When I was a freshman at Stanford, I became friends with an effervescent, beautiful girl named Christy Eitner. She was a tremendous tease about all my LDS values, but despite that fact, we were fast friends.
Her father, a native Austrian Lorenz Eitner, was my art history professor when I lived in Austria. He led me through the beauties of Vienna, many of which I would have missed on my own, and originated for me the passion that I have for that city. Interwoven in his art lectures, were bits of information about the history of Austria. These things have stayed with me for 41 years!
Just recently, Christy wrote to tell me of her father’s death and I was greatly saddened, for I was planning a trip to see Christy and her parents this Spring, and I was anxious to tell him about The Last Waltz and how he inspired me. Now it is too late.
In my own family, my father cheered me on for the past 33 years, urging me almost desperately to get the book published. I kept telling him that it wasn’t finished. That I didn’t know enough emotionally to write a believable novel about such a world-changing period. That my heroine was insipid, no matter what I did to make her otherwise.
The last talk I ever had with my father, a year and a half ago, he repeated his plea. He told me everything that was unique and true about the book and that I just didn’t have enough confidence. Shortly thereafter, he died suddenly.
I took the novel out of storage and asked myself “What would Tolstoy do with Amalia?” The answer was immediate. He wouldn’t tell such an epic story from the viewpoint of a 19 year old innocent! He would use multiple viewpoints! I was on fire. The book finally felt right as I dove into the characters of all the men in Amalia’s life, and told the story from their viewpoints. At last, I had tapped into the Vienna that Dr. Eitner had taught me about.
However, even though I have dedicated the book to my father, it is too late.
I have learned a lesson the hard way. Don’t let your insecurities hold you back. Attack them! Work with the Lord to make your weaknesses strong, for you never know what will happen when you do. The Lord knows who we are. We don’t. Not really.