I read Catch The Moon, Mary in May last year … it was my first introduction to Wendy’s writing and I fell in love immediately. Her musicality infuses every aspect of the book; from the subject to the chapter-headings and, most beautifully, the lyrical cadence of her writing style … the combination was hypnotic. In this blog I’m delighted to introduce you to Wendy with an excuse sneak-peek chapter from her novel.
Like its author, Catch The Moon, Mary is something of a free spirit, making it near impossible to ascribe to any one genre. It flirts with contemporary fiction, literary fiction, magical realism, and suspense. It has echoes of my all time favourite musical, Phantom of the Opera, and hints of the cheeky Netflix series, Lucifer.
Since reading this book, I’ve come to know Wendy a bit better via the wonders of social media – she is, after all, living on the other side of the world from me – and I’m very proud to count this bold, outspoken, and exceptionally talented woman as a good friend.
At the time of writing this blog, Catch The Moon, Mary is being transformed into a screenplay by Liam McCann, with the first actor read-throughs planned to take place this month. Needless to say, Wendy is giddy-excited, and it’s intoxicating!
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win a signed copy of Catch The Moon, Mary.
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Entries close on 31st July 2021
A magical story about a gifted but vulnerable girl who is both saved and damned by an angel who falls in love with her music and claims it as his own in a Faustian pact.
With Mary in his thrall, he ruthlessly kills those who threaten his plan to bring Mary to Carnegie Hall where her talent will be hailed supreme.
a message from Wendy
I started writing Catch the Moon, Mary in the summer of 2003 just after I’d staged my first musical, Scheherazade. Feeling flat and a bit lost after the final curtain I decided to write about a musically gifted girl who meets her guardian angel and signs what becomes in essence a Faustian deal – the exclusive rights to her music in exchange for fame and fortune and freedom from her abusive father. I really wanted to write a charming little novella where the bad guy gets what he deserves and the “princess wakes up from her slumbers” to quote Van Morrison. But the angel had his own demons, and the deeper I delved into his dark, lonely existence, the more convinced I became that the girl in need of rescuing would become his rescuer. The story became so dark and twisted I needed a reel of Ariadne’s skein to find my back to the light – and that skein was music, threaded and woven into the spaces between the words.
I spent the next few years refining the story I called Catch the Moon, Mary in between staging a second musical, Goddesses, which ultimately became Fred and working full-time in a café on Mount Tamborine, a tiny village in the hills behind Queensland’s glitzy Gold Coast. Mount Tamborine is encinctured by rainforests which are home to bats, possums, pythons, shimmering glow-worms, and myriad woodland sprites, visible to those whose minds and hearts are open to them. Mine was. Indeed, my finer senses opened up in this idyllic landscape and the magic I came to believe in informed my writing.
Running parallel to my burgeoning love affair with words was my enduring passion for, and dependence on, music as sustenance for my soul. I cannot live without music. It’s my go-to remedy for depression and anxiety. It always brings me home.
While I was living and working on Mount Tamborine, I wrote an anti-war musical based on the life of Alexander the Great. I wrote the book and lyrics and co-composed the music with brilliant young pianist/composer, Ian Camilleri. We worked on the music every Sunday, our one day off, for a year, and in 2005 Alexander was staged in concert form at Southbank Institute in Brisbane.
After that fabulous night, my life sank into despondent ennui, cycling over routine workdays and a few hours of writing bookending my days. I got up at 4.30am and wrote until I had to open the café at 8am and wrote again after dinner each night until 10pm. But through it all the story of the musical prodigy and her increasingly desperate angel kept me creatively challenged. In 2007 I won a major literary contest, the Women’s Weekly/Penguin Short Story Contest and part of my prize was submitting a manuscript to Penguin. I submitted Catch the Moon, Mary and was told the story was too complex for Penguin and Australian readers. Ali Watts, the wonderful publisher at Penguin suggested I pitch the manuscript overseas, specifically to publishers in the UK where she felt there would be more reception to a story with magical realism overtones.
And so, for the next seven years I submitted Catch the Moon, Mary to any publisher willing to look at an unagented, unrequested manuscript. Most of them ignored me, the rest sent form rejections. Occasionally there would be an encouraging email, albeit still a rejection. You never get used to the searing pain of rejection and I grew a bitter, tough shell over the soul that was once attuned to magic and fine-tuned to music. It made me angry, very angry that the world didn’t want my work.
And then in 2015 a miracle. A tiny publishing house in Scotland called Linen Press asked for the full manuscript. Then began a daily process of stringent, transformative, exemplary editing. Lyn Michell, the publisher, was a superb editor. But sadly, the book failed to sell, and Lyn and I parted company in 2017. For a brief while I tried to court the mainstream publishers again. But they simply weren’t interested.
