Meet Nupur Tustin

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Nupur Tustin to the blog for #WriterWednesday!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.
I’m a former journalist who misuses a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate mayhem in Haydn’s Austria. I also write music. My 1903 Weber Upright is responsible for that crime.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?
We used to have two adorable pit bulls. But Fatty, our oldest, passed on in 2014. Chickie, who really wasn’t all that old, went this last summer. So, unfortunately at this time, we have no pets at all. Once my three children—the oldest is five and the youngest two—are a little older, we might get a dog or two for the family.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?
It’s a strange thing about the eighteenth century, but we never hear about people lavishing attention on their animals. Dogs and horses served a purely utilitarian purpose, and anyone who enjoyed hunting would have owned both. Haydn did enjoy the hunt as did Dittersdorf, a fellow musician, and they were both rather good at it.

Marie Antoinette was thought a bit strange because shortly after she married the Dauphin at the age of fourteen, she asked for a little dog to play with in her chambers. This was as strange as her tendency to invite the children of her chamber maids over to her rooms so she could play with them. In the Viennese court where she grew up, her desire to play and have fun would have been accepted as a natural part of her youthful high spirits. In the Court of Versailles, where etiquette reigned supreme, it was unseemly for the Crown Princess to do anything at all other than to devote herself to her dress and toilette and to observe the proprieties.

Frederick the Great of Prussia was also regarded as eccentric for lavishing as much attention as he did on his Italian greyhounds. They slept on his bed, were served in the best bowls, and the servants were instructed to use the formal “Vous” when addressing them rather than the more usual third person. All of this would have been regarded as being in keeping with his personality: a man who seemed to care little for his fellow humans.

 What are you reading now?

I’m re-reading a biography of Maria Theresa as well reading one of her daughter, Marie Antoinette. A straightforward young girl given over to levity and high spirits, Marie Antoinette was ill-suited for the web of intrigue that was the Court of Versailles. Unlike Vienna, where except for state functions, the royals lived in privacy—indeed almost like country squires—at Versailles, every detail of their lives from sleeping to getting dressed was done in the public eye. Worse still, for seven long years her marriage remained unconsummated.

In giving herself over to pleasure, she was both compensating for this lack of physical intimacy as well as rebelling against the interminable etiquette of the court that constrained her freedom in every manner. But had she heeded her mother’s advice and that of her brother, Joseph II, the revolution might have been avoided. It was fairly easy to make her the scapegoat for everything that was wrong with France, although things had been going wrong for a long time. Louis XV was an extremely unpopular king and the people hoped things would change under Louis XVI.

It’s fascinating to read simultaneously about mother and daughter. Both were pleasure-loving young women. But the mother at twenty-three was tasked with saving the Empire she’d inherited. She had already had two children and was heavily pregnant with her successor, Joseph II. Maria Theresa was forced to take herself to task. But unfortunately, the twin challenges of motherhood and adversity that eventually compelled her to draw upon her inner resources came too late for Marie Antoinette.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on the third Haydn Mystery, Prussian Counterpoint. Haydn will be traveling to Potsdam, a small town in Prussia that Frederick II preferred to Berlin. He spent most of his time there. It might be fun to give Frederick’s Italian greyhounds a strong story role, although I haven’t decided what that will be. They were, apparently, as misogynistic as their master and howled at women!

Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s hard to pick a favorite because there are so many I enjoy. Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti Mysteries are absolutely fascinating. It’s her portrayal of Venice that I find so compelling. Stephanie Barron captures Jane Austen’s voice so perfectly in her mystery series that one almost feels one is words penned by Austen herself. Emily Brightwell’s Mrs. Jeffries Series, so reminiscent of Agatha Christie, have given me many hours of joy as have Kate Kingsbury’s Pennyfoot Hotel Mysteries.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

I’ve always enjoyed writing and since I was always having my essays and stories read out in class, I can’t really remember a time when I, or anyone else, thought I wasn’t one. We used to be given impromptu writing prompts, and I always did well on those. I never had a problem writing a coherent narrative, no matter what the topic.

But was I a storyteller? The confidence to call myself that came much later, once I’d written Minor Deception, the first Haydn Mystery, as well as published a few short stories.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why?

I’d like to attend mass at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. It’s one of the oldest cathedrals in the city, and they still play music by Haydn, Mozart, and their contemporaries. I’m not a particularly religious person. I’m not even Catholic. But what a wondrous experience that would be.

What is the latest Haydn Mystery about?
Aria to Death, the second Haydn Mystery, is about music authentication. Haydn’s friend Kaspar asks him to examine a collection of scores reputed to be the lost operas of Monteverdi. Since seven of the ten operas this great master wrote are lost to us, Haydn is naturally intrigued. Until, of course, the Empress contacts him with a similar request. She, too, has managed to procure a couple of Monteverdi opera scores. Before Haydn can evaluate either set of scores, Kaspar is murdered—brutally beaten and left to die in front of a wine tavern.

