But So, What, Right?

Steven Barron Author Interview

Madame Curie’s Piano Tuner follows a new piano tuner who develops amnesia while taking on a job in a small town. What was the inspiration for the story set-up?

The piano tuning angle was one of convenience, which is to say it moved the writing and Ray’s stories along. Many of the myriad sections and subsections of MCPT were already in various stages of completion. Still, I had no idea if they could be merged into a semi-coherent whole. Possible POI alert: The Madame Curie/piano tuner reference occurs late in the book—a mere throw-away line on the page at best, and whether or not Ms. Curie owned or played piano or had a preferred tuner, I know not.

Skip ahead—I’m in Kansas now, trying to wind things up, still looking to impose sense-making order and logic upon the manuscript. Shortly after the first winter snow and having wearied of the process,  I abandon the idea of smooth transitions and neat, orderly bridges; I print out all the sections in the order written and spread them across the floor.  Then, with minimal thought, I begin picking them up in an order that seems to make the best sense. Miraculously,  with a few exceptions, the revised sequencing isn’t much different from the original. It was as if, and unbeknownst to me at the time, the manuscript had written and arranged itself in the proper sequence, then taking me aside, said, This is it, pal, enough! Stop effing around and get on with it!

Finally, one thing less to worry about. So, the plot explanation boils down to this: a guy decides on a career change, identifies piano tuning as a possible alternative, takes a home training course, and gains a license (RPT). Everything that follows proceeds from here.  Simple enough.

Raymond’s character encounters many unique experiences as he recovers from amnesia. What were some driving ideals behind the character’s development?

Ray was always going to be an unreliable narrator because I am an unreliable narrator—the kind of guy who has bits of information but always with gaps and gaffs, lapses and missteps, accompanied by ad-libbed fill-in-the-blanks information—never with the real deal complete picture. But so, what, right?

What themes did you feel were important to highlight in this story?

Lots of themes in MCPT—none, however, so unique as to give one pause—more like the usual suspects. Readers will recognize them easily enough. My belief: no one wants to feel like they’re being head-clobbered with a bunch of social, cultural, and political issues/messages/slogans, etc., especially the more obvious ones. Some character begins lobbying for a rewrite of an Appalachian murder ballad, like Tom Dooley or Knoxville Girl, wanna turn the narrative into a song-trading Hootenanny; they’ve come to the wrong place.

Anyway, themes include all manner of manipulation, various control systems, pervasive commercialism,  corporate oppression, soul-crushing jobs and careers,  all manner of dysfunctional relationships, disconnection from the self,  human gullibility, stifling careers, baffling roles,  citizens and families on the ropes, said systems on the ropes, the country on the ropes, faulty defense mechanisms, of course, racism, exploded history, and tragedy by the pound. No doubt there are more, but these will suffice for now. 

Where do you see the characters at the book’s end?

Well, I don’t imagine any of this ends well. Two hundred-plus characters scattered throughout MCPT, all likely with an axe to grind. I imagine the lot busing in and showing up to my door riled up with assorted complaints, like, we understood there’d be full medical provided, paid vacations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and that there’d also be a wardrobe allowance and a meal per diem. Or perhaps this from the senior Vodka sister: “As stage-trained actresses, both my sister and I assumed we’d have prime roles, more speaking lines, and that come the end of the day, there’d be a prize patrol, perhaps present us with those oversized checks. Frankly, the embarrassment caused—we fear our careers are ruined and that you’re the blame.”

So, I say: “What is it with you people? Such ungratefulness I never seen before in my life. Swear to God, the frigging roles of a lifetime, and this is how you repay me. Now beat it, all of you, before I call the cops.”

Ah, such is life. But what can you do?

Author Links: Facebook | Website | LinkedIn

When newly licensed piano tuner RAYMOND DOVER visits the burg of Bucksnort, his intent is to provide services for a veteran’s retirement home. Shortly after arrival, he’s stricken with a mysterious amnesia and subsequently obliged to spend time at a county bughouse (Dixxmont) for observation and treatment. Therapeutic success leads to discharge, and Ray subsequently decides to stay on awhile in the area.

Bucksnort is archetypical, small-town America; a dream town of wearisome proportions; a sometimes metropolis with all the attendant vexations of other city centers but still with the blinkered, tar black menace. It is impossible to know anyone in Bucksnort, and after frequenting, it’s also impossible to care.

Whether found or invented history, varied characters present, some historical while scores of others are conceived on the run. Recognizable eras are also referenced; timelines are breached and boarded and, together with the myriad personalities, are riffled and sailed across the page like casino playing cards.

Madame Curie’s Piano Tuner is a loose, less than linear assemblage of scenes, scenarios, staged bits, gags, etc., recounted by Ray. Soon enough, the moderately-adjusted reader may adjudge him an unreliable narrator. Still, for these times, he’s reliable enough, and though a vocal faction may seek to blow the confines, Ray makes clear long before final words are laid to page that exiting Bucksnort is easier said than done.

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on March 9, 2023, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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