Magnolia Robbins - Forbidden Melody

For our January meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Forbidden Melody by Magnolia Robbins. If you weren't able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we're reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you'll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

Reader 1 3:56 PM

I need to find Maggie’s playlist for this book so I can have some mood music for the chat

Maggie Robbins 3:56 PM this is one somebody made, not me though lol

Reader 2 4:00 PM

I listened to some of the great music today while working on a proposal for my company at home. Salut D'Amour is incredibly beautiful!

Reader 3 4:00 PM

Maggie I want to say That I absolutely loved Forbidden Melody! Emma and Juliet were just so.....lovable and amazing! I couldn't put it down! 🥰:purple_heart::purple_heart: You did such an amazing job with Emma and her being deaf. I was really impressed!

Maggie Robbins 4:01 PM

Salut D'Amor and Tristesse are both my favs, for sure. It was definitely fun writing that book just to learn some songs I hadn't heard of before. And thank you, Reader 3! I appreciate that.

Reader 1 4:02 PM

Just to officially call book club to order for those who are watching but not chatting yet… thanks so much for joining us Maggie!

Reader 4 4:02 PM

Oh oh oh oh is it time it's time

Maggie Robbins 4:03 PM

You're welcome! Thanks for having me. :slightly_smiling_face:

Reader 3 4:03 PM

You are very welcome! :purple_heart::purple_heart:

Reader 5 4:03 PM

Phew, I'm here just in time! Sorry, the writing muse took me by surprise and I only just noticed the time, lol!

Reader 1 4:04 PM

What did everyone think of Forbidden Melody?

Reader 3 4:04 PM

My question I do have is what gave you the idea for this book?? What inspired it??

Reader 5 4:04 PM

Can I get a @Reader 4 squeal out of the way before we get started?? I loved this book so much :joy: I absolutely loved it!

Reader 6 4:04 PM

I really enjoyed this book. :slightly_smiling_face:

Reader 4 4:04 PM

Ok full disclosure I didn't finish my reread because I'd forgotten how long it was and totally misjudged what would be an appropriate reading pace but still it's not like I could have forgotten the ending anyway the part when Emma goes to Norway is like :broken_heart:

Reader 7 4:04 PM

I loved the book so much! I first read it a year ago, around the time I first joined this group

Reader 2 4:05 PM

I loved it so much that I had to buy a physical copy after finishing it on KU. Well done Maggie!

Reader 5 4:05 PM

I spent the whole of Christmas day reading it, lol.

Reader 4 4:05 PM

It really is an amazing book :sob: I've probably squealed about it to plenty of people already but it was my gateway into lesfic and I'm eternally grateful to Maggie for it

Reader 3 4:06 PM

Yes I was shedding lots of tears!!!! But then again I didn't like Lydia at all!!! I was giving her bigger daggers then Juliet was!! :joy::joy:

Reader 1 4:07 PM

Hahaha aww, why? Just because she was getting in the way?

Reader 3 4:10 PM

A little bit..yes but also because the way she was with Juliet was just not okay. I get it I do...and she mostly what she did for her feelings for Emma, but what was going on between them was between them! Lydia should have butted out! :woman-shrugging::skin-tone-2: I'm sure Emma didn't even know that Juliet trued to contact her when she left. That broke me

Reader 7 4:06 PM

Also, this book feels almost like it was meant for me: my wife and I are both musicians and she actually has Ehlers-Danlos (but, thankfully, without any hearing loss from her type of the disorder)

Maggie Robbins 4:08 PM

Wow, thank you guys! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :slightly_smiling_face: Yeah, I hated writing the Emma part when she goes to Norway, because I hated splitting them up again, but it had to be done. And Reader 7, that is really awesome about you both being musicians and that you could relate to the book in that way. I actually was inspired by Mandy Harvey, a musician who was on America's Got Talent, who had Ehlers-Danlos. I'm partially deaf, so I wanted to do a book about someone in a similar situation, and so it all kind of fell together like that.

Reader 1 4:12 PM

So I assumed with the incredible depth of musical details that you’re a musician yourself, Maggie? What do you play and how much research did this book involve?

Reader 4 4:12 PM

Breaking your own heart is pretty necessary as a romance author :sweat_smile: What was writing this book like for you? I know you operate in bursts of inspiration alternating with down periods, was it a book you spent a lot of time carefully crafting or was it the sort of thing that just came together with a lot of inspiration?

Reader 2 4:13 PM

I wanted to ask the music background question but Reader 1 said it better.

