Author’s debut novel brings Italian history to life

Kimberly Cross Teter

Kimberly Cross Teter had long thought about writing a book, but it wasn’t until she discovered a piece of Italian history that she felt inspired to pursue her dream of becoming a published author.

Teter, who is originally from south Charlotte and now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, released her debut novel, “Isabella’s Libretto,” on Sept. 3. The author will make a special appearance at Park Road Books on Wednesday, Oct. 29, from 6 to 7 p.m. for a book talk and signing at the 4139 Park Road store.

“Isabella’s Libretto” was inspired by true events that took place during the early 1700s in Italy, with Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi serving as the centerpiece of the novel. About 10 years ago, Teter learned Vivaldi directed an all-female orchestra made up of orphaned and abandoned girls, and wrote many of his sacred vocal and instrumental compositions for musically talented orphans to perform at prestigious concerts.

“When I heard about this history, those were the details that I wanted to work into the book,” Teter said.

Teter researched the topic and  immediately became fascinated with the details she discovered. She began writing the book soon after, but shelved the project for several years after relocating to Nashville. Teter eventually felt the story crying out to be told and knew she had to finish it, so she enrolled in a creative writing program during which she finished the novel, she said.

The story focuses on Isabella, a 14-year-old girl who resides at Ospedale della Pieta, an orphanage and music school in Venice, Italy, in the early 1700s. Isabella is a cellist who plays in Vivaldi’s orchestra.

“The story is fiction, but Antonio Vivaldi plays a big role in the book,” Teter said. “Many of Vivaldi’s compositions were written to feature the girl who was performing the best in the ensemble that week.”

In the story, Isabella desires to be selected to play the solo for one of Vivaldi’s compositions, but broken rules spawn a series of events that challenge her ability to be chosen by Vivaldi to play the solo. Teter crafted the book for young adult audiences, but said people of all ages have read the story and enjoyed it.

“It is a coming of age story; however, a younger reader, if they are a strong reader, would like it,” she said. “A lot of adults read it and liked it, too.”

After the book was finished, Teter faced the dilemma of choosing a publisher. She was offered a contract by a small publisher in Mobile, Alabama, but had to choose whether to pursue securing an agent to have the book picked up by a larger publishing company. Teter eventually chose to go with Mobile-based Excalibur Press, as the publishing process was going to be quicker and easier with a smaller publisher.

“Isabella’s Libretto” was a labor of love for Teter, as writing the novel was both challenging and exhilarating. She revised the novel at least four different times, completely changing the ending and some of the details to make the novel more historically accurate. Teter had the chance to visit Venice for more in-depth and firsthand research, which she said was her favorite part about writing the book.

“I loved the subject matter – the history was my favorite part,” she said.

Book coverTeter also learned a lot about how to flourish as a writer. Some aspects of becoming a successful writer, Teter said, involve stepping out of one’s comfort zone and allowing the story to be told.

“Someone who wants to be published needs to be willing to share their work in its early format with someone else,” she said. “I was a little bit hesitant to show anyone else for fear that someone else might think it was awful, so I had to get over that.”

The risk paid off, as Teter has had the opportunity to travel and speak about her book, as well as become part of a supportive community of writers.

“Within the community of writers, there is great support and encouragement from others, and I’ve really learned a lot about that,” she said.

Teter plans to write additional historical fiction in the near future. Find more information at http://www.kimteter.com.