Friday, November 28, 2008

The Last Hellion--The Interview


SUSAN: As a reader and longtime Loretta fan, I’m personally delighted to see THE LAST HELLION returning in a fresh package for new readers to discover. Would you tell us a bit about the story?

Cribb vs molin 1811 LORETTA: This was one of the cases where a secondary character intrigued me. The Duke of Ainswood makes a brief drunk and disorderly appearance in LORD OF SCOUNDRELS. That was all he was supposed to do. But he kept bugging me. What was his problem? What was he covering up or running away from? It turned out that the Duke of Ainswood is a drunken boor because he’s paid an unbearably high price for his position. But his brand of self-destruction takes him slumming--and puts him on a collision course with big, blonde, and dangerous Lydia Grenville, crusading journalist (and secret romance writer). This story is special to me because it was an opportunity to deal with some aspects of Regency life that one doesn’t encounter often in historical romances. It was a way of getting into that Dickens world I love so much while allowing both my characters to try to fight the good fight--along with fighting with each other and falling in love.

The Last Hellion I’m terrible at summarizing my stories, so I’ll let readers look at the back cover blurb here and an excerpt here.

SUSAN: Lydia Grenville is an untraditional heroine, nearly six feet tall, nearly thirty, and full of fire and conscience. She’s also a “career woman” in a time when ladies didn’t work, let alone work as crusading journalists. What inspired you to develop her character?

PyramidDatePalms LORETTA: Dickens gave me the general inspiration for the setting, and the novels he and others wrote in serial form gave me the idea for her pseudonymous ROSE OF CAIRO. But more important, Lydia is one of the many woman characters I’ve created in reaction to women in 19th C novels and to 19th C sexism and misogyny in general. Specifically, what set me off was critics’ reaction to Lady Morgan’s two-volume ITALY. You can read her response to some of the criticism here.

LadyMorgan According to Paul Johnson’s THE BIRTH OF THE MODERN, “they hated Lady Morgan as a woman writer...and they were further incensed by the news that the publisher Colburn had paid her the immense sum of £2000 for the book. Byron hailed the book as ‘fearless and excellent.’” Everyone else went nuts. Here’s a sampling from Johnson’s book: “‘she spewed out of her filthy maw/A flood of poison, horrible and black. “She was ‘an Irish she-wolf’ a ‘blustering virago,’ a ‘wholesale blunderer and reviler’; she wrote while ‘maudlin from an extra tumbler of negus in the forenoon.’” This was typical “criticism” of the time--reviewers today are pussycats by comparison. What fascinated me me was the how much they hated her simply because she was a successful woman writer.

It was a tough world, and journalism then was definitely no place for a lady. So I got the idea of a His Girl Friday heroine who was both a tough cookie journalist (a HIS GIRL FRIDAY kind of dame)--and a writer of highly popular romantic tales. And the two occupations reflect the two sides of her personality.

Coffee Shop at Olympia SUSAN: While Lydia is unusual, her hero, Vere Mallory, Duke of Ainswood, outwardly seems that most stereotypical character, the rakehell peer. But it only takes a few pages for readers to see the only typical thing about him is that he’s one more in a long line of deliciously unforgettable (and irresistible) heroes. What makes him so special?

Blue Ruin-Cruikshank-g LORETTA: Well, he’s a big, dumb jerk, for one thing. I love writing tough, smart, cool heroes like James Cordier of YOUR SCANDALOUS WAYS or Lord Rathbourne of LORD PERFECT. But the Regency had its cowboys, too, and creating those types of heroes (Rupert of MR IMPOSSIBLE is one of my cowboys) is a different kind of challenge, and a different kind of fun. Sometimes I think we have an overly refined image of what men were like then. There’s a great passage in Conan Doyle’s RODNEY STONE: “He was a type and leader of a strange breed of men which has vanished away from England--the full-blooded, virile buck, exquisite in his dress, narrow in his thoughts, coarse in his amusements, and eccentric in his habits.” The “coarse in his amusements” concept influenced heroes like Lord Dain and the Duke of Ainswood.

