Interview session with ‘A Note in Time’ author Janina Fialkowska.
When 12-year-old Janina Fialkowska momentously decided to dedicate her life to music, little did she know what was in store. Certainly her love of music and desire to share this love provided fulfilment and joy, and there was a certain glamour to the life of a touring artist. She traveled to many countries, met many fascinating people, and indulged her weakness for good food. But there was another side to such a life, and reality made its ugly appearance fairly early on.
In her collection of autobiographical anecdotes, she describes the difficulties of her career in the concert pianist world as a young North American woman and her meeting with the legendary Arthur Rubinstein and his subsequent influence.
We talked with the author of this fascinating memoir, particularly about her fight with cancer and the book writing process.
What prompted you to write the book?
First of all, I had kept a rather detailed diary since the age of eleven covering all the early and fairly dramatic events of my life so I really didn’t have to do much research. I became quite ill when I was fifty and was suddenly thrust into forced idleness. As a sort of therapy and a way to pass the time, I started writing down autobiographical anecdotes, starting with the funnier experiences on tour and then delving deeper into the less lighthearted. Friends and family were encouraging because they had enjoyed my stories over the years and I had often been told to write them down. It distracted me and I enjoyed the process thoroughly.
Do you consider yourself a Concert Pianist first or an Author?
Obviously, I am a concert pianist first and foremost. I have been sitting at the piano since I was four years old; that’s 66 years! But it is true I have always loved writing and, if my book garners some success amongst the general reading public, I shall be proud to call myself a writer as well.
How much of the book is fiction and how much is actual fact?
Apart from changing a few names (for instance in the Chapter describing my first tour of Italy) everything I have written is true. In deference to family members who are still living, I have perhaps whitewashed some characters a little bit; I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Would you consider writing a second book?
Let’s see how successful this book ends up being. I do have many ideas and many anecdotes left for a second book. I have thought of perhaps writing a book from the point of view of a traveling artist’s spouse, or even from the traveling artist’s teddy bear!
How long a process was the writing of the book from start to finish?
Initially the book was written very quickly in a couple of months. Then there were many years when the manuscript lay on a shelf gathering dust. It was taken out occasionally to be edited and updated but basically lay idle until the pandemic. With nothing else to do except clean the house and watch the garden grow, I turned to my book and took action and found a publisher. The whole process lasted nearly 20 years.
Is there a message in this book or your readers?
This book is about many things. I would like my readers to understand how extraordinary modern medicine is and that cancer is in no way a death sentence anymore.
Also, for the young women pianists who may be reading this book, perseverance, stubbornness, and a constant search for perfection sometimes pays off. The piano world, particularly in North America, was very male –dominated when I was younger. Things are much better now but still, one does need a lot of courage to take on this very difficult career.
And finally, I believe Music is as essential to our lives as oxygen. It improves the quality of our lives.
Thank you for the interview.
Title: “A Note In Time”
Author: Janina Fialkowska
Plot: Janina Fialkowska’s ‘A Note in Time’ is a series of autobiographical sketches, sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, following the concert pianist’s tumultuous career and a life full of surprises.
Order your book here!
About the author
Janina Fialkowska is a renowned concert pianist of Polish and Canadian heritage. Having spent her life traversing the world on tour, she has now settled in Germany with her husband, Harry, and enjoys walking, gardening, and reading mystery novels.
She still performs a full schedule of concerts every year.