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Great books spur great conversations

Brendan Slocumb [00:00:00] Now that I see the interest in The Violin Conspiracy, I’m like, “I gotta get my stuff together for a memoir.” Because if this one aspect of my life is entertaining to people, the rest of my life is gonna blow you guys away. It’s gonna just totally… Just be sitting down when you pick up the book. That’s all I’m gonna say.

Anne Bogel [00:00:23] Hey readers, I’m Anne Bogel and this is What Should I Read Next? Welcome to the show that’s dedicated to answering the question that plagues every reader, what should I read next? We don’t get bossy on the show. What we will do here is give you the information you need to choose your next read.

This week we have a special treat. We’re sharing a conversation with Brendan Slocumb who joined us recently in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club to discuss his musical thriller, The Violin Conspiracy.

[00:01:02] Regular What Should I Read Next? listeners have heard from Brendan before. He appeared on the show in Episode 351, Book Club Favorites: LIVE from Bookmarks! as part of that excellent panel discussion with Tia Williams, Andrew Sean Greer, and TJ Klune.

Brendan’s debut The Violin Conspiracy was our January 2023 pick in Book Club. I knew as soon as I turned the last page of this book last year that we had to read it together. I’m always on the lookout for titles that deliver discoverability and discuss-ability to our members. And wow, this one does exactly that.

Brendan describes The Violin Conspiracy as the story of Ray, who discovers that his old family fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius violin. This discovery catapults him into superstardom in the world of classical music. But right before the Tchaikovsky Competition, which is basically the Olympics of classical music, Ray’s violin is stolen.

He gets off his flight at the Charlotte Airport, only to discover his priceless strat has been replaced by a white Chuck Taylor high top and a ransom note. And he has to figure out who took it. Was it his family who thinks that he should sell the violin so they can split 2 million bucks? Was it the Marks’ family whose great-grandfather owned Ray’s great-grandfather and claims the violin really belongs to them? Was it Mike the doorman? Was it his teacher who might be jealous because he’s a better player than she is? Will Ray get the Violin back? Will he compete and will he win?

[00:02:27] This mystery propels you through the book. And there are also a bunch of threads woven through about never giving up in blatant racism, and how do you overcome crushing obstacles and doing what you love. We could not wait to talk to Brendan in Book Club. He joined me in conversation along with our Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club Community Manager, Ginger Horton, and our Book Club co-host, Shannan Malone.

You will hear me crank out a few words welcoming everyone to the event, and then hand off my mic to Ginger and Shannan. I have the privilege of moderating a healthy percentage of our author talks but it’s no secret to our book lovers, and maybe not to you, I mean, listen to me now, that my lungs have not been healthy so far this year. We are getting it under control. But for this session, I got to participate wholeheartedly and quietly in our Book Club chat while Shannan and Brendan dig into the book.

We talk about The Violin Conspiracy, of course, but our conversation also delves into music, comic books, Brendan’s recent reads, and his plans for future novels. You never have to read the book to enjoy and benefit from our Book Club conversations. So whether or not you read The Violin Conspiracy, I think you will love listening in today.

[00:03:32] On that note, don’t be concerned about spoilers. We have ensured this episode is spoiler free. We edited this conversation to work here as an audio-only podcast, but you will hear references to Book Club members during the interview. That’s because while our members aren’t on video during these events, they do participate actively during our conversations. They ask questions for the author, they chat with our Book Club hosts and with each other. You’ll hear that today.

We would love to have you in Book Club. To join in on the ongoing conversation, head to Modernmrsdarcy.com/club.

Now, let’s get to it.

Anne Bogel [00:04:05] Hello, everyone. Welcome to Book Club. I am so glad you’re here. I’m Anne Bogel. I am delighted to be here, and also I’m going to be in the chat today. You are in good hands with our community manager, Ginger Horton, and our Book Club co-host, Shannan Malone. We have a very special guest today. I’m so excited for Brendan to join us.

Hi, Brendan. We’re so glad you’re here. I’m going to hand it over to my wonderful team and our illustrious guest. And thanks for coming. It’s gonna be a blast. Ginger, take it away.

Ginger Horton [00:04:42] I’m glad that you all are here. If this happens to be your first author talk,—I know we’ve got a lot of new members of the New Year—let us know in chat. What a way to start the year! I was just telling our panel here that you guys were active this month in the chat. I can tell. It’s emanating from the phones how much you love this book.

And I’m gonna go out on a limb and say, I will not be surprised if this winds up on some of your favorite lists from 2023. I know it’s only January, but once again, I’m hearing those kinds of words. We’ve been doing this for six or seven years now and I bet this will be a favorite.

[00:05:15] So, like Anne said, I’m your community manager, Ginger Horton. We’re joined today by your author Brendan Slocumb, and Shannan Malone is here today. I’ve got a poll for you and I’m gonna read these out. So if you miss it, not to worry. But I’ve got a poll.

We want to know, do you play a musical instrument? We’re talking about musicality this month. So many of you admitted to some musical training in your past. And we just found out something about our own Shannan this month, which I did not know. Shannan, tell us about your musical experience while people are answering.

Shannan Malone [00:05:47] I studied classical piano for over 10 years and competed in national auditions. Yeah, scary times.

Ginger Horton [00:05:55] Who knew! I had no idea. You know, people for years… And this is why great books bring out great conversations because you find out some of this really fun stuff. So if you guys are answering yes, I would personally love to know. Tell us in chat what it is you played. I played nothing other than my little sixth-grade recorder and I can probably still pull out like a C A, C C, A. But that is it, you guys. And I’ve always regretted that.

