What possible reason could there be for an ancient retired person wanting to write a novel? I have to imagine that everyone who first starts to write begins with some kind of idea running around in their heads. Mine started as a result of playing the horn for fifty years. Although there are lots of tutors for learning the horn, none is really geared for the mature beginner who has to balance a job with their practice time. It was something I had lots of experience with and that was the germ of the idea for my first book.
Surprising perhaps only to me, the book went from tutor to fiction as I began to write. I had stumbled across a reference to Giovanni Punto, wondering why no one had ever written about him. Punto is considered history’s first great virtuoso on the horn. He was born Jan Vaclav Stich around 1842, the son of a serf on a rural estate in Bohemia. He somehow demonstrated enough musical talent at an early age that Count Thun, the owner of the estate, took an interest in him and had Jan tutored in music. Jan first learned the violin and then Thun decided he should learn the horn, an instrument only just beginning to be added to orchestras. Thun sent young Stich to several hornists to learn the instrument.
Stich’s progress was astonishing but he felt the constraints of a career on a rural estate. As a result he ran away, a deed that so enraged Count Thun that he sent soldiers after young Stich with orders to punch out his teeth. Stich escaped and found himself in Italy where he changed his name to Giovanni Punto and began a career that brought him fame and fortune. Both Mozart and Beethoven wrote pieces for him. He lived in Paris during the Reign of Terror and toured Europe during the early part of the Napoleonic wars. When he died in Prague in 1803 thousands of mourners lined the street to pay their respects.
I too found Punto’s story irresistible and he soon muscled his way into the pages of my book as the main character. I invented a modern female character who chooses the horn to play in her high school band. As she starts on the horn she is visited by the ghost of Punto, who begins to offer advice and coaching on playing the instrument.
The book alternates between the fictional life of a young woman carving out a career on the modern horn with a fictionalized account of Punto’s life. In my own reading, I’ve found that historical fiction these days is replete with sex and violence and I decided that my book would not be an exception. I cast Punto as a man struggling with his sexual orientation in a hostile environment. The modern character only struggles with mysteries: who is the ghost that’s visiting her and why is he there? There is a link that is revealed as the story progresses.
When it came to creating a book cover, I was able to utilize the amazing talents of my son Brendan. I sent him a picture of my natural horn (an early horn without valves) and one of my modern horn. He blended the two into a wonderful book cover that is well worth a peek.
The book can be found at: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=Punto+and+Me