Peep o Day boys-Cruikshank-g Another inspiration for this story and his character was Pierce Egan’s LIFE IN LONDON. I could easily picture Ainswood in the situations Cruikshank illustrates.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Angry Apostrophe


I recently learned that 24 September is National Punctuation Day. In honor of the occasion--which coincides nicely with my recent blogs dealing with Annoying Errors, I thought we could talk about those interesting squigglies and dots and dashes we use to help readers understand what we mean.

In my last blog, I indicated that one way to get a group of authors ranting and raving was to bring up the subject of copy editors. Among other things, a copy editor is supposed to check our punctuation. For some reason, copy edit changes used to disturb me far more than editorial changes. I would go ballistic when a copy editor removed or added a comma, yet not even blink when an editor suggested I delete three chapters.

Virago It must be some kind of mental condition. That would explain why I still twitch when I remember a very weird set of mistakes in at least one volume of Byron’s Letters and Journals. Throughout, it’s was used where its should be and vice versa. It drove me insane.

Yswfrontsm200dpi I know Byron was clueless about punctuation. He admitted it. I know a dash tended to be his universal punctuation tool--but he did dash very dashingly, we must admit. I can understand his failing to master the art of commas, semi-colons, and colons. An apostrophe, however, is sort of a spelling tool, isn’t it? It marks contractions. And he seemed to understand this aspect of punctuation..sort of...or was that his editor? He uses tons of contractions. They appear in practically every piece of his poetry I quoted in Your Scandalous Ways. Here’s a sample from Beppo.

Didst ever see a Gondola? For fear
You should not, I’ll describe it to you exactly:
‘Tis a long cover’d boat that’s common here,
Carved at the prow, built lightly, but compactly;
Row’d by two rowers, each call’d ‘Gondolier,’
It glides along the water looking blackly,
Just like a coffin clapt in a canoe,
Where none can make out what you say or do.

Life_in_london_pg Yes, he had his own unique style but his grammar was fine and his spelling no weirder or more inconsistent than others of his time. It seems bizarre that he got it’s and its backwards consistently. I can’t help thinking those errors were not in the original letters but were committed by a typist, copy editor, or printer and somehow went through the whole production process without anyone realizing--or with everyone thinking that’s how he did it.

I’ve always wondered why it’s and its confuse anybody, but they clearly do because I see it all the time, including in newspapers. Is it because English teachers don’t drum it into kids’ heads early and often enough? It’s one of those things, like the use of lie and lay, that need to be drummed in because it’s easy to get confused. In English we form possessive pronouns differently from the way we form other possessives, e.g., “Pavarotti’s voice was distinctive” but “its engine was broken.”

Chicago_manualHowever, while I can--sort of, and with sorrow in my heart--understand how apostrophes get misplaced, I have never figured out how apostrophes got into the plurals business--as in “Banana’s 89¢ a pound” or “keeping up with the Jones’s.”

Here is one approach to explaining the correct way to use apostrophes. Here's a politer version of same. And here are many examples of punctuation abuse.

A few years ago, Lynn Truss got so exasperated with stupid punctuation that she wrote a book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, about it. Funny thing is, the book’s got errors. Louis Menand, in the New Yorker (28 June 2004), reviewed her book, and suspected it was a hoax, because the errors, he said, started in the dedication and continued with gay abandon throughout the book.

In Jasper Fforde’s alternate reality novel, The Eyre Affair, a form of specially engineered bookworms (as in actual larval things, not nerds--and I cannot possibly get into the technical capabilities of these bookworms) excrete apostrophes. That would explain the wretched excess.

Here's one proposed solution to apostrophe atrocities: abolish that little squiggle.

Fowler_the_kings_englishI don’t agree. I’ve devoted my life to the English language, trying to master its intricacies. Punctuation, grammar--all those dull, technical matters to me are part of the big game of exploring the expressive possibilities of a remarkably elastic language. To eradicate a punctuation mark is like eliminating, say, metaphors. Yes, it would make things simpler, but should language always be simple? A straight line is the shortest distance between two points, but it’s not necessarily the most beautiful route.

