The Next Big Thing Blog Hop — The Rules of Dreaming

Many thanks to Emily Kimelman for tagging me for “The Next Big Thing Blog Hop.”  This hop is a way for authors to connect with each other and their readers to share information about their present or upcoming projects.  We answer the same ten questions and then tag other authors to do the same.  Emily’s tag has also inspired me to set up this blog, and I thank her for that!

Emily’s book, Insatiable, is the third in her series of highly enjoyable mystery novels about the intrepid Sydney Rye, who starts off as a dog walker in New York (in Unleashed, the first in the series) and goes on to a life of international intrigue accompanied by her faithful canine.  You can learn more about Emily’s popular books from her Next Big Thing Blog post.

 And now for my blog post.

What is the title of your book?

The title of my new book is THE RULES OF DREAMING.  It will be published on May 23, 2013.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Years ago I imagined a story about a patient in a mental hospital who sits down at the piano in the patient lounge and flawlessly plays a difficult piece of classical music.  Although this usually requires years of instruction and practice, the patient’s psychiatrist discovers that he has no musical training or experience.  So the question I started with is:  Where did this music come from?  Where does any music come from?  Does music come to you as a kind of inspired madness, or does it come from outside the human mind?

What genre does your book fall under?

I would categorize it as a literary mystery.  In terms of genre (though not of content), I would compare it to The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco,  An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, and The Thirteenth Tale by Elizabeth Setterfield.  Another book that influenced it is one of my favorites: The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte.

By the way, it’s a stand-alone, not part of a series.  The cover was designed by award-winning artist Kit Foster.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That’s something I’ve never thought about.  But if had to pick a cast (not that you could get all these people into one movie):

Nicole  – Keira Knightley

Ned Hoffmann – Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Dubin –  Johnny Depp

Miles Palmer – George Clooney

Antonia Morgan –  Kristen Stewart

Hunter Morgan – Logan Lerman

Peter Bartolli –  Michael Emerson

Olympia –  Scarlett Johansson

Julietta –  Mila Kunis

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

At the Palmer Institute, a posh private mental hospital in upstate New York, a young patient with no musical training (Hunter Morgan) sits down at the piano and plays a fiendishly difficult piece of classical music, and before long the patient and his schizophrenic twin sister (Antonia), the doctors who treat them, and everyone else who crosses their paths are enmeshed in a world of deception and delusion, of madness and ultimately of evil and death.  Onto this shadowy stage steps Nicole P., a graduate student struggling with her thesis, who begins to suspect that the life of her psychiatrist (Ned Hoffmann) is being taken over by the fantasies of a writer who’s been dead for two hundred years.

 (Admittedly this is two sentences, inelegant ones at that, but what can I say?  You have to read the book.)

Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?

It will be published by Swallow Tail Press.  I don’t have an agent.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About three years, including a significant amount of research.  After input from various people (thanks to all of them!) and many revisions, I finished it a couple of years ago.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The book has three main themes: madness, music, and murder.  It takes place in and around a mental hospital where some of the characters are patients and some are physicians. One of the patients, Nicole P., begins to discern the pervasive influence of literary and musical Romanticism, specifically the stories of the German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) and the music of Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880), as embodied in The Tales of Hoffmann, a 19th-century opera that was made into a spectacular film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in the 1950s.  The plot turns on the suspicious death by hanging, several years earlier, of the schizophrenic twins’ mother, an opera singer who was rehearsing The Tales of Hoffmann for her debut at the Met.

The mental hospital setting, with its menacing and often gothic flavor, has been used in many classic mysteries.  Apart from mysteries, some of my favorite books on this theme are Lilith by J.R. Salamanca; Asylum by Patrick McGrath;  Fingersmith by Sarah Waters; and K-Pax by Gene Brewer.

The film version of The Tales of Hoffmann is a favorite of Martin Scorsese (who directed Shutter Island, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, which also takes place in an insane asylum and has certain similarities I was unaware of when I wrote the book).

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve dreamed of writing about The Tales of Hoffmann ever since I watched the Powell/Pressburger film many years ago. My interest in the film and the opera led to a study of E.T.A. Hoffmann, a writer known in the English-speaking world almost entirely through derivative works (Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, Tchaikowsky’s The Nutcracker, Robert Schumann’s “Kreisleriana,” Delibes’s Coppélia, Freud’s essay on “The Uncanny”) and the stream of influence that traces back to him (Schumann, Poe, Baudelaire, Dumas, Offenbach, Doestoevsky).  Unconsciously standing knee-deep in that stream of influence, I recalled my fantasy (Hoffmannesque, without my knowing it) of a patient in a mental hospital flawlessly playing a difficult piece of piano music without the benefit of any musical training or experience.  The book took off from there.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

THE RULES OF DREAMING is not a book you can skim through quickly.  It’s a bit of a labyrinth and you might get lost in it if you don’t pay close attention to where you’re going.  For those who are bold enough to venture inside, I hope it will be a rewarding experience.

And now, tagging the following authors:

Kelly Jameson has published several books in various genres, including Dead On (suspense) and What Remained of Katrina (gritty urban fiction), along with historical fiction, romances and erotica. Her next big thing may be paranormal suspense or romance or mystery or YA fiction or all of the above.

Phoebe Wilcox was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award for her extraordinary novel, Angels Carry the Sun.  She has also published a book of poetry, Recidivist, and won the Gertrude Stein Poetry Prize for 2012.  Her next big thing is a poetry book in which—once it is finished and published—there will be a dog named “Libido.”

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About brucehartmanbooks

Author of Perfectly Healthy Man Drops Dead and the forthcoming mystery, The Rules of Dreaming.
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