Maggie Robbins 4:17 PM

Okay, Reader 1's first: So, yes, I am a musician. My dad's side of the family is all musicians, they play bluegrass music. I got a violin when I was in middle school and started playing in orchestra during middle and high school. I also played piano growing up. I play quite a few instruments, just because of my family, but those two were the ones I knew sheet music from. The research on the orchestra side of things was a lot, and I know I still probably got some things mixed up from lack of familiarity with real orchestra, but I had fun talking with some family friends who are in a professional orchestra in Louisville, Kentucky, where I am from.

Reader 4: I was obsessed with this book. Out of all the books I've written, it came to me the quickest, and was the most emotional for me to write. I knew I wanted to write a student/teacher romance at first, and had spent a lot of time obsessively reading books in that genre, but I didn't decide to write a music book until I saw a video about Mandy Harvey, the musician I spoke about with Ehlers-Danlos, who was also deaf by the age of 18-19 years old. Then it all kind of clicked for me. I had a music teacher in high school who was a lot like Juliet, and I wanted to emulate her, because she was always so obsessed with music and the music world, and I thought that was so interesting. Plus, you know, with my family background I know a lot of music obsessive people, so it seemed to work. But it really was just something that, once I had the idea, it came to me pretty easily, surprisingly. I could see their story unfold in my head better than anything else I've ever written.

Reader 3 4:20 PM

I love this! Student teacher is my next favorite trope next to medical so yay! So happy you wrote this book it set the bar pretty high though! It's right up there Reader 1's Lakeside series!!!

Reader 1 4:21 PM

So cool - were you a musician first and discovered writing later, or have you always explored your creativity in multiple ways?

Reader 8 4:21 PM

Why the age gap - it’s a big gap

Reader 3 4:23 PM

Where did you get the idea of Miranda and Timothy?! I believe they are my favorite side characters ever! :purple_heart:

Maggie Robbins 4:27 PM

Reader 4: I think I wrote the book in a month, actually, the first draft. Then my friend Amanda took it from me and helped shape it up and fix a lot of little things. I owe her for the ending, it had a completely different ending originally.

Reader 1: I think it was around the same time, to be honest. I had a little book I wrote in elementary school that I illustrated that was published in a local journal. And I think I started playing around the same time.

Reader 8: The age gap was actually important to me, and I had a reasoning behind doing it. I wanted to show a "seasoned musician" who was a 'know it all' (but rightfully so) and had done this for a long time, contrasting it with a more beginning of her career musician, who everything was new to, and who still had that fiery attitude about her like she knew it all too, but had barely started. I hadn't expected it to be an age gap and it certainly wasn't for any other reason than the contrast I wanted to show. Juliet just felt like she needed to be at the pinnacle of her career, and I wanted to give her a reason that she could "retire" if she wanted to, when she left to go to Emma in London. If she had been younger, I don't know if she would have done it.

Reader 2: Thank you! That was very nice of you to say. I like to say I'm an 'experimental' author, I always want to try weird things and different things. So, it all ends up being vastly different.

Reader 3: Miranda and Timothy were based off of the friends of ours who play for the Louisville orchestra, who are also... Miranda and Timothy! LOL. I know, real creative. They were my favorite side characters too. I thought they did a good job of keeping Juliet grounded and acted good as a moral compass for her at times.

Reader 4 4:28 PM

How old was Juliet? I don't remember if the actual number ever came up :thinking_face:

Maggie Robbins 4:29 PM

She was in her 40s, and Emma was mid-20s, entering graduate school age.

Reader 4 4:31 PM

I don't typically spring for age gap romance but I really liked the take on it here :sparkling_heart::sparkling_heart: Parts like Emma helping Juliet see the music in a new way when she talked about physically feeling it, I feel like the story was a lot of Juliet learning things from Emma which was really engaging and felt really important a story to tell

Maggie Robbins 4:32 PM

Exactly, and I wanted Juliet to kind of realize that, because she was so stuck in her ways and a know-it-all type when it came to music, it was refreshing for her to have a completely new perspective in that way.

Reader 4 4:33 PM

Okay but also here's the question that's really on my mind though, how do you think having published this book has affected you?? I know you mentioned a few times a feeling of struggle with the idea that you'd peaked with this book. Do you think that it's, ultimately, made telling stories harder after this one?

Reader 6 4:33 PM

I didn't like it that Emma didn't take the dangers of Juliet's father seriously until it hit the fan, and then she just left.