Merely my opinion, of course, but when the technical niceties of language are under discussion, people can get very...intense. In the words of Randy Newman, "I could be wrong...But I don't think so." And I think he speaks for all of us.

Originally posted at Word Wenches.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mea Culpa

From Loretta:

A reader asks:

“I know that once a story is submitted to the editor, it goes through a series of proof-reading and corrections, reworking storylines and editing. Why is it that after all that work some of these mistakes are still found in the story? Do the authors not keep vitals on their characters in order to keep his/her description accurate all through the book?”

It's alarmingly easy for authors to make mistakes. Including really horrendous, ridiculous ones. I speak from experience.

Notes I research the daylights out of my subjects. I keep spreadsheets of character names, physical descriptions, dates of birth, dates of important events, and historical data. I keep a notebook of facts and details I need to check. A phrase in Chapter 2 might be too modern. I’ve changed a character’s hair or eye color or name or age part way through the story. I need to find out where a shop is. I make a note in the notebook and go back to the WIP.

Dictionary_of_the_vulgar_tongueI do this because stopping to correct these kinds of details while in the process of writing disrupts my concentration, mood, and the story’s flow. Because I revise so much while writing, it’s usually better to reserve the detail work for later in the process, when I’m cleaning up the manuscript before submitting it. But sometimes, in the frenzy and exhaustion of Deadline Hell, I miss one of my notes, and the mistake appears in print, to annoy readers like Jaclyne, who wonders how this can happen, when so many pairs of eyes review my work.

Chicago_manual Mistakes with eye or hair color or other vital statistics are the kind someone really ought to catch, same as they ought to catch a writer's using, say, "flaunt" when the correct word is "flout," or a comma where there should be a period, or a missing end quote. If I’m such a babbling idiot by Deadline time as to miss an obvious mistake, a copy editor ought to catch it, and most will. But I’ve never had the same copy editor twice, and as is the case in all professions, some are sharper than others. (Along with covers, the subject of copy editors is one guaranteed to get a group of authors very excited. And not in a good way.)

1817accidentsinquadrilledancing_2 When it comes to historical detail or foreign languages (for Yanks, the latter would include British English), it’s mainly the author’s responsibility. And this author, though a nerd, ALWAYS makes at least one mistake per book. It’s not that I don’t care. I drive myself & others crazy with the obsession to Get It Exactly Right. Yet inevitably, there are errors. Because Nobody’s Perfect. (For the best use ever of this phrase, please see Some Like It Hot.)

Lord_of_scoundrels_07sm_3 ArticlesI could do a whole blog--or several--on the pitfalls of historical research, but foreign languages allow for an easy demonstration of the If You Don't Know It's Wrong, How Do You Know It's Wrong principle.

A few years ago I found out that there were a few errors in the Italian (pronouns and gender errors) in Lord of Scoundrels. This happened despite my consulting books as well as people who spoke and wrote Italian. Trouble was, I did not realize how difficult and complicated Italian was--trickier grammatically than French, for instance. I did not know that the book I relied on was inadequate. Neither I nor my consultants realized my queries to them should have been more detailed. What I needed was an experienced professional translator, but I didn’t know enough to know this.


I cannot expect editor and copy editor to catch Americanisms (i.e., words or phrases the English wouldn’t have used) or anachronistic language. So no, I can’t expect them to catch errors in every single foreign language that appears in my books--like Arabic as understood by English speakers in the 19th C (for Mr. Impossible).

Jaclyne says, “It sometimes annoys me to find these in the books I read, thinking that if I found them, they should have been easily corrected in the editing process. It makes me think I should become a proof-reader... seems to me the ones that are supposed to do the job are only skimming the story, not reading it, and so, not doing their job properly.”

That may be a little harsh. True, I and other authors have discovered errors introduced by others during the editing/copyediting/proofreading process--and not corrected, despite our protests. We’ve also discovered mistakes that every single person reviewing the manuscript somehow overlooked. But we definitely can't expect those reviewing to be omniscient. We’ve all made mistakes, I think, for which we can blame no one but ourselves, and all we can say to readers is, Mea Culpa.

