Beverle Graves Myers combines a love of Italy, opera, and traditionally written mysteries in her Tito Amato novels featuring an 18th-century singer-sleuth. The latest title is Whispers of Vivaldi. More about Bev can be found at her website: www.beverlegravesmyers.com or at her publisher’s homepage where she blogs on the 28th of each month: http://www.poisonedpenpress.com
I’m experiencing a lot of emotions on the publication of Whispers of Vivaldi, the last Tito Amato mystery. Just as I’m patting myself on the back for completing a successful six-book series, I’m also panicking over what comes next. Not writing, or at least preparing to write, is foreign territory. A little scary. On the other hand, as I contemplate no longer dwelling in 18th-century Venice during my writing day, I’ll also admit to frequent surges of relief that I’ll no longer have to make myself an expert on every detail of Venice circa 1745.
By far the most difficult emotion to cope with is the melancholy of simply missing Tito. Over the years, my protagonist has become a part of the family. In an effort to immerse myself in Tito’s world, I’ve listened to the music he sang, studied the clothing he wore, and even learned to prepare the food of his homeland, which turned out to be a feast of seafood and fresh vegetables. We still enjoy those dishes with accompanying wines from the Veneto that are created in much the same way Tito knew. After I’d written the first two books in the series, my husband and I were finally able to travel to Venice. We spent a week in the Cannaregio, Tito’s neighborhood far removed from the tourist mecca of the San Marco Piazza. From that base, we explored the Jewish ghetto, the island of Murano, and other places that figure heavily into the novels. It was the trip of a lifetime that we’ll remember forever.
So … the end of writing Tito will leave a big hole in my life.
Apparently, I’m not the only one. Once word got out that Whispers of Vivaldi was the last book in the series, readers who had also come to know Tito over the course of many books began sending cards and emails. “Why no more Tito?” is the question that comes through loud and clear. The quick answer is that I’ve run out of things to say about Tito, his unusual family, and the Venetian opera house where he met both his greatest triumphs and most crushing defeats.
Of course, there’s more to it than that. My decision speaks to an author’s understanding of when to quit. I recall being disappointed in several mystery series that I once loved. Plots became repetitive or worse, ridiculous. Protagonists drifted without clear personal goals. A change in setting meant to jumpstart flagging interest destroyed the beloved familiarity of the world I’d come to enjoy. As readers, we can all think of our own examples. I didn’t want the Tito Amato mysteries to fall into the category of series that dragged on too long.
How did I know it was time? The most obvious clue was that the conclusion to Whispers of Vivaldi leaves Tito in a good place. He is happy, relaxed, facing a pleasant challenge, and surrounded by loving family and friends. His situation in Interrupted Aria, the title that begins the series, couldn’t be more different. That book begins as he returns to Venice after many years in a Naples music conservatory. We meet Tito standing at a ship’s railing watching the towers and domes of Venice come into view. He’s angry, anxious, questioning everything about his life to come.
In today’s parlance, the man had issues. His musician father had delivered his son to men who scouted Italy for boys with beautiful voices to be castrated and trained for the opera stage. Interrupted Aria saw Tito confront his father and also come to terms with the unique niche his society had placed him in. Throughout the series, in addition to solving some intriguing murders, Tito finds a sidekick in a young English artist making his Grand Tour, battles the arrogance and vanity that often comes with fame, and learns that his heart yearns for justice for those who are outsiders like himself. He also learns that his heart longs for companionship and manages to find a wife who is willing to join him in flouting society’s conventions.
With Tito’s personal and professional issues coming to rest, what more is there to say? I could go on plotting mysteries for him to solve, but the emotional core of the series would be lacking. Tito was always about more than just a puzzle. I wouldn’t enjoy writing these sterile adventures, and readers would quickly tire of them. The story of Tito Amato, the Venetian opera singer with the stellar talent for sleuthing, has been told. It’s time to say goodbye and move forward.