VENETIAN RHAPSODY COLLABORATION: Chat with Tonya Penrose and David Bazo





How did the idea for this collaboration come to be? What was the first seed for the idea?

TONYA: The answer to this question is a story within a story. Here’s the condensed version. I was already an ardent admirer of David’s music, and we were friends. I was sitting in my porch chair listening to one of his albums when this hauntingly beautiful song began playing. Suddenly, my creative mind engaged and flashed to an emotional scene where a young couple, Eduardo and Sofia, were riding in a gondola. It was their last night together in Venice before life pulled them apart. Their story captured my heart as it continued to unfold that afternoon. They wouldn’t leave me alone. The experience left me in a state of amazement and confusion. So I grabbed my laptop and let Eduardo and Sofia share their grand love and the “unexplainables” that followed them and latched onto me.

I emailed David the next day and told him what his song, “Venetian Reverie,” had unleashed. I asked if I might get his blessing to reference his piece in the novel. I’ll stop here and let David pick up what came next.

Yes. Tonya and I knew each other as authors. I had expressed interest in her novels and she in turn, in my compositions. She bought a CD of one of my soundtracks and with the comments she made about the work, I immediately understood that her sensibility reached far beyond where many writers are able to visualize a scene. She could go deeper and get into the content and nuances. Our friendship blossomed immediately.

One day she wrote to tell me that while listening to my work, she had discovered one of my oldest songs, a tune dating from 1998 called “Venetian Reverie,” and how that piece had impacted and impressed her to the point that she had been transported to Venice and was able to immerse herself in the scene she tells. She even told me the names of the characters! Imagine the impact and the impression it made on me.

The dream of any author is to convey emotions to his audience, and without a doubt, what Tonya was telling me is the dream of any creator. My work had not only pleased her, but it had also touched her. What’s more, it had inspired her, and in what a way!

She told me she had decided to write about that story and I thought it was a fantastic idea. At all times, she told me that she wanted to mention as a reference and genesis of the story the song that had inspired her. I felt profusely grateful.

But the more she went deeper into the story and told me that she wanted the music also to be a protagonist in the narration, that’s when I proposed to her the possibility of making a complete soundtrack for everything that happens in the novel. She loved the idea and it has been a project that has been a bi-directional synergy: The music inspired the story, and in turn, the story generated more music. A bi-directional inspiration that never ceased to surprise Tonya and me and that allowed us to reveal ourselves to each other in the creative process.

Did you know each other at all before you decided to work together?

TONYA: Yes, Twitter brought us together. It was David’s music that opened the door to our becoming fast friends.

What was it that told you that your respective talents would complement one another so well?

TONYA: We already felt mutual respect for each other’s work. This project was seeded in trust. Our excitement in taking this journey together never wavered. Doubt never once visited us. We felt compelled to work together and see where destiny took us.

DAVID: When Tonya says that this project is a story within a story, many people might think that what she is saying is nice hyperbole. It isn’t. It’s a wonderful reality, full of magic and charm.

We found common ground from the very beginning.

How long did the process take from beginning to end? Can you explain how it worked?

TONYA: Once we agreed to move forward and do this project, I wrote the novel in maybe 2-3 months. It came in fast, along with the idea to weave into the scenes Sofia and Eduardo listening to music. That idea was a big aha and fueled our enthusiasm and commitment.

David graciously allowed me free reign to choose the music genre playing. If you ask him now, he’ll probably say, “Tonya took too many liberties.” We have some hilarious stories about that part of the process. Hint: One scene has Eduardo’s brother playing a Spanish guitar. That should be a safe instrument for me to choose. Wouldn’t you think? Nope. David informed me that all the incredible guitars in his collection didn’t include a Spanish guitar. My response to him: “You’re Spanish. Of course, you play a Spanish guitar. You play every instrument out there, including a juice harp.” Without hesitation and with great patience, he explained it would be like him asking me to write a Western novel. Don’t tell him I told you, but he wins almost every discussion, and English isn’t even his first language. It’s very annoying. 😊

After I completed the story, I sent David the manuscript and the 22 scenes that would become the foundation for the album soundtrack. I wanted him to read the novel and make sure he approved it. Fortunately for me, he caught the story’s wave and went to work composing. I was thrilled to snag a publisher in record time who embraced the excitement of our initiative. (Thank you, The Wild Rose Press and my incredible editor, Lea Schizas.)

