I remember after the concert telling my mother all about it, and I talked about how fun it was to sing along with "Piano Man" and all of the other songs which are such a part of the Modern American Songbook, but there was one song which everyone was singing along with that I had never heard.
"I don't know," I said to my mom. "It was something about a bottle of wine and a restaurant...I can't remember. It was good, but it was so long! I don't know how all of those people knew that song."
Flash forward about thirteen years - I started writing this book about a figure skater/actress with famous friends. That's all it was in the beginning. It had no soundtrack, it had no deeper meaning. I had my heroine, Abigail Phelps, and her new ice dance partner, real-life skater Christopher Dean, meeting for the first time at the 1979 World Figure Skating Championships. That was already decided. I thought I might as well keep it as accurate as I could (Oh, how naive I was then!) so I decided to have Chris and Abby meet where those skating championships actually took place in 1979 - Vienna, Austria. Inspired by Vienna, Chris choreographs a routine for them to "Vienna" by Billy Joel. After all, The Stranger had only been released in late 1977. It made sense that the album would be a favorite of Chris and Abby. Before long, Chris and Abby were taking their LP of The Stranger with them everywhere they went, and they pulled it out more than once to skate, dance, or just be young, immature, and filled with angst.
Without Billy Joel, Abigail Phelps would have been a book (Pay attention to the singular - there would have been no need for a series!) about a figure skater/actress with famous friends. It took on a life all it's own. And maybe it won't get as many readers because it's not a fluffy, easy-to-explain, easily categorized story. But it's the story it needs to be. I would love nothing more than for people to dig a little deeper. Each chapter title is the title of a Billy Joel song, and they weren't chosen lightly. You can just take it at face value if you like, and hopefully you'll still enjoy the story, but maybe try listening to the song for each chapter before you read it. In each case you will be clued in to the story or, in many cases, the mood and feel of the chapter. In so many ways, these books are a love letter to the music of Billy Joel, and I will be eternally grateful for the inspiration I received from his melodies and lyrics.
Who would have ever thought all of this could come from some really long song about a bottle of wine and a restaurant?