Where did Liz Tolsma find inspiration for her latest release, The Melody of the Soul? Read our story behind the story below to find out! Go back in time to 1943 and meet Anna Zadok, a Jewish Christian and concert violinist whose career is ended because of Nazi occupation in Prague. Though musical instruments have been declared illegal, Anna defiantly continues to play the violin. But Officer Horst Engel, quartered in Anna’s flat and dissatisfied with German ideology, enjoys her soothing music. When Anna and her grandmother face deportation, Horst risks everything to protect them.
Tell us a bit about the story behind your latest novel. Where did you find inspiration?
I saw a notification on Facebook one day that the oldest living Holocaust survivor had passed away. Because I’m such a World War II history buff, I wanted to find out more about this woman. Her name was Alice Herz-Sommer, and she had been a concert pianist in Prague before the war. When the Germans invaded, they required all Jews to turn again their instruments. Alice, however, managed to keep a parlor piano that she played every day. When she and her son got their notices that they needed to report to be transported to the Terezín concentration camp, she packed their belongings and prepared to leave. The Nazi officer billeted in the same apartment complex thanked her for her music as she was leaving. The idea struck me at that point in the story. I wondered what would happen if the officer loved her music so much that he would be unwilling to let it go. That was the germination of the plot line. As I read more about Alice, I discovered that music was not only allowed in the camp but also encouraged. She played many concerts for her fellow prisoners and for the prison guards. When she was interviewed later in life she said, “Music was our Savior.” My first reaction was to think that music was not her Savior. Only Jesus can be our Savior. That became the spiritual thread for the book. So while much of the book is based in fact, I once again to what I love to do when I write historical fiction, that is to take real people, places, and events, and fictionalize them.
What was the hardest part about writing your novel: Getting started? Keeping it going? Finding the perfect ending?
This was one of those books that a writer gets to write maybe once or twice in her career. The words in the story flowed from my fingers. The beginning just came to me. The ending was harder to write but only because I had come to really love these characters, and it was emotional for me to say goodbye to them. There was one spot in the book where I had a little bit of a hang-up. Then I remembered the classic advice for a sagging middle. I wondered what one thing my hero would never do, and then I made him have to do it. It really set the tone for the rest of the book.
What trait do you love most about your main character?
I love Anna’s passion. She is passionate about her music. She eats, breathes, sleeps her music. She is also passionate about her family, and works so hard to fulfill her vow to her parents to take care of her grandmother. Finally, over the course of the book, we see Anna’s passion develop for the hero.
When readers get to the last page, what do you hope they take away from the story?
I want to move and inspire the reader. I want them to see that God is the only one we can trust to save us, and to understand the great sacrifice the Lord made to redeem us. I want the reader to think about the price of our freedom and to cherish it all the more. I want them to cry, to feel suspense and tension, and to be inspired. I want it to be a truly moving and emotional experience.
What are you working on next?
I have just finished book 2 in The Music of Hope series. What the Heart Sings. This book is set in a Polish labor camp during the war. I’m now working on the third book in the series which will be set in Hungary during World War II.