(Originally posted at Word Wenches)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Lord Who?

A reader asks:

“Every once in a while a character in a historical romance will be referred to simply as Lord Such-and-such, with no indication ever being given as to what his title actually is (Earl, Viscount, Baron). Sometimes the title is the same as the last name, sometimes it is different. Was this a typical way to refer to nobility at times, with the actual rank being a given to those of the time? Was the rank understood to be different if the last name was the same?”

Crowns_coronetsBritish titles and styles of address is a quicksand topic. One of my favorite quotations on this subject comes from my 1936 Whitaker’s Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage:

“The rules which govern the arrangements of the Peerage are marked by so many complications that even an expert may occasionally be perplexed.” (italics mine)

This is why, whenever I respond to questions about same, I do so with trembling typing fingers, sure that someone, somewhere, will remind me of an exception I forgot to except or a subtlety I’ve overlooked. As I try to answer your question, please bear that in mind.

Lawrenceduke_of_wellingtonThe grades of the peerage are, in order of rank, Duke, Marquess or Marquis (pronounced “markwiss” or "markwess" but not "markee"), Earl, Viscount (rhymes with My Count--"s" is silent), Baron. Anyone referred to or addressed as Lord So & So is below the rank of Duke.

How do we know this? A duke is addressed as Your Grace (older style guides include the form My Lord Duke) or, by equals, Duke. He might be referred to as the Duke of Someplace, e.g., the gentleman here is the Duke of Wellington. But the duke is never Lord Wellington. (This rule does not apply to Royal Dukes, who are younger sons of the monarch. They’re addressed differently.)

3rd_earl_of_egremontBelow the rank of Duke, the correct form is “Lord.” So a Lord Somebody is a Marquess/Marquis, Earl, Viscount, or Baron. One doesn’t address these peers as Marquess of So & So or Baron Such & Such, and normally doesn’t refer to them by their rank. In conversation, people would refer to this gentleman, the Earl of Egremont, as Lord Egremont or, very informally, Egremont.

According to my Titles and Forms of Address: “All peers and peeresses below ducal rank are called lord and lady in speech....there are a few formal occasions in which the full title would be used, but it would never happen in intimate speech.”

Sometimes the title is the same as the last name and sometimes not. For a great many peerages, the title comes from the name of a place. All dukes’ titles are from a place, even when the family name is the same as the title. But a baron’s title might come from a place, his family name, or another source entirely.

Earl_granville_2 If there's no “of”, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a family name. And if there is an “of”, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a family name.

The first Earl Granville--whose wife raised the two illegitimate children he had with her aunt--is missing the "of," though Granville isn’t his family name but the name of an ancestor whose title became extinct. This earl's family name is Leveson-Gower, pronounced lewson-gorr (pronunciation is another minefield).

Dunrobin_castle_2 Leveson-Gower is also the family name of the Duke of Sutherland, who’s selling the Titian and who has a really nice place in Scotland, Dunrobin Castle, that I got to visit years ago when the dollar wasn’t like Monopoly money. L_owl(That's me at his place with the owl.)

But I digress.

Viscounts and Barons, whether the title is from a place or not, don’t have an “of” in their titles, thus, the Viscount Hereford or the Baron Headley.

Viscount_castlereaghSo no, there’s no way to tell the rank simply from the name used in the title. Those with whom they associate are supposed to know whether Lord Castlereagh here is a marquess or earl or viscount or baron. I’ve always imagined that members of the aristocracy learned who was who in the same way they learned to speak, and the knowledge was, like accent, one of the ways members of the upper orders could tell who was one of them and who wasn’t. It was a small world, after all.

And that’s as far as I dare to go on the topic. Not a word about younger sons, wives, daughters, son’s wives, daughter’s husbands, etc.