Well, we know our author has experience and we are definitely going to get to those questions. We know you all want to know more about his writing life, his musical life, his teaching life. Let me end with this poll here and share your results.

I’m kind of surprised I didn’t know what to think. But a proportion of you, 44%, play a musical instrument. Little over half of us do not, so you’re in good company. But I’m so impressed. So without further ado, I’m gonna turn this over to Shannan.

Shannan Malone [00:06:48] I have been hoping for another interview from you Brendan and Anne since I heard the What Should I Read Next? Episode 351, Book Club Favorites: LIVE from Bookmarks! Y’all, that was such an utterly delightful experience. If you hadn’t heard it, go listen to it right after this interview. I am excited to talk to you today, Brendan. It’s such an honor for me. Thanks, Anne. Thanks, Ginger.

As I said, I have a little bit of experience with classical music and classical piano having had lessons for 10 years. And I wanted to thank you specifically before we got started, Brendan, because it brought back so many memories, some pleasant, some unpleasant. And I think it’s stoked a dying ember of my love for playing. I have a piano outside and haven’t touched it. And I was like, “You know what, I’m gonna tickle the ivories a little bit.” So thank you so much for writing this book and writing this story.

When did you start writing? Because I know you’re a violinist and a performer and an educator. So when did the writing start? Have you always been writing things?

Brendan Slocumb [00:08:01] Well, before I answer that question, I want to say to Ginger, I know your C A, C A is the absolute best. I know it. I can feel it. Wow, writing. I have actually always written not to this extent, you know, with The Violin Conspiracy. But far back in elementary school, when we would have to write creative sentences, I would write some things, and my teachers…

I had one teacher that actually thanked me for my sentences. I didn’t understand why. I was like, “Well, I did the work like everyone else. You told us to do this. Why are you thanking me?” And my high school teacher really pushed me to… I was fortunate enough to have the same English teacher for 11th and 12th grade English. And she always pushed me.

I would never get my book reports back or my paragraphs. We had to do like a writing assignment. I’d never get them back. And I didn’t understand why. They were always up on the bulletin board. You know, I guess she liked them.

[00:08:59] In college, I did a lot of reading, my English classes, writing papers, and everything. I’m actually the songwriter for my band. So it’s always been there. And I’m gonna say this, and I’m probably going to get a lot of people in trouble, but I actually had friends that asked me to write some college papers for them because they were like, “I need to get a good grade on this paper.” And I’m like, “Sure, I’ll do it for you.” And they got A’s. I’ll just say that.

I’ve always loved writing. That’s actually a pleasant surprise that people like what it is that I’ve written because I would have never thought that. As a musician, sure. If I play something, you like it, yeah, that’s great. That’s what I’m trying to do. But you know, writing, it’s always a pleasant surprise.

Shannan Malone [00:09:42] So tell me how you came to write this particular story, The Violin Conspiracy.

Brendan Slocumb [00:09:47] It’s largely autobiographical. So I’ve been carrying a lot of the stuff around with me since I was nine years old when I started playing the violin. In the summer of 2020 really I kicked things into high gear because as a working musician, everything stopped. No lessons, no recitals, no rehearsals, no weddings, no everything. So I had plenty of time to write.

I submitted an old manuscript, which was terrible, and I’ll be the first one to say that, that is terrible. It was awful. Awful. So if you ever see a science fiction manuscript by me, ignore it, please. I’ll pay you not to read it, please.

And I had plenty of time, and I got a lot of fantastic advice about what I should write about, which is not science fiction. I know music, so I was advised to write about music and the first chapter of The Violin Conspiracy was born.

Shannan Malone [00:10:39] I think I read somewhere that you had a violin stolen. 1953 Eugene Lehman. Am I saying that correctly?

Brendan Slocumb [00:10:48] Eugene Lehman. You’re saying that like you know where this instrument is, Shannan. Please help her brother out. I had a violin stolen in high school my senior year. It was supposed to take me through college through my professional career and it was gone. That’s one of the main reasons I put The Fifth Element in The Violin Conspiracy because I can identify with it personally.

Shannan Malone [00:11:13] And you actually had Ray select a Lehman as his replacement. That was on purpose or…?

Brendan Slocumb [00:11:20] Oh, yeah.

Shannan Malone [00:11:21] Okay.

Brendan Slocumb [00:11:22] I mean, it was a phenomenal instrument. Everyone I let play it, they were like, “Wow.” I was like, “Yes, it’s mine.” Until it wasn’t. So it’s a great violin and someone’s out there enjoying it, I’m sure.

Shannan Malone [00:11:35] Is there a difference between the 1953 and the 1959?

Brendan Slocumb [00:11:39] Oh, yeah.

Shannan Malone [00:11:40] Okay.

Brendan Slocumb [00:11:40] It’s tweaks here and there from just the maker. Just a couple of tweaks here and there. But I prefer the ’53.

Shannan Malone [00:11:50] So why didn’t you give that one to Ray? I’m just curious.

Brendan Slocumb [00:11:53] Because it’s mine. I can’t give Ray everything.

Shannan Malone [00:11:57] Awesome. Well, then that brings us to the next question that people have been asking. And you kind of answered that already when you said it was largely autobiographical. Because they wanted to know, is this your memoir? Are you going to write a memoir?

