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06 January 2010

My new book contract & the Congress of Vienna


Happy New Year! As I recently reported on my own website, I'm very happy to be seeing 2010 in with a new two-book contract with Kensington Books. That’s my wonderful new editor Audrey LaFehr in the picture to the left, with me and my fabulous agent Nancy Yost on my November trip to New York at a Merola Opera Program party. I’m in the midst of writing the first book on the contract, which has the working title The Dark Waltz. (People who follow my status updates on Twitter and Facebook have been seeing updates about the progress of this book for some time.)

The Dark Waltz is set in 1814 at the Congress of Vienna. I think I first heard of the Congress of Vienna in Georgette Heyer books (I know there are mentions of Sophy and her father being there in The Grand Sophy). I remember being fascinated by a lecture about it my freshman year at Stanford. I've referenced the Congress as part of the back story in several books, and I’ve wanted to set a book at it for ages. It offers such rich scope for a novelist. After Napoleon was exiled to Elba, representatives of countries across Europe gathered in Vienna to redraw the Continental map. There was a great deal of intriguing, both political and romantic. In the autumn of 1814, the Congress of Vienna was *the* place to be. Imagine a combination of a modern international political conference and the Cannes Film Festival. Some claimed the delegates spent as much time waltzing as negotiating. The Festivals Committee, appointed by Austrian Emperor Francis I, felt it their duty to keep the foreign delegations entertained with events each more lavish than the last. There were masquerade balls, balloon ascensions, sleigh rides, a recreation of a medieval tournament, nights at the theater and the opera.

Viennese society was filled with music. Beethoven, at the height of his fame, gave a concert. Salieri, Vienna's Hofkapellmeister, organized many musical events (including a concert with a a hundred pianos). There were already rumors at the time that he had poisoned Mozart (the rumors that became the basis of the play and film Amadeus) though no evidence to support those rumors. Salieri had taken an interest in the young Schubert. Schubert, who is a character in The Dark Waltz, was seventeen at the time of the Congress and already having works performed(his first Mass premiered in October, 1814).


One could scarcely turn round without stumbling over a spy for one power or another. The Austrians tried to slip agents into the foreign delegations as scullery maids and bootboys. British Foreign Secretary Lord Castlereagh frustrated these efforts by bringing his servants with him from England. Everyone was combing through diplomatic wastebaskets looking for coded papers.

Scores of illicit love affairs took place in this frenetic atmosphere. Many of the delegates had come to Vienna without their spouses, expecting the Congress to only last a few weeks rather than months. Along with the official delegates, a number of powerful, glamorous women took up residence in Vienna and opened salons. French Foreign Minister Prince Talleyrand (who adroitly managed to maneuver himself into the heart of negotiations despite France being the defeated power) brought his beautiful young niece-by-marriage, Dorothée, as his hostess and fell in love with her himself, despite being thirty-nine years her senior (and despite the fact that her mother had recently been his mistress). Lovely, unhappy Tsarina Elisabeth of Russia found herself reunited with Adam Czartoryski, the charismatic Polish patriot who was probably the love of her life (and had also been her husband's best friend). Meanwhile her husband, Tsar Alexander, and Austrian Foreign Minister Prince Metternich, fierce rivals at the negotiating table, also were entangled with two of the same women, Princess Catherine Bagration ("the naked angel") and the brilliant Wilhelmine, Duchess of Sagan (Dorothée's elder sister). When I described this to my friend Penny she said, "surely in all Vienna they could find different women to pursue?" I said, "I think that was rather the point." The Tsar and Metternich carried their rivalry over to the boudoir. The plot of The Dark Waltz centers on a third, fictional woman, also involved with both Metternich and the Tsar, who is found murdered on the night she has summoned Metternich, Tsar Alexander, the hero (an English attaché who is possibly her lover) and his wife to her rooms, all at the same time.

I'll be posting more about the Congress of Vienna in the coming months. Meanwhile, what historical events have you always wanted to read or write a book about?

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14 Comments:

Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Congratulations on the new contract, Tracy! And the novel sounds amazing. I'm not very familiar with the Congress of Vienna and the intrigues of its key players (my experience mainly comes from the musical "The Rothschilds"!), so I can't wait to read THE DARK WALTZ. When is your pub date?

I'm excited (though it won't be in the first book, for chronological reasons) to cover various events of the French Revolution.

4:47 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Thanks, Leslie! "The Dark Waltz" should be out in early 2011. I'm intrigued by the musical "The Rothschilds." The Rothschilds and other Jewish bankers in Vienna did play a role in the negotiations (Nathan von Arnstein's wife Fanny hosted a popular salon). There were several Jewish delegations at the Congress and they did gain some important guarantees of Jewish rights in the new German constitution, which, unfortunately, were undermined by a wording change that allowed individual states to ignore the provision.

I'm very excited to read your take on the French Revolution (and events leading up to it!).

7:13 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!! I'm so freaken excited!!!!!

Are these Charles and Mel books or a new series?

7:19 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Thanks, Kalen!

It's more or less the story of Charles & Mel's time at the Congress of Vienna, but they have different names--Malcolm & Suzanne Rannoch. Longer explanation on my website.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Victoria Janssen said...

I'm really looking forward to reading it!

7:57 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Ooooooo, I love the plot. I can't wait to read this . . .

8:28 AM  
Blogger Doreen DeSalvo said...

So excited about your book deal, Tracy. I can't wait to read The Dark Waltz. Sounds fascinating.

Please tell Penny I said Hello.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Diane Whiteside said...

How fabulous that you get to write about the Congress of Vienna! I've always wanted to read/write a book set there!

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Lynna Banning said...

I've always wanted to set a book in Spain at the time of the Reconquista (Christians drove the Moors south to Granada).

Another interesting period would be 1492, when Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the remaining Moors AND the Jews from Spain.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Thanks so much, Victoria and Doreen! And, Doreen, I'll definitely tell Penny you said hi.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Diane, that's so cool you've been intrigued by the Congress of Vienna too. I'm having so much fun writing the book. So many wonderful real people and events to weave in.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Lynna, both the Reconquista and 1492 in Spain would make fascinating settings for books. Do you have ideas for stories set there?

1:52 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

congrats, Tracy, I'm so delighted. And what a wonderful setting. AND title!

2:49 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Thanks so much, Pam! The book actually has a slightly different title now from when I posted this--Vienna Waltz. My editor's idea, and I like it even better!

8:29 PM  

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