English_dukesIf you’d like to explore this labyrinth, there are plenty of references. In addition to the aforementioned Whitakers, and an 1811 Debretts reprint, my frequently-used guides are:

Titles and Forms of Address: A Guide to Correct Use, A&C Black, London.

Measures, Howard. Styles of Address. Thomas Y Crowell

Emily Hendrickson, The Regency Reference Book. An excellent reference for a great many Regency-era subjects, it's sold privately. Contact Emily at for information or to order a copy.

Candice Hern has heaps of terrific Regency-era stuff on her website, including a Who’s Who of the lords & ladies we often encounter in the stories and a fabulous collection of fashion plates.

Tomjerry_at_almacks Of course, not everyone needs to know more. Before I got into this business, I had very little understanding of British titles and would not have known or cared when an author used the incorrect form. Now that I do know, such mistakes may unsuspend my suspension of disbelief.

(Originally published at Word Wenches)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Oh, to Be Entitled

Yswfrontsm200dpi I've spent a delightful week at Candice Hern's discussion board, talking with the Bluestockings about Your Scandalous Ways & my heroes & heroines, & sharing my addiction to crumbly old books. It made a nice finish to long workdays of trying to beat the WIP into submission.

However, since the battle involved some forays into crumbly old books and buying a couple, that was fun, too.

What isn’t fun is coming up very soon, I think: Titling the WIP.

Oh, sure, I have a working title: Gag Me With a Spoon. Betty_huttton_spoonThis is my reaction to most of the titles I come up with.

I have a fallback title but I’m not in love with it.

Strangely enough, the majority of my books carry the titles I originally gave them. Along with most of the traditional Regencies, the first three Carsington books have my original titles. But Not Quite a Lady, like other of my books, involved considerable discussion with publishing professionals. Likewise Your Scandalous Ways, which started out as Not Quite a Hero.

Chess_pieces The Lion’s Daughter started out as The Black Queen.
Captives of the Night started out as The Golden Prince.

Making titles isn’t easy. Sometimes you nail it the first time. Other times you end up with a title you don’t love but accept as the best you can do at the time.

Woman_with_knife We can’t just stick any title we want on a book. There are titles that might sound “too contemporary” or “too romantic suspense” or “too mystery” or “too historical fiction” or too Monty Python.

Then there are good words and bad words, and these change over time as well as from publisher to publisher.

Many of you can easily list the current popular title words: Scandal, Mistress, Secret...etc. Listing them is one of those entertaining book games, like Make Fun of the Cover.

Some publishers' titles are distinctive, even to me, a writer stupendously oblivious to publishing trends. At Harlequin, for instance, I noticed the interesting He/She titles: Virgin Slave, Barbarian King; Scandalous Lord, Rebellious Miss; Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady.

1805courtshipcaricature Thing is, I suspect that Innocent Slut, Lazy Duke is not going to go over really well with my publisher.

Sometimes authors are inspired. The perfect title comes as a bolt from the blue. Sometimes...not.

And sometimes readers (including me) think they can do better. Or at least funnier.

If you want to amuse yourself, here are some titles you can try renaming:

Frankenstein_1831_insidecoverwGone With the Wind
Sense and Sensibility
Moby Dick
Great Expectations

Originally posted at Word Wenches--and as you all know by now, the untitled WIP became Don't Tempt Me.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Francesca's Tattoo


Fourth of July. U.S. Independence Day. I always wonder, What if King George III and his ministers had handled things differently? What if, over here, the pro-England side had prevailed over the dump-England side? What would we call ourselves? Maybe the U.S. and Canada would all be the same country. We wouldn’t be the U.S. Would we be Canada?

But what I wonder most is, Would Regency-era historical romances be as popular?

Since a great many of our readers are not in the U.S., I’m going to skip the Independence Day blog. Besides, I want to talk about tattoos.

In the course of my cybertour for Your Scandalous Ways, I’ve been asked more than once about Francesca’s tattoo. Readers emailed me about it, as well.