Brendan Slocumb [00:12:14] Believe it or not, The Violin conspiracy, 2022, all of this, meeting Anne Bogle at Bookmarks, all of this is one very small portion of the life of Brendan. Now that I see the interest in The Violin Conspiracy, I’m like, “I gotta get my stuff together for a memoir.” Because if this one aspect of my life is entertaining to people, the rest of my life is gonna blow you guys away. It’s gonna just totally… You just be sitting down when you pick up the book. That’s all I’m gonna say. But it’s coming. It’s coming.

Shannan Malone [00:12:49] This is awesome. Best news ever. Looking forward to that so much. And I’m gonna ask you about some of those other interesting components later.

Brendan Slocumb [00:12:58] Bring it. Bring it.

Shannan Malone [00:12:59] So I would like to know your musical background. I’ve listened to a couple of interviews about your falling in love with classical music. Can you please tell us about your teacher playing Mozart?

Brendan Slocumb [00:13:11] Oh, my gosh! In third grade, I had a music teacher and her name was Mrs. Holmes. She was not a nice lady. She really wasn’t. She was not a nice, nice lady. She was mean as a snake actually. And she played an excerpt of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. And that was the first piece of classical music I’ve ever heard.

It was all strings in one section that I heard. You know, the violin, the main theme, tantaram taramram tarara, tarara. And she said, “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a Mozart.” And I was like, “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a Mozart. I like Superman, but Mozart too. Oh, my God.” I will never forget this tune. And I loved it. I’d never heard anything like that ever. And it took a hold of me and it changed me that moment. And from then on I couldn’t get enough of it. I’m so glad that I was exposed to it then.

Shannan Malone [00:14:03] So you went on and learned the violin? We have the question, did you compete in any competitions?

Brendan Slocumb [00:14:10] I did. The first competition I did was in high school. And like I mentioned earlier, I was in my hometown, and I met with my friend Kimberly Jones at the time, Kimberly Simpkins now. We were like this. Every time there was a competition or an audition, it was Kim and Brendan, Kim and Brendan. We sat next to each other. We’re always wanting to in everything.

First real competition was a talent show. And Kim would beat me at everything. It was always Kim and then me. Always. Except for this talent show. I placed, she didn’t. I finally beat her. Finally. There were competitions in college and everything. For someone who had never had lessons until they got to college, I did pretty well. You know, I would come in second here, I get an honorable mention there. Just the fact that I was competing, it was great. My teacher pushed me and I’m so glad that she did.

Shannan Malone [00:15:05] I mean, that teacher to push you is awesome. I must admit I didn’t have that. All my parents were interested in from my classical piano lessons was if I could play for church. Which I did. I did. I was one of the church pianists at 15. But you know, I didn’t go any further. So it’s good you had someone to push you.

Speaking of someone who inspired you, motivated you, people are wondering about grandma Nora. Is she inspired by somebody?

Brendan Slocumb [00:15:36] Yeah, absolutely.

Shannan Malone [00:15:37] Okay. Can you tell us?

Brendan Slocumb [00:15:38] The blue hair, the pink and green rollers, sweet, sweet, sweet voice, that was my grandmother. She was my maternal grandmother. As I was writing her dialogue, I could always hear her voice. Always. She was the sweetest.

If you heard this woman talk, you would have to take an insulin shot because she was so sweet. It’s like diabetes dripping off of you. That’s how sweet she was. I would often wonder, “Am I just thinking that she’s a sweet lady because she’s my grandmother?” I asked my mom, I asked my aunts and uncles, they all said the exact same thing. She was the sweetest woman on the face of the planet.

And I loved her so much, and everyone that I know loved her so much. This is one way for me to just show her and my family how much we love and appreciated her.

Shannan Malone [00:16:24] Right. And her name was?

Brendan Slocumb [00:16:25] Nora. That’s my grandma.

Shannan Malone [00:16:29] So here at Modern Mrs. Darcy, we tend to be delightfully nerdy, we like to say, and we love hearing-

Brendan Slocumb [00:16:37] My kind of people.

Shannan Malone [00:16:38] …all the details. So Book Club member Kristen said that she very much enjoyed reading the interview with Anderson Cooper. Very surreal. “I can see and hear the scene as clearly as if I was sitting in front of my television screen.” And I have to add that personally, yes, very much so. Like I saw the whole interview happening in my mind as I was reading it. Were permissions necessary to do that? Can you tell us about those details?

Brendan Slocumb [00:17:05] Well, with 60 Minutes and Anderson Cooper there, all being public figures, no. It’s like 60 Minutes is… I wasn’t making any money off of the name 60 Minutes or I wasn’t… I didn’t have to pay Anderson Cooper. I doubt he’s even read it. So if anybody has a contact with Anderson, tell him his name is in a book. No, I didn’t have to ask any permissions because it’s all out there. But you know, it’s fiction. It’s fiction.

Shannan Malone [00:17:29] And how did you get that idea to come about…? Was that something you planned on doing in advance? When did that idea strike you?

Brendan Slocumb [00:17:38] It kind of came along as I was going… You know, I know I wanted to have an interview. I was thinking 60 Minutes or 20/20. But to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t watched 60 Minutes in a very long time. And I was thinking, “Oh, let me see one of the old… You know, Morley Schaefer.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute. I don’t think he’s on this show anymore.”

So I talked to people and my agent actually was like, “Anderson Cooper.” I was like, “No, wait, he’s a CNN commentator?” “No, he does 60 Minutes.” “Really? I didn’t know that.” “So hey, why not? He’s a very recognizable name. Let’s do that.” I wanted to make it as authentic as possible.

