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.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

YOUR SCANDALOUS WAYS: The Interview Part Uno

Yswfrontsm200dpiAn Interview with Loretta Chase
by Susan/Miranda

At last, at last! The book so many of us have been waiting for this spring is finally in stores NOW. Your Scandalous Ways by Wench Loretta Chase is already gathering a heady share of well-deserved praise, and there are plenty of people (myself included) who think it's Loretta's best since Lord of Scoundrels. To help get readers in the proper mood, Loretta reveals the Truth behind this extraordinary book -- or at least the Truth about James, Francesca, the influence of Venice, and all those plaster putti.
If you'd like to hear Loretta discuss this book via video (think along the exciting lines of "Garbo Speaks!"), please check out her new YouTube clips. And please be sure to join us for Part Two of the interview of Friday.
Also: Loretta will be giving away a signed copy of Your Scandalous Ways to a reader who posts on either half of the interview. Ask your questions now!
Susan/Miranda: Many of your previous books have been interconnected, but Your Scandalous Ways introduces a whole new set of characters to readers. What inspired you to create James and Francesca?
Gianciotto_discovers_paolo_francesc Loretta: Casino Royale was the spark. It made me think, “What about a 007 in the early 19th Century? I didn’t see Daniel Craig, though. I saw tall, dark, and handsome. And for some reason, I saw half-Italian. Once James Cordier took form, Francesca came instantly to life. The exotic looks--the elongated eyes, the wide mouth--came from a model in Brooks Brothers ads. The movie got Venice on my mind, too. I studied it, then Byron’s letters from his time there, and started thinking about English exiles and what they found there. Like Byron, Francesca has left England because of a major scandal. The scandal not only helped develop her character, but set the plot in motion--the thing that brings James into collision with her.
Bordonewk Susan/Miranda: Readers who remember Dain, the hero of Lord of Scoundrels, will love James Cordier, another “outsider” Englishman of unusual ancestry who chooses to live apart from polite society. Do you think these two gentlemen would enjoy each other’s company, and why or why not?
Loretta: Two extreme Alpha males, both with Italian blood? I think they’d stir each other’s competitive instincts in a big way. They’re such different men, it’s hard to imagine their having a conversation. And while they’re trying to decide whether or not to like each other, all the women in the vicinity are swooning from testosterone overdose.
Ducal_palaceguardi Susan/Miranda: The city of Venice is almost another character in this book, and you do a wonderful job of catching the city’s mix of East and West, and its general other-worldliness. Yet you’ve chosen to set your story in an unusual era in Venetian history, after the fall of the Republic and well after the city’s glory-days. Why?
French_enter_venice_1797 Loretta: Mainly because it’s the time period in which I usually set my stories *g*. But it’s still an interesting time. The glory days were centuries earlier. It’s always had problems with allies and enemies, disastrous wars, plagues, corruption, etc. At the end of the 18th Century Napoleon stomps in. That’s the end of the Republic of Venice, and it’s sad and awful.
Bridge_of_sighs_1869cr By 1820, the time of my story, yes, people (especially foreigners) are nostalgic about the Republic (and let’s bear in mind this is the Romantic era) but Venice, like my heroine, is resilient. And like her, it’s fun. Though many of its riches have been plundered, so much remains. It’s still beautiful and mysterious and it’s still distinctively Venice--like no other city in the world. What Byron found there was a refuge. Old and wicked as it was, it was a place of renewal for him, a place where he wasn’t judged and where he began to do his best work. It enchanted him--and my characters--exactly as it does visitors today.
Titianwk Susan/Miranda: Courtesans are trendy right now in historical romances, albeit courtesans who often turn out to be faux-courtesans for the sake of Polite Readers. However, Francesca Bonnard is the real thing, earning a tidy living in a city infamous at the time for being the “Brothel of Europe.” How did you create a love story for a courtesan?
Harriette_wilson01wk Loretta: I thought of La Traviata, and my brain does what it usually does when contemplating a tragedy: It changed the characters and plot in a way to make a happy ending. I had in mind, too, Harriette Wilson, the famous courtesan of the Regency Era, and so I made my courtesan unrepentant, with a zest for life, and a bawdy sense of humor. (I ought to add that your Bad Barbara of Royal Harlot also inspired me.) Francesca has been left penniless and friendless. She’s become a courtesan to survive--but she does so on her own terms. She chooses the men who are to have the privilege of keeping her, and only a very, very few qualify. She’s exclusive and extremely expensive. What she needed, I thought, was a man who truly appreciated what she had to offer, who’d done enough not-so-nice things himself not to judge her and who was at the same time honorable enough to win her trust.
Piazza_san_marco_basilicacanaletto1To be continued . . . .
Please join us Friday for the conclusion of this interview, and more delicious discussions with Loretta about Venice, courtesans, and Lord Byron.
Originally posted at Word Wenches.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Here today, gondola tomorrow