Lautrec_the_tattooed_woman_1894 This was one of those topics I’d thought of addressing at some point in the story itself, but the right opportunity never appeared. This happens a lot. There are lots of little substories that don’t get told because it would disrupt the pacing to do so, and the topic doesn’t seem important enough for a detour...and I have only so much time to write a book as well as only so many pages.

So leaving out the story of Francesca’s tattoo was an artistic decision. It bothered me a little at first, but the more I thought about it, the less inclined I was to try to wedge it into the story. I figured this could be one of those “make up your own story” things. Like, “Make up your own story about what happens to Francesca and James after the end of the book.”

Mehndi_designs_4 Let me start out by saying that anyone who wants to imagine Francesca has one of those henna tattoos that wear off after a few weeks should feel free to go on seeing it that way. It’s a great concept.

Here’s what was in my mind: Tattoos were unheard of among the upper classes in Francesca's day. Edward VII got one when he was Prince of Wales--but that was almost half a century later. Tattoos in Francesca’s time were not respectable, absolutely not for ladies. They were for sailors and criminals and savages. So one element of Francesca’s tattoo is shock value--and that’s clear in the scene at the opera. Even James, who’s seen it all, is shocked to see it. After all, she may be a courtesan, but she’s a lady by birth.

Portsmouth_point_rowlandsonwk Where did she get it? By Francesca’s time there were professional tattoo artists in major ports, to accommodate the sailors. I imagined that by this time there must be at least one professional tattoo artist in big, cosmopolitan cities like London and Paris. I envisioned her getting her tattoo in Paris, as an act of defiance and a permanent symbol of her having turned her back on respectability.

I chose a serpent partly because of the Cleopatra-asp association. Both Byron and James Cordier associate Francesca's unusual looks with an Egyptian goddess or queen. I envisioned the kind of snakes one sees in Egyptian art and hieroglyphs. Too, given the tools available, a simpler tattoo, say, from a hieroglyph, seemed to make the most sense.
One reader suggested a Garden of Eden connection. That works well, too, given it’s her job to tempt men.
The_death_of_cleopatra_arthurwk Another thing I considered was the pain and the risk. They used sewing needles and rubbed in the ink. I have no doubt it was a great deal more painful than today’s tattoos and of course the risk of infection was much a time when there were no antibiotics. Again, this says something about Francesca’s character, her inner toughness, her daring--and the ferocity of her anger with the world that rejected her and which she, symbolically, rejects when she gets her tattoo.

Maori_tattoowk One reader asked why the tattoo doesn’t appear on the cover. Covers are painted long before the book is finished, and they're usually based on the story outline, rather than actual chapters. I did not mention the snake tattoo in the outline (one doesn't go into this much detail). The covers are meant to appeal to a broad audience, and Avon has done a great job, I think, in making my recent covers very beautiful and apt. I also suspect that, given the genre and the fact that not everyone likes tattoos, it would have been left out of the picture, even if I'd made prominent mention of it in the outline.

Originally posted at Word Wenches.

Friday, May 30, 2008

YOUR SCANDALOUS WAYS: The Interview Part Due

Yswfrontsm200dpi_2An Interview with Wench Loretta Chase
by Susan/Miranda

Welcome to the second part of our release-celebration-interview for Your Scandalous Ways by Wench Loretta Chase, NOW in stores! Today Loretta answers questions about Lord Byron, writing dangerous characters, and the magic of setting a story in Venice. If this still isn't enough about this marvelous book, check out Loretta's new YouTube clips. And please look for Your Scandalous Ways in bookstores everywhere.

Susan/Miranda: There’s a lot of your trademark humor in this book. Some of the bantering between James and Francesca is laugh-out-loud funny, even as it manages simultaneously to be very sexy. Yet this is, in many ways, a “dark” story. How did you decide to use humor the way you did?

Odalisque Loretta: Completely dark isn’t me. I can go for only so long with a straight face. One thing--among so many--that I loved about writing this story was all the risqué jokes and double entendres the women as well as the men could indulge in. That’s part of my emphasis on giving Francesca tremendous joie de vivre--so that my readers as well as my hero could understand why men throw away fortunes on her.