The police are quick to dismiss the death as a robbery gone wrong. But Haydn is not so sure. Kaspar’s keys were stolen and his house broken into. Could his bequest be genuine after all? And can Haydn find the true operas—and the man willing to kill for them?

The answer is, of course, in the book!

Aria to Death: A Joseph Haydn Mystery

Genre: Historical Cozy Mystery

Preoccupied with preparations for the opera season at Eszterháza, Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn receives a curious request from a friend in Vienna. Kaspar, an impoverished violinist with an ailing wife, wishes Haydn to evaluate a collection of scores reputed to be the lost operas of Monteverdi.

Haydn is intrigued until Her Majesty, Empress Maria Theresa, summons him with a similar request. Skeptical of the value of Kaspar’s bequest, Haydn nevertheless offers to help. But before he can examine the works, Kaspar is murdered—beaten and left to die in front of a wine tavern.

The police are quick to dismiss the death as a robbery gone wrong. But Haydn is not so sure. Kaspar’s keys were stolen and his house broken into. Could his bequest be genuine after all? And can Haydn find the true operas—and the man willing to kill for them?

About Nupur:

A former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem.  The Haydn mysteries are a result of her life-long passion for classical music and its history. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her original compositions, available on ntustin.musicaneo.com.

Her writing includes work for Reuters and CNBC, short stories and freelance articles, and research published in peer-reviewed academic journals. She lives in Southern California with her husband and  three rambunctious children.

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18 thoughts on “Meet Nupur Tustin”

  1. For a remark that was never made, the cake line is surprisingly persistent! I’m glad you’re finding this interesting, Maggie. You might find Stanely Loomis’s Fatal Frienship interesting. It seems to do the best job of explaining the situation in France.

  2. Nupur, this is a fascinating post, especially with the detail about animals in the 17th century. It seems they were comfort to those who found themselves isolated for various reasons.

    I understand your desire to attend Mass at St. Stephen’s. I visited that beautiful cathedral, although not for a service.

    1. Thanks, Maggie. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. I don’t suppose many people back then thought that a dog could provide comfort. Apparently when Marie Antoinette was taken to the Conciegerie, although she was deprived of her children’s company and that of her sister-in-law–Louis had already been guillotined–she was allowed to keep her dog. On the day she was driven to the guillotine, the poor creature ran from room to room looking for her.

      How lovely that you could visit St. Stephen’s! It’s so rich with history, so incredibly beautiful!

        1. Oh yes! We’re definitely nothing like the Court of Versailles. Poor Marie Antoinette never stood a chance. From everything I’ve been reading, the revolution began with the nobles–in particular, her brother-in-law and the Duc d’Orleans. With the scurrilous lampoons they circulated about her–which started after she bore her first child–they pretty much handed her to the guillotine. Later, during the terror, the Girondists and Jacobins, unable to really improve conditions, sought to distract the people by systematically stripping Louis XVI of his power and then killing him. Killing Marie Antoinette was just another way of distracting the public from its economic woes.

          Not content with maligning her character, the Jacobins at her trial insinuated she had improper relations with her four-year-old son, the Dauphin! That tactic backfired. The women at the trial were horrified that such a charge should be brought against a mother.

          Yet in every prison she was taken to, Marie Antoinette managed to impress the common people in charge of her, and they did what they could to alleviate her suffering.

          1. So distraction has long been used as a tactic. This presents us with a view of Marie Antoinette that doesn’t fit the “let them eat cake” one that lingers. Thanks so much.

  3. Nupur, interesting how attitudes toward animals change. Today so many think of them as family members, an attitude far removed from what you write about. When I wrote about the American West of the 19th Century, animals were still pretty much utilitarian–except for George Armstrong Custer, who used to intimidate his wife by having his huge dogs sleep in their bed with them. Not a nice fellow/

    1. My goodness, Custer wasn’t a nice fellow at all! But he must have liked his dogs to let them sleep in his bed. Today, of course, it would be odd not to think of a dog or cat as a family member.

  4. Great to “meet” you, although I’ve seen you bobbing about on the SMFS {Short Mystery Fiction Society} yahoo group! Hoping you and your children enjoy the company of a furry friend soon. All the best for 2018!😉📚

        1. I’m delighted to hear that, Heather! I hope you enjoy them. In writing the novels, I’ve especially enjoyed the scenes that feature Maria Anna, Haydn’s wife, and the maids, Rosalie and Greta. The woman are often engaged in domestic chores as they share gossip relevant to the case, which, I think, gives the novels their cozy feel.

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