Shannan Malone [00:18:17] Well, it was. Like I said, I saw it happening in my mind. We had a question from Susan. And this kind of coincided with a few other people where they were so absorbed in the story… I kind of did this too. You’re so good at the writing. You’re like, “I need to look up Ray playing online. I want tickets to hear this guy.” Then, of course, you realize, and as she said, “You don’t need to look out Ray. You need to look up Brendan.” So are there any recordings or videos out there that you would recommend? I mean, I found some but I don’t-

Brendan Slocumb [00:18:57] Don’t recommend that, please. Don’t. Don’t. No. No! Let’s just go with no. As a musician, I’m much more comfortable playing in a group of people. I’m happy to perform with an orchestra. If there’s recordings of me playing in an orchestra, sure, go listen to those. But like my solo stuff, lately, like within the last year or so, I just haven’t had the time to put in the practice that I want to.

So there’s a recording of me playing a Schubert quartet. And I’m just like, “All right, I’m struggling with this because it’s hard. Schubert is hard. It’s beautiful to listen to a beautiful to play, but it’s really, really challenging. I’m more proud of the book than I am of the recording. So I’ll say that.

Shannan Malone [00:19:45] So Katherine asked, “What was your journey into publishing? How did you get your agent?

Brendan Slocumb [00:19:52] I kind of fell into this whole agent, author thing the opposite of how everyone else does it. You submit your stuff and an agent says, “Okay, you know…” I had an agent pick me. When I submitted my first manuscript of the science fiction novel, which shall not be named, he saw that the writing was okay but the story was ugh. But the writing was, “It’s not bad.” He said, I have a good voice and I should write what I know. I said, “Okay, I’m gonna go home and take your advice, and I will do that.”

So a few days later, I had written the first chapter of The Violin Conspiracy. I submitted it to this agent, he was like, “Whoa, I can sell this. I can actually sell this book. This sounds like a good story. Are you willing to write it?” “Yeah, sure, I’ll write this. I’m doing nothing else, except sitting on the couch eating all day.”

So I wrote every single day. And I took all the advice that he gave me, “Change this, do this, think about this, maybe this.” And I argued a little bit just because that’s what guys do. It was like alpha contest there. And I argued, and the end result was it was magic. I trust my agent 100%. He is phenomenal. He has not steered me wrong. I want to impress him.

Shannan Malone [00:21:09] So let’s talk about some of those difficult moments and stories and sections in the book.

Brendan Slocumb [00:21:16] No. There’s nothing difficult in this book. No.

Shannan Malone [00:21:19] And I know you wrote them for a reason. Thank you. I mean, when I read the scene over Ray pulled over by the cops. I read it one night before bed, which probably I shouldn’t have done and my husband was working late, but I went to sleep. And I woke up in a cold sweat, y’all. Like, “Oh, no. Is he home? What will happened?” And I was like, “What just happened?” Because this is a constant worry that I have personally.

And I have a little boy right now. He’s eight. In about eight years he’ll be driving, and I know, my anxiety is gonna be times 10 when that happens, in addition to you know, just the regular, “Oh, is he in accident?” Like, “Oh, is he gonna get pulled over?” Can you tell us a little bit about what prompted you to include that? I know you said that most of those stories are largely things that have happened to you.

Brendan Slocumb [00:22:15] It was really a thing about validation and redemption for me. When that incident happened in the summer of 2000, you know, this is pre GPS, pre-smartphones, I was using a roadmap. A friend and I were driving through Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Our hotel was on this side of the street but we were way on the side and in the right lane. Had to put on my signal. There’s nobody on the road. It’s a Sunday evening.

Put on my signal, went over, lights and sirens. I’m like, “Oh, geez, here we go.” And my friend who’s in the car with me on this road trip, this white guy, he was, “What are you talking about?” It’s like, “Here it comes. It’s coming. I knew. I knew this was gonna happen. I was in a brand new 2000 Black Honda Accord. You know, black guy driving through the Deep South.

My friend didn’t get it. He’s like, “What are you talking about?” I’m like, “This is just something that I have to deal with and you’ll never have to deal with.” And sure enough, the cap on his bullhorn, his gun drawn, “Get out of the car. Get on your hands and knees, hands up.” It was terrifying. I thought I was gonna get my head blown off all because of an illegal lane change.

I need people to understand that things like this really do happen. I’m not going to say that the cop was racist. I can’t speak to what was going on in his head. But I just know what I felt. And things like this really do happen to people. And when I would say this happened to me, I would always get, “You probably did something wrong. You’re exaggerating. It wasn’t as bad as you think it is.”

[00:23:53] And just being able to put that element in this book, to get validation. And I’ve heard from so many people, “That same thing happened to me. When I would say this to people, they wouldn’t believe me either. I’m so happy that it is in a story that people can read and their minds and their perceptions of what life is like for black men. Now we understand,” that that was a win. So I’m glad I went through that. So hopefully no one else will ever have to go through that.

Shannan Malone [00:24:21] It’s terrifying. That has actually happened to my husband also. So, you know, guys, it’s really, real, y’all.

Brendan Slocumb [00:24:28] It’s real. It’s real.

Shannan Malone [00:24:29] I’ve actually been pulled over too. Not right out of the car. But they couldn’t tell me what it did wrong and then the police officer was like, “I’m gonna check your tank,” which I knew was well below the legal limit. Because when asked I was like, “I don’t want the dark one. Don’t give me the dark one.”