Baedekers_1913_venice_mapSusan/Miranda: Lord Byron was another writer who fell in love with Venice, and of course he leaves his mark on YSW. In addition to being an acquaintance of Francesca’s, you’ve chosen to use quotes from his poems as subheads to each chapter. How did he influence you? How did you keep him from hijacking your book?

Lord_byron_coloured_drawing Loretta: Byron is--as he always was--about impossible to keep under control, even though he’s been dead for nearly 200 years. His voice is so powerful, it comes through even in the dullest biographies, and it simply vibrates in his letters and journals as well as his poetry. So I made him the Narrator, in a way. The Byron quotations help paint the picture and comment on the action and set the mood. I didn’t exactly channel him, but I found his work gave me a strong sense of place and time and a certain view of the characters.

Venetian_mask_2a Susan/Miranda: Gambling, drinking, masked identities, and general all-around excess in a fairy-tale environment made early 19th century Venice the equivalent of modern-day Vegas. Or, as Byron notes in one of your many quotations from Don Juan: “What men call gallantry, and gods adultery/Is much more common where the climate’s sultry.” Why are James and Francesca so at home in such a place?

Planche_xi_le_coucher_dapres_deveriLoretta: They’re both rebellious souls who prize their personal freedom. The cities of the Continent tended to be a little more tolerant of these characteristics than was London’s Beau Monde. Today, except in certain circles, a woman over 21 who’s had a lover or two or three doesn’t raise eyebrows. A divorced woman is not automatically deemed a ho. To an extent, this was the case in Continental Europe in Byron’s time. The upper classes there did the same as the English did--but some Europeans tended to be more open about it and more open-minded. In Venice, the most tolerant of cities, Francesca is simply a divorced woman. And if she has a lover who showers her with nice jewelry--well, then, so do other respectable women.

Susan/Miranda: Plasterwork putti make an intriguing appearance in Your Scandalous Ways. Would you like to discuss them further here for the WordWenches?

Putto01w Loretta: We’ve all seen those children we call Cupids and cherubs. What I didn’t realize was how much property they covered--literally--in Venice. My model for certain rooms of Francesca’s house came from the Palazzo Albrizzi, whose plasterwork is famous. I loved it because, in a city abounding in gorgeous artistic excess, it was so totally over the top. The ballroom, which I adapted to become Francesca’s Putti Inferno, is described thus in Venetian Palazzi, “The ceiling is completely covered with a closely-folded velarium [basically, this looks like drapery] of stucco supported by twenty-eight winged putti and by four male figures arranged like caryatids at its four corners." Remember, these are not painted on. These are 3D figures in plaster. Here among the glittering folk you’ll find some pix of the palazzo, but not, alas, of the ballroom’s putti. Venetian Palazzi does have beautiful interiors, as do a number of other books on these palaces. Katherine Shaw's photos will give you an idea of these interiors.

Ferro_palacegrant_bksm Susan/Miranda: The palazzi in YSW are vividly described. Are they based on actual buildings in Venice, or a blending of real places with your imagination?

Loretta: In writing a story, I need a strong sense of place, which meant spending a lot of time looking at pictures of Venetian buildings. The houses in the book are based on real ones, but I might take a room from one and put it into another, or set it in another part of Venice. I kept the layout fairly simple, though, sticking to the basic floor plan shown in Lauritzen’s Palaces of Venice. The Palazzo Albrizzi and the Ca' Rezzonico (more pix here) were the ones I used most frequently but there are bits and pieces of several palazzi throughout the story. (There's more on this topic on my blog Your Palazzo or Mine.)

Susan/Miranda: It’s clear you had a lot of fun writing this book. Will you be returning to Venice any time soon for another? What are you working on now?

Canaletto_fond_d_turchwk Loretta: I fell totally in love with the setting, the characters, and the language--so much so that I started taking Italian lessons. My new book, however, is set in England--or so it seems at the moment. It’s early days yet, and things change. All I can say for certain is that the heroine is another scandalous woman, and she’s going to make the hero’s life very interesting.

Originally posted at Word Wenches.