I had a wonderful talk with my editor about Vienna Waltz this week. The sort of talk that’s had a smile on my face ever since. She said such wonderful things about the story, the setting, and Charles/Malcolm & Mélanie/Suzanne as characters. It was so wonderful to have such positive feedback. Her revision notes weren’t extensive, but they were incredibly helpful for improving the book (several times during our talk I thought, “oh, of course, why didn’t I think of that?” but then that’s what editors are for).

I’m currently happily delving into revisions (I love revising and shaping a book). One of Audrey’s (my editor’s) notes was to have Charles/Malcolm in more torment over the death of Princess Tatiana. Which makes a lot of sense when you realize the full extent of his relationship to her. I tend to write my characters (particularly Charles) as very stiff-upper-lipped British, which sometimes means I pull back too much on the emotions. I thought it would be fun to post a brief revised excerpt (as with earlier excerpts I’m keeping Charles & Mélanie’s names because that’s who they are to me, and those are the names I’m using when I write). In the original version of this scene, Charles simply paused to listen to the music for a moment (which was there to set the mood of a Viennese café), then moved into the back room. Revising, I realized this was a golden opportunity for him to think about Tania.

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Charles pushed open the door of Café Hugel where he had arranged to meet Mélanie at one o’clock. The smell of rich Viennese coffee and bittersweet chocolate wafted toward him. Café Hugel was a favorite haunt of Viennese intellectuals and students. Few members of the aristocracy were to be found in the confines of its faded rose-papered walls and slightly tarnished chandeliers, which perhaps accounted for why it was also not a favorite rendezvous for the Congress attendees.

A fair-haired young woman in a blue-sashed white frock was singing Porgi, amor, accompanied by a serious-faced young man playing the violin. Her voice was a bit thin but sweet, and it caught the song’s plaintive pain. A wave of loss and anger washed over him. For a moment the woman singing the song had red-gold hair and a richer voice. How long ago had he last heard Tatiana frame those notes?

Charles stood stock still for a moment, willing his mind back to the present, anchoring himself with what most needed to be done. One step at a time, and he could get through this. With a deliberate breath, he moved into the café’s quieter back room. Newspapers rustled and pens scratched against paper as he made his way between the tables. He caught the words “Schiller,” “Goethe,” and “Beethoven”, and once he was quite sure he heard Tatiana’s name. A name he was now braced to hear. Word of her murder had spread everywhere. Halfway across the room, he glimpsed his wife at a table in the shadows at the back.

His wife. For the longest time after they married, he’d had difficulty framing the words, even to himself. Up until the moment he’d realized the best protection he could offer Mélanie was marriage, he’d been convinced he would never marry anyone. Even now, he would wake to find her beside him or walk into their rooms to be greeted by her cheerful call of “darling”, and he’d be struck anew by terrifying wonder of it.

Her hands were curled round a cup of kaffee mitt shlag, her gaze focused on the table before her. She wore a spencer of a shiny rose-colored fabric. Her reticule lay on the table, the sort of frivolous little ribboned thing she loved, though it seemed so at odds with the woman she was beneath the surface. He studied the curve of her neck above the ruffled collar of her spencer, the strands of dark hair escaping her bonnet, the angle of her shoulders. He would know her anywhere. And yet he sometimes felt as though she were an alien creature. A Selkie mated to a mortal, Persephone trapped in the underworld.

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When you read a book do you think about the various layers of revisions it has gone through? Writers, do you enjoy the revision process? Do you sometimes think “of course” when someone gives you revision notes?

How do you feel about the Charles and Mel in this scene compared to the characters you know from other books? Any other questions about Vienna Waltz?

I’ve just posted a new Fraser Correspondence letter from Mélanie to Lady Frances.