Naturally, David and I had countless communications. We used everything but smoke signals, and some days with my unreliable internet connection, we came close to employing them. One constant remained through it all: our devotion to Sofia and Eduardo and delivering their story in words and music.

DAVID: True. We had this evolving conversation every day; we were able to offer feedback about the story and the music all the time.

Of course, I was in my little studio in the city, and Tonya in her magnificent porch in front of the lake. I think that this is the reason why she is kind enough to lose some arguments on my behalf because perhaps she feels guilty knowing that I was locked in my dark bat cave surrounded by lights and monitors and she was so in touch with nature.

What was the easiest part, and what was the most difficult?

TONYA: For me, the easiest part was having the privilege of working with someone so brilliant and talented as David Bazo. Each moment on this journey has been pure joy and full of synchronicities we can’t explain. I laughed and cried all at the same time as I wrote the story. And when David would get me on a video chat to watch him play an unfolding melody, the box of tissues sat next to me. To watch his genius unfold in composing was something to behold—a gift I will treasure forever.

As for what proved difficult, it was trying to marry the book and the album’s release date. So much behind-the-scenes goes into a complicated project like this one. And then, once we’d completed the creative process together, waiting for the big launch day was hard. Our excitement held fast.

DAVID: About that, I would like to add something. What Tonya has achieved with Venetian Rhapsody is something truly incredible. Not only has she conceived a story that you can’t stop reading, in which you can immerse yourself without holding back, but on a creative level, she has made my work simple because the music writing process has flowed like never before thanks to how easy it has been for me to identify with these characters, places, moments, situations, and feelings.

What I thought was going to be the hardest part has turned out to be the easiest. I was afraid, before having read the novel completely, that I was still not going to be able to transcribe, illustrate. and capture everything that was in this story, all that complicity, that spirit, that luminosity, and that harmony full of nuances and sentiments expressed in the book.

If I have been successful in my mission, it is thanks to the fact that her writing is so good that it has made mine possible to be so too.

What came from this collaboration that surprised you?

TONYA: The entire collaborative process, from its origin to this moment, has been a journey like no other. And, like Eduardo and Sofia, overflowing with the unexplainable. David calls what we keep experiencing together “our magic.” He’s right.

What have you learned?

TONYA: What have I learned? That the impossible is possible.

DAVID: I can tell you that for me working with Tonya has been very educational. My work usually has a lot of melancholic, dramatic, and epic connotations, and with Tonya, besides delving into romantic content, I had to include a lot of humor, fun, and lightness in my work because that’s what her novels transpire and because that’s what the project needed.

This work also transpires all that, and it is thanks to her and her magnificent narrative.

Was the book finished when you got the music?

TONYA: Yes, the book needed to be completed for David to have the fluidity to compose and know where the story could and would take him.

DAVID: What is really special about Venetian Rhapsody is that that we both inspired each other throughout the process. My music gave rise to her novel, and then the book was the genesis for all this new music.

It was a dynamic project.

Tonya: How would you describe David’s music?

TONYA: David Bazo’s music does what no composer I’ve listened to achieves. He’s able to transcend to a place where only he resides to create melodies infused with emotion and passion, no matter the song’s theme. There’s a brilliance to every piece he composes and performs. There’s a complexity to his music that keeps me coming back for more. His artistic range is breathtaking and breath-giving. What an honor it’s been to work with him. Do ask him to chat about writing a tango for Sofia and Eduardo.

David, How would you describe Tonya’s storytelling/writing?

DAVID: When you read one of Tonya’s novels, you realize what a good writer she is, but it’s when you work with her that you really realize how much talent she has. I like to say that what she writes is very movie-like. Writing the score for her book, I felt like I was writing it for a feature film because her stories are very visual, full of action, comedy, mystery, and lots of rhythm.

I would say even more. Yes, I will! Working with her is very cinematic in a different way because she takes you creatively into situations that force you to push your abilities to the limit. She’s a little Hitchcock!

Oh, do I have to chat about the tango experience? Let’s see: To illustrate the novel, I had to go through musical styles that are foreign and complicated for me, such as giving life to a music style that had the instrumental requirements and gave life to the atmosphere and the spirit of what happens in the story.