And he’s like, “I’m gonna check your tank,” and I’m like, “Okay. I hope that’s all that’s gonna happen.” and then he checked the tank and walked away.” And I was like, “Did I do something? What happened?” And I was shaking the whole time I was pulling away. I don’t think I calmed down for a good hour. I was on a trip. It was a little terrifying.

[00:25:13] But I love how Robin in our Book Club put it. That that is why reading is so important because it allows us to take what we know in our heads or what we’ve heard people say and translate this knowledge into our hearts and our bodies.

Brendan Slocumb [00:25:28] Right.

Shannan Malone [00:25:29] I think you really did that with The Violin Conspiracy and the story of Ray. I was pulling for him with everything that was in me like he was a real person.

I do have a question about this story and how it was published in the past two or three years. Do you feel like the world is more receptive to the sharing of these experiences now were The Violin Conspiracy been published like maybe 10, 15, 20 years ago in your mind?

Brendan Slocumb [00:25:59] I think that the timing on this was absolutely perfect, not necessarily for good reasons. When COVID happened, everybody was kind of stuck in the same place, and they bore witness to a lot of things that a lot of people had never seen before, specifically, George Floyd. When the world saw what happened, it was like, “Whoa, wait a minute, maybe things like this actually do happen. I just saw it with my own eyes.”

So stories like this, [00:26:29] were much more receptive to receiving stories like this, and the experiences that Ray had to undertake and just being able to say, “Whoa, maybe things like this really do occur.”

I gotta be honest. I have to give credit to my editors and a lot of people who worked on this book. I was advised to take a lot of these things out because they seem so far-fetched. And I had to fight to keep them in because a lot of people did not believe it. They were just like, “That whole wedding scene, there’s no way anything like that ever happened.”

I’m like, “I’m living proof that it has happened. I pray it never happens to anyone else but yes, it’s real and I’m not taking it out. And I want to keep it in this story because it’s very, very important that people see that things like this happen and the perseverance it takes to overcome them.”

Shannan Malone [00:27:18] Thank you for sharing that and for putting those things in the book. I want to switch gears to a lighter note. We have a question from Susan. They want to know about the action figures behind you. Are there action figures behind you?

Brendan Slocumb [00:27:32] I have tons of action figures. These are comic books here and there are more comics stacked up to the ceiling there. And there’s my friend Spider-Man right there. I’ve got the posters and everything, and my statues over there.

And I’m a huge comic book geek, nerd, whatever you call it. But I got muscles, so it’s okay. Just I love action figures and comics because they make me happy. I keep them around. And I collect them because they make me happy. They remind me of a time when my imagination was going. And just being happy as a kid, as a teenager, I’m like, “Oh, I love this stuff.”

I have piles of comics in my office because that’s what I love to do. And if anyone says, “Wow, you’re too old for this,” whatever. You’re never too old to do whatever it is that makes you happy and what you love. That’s where I stand on that. I have a personalized action figure on my desk that I had made because I love this stuff. It makes me happy.

Shannan Malone [00:28:36] That is awesome.

Brendan Slocumb [00:28:37] If anybody can tell me who this is in the chat, I will send you an ARC of Symphony of Secrets.

Shannan Malone [00:28:43] Oh, my goodness!

Brendan Slocumb [00:28:44] I will totally send you one. Anyone? Anyone? Tell me who it is.

Shannan Malone [00:28:49] I’m shifting gears again. Ray is dealing with a lot, including his dysfunctional family, which is a plot point. He’s very little support. It seems his own mother doesn’t support him. What is up with that?

Brendan Slocumb [00:29:05] Okay, okay. If there is one person who can honestly say that they have no family dysfunction to any extent, I will not say another word. Every single person knows about family dysfunction. Maybe not to the level of raised family, but everyone can identify with family dysfunction. Again, I was looking for that air of authenticity and I just wanted people to be able to relate.

And you got to think, Ray’s family, you know, it was a $10 million Violin. 10 million bucks. Why can’t he just sell it and get another instrument and split this money? It’ll change their lives for the better for the rest of her life. That doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request to me, you know? So it’s family dysfunction at its finest. I’ll say that.

But I will say mom in the story is not my mom. I promise you. My mom would never try to actively keep me from pursuing music. So that part was definitely fictionalized a lot more.

Shannan Malone [00:30:05] That was my follow-up question. So are you still teaching or are you too busy for that now?

Brendan Slocumb [00:30:12] The day that I get too busy to teach is the day that… Just no. I cannot not. I was talking about this with a friend of mine the other day. I actually have two lessons after this interview I have to go and teach. But I’m no longer in the classroom. I have a private studio of musicians. I’m teaching violin, piano and guitar lessons, and viola lessons. I have two really good violists. I teach. When I’m not traveling, I’m on a weekly schedule.

The parents have been so understanding with everything that’s going on with the book. They know, “okay, if you have to miss this week, that’s fine. We’ll see you in two weeks. We’ll make sure they practice.” I’m a teacher first and foremost. That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. That’s what I’ve always done.

Shannan Malone [00:30:56] What was your favorite song to teach and what is your favorite song to play? Are they the same or are they different?

Brendan Slocumb [00:31:04] That is a fantastic question. Favorite piece to teach. When I was teaching high school, I would teach the same… we would do annual pieces. I would do the same piece every year. It’s a Concerto for Four Violins by Vivaldi. He wrote a couple of them. I’m talking about B minor one.

