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Local author's latest historical fiction novel a labour of love

'The only company I had were these characters, so I think that I have clung to this one because it was so difficult to write,' says Rachel McMillan

While all of Rachel McMillan’s books are important to her, the release of the local writer’s latest novel feels extra special.

McMillan, who grew up in Orillia and now lives in Toronto, likes to write in coffee shops and pubs, including ones in Orillia when she’s visiting, but COVID-19 restrictions often prevented her from doing so over the past couple of years.

“I’m just glad it’s finally out,” she said of The Mozart Code. “It’s the book that I tried and failed to write many times during the pandemic.”

Those struggles brought her closer to the book and its characters.

“The only company I had were these characters, so I think that I have clung to this one because it was so difficult to write,” she said.

She travelled to Vienna and Prague in December 2019. It was her last research trip before the pandemic. Her observations of the cities and architecture come to life in The Mozart Code.

“Ideally, readers will be able to experience these cities through The Mozart Code,” she said.

“I’m fascinated by how architecture is the closest thing we have to experience how things were in those places in the past. It’s the greatest living art experience we can have when we visit anywhere from Sainte-Marie among the Hurons to Prague.”

Set in post-Second World War Europe in 1947, the novel follows Sophie Villiers and Simon Barrington. Villiers is on a mission to “infiltrate the world of relics” and uncover “vital information that could tilt the stakes of the mounting Cold War,” according to a description of the novel.

“When several influential men charge her with finding the death mask of Mozart, Sophie wonders if there is more than the composer’s legacy at stake and finds herself drawn to potential answers in Prague.”

Barrington, who has long been in love with Villiers, “seeks answers about Sophie only to learn that everything he thought he knew about his involvement in both wars is based on a lie.”

McMillan describes The Mozart Code as a companion book to her 2020 novel, The London Restoration. The plot is entirely different, but The Mozart Code plucks two supporting characters — Villiers and Barrington — from The London Restoration and turns them into leads.

Barrington was created to be a “plot point” in The London Restoration, McMillan explained.

“While I was writing, he told me his entire story,” she said. “I told my editor, ‘I think I’ve got another book.’”

McMillan noted she is a writer of historical fiction, not a historian. She hopes those who read The Mozart Code will be inspired to learn more about some of the places and events described in the book — whether it’s the architecture, the Cold War, MI6 or Mozart.

The Mozart Code was released today (Tuesday) and is available online and in bookstores, including Manticore Books in downtown Orillia.

Based on pre-orders, the novel is already one of Indigo’s top 10 historical fiction picks in Canada.

McMillan will be participating in two virtual launch events that are open to anyone. The United States launch event will take place tonight at 8 p.m. and can be accessed here. The Canadian launch event will take place Thursday at 7 p.m. and can be accessed here.

For more information about McMillan and to watch for upcoming events, follow the author on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.