Reader 3 4:34 PM

Yeah that irked me too! I was Yelling at her! :woman-shrugging::skin-tone-2:

I know but she remembered when she needed to remember though...that's the soul wrenching

Reader 3 4:33 PM

Yes! That's amazing and definitely her moral compass! I loved even more since she knew Emma! Not to mention that Emma and Juliet met at such a drastic heartbreaking time in both their lives..(the wedding) It was such an amazing soul wrenching they belong together moment to be so drawn together from neither remembering til they reached that moment in there lives! It was beautiful!! :purple_heart::purple_heart:

Reader 1 4:34 PM

Not to mention how long it took Juliet to remember… :broken_heart:

Maggie Robbins 4:37 PM

Reader 4: LOL yeah, I wasn't prepared for people to like the book so much (although I know some people didn't, and thats okay). But the reception kind of threw me for a loop, and yeah, it's definitely been hard to recover from. It's definitely getting easier, but the book and I have a love-hate relationship at times, for sure.

Reader 6: Yep, everybody got that one, Emma was definitely young and still immature in ways, and it caught up to her. She had to "grow up" a little bit more, I felt like, hence part of the reason for the time-lapse.

Reader 1/Reader 3: Interestingly enough, I didn't anticipate having them meeting at the wedding at first, but it kind of all clicked later to have that part. It would have made sense for them both to be there, mingling in the same social circles, and yeah, they were both vulnerable in those moments and needed someone to lean on. So, I thought it worked well.

Reader 7 4:38 PM

Do you have another of your books you’d recommend to a reader who loved this one, but hasn’t (yet) read any more of your work?

Reader 4 4:39 PM

Do you feel like the reception influenced your writing style? Did you feel like you had to lean into the things that worked in this book, or conversely that you had to lean away to define yourself as not just being this book?

Reader 2 4:40 PM

Maggie, you definitely have not "peaked" with this awesome book. I finished "Nerd Love" a week ago and couldn't put it down...what a fun read!

Reader 3 4:40 PM

It was beautiful Maggie! And glad it happened that way! It showed more of there souls recognizing each other. The moment Juliet played with Emma at her audtion it was solidified that they were meant to be! It was epic!

Reader 6 4:40 PM

I loved the interaction between Juliet an Emma's father. It was sad that Juliet didn't get to attend the funeral because of the situation.

Reader 4 4:41 PM

Yeah I should definitely say you haven't peaked with it at all, I can't tell you how excited I am for Homespun

Reader 3 4:41 PM

When are we getting your Astronaut book??? I'm waiting patiently for it!!

Reader 6 4:42 PM

I was also happy when Juliet adopted Kira.

Reader 4 4:42 PM

Yesssssssss I loved the dynamic with Kira so much

Reader 1 4:42 PM

I would love to know how much research went into/is going into the astronaut book :smile:

Maggie Robbins 4:43 PM

Reader 7: If I recommend another book, it'll have to be Homespun, which will be released at the end of next month/early March I haven't decided yet. I can say with utmost certainty, it is not quite as good as FM, but it's my next best book.

AND, for all of you lovely people here... I do have some news. While it ISN'T a sequel, my new project I'm midway through, features most of the cast from FM. Including a surprise scene at the beginning with Emma and Juliet. :slightly_smiling_face: So, you'll have to wait and see! And Emerson Reed, one of the characters from FM is actually the Uncle of the new MC for this project. It's also another classical music book, that will have a soundtrack and everything, so same vein as FM, but a completely different storyline.

Reader 4: Yeah, for sure. So, I met my best friend Amanda through writing FM, because she edited it for me. By the way, if you haven't read her stuff (Amanda Kayhart) you should, it's fantastic. But, she definitely helped me up my skills, for sure. I try to make each book better than the last, however I can.

Reader 6: I loved Emma's dad. Her dad is based off of my dad. And the moments with them listening to music and playing together, are moments he and I shared, and I can say I cried through writing a lot of those scenes.

Reader 3: Astronaut book is coming, it's on the backburner for a little bit, but it's still coming! I promise. :slightly_smiling_face:

Reader 6: Juliet and Kira were meant to be, I had it planned that way from the get go, it was another growth moment for Juliet, I think.

Reader 3 4:43 PM

Yes Kira was such a monumental point I believe specially Juliet adopting her when Emma was away! It gave her part of Emma but also showed how much she has grown and changed an would except change when Emma and Juliet would meet again.

Maggie Robbins 4:43 PM

Reader 1: re: astronaut book, haha, yes. A LOT of research, which is part of the reason it has stalled.

Reader 4 4:44 PM

Ohhhh that Amanda!! I love her to death :heart_eyes:

Maggie Robbins 4:44 PM

Yeah, I heard she beta read your new book and that it's very cute! :slightly_smiling_face:

Reader 3 4:44 PM

Yay!! That's exciting!