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.

(Lord Byron, Beppo)

Thus opens Chapter One of Your Scandalous Ways.

Thanks to all the screen adaptations of Jane Austen's work, most readers have some idea of what, say, an early 19th C carriage looks like. But the early 19th C gondola--the carriage of Venice, whose streets are mostly water--may not be quite so clear.
Canaletto_ret_of_bucentoro_to_molow Since gondolas play a big role in Your Scandalous Ways--much as a carriage might in one of my English-set “road books”--I’m going to expand on Byron’s evocative and witty description. And, as always, I shall supply visual aids.

Gondolakshaw_copyThe first thing we modern readers need to get used to is the cabin or felze. People think of a gondola ride today as romantic, but the passengers are in public view. In the time of my story, the passengers were likely to be inside the felze. It would have a door, casement windows, Venetian blinds, and a cushy interior. (Katherine Shaw kindly sent me this photo. Please scroll down this page to see another.)

Canaletto_arsenal_1732 Thus Byron’s “coffin clapt in a canoe.” It was quite private--and yes, in Your Scandalous Ways, I take advantage of that privacy in more than one scene, as in this excerpt.

He needed desperately to be taught a lesson.
Unhurriedly she slid shut the casement beside her and closed the blinds. She reached across him, letting her bosom brush against his chest, and closed the window and blinds on his side.
As she moved back to her place, she felt his chest rise and fall a little faster than it had done a moment earlier.
She folded her hands in her lap. “There,” she said. “No one can see.”
“There won’t be anything to see,” he said.
“We’ll see,” she said.

Today, a gondola ride is an expensive luxury, reserved mainly for tourists. It's faster and much cheaper (and noisier) to board one of the water taxis or buses. In Byron’s time the gondolas
were everywhere. Picture these black vessels with their little cabins, like black taxicabs, converging on a theater. “And round the theatres, a sable throng,” as Byron puts it. La_fenice_rear

Here's a recent view of the rear of La Fenice opera house, where Francesca's gondola would be waiting to collect her after the performance. Below it is a (mid?) 19th C view.

La_fenice_19thc "After midnight, when the theaters let out and the parties began, the lights of hundreds of gondolas danced over the canals and candlelight twinkled in the windows of the palaces. Here, where no coach wheels and horses’ hooves clattered over pavement, one moved in a quiet punctuated only by voices. Carried over the water, conversations ebbed and flowed around her, as though in a great drawing room."

Gondolier_in_straw_hatmsw And no, the gondoliers did not then wear the straw hats with the ribbons and they did not sing.

In the time of my story, one would glide along in the vessel in a quiet world. As Lord Byron's friend Hobhouse wrote, “during the night a profound stillness reigns though the canals and streets, interrupted only by the warning cry of the gondoliers, and the drop of their paddles, or by the tinkling of some solitary guitar."

Research is the closest I can come to time travel. The challenge is to make my hero and heroine’s surroundings vivid in the reader’s mind without letting it intrude. I don’t spend pages going into all the details of gondolas. And I cannot illustrate my books. That's where blogs come in so handy.

Originally posted at Word Wenches.