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?
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.
Susan/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?
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.
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?
Loretta: 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?
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.
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?
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.