Reader 4 4:45 PM

Oh my gosh she's so perfect :sob::sob::sparkling_heart::sparkling_heart: Now I can't wait for that new project too though I loved Emerson :sparkling_heart::sparkling_heart:

Reader 9 4:45 PM

Don’t forget I know people. Send me questions anytime re:astronauts

Reader 10 4:45 PM

NASA just released photos of 5 women astronauts. One of which is supposed to be selected for trip to moon.

Reader 9 4:45 PM

One is a Marine

I don’t have much to add (poorly timed family drama) but as a musician with minimal classical knowledge this book made me feel smarter. :-)

Reader 8 4:46 PM

I felt like Juliet was 41 and accomplished. Is it common in the music world for an over bearing person like her father to have that much power? She had the credibility to stand on her own, yet she gave in to her father for all those years. Also, why did she give up the violin, a gift from her beloved grandmother?

Reader 4 4:46 PM

So, while writing this book, how many times exactly did you want to slap Juliet in the face,

Maggie Robbins 4:51 PM

Reader 8: I'm not sure how common it is in music, truth be told, but with a step-mom with stories about working on staff for heads of universities in Kentucky, there's power playing all the time at schools, especially with people that have the money to do it. So, that was kind of where my inspiration for her father came from, was the stories I heard from my step-mom. And, that ending was part of what Amanda and I worked on together. It was really hard to write, I didn't want her to give up the violin. But, if you recall, that was a huge thing where her father and Juliet butted heads. Her father wasn't a musician, which was part of his jealousy with Juliet because of her bond with her grandmother, but also because she got this very expensive heirloom (which, he was very obsessive with money and power). In the original ending, she didn't give up the violin, but I wanted that character growth for her in the end, so I ended up changing it. As much as she loved the violin, it ultimately was about the music, not the object, and her love for Emma. I stand by the ending, as hard as it was for her to give up the violin.

Reader 4: LOL all. the. time.

Melissa: I'll find a good one, give me a second.

Reader 2 4:53 PM

Giving up the violin was a master stroke of storytelling...very heartbreaking but necessary.

Maggie Robbins 4:53 PM

Yeah, it was hard for me to do that to her, but Amanda and I talked about it a lot while editing, and I completely agree. I thought it was a necessary thing in the end.

Reader 4 4:53 PM

Definitelyyyyy that ending was so amazingly powerful I loved it 🥰🥰🥰

Reader 3 4:54 PM

Yes it was the best growth for her! (edited)

Reader 4 4:54 PM

Are there any other books you would say served as inspiration for this, or no?

Maggie Robbins 4:55 PM

Like I said, I read a lot of student/teacher romance books trying to figure out what I wanted to do, but nothing specifically. I realized I wanted to do something that nobody had done before, and so... that's what I did! lol

Reader 4 4:56 PM

Oh, of course, who needs inspirations when you're as generally inspired in everything you do as Maggie is :woman-shrugging::skin-tone-2: idol

Okay so crossover Emma and Juliet meet the leads of another one of your books, who would they have the best time with and you are banned from saying the current WIP where they already do show up

Maggie Robbins 5:00 PM

LOL Reader 4. Oh, that's a hard one. Hmmm. Well, in Homespun, one of the MCs is a bluegrass musician (also like my dad, who plays banjo) and I think just with their musical backgrounds, they might get along. Plus, the other MC likes to dance, and we all know Juliet likes to dance so... :shrug: That's my best thought. I'm not sure though, that's a really good question!

Reader 8 5:01 PM

Thanks for your comments @Maggie Robbins . It put some of the story into perspective for me. I really felt the love/attraction between your MCs when they were playing the duets. It was very powerful imagery in my mind - kind of hot, even :blush:

Reader 4 5:01 PM

I know, right? I ask the best questions :woman-shrugging::skin-tone-2: I figured it'd be Homespun haha way to get me even more excited about it

Reader 6 5:02 PM

So what did Juliet's dad do with the violin? I'm guessing he sold it?

Reader 4 5:04 PM

keeps it around to condescend at it instead of at Juliet probs

Maggie Robbins 5:05 PM

Thanks, Reader 8! Yeah... I have that bond with my family when we play, there's something about music that you can't put into words. It's just a different type of "speaking" for lack of better way to phrase it. I always feel something special when I play music with my family. I wanted to capture that with them, I think it added a different dimension to their relationship, for sure.

