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Interview: David Gerrold on “The White Piano”

– Tell us a bit about “The White Piano.”

In one sense, the story is about love and loss, but the connecting theme is the love of great music. And we never lose that love. Music is about sharing feelings, it’s possibly the most profound experience that human beings can create — at least, with our clothes on. I spent as much time researching and listening to the music as I did researching the history of the period.

 

– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

Sometimes I just start writing from an image or a scene and let that lead me into the story. The scene is a doorway into a new world, so the writing isn’t just about the story–it’s about discovering the world in which the story occurs. This one started with a dream about something scratching at a door, and somewhere in there was a smile as well. The story really came to life for me when I started researching the run-up to WWII. I needed the piano to have a special quality, it had to represent a joyous spirit.

 

– Was “The White Piano” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

In one sense, it’s a love-letter to my own grandmother. She didn’t play the piano, but she was a maestro in the kitchen. Friday nights at her house were a great family gathering, the food never stopped coming, and neither my Mom nor my sister ever matched her recipe for stuffed cabbage. She was the most joyous and generous human being I’ve ever known in my life. She loved doing things for others. She was a short lady, a little bundle of energy, and she was always there, no matter what, and I still miss her — so “Gramma” in this story is my personal recreation of her spirit.

 

– What would you want a reader to take away from this story?

A smile — and a trip to the record store to discover previously unheard music. Some of the best times of my life have been spent browsing through the stacks at Tower Records, discovering adventures I would not have had otherwise. Maybe I’ll write a story about a used book and record store….

There is one observation that I might add — much of my short fiction is contemplative, a short step in a character’s transformation, not a big leap. Readers who expect a grand adventure will likely be disappointed, but I think the most profound adventure is the internal one — the discovery of self, and that’s been a theme in a lot of my recent work.

 

– What are you working on now?

I’ve got the first chapter written to “Joseph,” the sequel to “Jacob,” my vampire novel. (The first chapter was “Monsieur.”) I’ve got the first chapter written on a fantasy adventure, and I’m editing the fifth book in THAT series. (Yes, it’s finished.) Thanks for asking.

 

“The White Piano” appears in the January/February 2016 issue of F&SF.  You can buy that issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1601.htm

You can subscribe to F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

 

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