I swore I would never self-publish but by 2018 I gave up trying to find acceptance in the mainstream world and self-published Catch the Moon, Mary.
Fast forward to 2021 and Catch the Moon, Mary has a UK based screenwriter, Liam McCann, and my musicals Fred and Alexander have enjoyed the support of radio-entrepreneur, Jean-Paul Yovanoff, and virtual theatre producer/director, Ryan Thornhill.
On the 14th of March 2021 Liam McCann and I had a virtual reading of the screenplay with ten brilliant London-based actors. I cannot begin to express the joy of connecting with these vital, extraordinary, gifted people whose energy and optimism go a long way to cracking the bitter, angry carapace around my soul. I hope the next chapter of my life is filled with fruition and renewal.
There is hope in friendship, love in connection and balance in enterprise imbued with faith. The future looks a lot brighter than the past.
quote from The Express interview with Amanda Redman:
My Six Best Books (March 2017)
“The story of a musically brilliant girl trying to escape from her life. It’s told in a fabulous way, almost like a fairytale, and captured my imagination. It’s tender and beautiful. The writer sent it to me and invited me to the launch after I waxed lyrical about it.”
exclusive chapter extract from Catch The Moon, Mary
sliding between two notes
James had found a wonderful apartment on the third floor of a converted 1930s mansion in Cremorne Point. It had polished timber floors, high ceilings and wainscoting. He’d gone with Mary when the estate agent showed her round.
‘Sometimes a change of space can chase phantoms away,’ said James.
‘What do you mean?’
They were standing in the kitchen. The estate agent had stepped outside to take a call and left them alone to wander.
‘Once you leave Blacktown you may leave your unwelcome visitor behind.’
‘If only it were that simple.’
‘It is. Come and take a look out here.’ James led her onto the small balcony adjacent to the kitchen. ‘If you fill this with potted plants, you’d have your own sanctuary and look,’ he pointed towards Shellcove, ‘you can catch glimpses of the city.’
‘And if that was my room,’ said Mary, indicating the adjoining bedroom through the French doors, ‘I could go to sleep looking at the stars.’
‘Your mother could have the other bedroom down the hall.’
‘Mum’s not moving.’
‘Oh, well, perhaps it’s time to cut the apron strings. She’ll be fine and so will you. Take a good look round. I’ll wait here,’ he said, confident of the result.
For Mary the decision to buy rested on one thing, whether or not there was a perfect spot for her piano. She wandered into the living room. Under a leadlight window there was a recessed space where fragments of coloured light fell in dappled harmony.
‘That’s it,’ she whispered. ‘My piano belongs here.’ She rejoined to James. ‘I want this apartment.’
‘That was quick.’
‘I’ve seen all I need to.’
James laughed. ‘Do you want me to make an offer now?’
‘Maybe tomorrow.’ Mary played a tune mid-air, her fingers striking a melody half-summoning, half retreating. ‘I can’t do this. Not today.’
‘If not today then when? Next year? The year after?’ James seized her hands and squeezed gently. ‘Stop playing your music and concentrate, Mary. I know how powerful and persuasive it is, but you need to be here. This apartment is great and at the moment you can afford it. In a year’s time, who knows? Where will you put your piano?’ A deft move.
‘There’s an alcove in the living room that’s perfect.’
James smiled. ‘Good girl! I’ll make an offer then?’
She gripped his arm. ‘Are you sure he won’t find me here?’
‘It’ll take him a while.’
James handled the sale. He put in a low offer that was accepted, leaving Mary money to spend on her new home. She moved on a beautiful Saturday in late spring. James and Kathleen helped place her furniture exactly as she wanted it: light and shadow falling just right, every item placed just so. When the piano was delivered late in the afternoon and was placed in the alcove, Mary had a sense of arriving home after a long difficult journey. My sacred space, she told herself, everything in its rightful place. Nothing can go wrong in here. And in that moment, she truly believed Gabriel would never dare to trespass.
‘Play something,’ said Kathleen, her cheeks flushed from their hectic day.
‘Yes, please do. I’ve never heard your music,’ James added.
‘Haven’t you?’ Kathleen’s dark eyes narrowed suspiciously. ‘Really?’
‘There’s no piano at work.’
‘Mum, I don’t think playing now is a good idea.’
‘Why ever not, Mary? Your young man hasn’t heard it.’
James stared at Kathleen. ‘What did you just call me?’
‘Mum thinks you like me.’
‘I do like you.’
‘Mary’s my friend, Kathleen. Nothing more,’ he said quietly. ‘I should go and leave you two together.’ He turned to Kathleen. ‘Will you be staying here for a bit? If not, I’m happy to come over and help Mary with her new routine.’