I thought about that a lot, honestly, Reader 6, and I've flip-flopped about what I wanted to do, because for a little while I thought about a sequel, but I think how I'm doing it with the new project ended up being the right way to go, with them making an appearance. I kind of hint at what happened in this project, and in order not to spoil it, I'm just going to say that he in fact, doesn't sell it. :slightly_smiling_face:

Reader 4 5:07 PM

That is really true about the musical harmony though, I did classical singing in college just on the side and especially with singing since the instrument is inside your own body, there's a really powerful feeling in harmonizing. Maybe that's why I liked Lydia because she was my vocal girl haha

Reader 7 5:08 PM

Ah I was the other side of the equation: Back home, I did a lot of vocal accompanying and choral accompanying :slightly_smiling_face:

Maggie Robbins 5:09 PM

I had someone tell me I needed to write another book with Lydia and her wife in Norway. :slightly_smiling_face: I had to at least be nice and give her a happy ending, too. I felt kind of bad for her at times, even though she was definitely a wedge between Juliet and Emma for sure.

Reader 4 5:10 PM

Yeah I loved Lydia even if she did get in the way, I was glad she got her happy ending too

Reader 9 5:10 PM

Yeah but what lesbian didn’t crush on a least one friend?

Reader 4 5:10 PM


Maggie Robbins 5:10 PM

LOL yep.

Reader 8 5:11 PM

Lydia wasn’t a wedge, she was a age appropriate women that fell in love with her friend. Later she found someone she loved enough to marry!

Reader 4 5:12 PM

I mean, I honestly thought Lydia and Emma were pretty cute together and at first I was upset Juliet was in their way so I clearly read the book wrong, but tbf I was upset at Juliet for basically just breathing in the first third of the book or so

Maggie Robbins 5:13 PM

I poorly worded that, because that's totally correct. I just think she was also hurt and sad that her feelings weren't reciprocated, too. I was sad for her, because yeah, most of us know how that feels to not have those feelings reciprocated. But yeah, they definitely were meant to be just friends, and I definitely wanted Lydia to get a happy ending, for sure.

Reader 7 5:14 PM

I also liked Lydia, because in so many books, it is clear almost from page 1 that there is only one couple that could ever be together, but this showed that Emma had multiple possibilities for women who could make her happy, I thought

Reader 4 5:15 PM

That is a good point!! I did like that without it feeling like a love triangle story.

Reader 9 5:15 PM

Good points

Reader 2 5:16 PM

I actually admired Lydia for remaining a good friend.

Reader 1 5:17 PM

Agreed - they both took it in stride pretty quickly and got back to sharing textbooks, when it could have gotten awkward really easily

Maggie Robbins 5:18 PM

I had always envisioned them being friends for a while, and I wanted Emma to have that person who still had her back, even if it didn't work out for Lydia the way that she anticipated. I like that point though, Reader 7, I hadn't thought about it that way. I definitely was trying to keep it as far from love-triangleish as possible.

Reader 7 5:19 PM

Yes, it didn’t have that feel :slightly_smiling_face:

Reader 1 5:22 PM

Anybody have any more questions for Maggie?

Reader 4 5:22 PM

:woman-raising-hand::skin-tone-2: did you know that I love you maggie

Maggie Robbins 5:22 PM

No, Reader 4. This is brand new information. :smile: lol

Reader 4 5:22 PM

Omg :triumph:

Reader 8 5:23 PM

Thank you again, Maggie. We look forward to your next book.

Maggie Robbins 5:23 PM

Thanks for having me guys, I really enjoyed talking with you all and answering questions! I'm glad you enjoyed the book. :slightly_smiling_face:

Reader 4 5:23 PM

Which book of yours should I read next while I wait for Homespun :heart_eyes:

Reader 5 5:23 PM

I can't wait to read another! FM was admittedly the first of yours I've read but I'm 100% going to read more! :heart:

Reader 9 5:24 PM

Do you have more planned for audio?

Maggie Robbins 5:25 PM

Reader 4: Depends on what you're in the mood for, my nerdy-geeky fun book is Nerd Love, Stay is for you if you like animals, and I loved Wildsky, it's kind of in the same vein as what Homespun is going to be, a second chance/small-town romance.

Reader 9: I'm going to try and get all my books in audio, for sure! I like getting as many formats out there as possible. Most of my books have audio versions at the moment, at least my novels do. I'm planning to do it with all of them! :slightly_smiling_face:

Okay, guys! I'm going to head out, Sundays are my fun adulting days with laundry and food prep and all that fun. :slightly_smiling_face: So, you guys all have a great evening. Thank you again for inviting me to chat, it was a lot of fun!