SALT LAKE CITY — While in Venice for a book tour, bestselling author Lauren Kate stumbled upon a historic building called the Hospital for the Incurable.
“It just seemed to me like such a fascinating and romantic theme,” Kate told the Deseret News in a recent phone interview. “I wanted to know who the incurables were and what their story was.”
Kate later learned that the hospital was, for a time, an orphanage that also become a famous music conservatory.
“During this time, there were orphanages that … trained orphans to be musicians to sing and play music in the church choirs,” Kate said. “These young girls became the most famous musicians of their day, and people would travel from all over the world to hear them play and sing. They were like the rock stars of their time.”
“The Orphan’s Song,” which comes out June 25, follows two of these orphans in a sweeping narrative that not only explores the beauty and power of the music to which they are devoted, but also lets readers experience the revels of carnevale and the intrigue of the Venetian nobility.
Kate’s main characters, Violetta and Mino, are both orphans at the Hospital for the Incurable. The two meet unexpectedly on the roof of the hospital and fall in love, though Violetta is pledged to the church choir and Mino is destined for an apprenticeship elsewhere in Venice.
“I started thinking about … falling in love and how love might be the thing that wasn’t curable about them,” Kate said. “I wanted to write about what that love led to.”
Assuring the accuracy of this historical novel, set in 18th-century Venice, was no small undertaking.
“I went to Venice for about 10 days. Every day (I had) different meetings with Venetian historians, with musical experts, with the caretakers of these orphanages and the churches,” Kate said. “It was just a concentrated dose of history.”
During her stay in Venice, Kate went to a Baroque-style concert in one of the old churches almost every night. “Music is really deeply imprinted all over the book,” she said. Music is what originally brings Violetta and Mino together, and it’s what allows them to find each other again.
After the research trip, Kate knew the shape of the story. “I felt that (the story) presented itself to me in a way that not every book does,” she explained. “I have learned over the course of writing my other nine books that when a character is speaking to me, I listen.”
Kate credits her young children with teaching her more about how to listen to the characters. “There’s something about the intensity of parenting and getting to know these strange new people,” she said. “It’s very similar to creating a character on the page. You can have all these grand plans for the way a person — a child or a character — is going to be, but in the end, they’re the ones who get to determine that.”
Each book has a different timeline, but “The Orphan’s Song” took Kate about a year to finish writing and rewriting. For Kate, a finished book is more than just an end product or a creative endeavor. “When I hold the finished book in my hands, it’s not just the stories,” Kate said. “This is a year of my experience, of my own personal tragedies and heartaches and laughs.”Comment on this story
Now that "Orphan Song" is finished, Kate has been on the road doing readings and events with readers. “I’m thrilled to be coming back to Salt Lake City,” Kate said of her upcoming book tour stop. “I love The King’s English and I’ve had such a wonderful time there with the readers, so I can’t wait to visit again.”
Who knows? Since Kate was inspired to write “The Orphan’s Song” on a previous book tour, maybe Salt Lake will be where Kate gets the idea for her next book.
If you go …
What: Lauren Kate book signing and reading
When: Friday, June 28, 7 p.m.
Where: The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East
Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of "The Orphan's Song" from The King's English.