I never had the experience of writing a tango piece, let alone dancing it. (Laughs)

It was an effort and a forced learning process because Tonya told me that this piece was important to the plot and “we had to have it” in the soundtrack.

And one way or another, we “had to have it”.

No mercy for me. (More laughs).

Well, we ended up having two tangos, to be exact. There is another version of it included in the 25 minutes piano suite recorded live as an epilogue to the Soundtrack.

Fortunately for me, Tonya’s story also required other genres in which I thrive, such as a Waltz, classical music, or music with Spanish connotations.

Do you have any plans for future projects?

TONYA: We’re anxious to see if we feel tapped again to do another collaboration. David keeps hounding me to write a Western romance so he can play his juice harp. I reminded him that he’s Spanish and not from cowboy country to draw on that experience. Let me leave you all with this story. The next day I got a private concert proving me wrong again about this talented guy’s abilities. I’m still not writing the dang Western. On second thought, I just envisioned this woman with true grit leading a cattle drive. Put that in your giddy-up, Bazo.

David: Well, we have yet to discuss that: I’ve already written a great script called “Duel at Dawn” for Tonya to develop. If I’ve been able to shape a tango, I’m sure Tonya can write a great western. I know she can! What I’m afraid of is that she doesn’t want me to add a soundtrack with whips, mouth harps, saloon and piano bar pieces, and 25 minutes of banjo concerto. Did I mention she is the team leader here?

This is inside the album cover:

A message from award-winning author Tonya Penrose. (pen name)

Our Story: David and Tonya

The genesis for this amazing project began with a song… Not just any song but Venetian Reverie’s theme song. Gazing at a lake from my writing chair, I discovered and listened to this piece of music written by David Bazo back in 1998. Immediately, I felt transported to Venice, where the characters, Sofia and Eduardo, waited to share their story. Never has a song inspired me to write a book, but then never has there been a song like David’s hauntingly beautiful melody.

David and I came to realize the song had a destiny to fulfill, and so did we. It’s become the main soundtrack theme of my novel, Venetian Rhapsody. David agreed to compose an album, opening the door for this special collaboration.

Each song from this album companions and illustrates the story. Let David’s gifted interpretation sweep you away with Sofia and Eduardo on their unforgettable romantic journey. Prepare yourself for a fully immersive experience like no other.

Their Story: Eduardo and Sofia

In a glancing moment, Eduardo Diaz and Sofia Martin experience their first chance encounter that alters how they see their world and ignites a grand love beyond compare. A romance where the barriers of time’s constraints fall away…leaving them with an unfolding mystery around their magical and powerful connection.


Buy Venetian Rhapsody

Venetian Rhapsody BookBub

Venetian Rhapsody Goodreads






Amazon (ES)












As an author, Tonya’s moved by the effect humor and narratives have on readers. That observation illuminates why her stories often convey messages inviting personal exploration. She is enthusiastic about crafting stories with beguiling characters, adding dashes of snappy humor, and engaging dialogue that leaves her fingerprint on each page.

Her fiction and non-fiction stories are published in numerous anthologies, e-magazines, local press, and literary magazines. She’s a member of Poets and Writers. Tonya Penrose is her fiction pen name.

Time to chat with Tonya!

What is your latest book?

Welcome to Charm. It’s the first in a planned series with World Castle Publishing. It’s a romp with a twist that released on May 2.  I invite your audience to fall in love with the characters living in the beguiling mountain town of Charm. It’s not on any map which character Abby Drake discovers. Did that hook you? I’m ready to move there, if I could just find it and so are my editors.

You’ve written a lot of books. Do you have a favorite?

My books are like children. You’re not supposed to have a favorite, but Welcome to Charm and Old Mountain Cassie: The Three Lessons are tied. They’re more than enjoyable and unique books. They gift the reader with something personal…meaningful insights on how to live from a high-minded place and chase the joy.

Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?

I write under the pen name Tonya Penrose. I figured if my first novel was a one-star clunker, I’d drop my head and come up with a new pen name and try again. Fortunately, Cassie and my other books have found a lotta love, so Tonya Penrose lives on.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

My way of writing is atypical. I don’t seem to possess a drop of loyalty to any one genre. My stories flirt around with multi-genres. A reader will find romance, mystery, humor, inspiration, magical realism, well you get the idea. Typically, one genre will dominate the novel and the others tag along adding color and zest.

