I can’t take credit for creating the setting of Saved by the Music. It was real. My aunt built a concert hall out of a disgusting, filthy barge. It’s called Bargemusic, and it’s been successful for over thirty years.
But I wasn’t a teenager – I was younger, about eight or nine. And there was no Axel.
I always knew I wanted to write a book about the metamorphosis of the barge, and about my relationship with my aunt. I just thought it would be nonfiction. Actually, I wanted to make it a picture book. But editors kept saying, “I see a novel.” I was scared.
The thing that carried me through the writing process was the water. It meant so much to my aunt, and she passed her love of tide and currents to me. Water represents possibility, and a constant flow. It is a perfect vehicle for a novel, because it is cleansing and it represents change.
So there I was with water, and a boatyard. And a barge, which in itself was a daunting prospect to write about. I knew it in my head – I’d lived on it. But I had to convey it to readers, vividly. I took a breath and started describing the chaos, the filth, the lumber everywhere…All this to take the reader on a journey. With the water supporting, beneath us.
And then came Axel. He appeared hazily, this boy with a secret. I knew he was rich, and I wanted him on a sailboat because it looks lonely but yet capable at the same time. I wanted to show a vulnerable boy in a mysterious place, yet capable of setting sail. The boat is also romantic, at least in my mind. I can only hope I passed that feeling to my readers.
The idea of going down into the hold of Axel’s boat is also indicative of his state of mind. The descent is literal, but also metaphorical. Axel is wealthy, so he could live on a yacht. But I wanted him on something modest enough to show that money is not what motivates him, and small enough to mirror how he feels after the abuse he’s been dealt. And the water comes into play again, fluctuating up and down. Willow notes how much more she feels the sensation of floating on Axel’s boat, and that is no accident.
The boatyard is a metaphor in that it is a world unto itself, both a safe haven for Willow and Axel against the harsh real world, but also a place that occasionally turns against them. I will leave it to the reader to interpret that. What I mean to do with my setting is set my reader’s mind in motion – just as the water always is.
And the barge itself is a character, is it not? Made of steel, it is imposing and protecting simultaneously. It is dirty and ugly – but perhaps it can be saved. I think a main theme in this book is the consideration of salvation. What – and who – is worth redemption? There is more to things (and people) than what meets the eye. And there is more to this setting than the dreary boatyard it appears to be.
The last place fifteen-year-old Willow wants to spend her summer is on a run-down former coffee barge, which her aunt is converting into a floating concert hall. In Saved by the Music, Willow thinks she’s alone until she meets Axel, an older teen who lives isolated from the world on the sailboat docked nearby. An unlikely romance sparks as the two grapple with their darkest secrets and bond through shared pain and laughter. It is a summer where music must do more than just soothe the soul.
eBook Publication Date: May 13, 2013
ABOUT SELENE CASTROVILLA
Selene Castrovilla is an award-winning teen and children’s author who believes that through all trends, humanity remains at the core of literature. She is the author of Saved By the Music and The Girl Next Door, teen novels originally published by WestSide Books and now available digitally through ASD Publishing. Her third children’s book with Calkins Creek Books, Revolutionary Friends, was released in April. Selene holds an MFA in creative writing from New School University and a BA in English from New York University. She lives on Long Island with her two sons. Visit her website www.SeleneCastrovilla.com for book excerpts and more information!
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