I’ve listened to Phantom of the Opera since I was 16. I can envision myself now, lying on the floor of my living room with my best friend, blasting my parents’ CD as loud as it would go. I’m sure I drove them nuts with the constant replay. But I was hooked to the lavish and dark tale of music, love, and tortured souls. This love followed me into adulthood, and I saw the musical both as a fan, and later as a teacher escorting my high school French classes to New York City to expose them to their very first show. Imagine my extreme delight seeing their experience develop into a passion, just as mine had.
Years later, when I was researching another book, I landed on the Paris opera website by accident—and got goose bumps. Why hadn’t I considered this as a book topic before? Once I began to work on this new idea, I clung to it like a woman possessed. It was challenging and difficult and scary. It was outside of my scope, and I was taking on one of the most beloved stories in history. Yet I felt compelled to recreate Christine Daaé; to make a Christine who wasn’t a wilting woman on a stage, but someone who had designs of her own. Designs outside the wishes of everyone—her father and the phantom included. And, so I did.
I encountered a lot of stops and starts along the way, but I saw the book through to the end, and this is how it went.
Most of my works are published through the traditional avenue, but I’ll be publishing The Phantom’s Apprentice myself. It was a tricky book to place in the traditional market. It’s historical in terms of the era and the world-building element, and it’s romantic—but it’s not a genre historical romance. It’s fast-paced with many suspense and mystery elements, but it’s not a true historical thriller or mystery. It features a woman growing into her own voice, but it’s not really women’s fiction because of the other elements. A traditional publisher would ask: where does this fit on the shelves? Who is the audience? In spite of going to acquisitions in more than one publishing house, it all boiled down to this—they didn’t know who to sell this book to, or how.
This is precisely why the current state of publishing with its many indie presses and self-publishing platforms is a real boon to authors. We have a say in what to do with these niche projects, and we can try nuanced avenues to promote them. Next year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Phantom on Broadway. It also happens to be the longest running show in Broadway history. In fact, worldwide Phantom of the Opera has had over two billion views, to say nothing of those who read the original work or have watched the myriad of film adaptations. I’ll be seeking that audience, hoping to connect to those as much in love with the original story as I am—and those who would delight in a fresh take. How that will all happen is still in the works.
Thus, my journey with this novel continued in a new direction. I hired professional editors and a cover designer whose sensibilities matched the vision I had for the book. When my cover arrived in my inbox, I have to admit that I squealed! It captured everything I wanted—a sense of the past, the richness of the opera, intrigue, and a touch of romance. No easy feat, to be sure. James T. Egan of Bookfly Designs is an incredible talent, and I love just about every cover on his website. Cover designers amaze me. They somehow manage to boil down a multi-faceted concept into a single image that not only represents themes in the novel, but also aligns with key elements relative to the book market. They are true artists, and I think their talents aren’t heralded enough. As an amateur art aficionado, I always, always study the cover of a book before I buy it. Judging a book by its cover is part of the overall reading experience. At least it is for me.
I’m thrilled to be moving forward with this beloved project at last, and look forward to its release February 6th of next year. Regardless of sales or reviews or anything else, I wrote this book for my sixteen year old self, and she is pretty darn happy.
About the book:
In this re-imagining of Phantom of the Opera, meet a Christine Daaé you’ve never seen before…
Christine faces an impossible choice: be a star at the Paris opera as Papa always wanted, or follow her dream—to become a master of illusions. First, she must steal the secrets of the enigmatic master who haunts her, survive a world of treachery and murder, and embrace the uncertain promise of love. To succeed, she will risk her life in the grandest illusion of all.
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Heather Webb is the nationally acclaimed author of Becoming Josephine, Rodin’s Lover, and Last Christmas in Paris. Rodin’s Lover was chosen as a Goodreads Top Pick in 2015, and her works have sold in many countries worldwide. Additionally, Heather is a professional freelance editor and teaches craft courses at a local college. She lives in New England with her family and one feisty rabbit. For more information, visit her at www.HeatherWebb.net, on Twitter @msheatherwebb, or on Facebook.