Do your books begin with ideas for characters or plots? Something else?

This great question gives me the chance to explain how the genesis for a novel comes calling. When I’m untethered from my day-to-day doings, ideas are set free. My characters love to appear while I’m taking a walk. They’ll drop me into a scene to observe. I hear and see what’s unfolding. I know. It’s strange, but it’s how every story short or long has come. The Muses know me well and always set the hook fast.

For example, in A Secret Gift, Halley Bowen has been summoned to an attorney’s office learning she has an anonymous benefactor offering her the chance to live her dream life, but there’s a hitch. In a specified time, she must experience and find grand love in order to write her romance novel with authenticity.

Once I’m engaged, the characters start chattering away at me. I sit down with a blank screen staring at me and take dictation. I never outline, plot, or know the ending.

Here’s something my cozy publisher shakes her head over. Whenever I announce I’m writing the next book for the Shell Isle Mystery Series, my publisher asks for a hint about Page and Betsy’s next adventure. I always tell her I haven’t a clue, (don’t pardon the pun) but my two sleuths are hollering for me to get my quill moving. She can’t grasp how I write a mystery and don’t plot the clues, outline the story, know the suspects, and who did the deed. I don’t know whodunit until the end. And, between us, in all three books, I guessed wrong. Yep. Totally missed it. But hey, the not knowing keeps me showing up in my writing chair each day.

Once in a while, after finishing a book, I care so much about the characters that I write a sequel for them in my head.

Do you ever know what happens to your characters after the book ends?

I always know. It’s funny because I feel like I can tap into them anytime and see what they’re up to. For the last few months, Old Mountain Cassie visits me asking when I’m writing her next book because she’s bustin’ to teach more secrets on how to ‘live life amazing.’ She’s also begging for us to do a workbook. So, a resounding yes, my characters live on and on.

How many unwritten books are in your head? How do you decide which ones come to life now and which ones stay on the back burner?

My unwritten books are like planes circling an airport waiting to be cleared to land. They’re always up there, and more show up if I dare acknowledge them. I’m guessing 5 or 6 are flashing landing lights at me. Old Mountain Cassie, A Secret Gift, Shell Isle Mystery Series, and Charm are all written as series, so it’s good those planes are flying around. I don’t make the decision which novel is next. It’s who shows up and talks the loudest.

Do you often write characters you wish you were friends with in real life?

Absolutely. If I don’t feel a strong like quotient to my characters, I won’t tell their story. I adore them all except my murder suspects. They’re a dodgy lot that I’d steer a wide berth from saying hello. I weave a lot of humor dialogue into all of my stories, which endears the characters even more.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

Every single day I’m in my writing chair. I never know what’s coming out of their mouths next. And that’s fine by me.

Were you “born to write,” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

I wrote and illustrated my first book when I was around six years old. Judging by my parent’s expressions, as they tried to figure out my drawings, I knew words had better be my jam.

Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why??

A synopsis is spawned from the devil. No one with a beating heart hates writing them more than me. I can never get a synopsis to capture the essence of my story or its soul. And please don’t give me license to carry on about how publishers want a different length to track with the query. Now that I have a literary agency representing me, I hold hope this enterprise will improve…I hope.

 We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

The cover design is primo with me. It’s the book’s first impression… it’s face. Except for Red, White, and Boom, I came up with the concept for my book covers. I find the photo/illustration and send it to the publisher along with my ideas for layout. The designers start tweaking, and from that point, I strive to drive them crazy with color preferences.

How would you define your style of writing?

Simply complex. Oh, you’d better toss in a heavy dash of eclectic.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Automobiles. I like to be in control. 😊

What do you think of people who talk in movie theaters?

That they talk too much. 😊

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

My daughter, Lindsay.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever given?

Unconditional love.

What was the most valuable class you ever took in school? Why?

My most valuable class was 4 years of journalism. I learned how to find the real story hiding, ask tough/insightful questions, and write snappy headlines and catchy ads. It poured the foundation for my writing.

Have you ever walked out of a movie? If so, what was it?

Mommie Dearest. Just thinking about it sets me off. 😊

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

That I can’t decide what my biggest peeve is.

 What simple pleasure makes you smile?

A beige bliss iced espresso with almond milk. Large, please. Hold the whipped cream.