‘I’ll be staying. You go home to your wife, Jimmie.’
James caught his breath. ‘My mother used to call me that.’
It was a beautiful new routine.
Mary woke to the sound of birdsong and after breakfast, she and her mother walked along Shellcove path to the wharf. The ferry ride into the city took fifteen minutes and from there it became the old routine: up Macquarie Street to Bridge Street, a takeaway coffee from her favourite little hole-in-the-wall café, through the revolving doors of the building, the lift to the tenth floor and into her office to enjoy the view and her coffee before getting down to work.
And after work, Kathleen met Mary in the coffee shop on the ground floor of her building and repeated the exercise in reverse. Along Bridge down Macquarie to Circular Quay, catch the Mosman ferry, get off at Cremorne Point, walk along the path paralleling Shellcove, open the back gate, take the path along the right-hand side of the building, up the stairs to the top floor, turn the key, open the door and … home.
Mary set the kitchen table for two with silver cutlery and lit a candle while Kathleen arranged the roses they had bought at Circular Quay.
‘You seem settled now.’ Kathleen began.
‘I know what you’re going to say but please stay a bit longer.’
‘I’ve taken too much time off work, Mary. I need to get back.’
The city lights were popping to life, the inlet reflecting ladders of gold, the birds gathering in their evening roosts to sing the closing of the day.
‘You haven’t played the piano all week, darling.’
‘I can live without it.’
‘He’ll find me if I play my music. That’s how he found me before.’
‘You mean the angel who believes in you?’
‘I mean the angel who killed Jillian and Nana.’
‘Stop your nonsense, Mary.’
‘It’s true, Mum.’
‘Jillian died of natural causes and it was Mama’s time. Sure, you have a great gift, darlin’ and wasn’t it your dream to share it with the world one of these days?’
‘I’ve changed my mind.’
‘Well, change it back again. I’ll be going home tomorrow. You fill your new home with music as God intended.’
Mary sat alone on her balcony. The air was so still, the night sounds – cricket song, possum snuffling, the slap-slurp of wavelets in the cove – found concert in a melody that made her fingers dance. She lifted the lid of her piano and began to play. The first time since moving to Cremorne. It was like breathing out after holding her breath so long that it almost choked her.
Music poured out of her soul. But as she moved from joyful major chords into an augmented minor a shadow fell across the board and the temperature in the room dropped. She shivered and changed the tone with a frivolous arpeggio, increasing the tempo on a rising scale of radiant major chords. Higher and brighter the music soared until the room shuddered with heat and light. He was there. Breathing hard against his presence, she played on, the notes sparkling around her like glitter in a shaken snow-globe. Only when she finished, did she close the lid.
‘When I first heard your music… have I told you this already?’ His voice was so soft it was little more than a breeze.
‘You found me.’
‘Did you really think I wouldn’t?’ He moved around the room like a cat exploring its new home. ‘Thank you for moving to Cremorne. Perhaps you’ll find my brother here.’
‘If he exists.’
‘As I was saying, when I first heard your music I felt as if your soul spoke directly to mine. People tire of prophets and they crucify saviours, but music, ah, they’ll listen to music. But you know all this…’
She ran her hands over the lid, feeling the tiny imperfections, wincing. ‘James said it would take you a while to find me.’
‘So, you still listen to James.’
‘He’s my friend.’
‘I’m your friend, but let’s not spoil our reunion arguing about James. You’re playing again now. That’s all that matters. And soon you’ll find my brother.’
“Catch the Moon, Mary is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read. It lifts you to another level of wonderment, with mesmerising lyrical prose, infused with melodious inspiration. The musical suggestions sweep through the novel where each chapter is named after a musical term, such as Ostinato, Ariosa, and Cavatina, and provide a rhythm that is unique and special.”
Peter Donnolly – The Writing Desk
Click here to read Peter’s review in full
“Catch the Moon, Mary is a mesmerising melody of magical realism. This is storytelling at its best. I cannot express how beautifully written this book is. The words flow off the page like melted chocolate on the tongue, so easy to consume and so temptingly moreish.”
Jules – LittleMissNoSleep Book Blog
Click here to read Jules’ review in full
author bio & links
Wendy Waters is an award-winning author, composer, lyricist and librettist. Born in Queensland, she grew up in Sydney, lived in the USA for six years, travelled extensively and now divides her time between London and Sydney.
In 2011 she volunteered to work with OASIS Salvation Army Crisis Centre in Sydney, helping to motivate musically gifted youth.
On behalf of Wendy and myself I want to thank you for allowing your curiosity to get the better of you … we’re both chuffed to bits you read this blog. And if we’ve tempted you to read Catch The Moon, Mary please don’t forget to write a review on Amazon … your reviews feed authors!
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