Jessica Martinez: Virtuosity Q&A

Posted October 19, 2011 by Sara | Novel Novice 0 Comments

Today, we are delighted to be featuring an interview with Jessica Martinez, the author behind the brilliant new book Virtuosity! Special thanks to Jessica for answering all our questions, and dealing with my serious lack of organizational skills this month. (She knows what I’m talking about …) And now, on with the interview!

Having played violin in the past, I sort of died a little inside in that opening scene when she lets go of the Stadivarius. And because I’m a music geek, I have to know … have you ever gotten to play a Strad?

I have! But only for five minutes, and I didn’t know it was a Strad until after I’d given it back to the owner. (Who lets a 15-year-old play his 4 million dollar violin without telling her what she’s holding?) Even before he told me what it was, I knew it had to be astronomically expensive. The sound was powerful and warm at the same time. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

So, Jeremy is pretty awesome. Care to tell the rest of us where these hot violin-playing British dudes are hiding?

Yes. My mind. I’m not even sure if that whole package exists in the wild, but I knew guys who had elements of Jeremy in them. I kind of patched him together from those bits and pieces.

I know you have extensive background in music and playing violin. So what’s the craziest/wildest/coolest experience you ever had as a result of that?

Crazy can be good and crazy can be bad. Hmm… Crazy good is performing as a soloist with a symphony. The feeling of an orchestra blasting right behind you and getting to play on top of their sound—it’s just electric.

And crazy bad would be the most humiliating performance of my life. I was 14 and playing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto (the one Carmen plays in VIRTUOSITY) for the first round of a big competition. On the second of twenty-five pages, I had a huge memory slip. My mind just cleared. I’d been playing the concerto for nine months and knew it inside out, but for some the notes were gone and my fingers couldn’t find them. Anyway, I was so stuck I had to put my violin down, turn around, walk back to the piano, look at the music, figure out what I was doing, walk back, put my violin back up, and finish. The hardest part was staying up there and giving it my all for the next twenty minutes, knowing I had just blown everything.

Carmen is forced to make some very difficult decisions in VIRTUOSITY. What do you think readers (especially teen readers) can take away from the challenges she faces, even those who aren’t involved in performing arts?

Fundamentally, Carmen’s issues are not so different from the average teenager’s—gaining independence from parents, figuring out if the guy likes you for the right reasons, drug addiction, feeling isolated from peers. Change the backdrop from classical music and most of us can relate to at least one of those things. I hope teens read the book and see that Carmen is strong when weakness would have been easier. You don’t have to be a musician to appreciate her passion and her resilience. It really is a story about strength.

I love that you’re a part of the Stages on Pages tour — and I love all these emerging books about the arts. So for you — what is it about music/the arts that you love?

I love the melding of discipline and artistry. The best musicians, dancers, performers, etc. are not just “creative types,” but also true technicians. They’ve put the thousands of grueling hours in to master the technique so they have the tools to express themselves artistically. I just think the combination of those two elements is magical. Most musicians spend their lives trying to balance them. There are times when I want to take out my violin and just play the most beautiful melody I can think of, but there are also times when I can get blissfully lost in drilling the same runs over and over. I love it when the two come together.

If they made a Jessica Martinez candle, what would it smell like?

Black Licorice. (Okay, I should explain—I don’t actually smell like black licorice, but I do love eating it, so when I saw this black licorice candle I had to buy it. Sadly, it turned out to smell kind of nasty, but I still burn it regularly just to annoy my husband.)

Favorite cartoon?

Mulan. That girl is my kind of princess.

Chocolate or vanilla?


Your personal theme song?

Arrrrg. This question is making my brain hurt! I’m sorry, I’ve been sitting here looking at it for ten minutes and the only song running through my brain is “I’ve Got Squirrels in my Pants” from the Phineas and Ferb soundtrack, which can’t possibly be my theme song. I think this means I don’t have a theme song.

You’re on a deserted island and have to read one book for the rest of your life. What is it?

I’m going to go with Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres because a well written love story will keep me happy for a good long time.

Favorite book as a child?

The Witches by Roald Dahl

Secret talent?

Which to choose…I’ve confessed to so much weirdness lately. I can walk on my hands, I’m a half-decent knitter, and I rap. I should note that I ONLY rap for my children, and they think I’m really cool because they are four and six. You probably have to meet me for that to be as hilarious as it is, but let’s just say I’m not so much the rapping type.

Thanks again, Jessica! And pick up your copy of Virtuosity, in stores now!

Sara | Novel Novice

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