And every year the seniors would look forward to playing the solos because I would play one of the parts and I would pick three other seniors to play. And from the time that they refreshment, they would look forward to that and who’s going to get to play. They would always work hard so they could play the senior solo. Wow, did that for 11 years. It was awesome. That was one of my favorite pieces to actually teach and to play. There’s so many of them.

I’m a Vivaldi freak. I love playing. I love playing the 4 Seasons. Winter and Summer are my two favorites to play. I love Dvorak. His Eighth Symphony is one of my favorite pieces to play. Schubert 9 is one of my favorite symphonies to play. And Mozart 40, of course.

Shannan Malone [00:32:09] Meditation by Thais. Am I saying that right?

Brendan Slocumb [00:32:12] Meditation from Thais by Jules Massenet.

Shannan Malone [00:32:15] I love that piece.

Brendan Slocumb [00:32:17] It’s beautiful.

Shannan Malone [00:32:18] Yeah. I actually consider that like a theme song of my life because it starts out all nice and then it gets all…you know. And the way you wrote it in the book, I was like, “He just described my theme song. I have words now.” And I’m not gonna read it. Everyone can go look at that. But yeah, that is my song so much. And I was so happy that you included that in there. I’ve never been able to play it though. I don’t even know how that was sound on the piano. I only hear it like in violins or flutes.

Brendan Slocumb [00:32:52] I’m sure it’s beautiful however it’s played. It’s gorgeous.

Shannan Malone [00:32:55] All right. People were curious about the sneaker. Like, why the sneaker? The nerds among us wonder if it was the same weight as a violin or whatever. So why the sneaker?

Brendan Slocumb [00:33:10] Great question I’ve gotten, “Why a Chuck Taylor? Why only one? Why a high top?” You know, because a lot of people don’t realize that a violin is really light. It’s a hollow. It’s hollow instruments. Just two pieces of wood put on top of each other, and there’s air in between. There’s not a lot of hardware on it. So it’s very, very light. It’s a hollow piece of wood.

People will ask, “How heavy is that violin?” It’s not heavy at all. It depends on the case, really. In the particular case that Ray was using, it was a very lightweight case. So you couldn’t put something heavy and I figured, “You know, okay, size 10 and a half Chuck, why not?” And when I ran that by my agent, he was like, “What is that?” I was like, “You don’t know Chuck Taylor tennis shoes? Where have you been?” He’s like, “I’m probably not one of the most athletic people in the world, although I would never play basketball in Chuck Taylor shoes.” No, no, never.

But it was the perfect size and weight to fit in a case. And yes, I’ve put a shoe in my violin case and you wouldn’t know the difference.

Shannan Malone [00:34:11] So have you heard the expression pantser or plotter when it comes to writing?

Brendan Slocumb [00:34:17] Yes. Yes, I have.

Shannan Malone [00:34:18] Okay. Which one are you?

Brendan Slocumb [00:34:20] Every single aspect is laid out in outline. But I don’t necessarily follow. But it’s definitely done. I’ve got part one, part two, part three. This is what’s gonna happen. This is what’s going to happen. Once the initial manuscript is done, I go back and change everything around because if it were that easy just to go, boom, boom, boom, I’d have 10 books written by now. But no, yeah, I’m definitely a plotter.

Shannan Malone [00:34:47] Okay, so now I want to tell her about the acknowledgments of some of that life stuff you were talking about that’s so fun. People want to know about your band. And I don’t know if I’m saying this correctly. Geppetto’s Wüd?

Brendan Slocumb [00:35:01] Wüd.

Shannan Malone [00:35:01] Wüd.

Brendan Slocumb [00:35:02] Wüd. All I’m gonna say is teenage boy humor. That’s all I’m gonna say about that name. And if you got a brother or some, you totally get it. Geppetto’s Wüd. I’m an original member of that band. And it’s started… One of my students was like… We wanted to play for a pep rally or something at the school, and they were like, “Hey, will you sing this song?” I’m like, “Can’t you find someone else to do it?” “No, dude, it would be so cool if you did.” “Okay, sure, fine.”

So we did a song and then some of my guitar students were like, “Hey, can we play?” “Yeah, sure. Why not? Let’s just make it a big thing.” And then a cellist from my orchestra who was also a phenomenal singer, “All right, I’ll sing with you too.” So we had like six people and this was a band made up out of students and a teacher.

You know, different iterations came and went when everybody graduated, and I left the school and everything. We’ve been together for a number of years. And the funny thing is, the drummer is one of my first students from when I taught in North Carolina. I taught him in ninth grade, he was in my orchestra class. Played violin, good. One of the best memories you’ve ever seen in your life. He would play something one time, and he would look at me and I’m like, “Why are you not looking at your music.” He’s like, “I know it.” And I would test him. And he’s totally got it memorized. Incredible memory.

[00:36:32] The lead guitarist is one of my former guitar students. One of my absolute best friends. You know, I watched these kids grow up to become these phenomenal musicians. And we played together and we write songs together, and we go and perform, and it’s amazing. When I see them with a beer, my instinct is to say, “Oh, wait a minute, you’re inn your 30s, 40s. Hold on. Sorry. Just kidding. Hey, can I have one of those.” It’s great. We’ve written some really good stuff and we’ve played some really good stuff. I’m actually going to post one of the best songs that we’ve ever done. I’m going to totally post it on my Instagram page.

Shannan Malone [00:37:11] Nice. Everyone.

Brendan Slocumb [00:37:12] The song is called Eleven. Not many people have heard it. It is the best song that I have ever written. And they are an amazing group of guys. I love my band.

