Growing up in Sofia, Bulgaria, Nikolai Grozni, author of the novel Wunderkind (Free Press), began playing piano at age four and won his first major competition by age nine. But he was kicked out of music school for political reasons in the 1980s, when he was in the 11th grade. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Grozni departed for the U.S., where eventually he studied music at Berklee College of Music and creative writing at Brown. In 2008, Riverhead published his memoir, Turtle Feet, about his four years as a Buddhist monk. Today, the 38-year-old Grozni, who is married to writer Danielle Trussoni, lives in Montpellier, France.
Grozni explains the process for crafting his autobiographical debut, about an accomplished pianist whose rage at the system may prove to be his downfall: "Every chapter in Wunderkind is shaped by the emotional charge and even shape of a particular musical piece, and so I spent my nights moving from my piano to my laptop and then back again."
Senior editor Alessandra Bastagli, who acquired the novel from Rob McQuilkin at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin, says, "I could literally hear the music in my head as I read Nikolai's gorgeous and detailed descriptions of each sonata, etude, and ballade in all its glorious complexity. As soon as I finished reading the manuscript, I rushed to my CD collection and listened to the pieces mentioned in the book." It was likely that intense transmission of music that earned the title a blurb from musician and National Book Award–winning memoirist Patti Smith, who says the author writes "as if a baby grand served as his infernal typewriter."