say is most challenging—being a professional musician or a published author?
A: They both have their challenges, but for me there is more unrewarded pressure in being a musician. As a musician, any error you make is out there in front of everybody and his dog, instantly. If you do well, you’re just part of the whole. With writing you can edit and re-edit and re-re-edit and re-re-re-edit and re-re-re-re-edit. And then someone edits you. Then, if you’ve done well, someone likes your book enough to aquire it, someone likes it enough to publish it, and many someones like it well enough to buy it. HOWEVER, both professions involve LOTS of rejection, so the thin-skinned need not apply.
Q: Are there any other books coming along in the future, either for this series or something else?
A: There are two more books in the series, Ballistics at the Ballet, and Fireworks on the Fourth. Both of those are set in performances the symphony does every year—The Nutcracker Ballet and Fourth of July. After those, we’ll see.
Q: What advice do you have for unpublished writers?
A: I think the most important advice would be to fit into your genre. I spent years trying to peddle a manuscript that was too short. I don’t have any experience with non-genre writing, so I’m not able to give good advice there. Other than that, I think the most important advice is to learn about internet marketing.
Q: Obviously you don’t spend all your time writing. What other interests or hobbies occupy your time?
A: My family is my main passion. My dogs also occupy a lot of my time and make their way into my books, as well as my heart. Beyond that, reading fills my time.
Q: What types of books/stories do you enjoy?
A: My tastes are really pretty eclectic. Cozies, of course, and PBS runs some great BBC productions. My mother passed away recently, and I’ve rediscovered one of the books in her collection, Great Short Stories of the World. It’s an incredible collection—everybody from Somerset Maugham, to Mark Twain, to Colette, to James Joyce, to Shirley Jackson.
Thank you Barbara, and good luck with the book.
About the Author
Barbara Bowen is a freelance writer. She was a finalist and Honorable Mention in the 2018 Focus: Eddy Awards for her article, “Letting Go with Grace,” published in Unity Magazine. Ms. Bowen is also an accomplished professional oboist who played with the Colorado Springs Symphony for nineteen years.
Drawing on her quirky fellow musicians and orchestral experiences, she created the mystery series, “Musical Murders.” The first is “Music is Murder” (Release date, 6-9-21). The second is “Ballistics at the Ballet” (Release date TBA) The third is “Fireworks on the Fourth” (Release date TBA).
She is a member of Sisters in Crime, lives in Colorado with two canine friends, and has a stock of musical puns and a song for any occasion. Contact Barbara at: www.barbarabowenauthor.com or www.bookbub.com/authors/b-j-bowen