Shannan Malone [00:37:22] And what is that IG handle for those of us who need it?

Brendan Slocumb [00:37:25] @Brendanslocumb.

Shannan Malone [00:37:27] All right. Now, you know, I have to ask you about Symphony of Secrets, guys, that are releasing on April 8. I read an excerpt in the back of this. And I’m sorry, Brendan, I do not know the name of that thing, character you keep showing, but can you hook a sister up with an ARC? I am dying to know about what happened. What happened? Is this a continuation of Ray’s story or what?

Brendan Slocumb [00:37:56] Okay, all of my subsequent books, they’re all going to take place in the same universe.

Shannan Malone [00:38:03] We love that.

Brendan Slocumb [00:38:03] Not necessarily the same characters. But there will be references to past characters in future books. Like you will see after you read Symphony of Secrets, in the last chapter of The Violin Conspiracy, one of the main characters is named. I’m not going to say or give any clues, but that character is named and plays an extremely important role in Symphony of Secrets, which I am so incredibly proud of.

It was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do, because The Violin Conspiracy just rolled off of my fingers because, you know, it was so personal with Ray and myself. But Symphony of Secrets, you know, this story I had to create, I had to pull it out of nowhere. And it was tough. I gotta say it was really tough for me. When you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself… I felt like I had let a lot of people down because, Oh, it’s not a Violin Conspiracy. What are people gonna think? I put it away for like six months, then I read it again and said, “Whoa, did I write this? What is this? I like this story. I am in love with this story. And I hope everyone loves it too.

[00:39:16] It’s really a story about giving a voice to voices that have been silenced, to giving a voice to the voiceless, people who have never had an opportunity to shine, to show what they can do, to show their hard work and perseverance, people who’ve never been given that opportunity. And it’s just a classic story that I really hope people enjoy.

Shannan Malone [00:39:37] Can’t wait to read it. Looking forward to it. And we see some of that comic book influence with the same universe happening. Maybe a little bit.

Brendan Slocumb [00:39:46] All I’m gonna say is I got like 10 books up here.

Shannan Malone [00:39:48] Awesome.

Brendan Slocumb [00:39:48] And there’s going to be a story about someone and comic books and solving a mystery. That’s all I’m going to say. Comic books play an extremely important role.

Shannan Malone [00:39:58] Is it book three? Because you know, we’re very greedy over here. We’re very greedy.

Brendan Slocumb [00:40:04] All I’m gonna say about book three is that it involves a cellist and hypnosis. And I’ve already taken courses on hypnosis and everything, and I’ve been through it. You’re gonna love it.

Shannan Malone [00:40:15] Awesome. Awesome. We have a question from Jenn. She says, “Is there indie bookstore in your area that you love?”

Brendan Slocumb [00:40:24] There are two that I frequent. One is Solid State Books, which is on H Street in Northeast DC, and Politics and Prose, which is in DC on Connecticut Avenue. And there’s another location, but I go to Connecticut Avenue one. And they’re great independent bookstores, and they’ve both been extremely supportive and kind and all of this good stuff. So if you are in the DC area, and you need to book Politics and Prose or Solid State Books.

Shannan Malone [00:40:51] Yes. And now we know where to order that preorder for Symphony of Secrets if we can’t manage that ARC. So I’d like to close with one final question, and then if you don’t mind reading that last little paragraph of the author’s note. But the question that I have, though, is what are you reading now?

Brendan Slocumb [00:41:09] What am I reading now? I’m actually reading a couple of ARCs right now from some fellow writers. I’m reading an ARC called Closer by Sea. I don’t have it sitting here. And I can’t tell you the name of the author yet just because it’s a thing. I can’t say.

I just finished reading Ozark Dogs by Eli Cranor. You want a good story, that guy can write. He can write his butt off. Oh my gosh! There were times that I literally went, “huh,” as I was reading. I’m like, Dude.” And I called him and I was like, “This book is amazing. It is incredible.” I think it actually comes out next month. Ozark Dogs, great story.

And he also wrote Don’t Know Tough, which is, I mean, it’s like gritLIT. I think is what he calls it. It’s good stuff. What else did I just finish reading? So much stuff. I have a pile over there. See, I should have been prepared for the question. You know what, I’m going to put a TBR on my website so that I don’t have to think about this.

Ginger Horton [00:42:11] This is exactly what happens to every reader whenever you’re asked what you’re reading. It just happened to me yesterday. I was hanging out with some reader friends, and they said, “What are you reading?” And I… mind break.

Brendan Slocumb [00:42:20] I got a ton of books but I’m like, Aaah.

Ginger Horton [00:42:22] It’s a thing.

Shannan Malone [00:42:23] Do you mind reading that part?

Brendan Slocumb [00:42:26] Quick just background behind this paragraph, sentence that I’m going to read. I would get shirts every year for my students, my strings family students. We would all get a long sleeve t-shirt so we could rep our colors at school to let everyone know we were part of the strings family. I thought it was the lamest thing but I just put it on a shirt. And it comes back 15 years later, and it has so much meaning. I had no idea how much it meant at the time.

But it says, “Alone, we are a solitary violin, a lonely flute, a trumpet singing in the dark. Together, we are a symphony.”

Shannan Malone [00:43:05] Brendan, this was awesome. It was such an honor for me. Thank you so much. Thank you for writing. Thank you for sharing. Thank you.

Brendan Slocumb [00:43:15] Oh, my gosh! I am so incredibly happy. My cheeks still hurt because I’m smiling all the time because I’m so happy and so appreciative of all of the support that I have gotten. This started February of 2022 when the book came out. And it has been a non-stop roller coaster of support from amazing readers and fans and friends and family.

And I cannot thank you guys enough for everything that you have done for me. I mean, I wish I could hug every single person and shake every single hand. I wish I could. I really wish I could. That’s why whenever I see anyone and someone says, “Hey, Brendan, can you do this? Hey, Brendan, come here.” “Yeah, sure. I’ll do it. You support me. This is the best way I know to show you how appreciative I am.”

I got a tattoo “thank you” here but I don’t know going to have enough arm to say thank you to everybody. But I’m so grateful for everything that everyone has done. I get to look at this every single day and be reminded of how amazing people are and just how there’s so much hope in this world because of people like this audience and you guys and everyone. And I’m just so proud to be one small part of it. And I want to thank you guys for that.

Shannan Malone [00:44:39] Thank you for being here.

Brendan Slocumb [00:44:41] You guys were amazing. I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing so that I can be invited back because I absolutely love this. I love it. And I love you guys. Thank you.

Ginger Horton [00:44:51] Thank you. Well, I’m actually moving to DC in the fall. Our team members know this. So now I’m just gonna be stalking your favorite bookstores. I’ll just carry my books around hoping to run into you and let you sign up them for us.

Brendan Slocumb [00:45:02] Done. Done.

Anne Bogel [00:45:03] Thank you, Brendan. This was a pleasure.

Brendan Slocumb [00:45:05] Thank you, guys, so much.

Ginger Horton [00:45:07] So good. I’m seeing so many of your comments saying that this was your favorite author talk ever. Big words. No surprises there.

Brendan Slocumb [00:45:14] Wow.

Ginger Horton [00:45:14] We’re gonna say goodbye to our author and do a little bit of housekeeping around here telling you what’s happening next.

Well, the next thing that we are doing around here, something new to announce to you all, that we are having a readers Day on February 11. So many of you have asked about that Readers’ weekend that we had last year. “Can we do this more often?” And we are answering with a big yes.

So we are going to do a shortened version of that, a Readers’ Day on Saturday, February 11. More details to come. But we’ve got some worksheets and digital kit in the works for you. We’ll have some flagship events that you can put on your own calendar, do your own. Join us. That’s coming next. So keep your eyes peeled. And keep talking in the forums.

The chatter has been… I mean, I’m not kidding you when I say active. I can think of about two authors in our past that have had this many comments on any singular book in a month. This is like in the top two, I think, of all time in Book Club. So keep on chatting about it.

Shannan, I saw so many comments zoom by. You need to go read that chat transcript when we’re done because big hand claps to you for stepping in to fill Anne’s really big shoes.

Shannan Malone [00:46:23] Yes, really big.

Ginger Horton [00:46:24] You’ve done a phenomenal job. Wonderful job. I mean, listen, you did a fantastic job. But he made it-

Shannan Malone [00:46:30] Yes, he did.

Ginger Horton [00:46:31] [inaudible] …the most chatting person.

Shannan Malone [00:46:31] He’s awesome. He’s so awesome. I’m so honored I could talk to him. So honored. It means so much to me.

Anne Bogel [00:46:37] Oh, I loved your questions, Shannan. Thank you so much. And thank you all, our members in our chat. I really enjoy getting to participate in that way today. Thanks for having me there.

Ginger Horton [00:46:48] Well, thank you all for joining us so much. This is the nicest place on the internet and there is relativity of that. So thank you to Anne and to Shannan and of course to our author Brendan. I can’t wait to talk with you all again really, really soon. Hope everybody has a wonderful day and happy reading.

Anne Bogel [00:47:06] Happy reading.

[00:47:13] Hey, readers, I hope you enjoyed today’s peek into Book Club and our conversation with Brendan. I’d love to invite you to join us for more events just like this. Do that at modernmrsdarcy.com/club. Now is a great time to join in.

In February we’re focusing on friendship while we read the anonymous memoir, Becoming Duchess Goldblatt. Join us now, start reading, and begin chatting with fellow book lovers immediately without any fear of spoilers.

To tell Brendan how much you enjoyed this conversation or to follow along and see how both his writing and music are coming along, follow him on Instagram @BrendanSlocumb. You can also visit his website, Brendanslocumb.com. Start reading The Violin Conspiracy today.

And here’s a hot tip. If you love audiobooks, I highly recommend JD Jackson’s narration. It is fabulous. And also jot down Brandon’s April release Symphony of Secrets for your to-be-read list.

Our website is where you’ll find the full list of titles talked about today. That is at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com.

If you are already following us on Instagram, we would love to have you invite a friend to discover our show. Share one of our posts featuring an episode you’ve loved to your story and be sure to tag us @Whatshouldireadnext so we can share it too.

Seeing you share the show is our love language as podcasters. Thanks in advance for telling your friends and your followers on social media. You can find me on Instagram. I’m there myself @annebogel. Get our weekly newsletter right in your inbox. It’s a great way to stay up to date with everything happening here at What Should I Read Next? Sign up at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/newsletter.

[00:48:50] Thanks to the people who make this show happen. Special thanks today to Ginger and Shannan. . What Should I Read Next? is created each week by Will Bogel, Holly Wielkoszewski, and Studio D Podcast Production. Thanks also to our Community Manager, Sara Aeder. Readers, that’s it for this episode. Thanks so much for listening. And as Rainer Maria Rilke said, “Ah! how good it is to be among people who are reading.” Happy reading, everyone.



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