Saturday, 6 July 2013

Interview with Fiona Paul

As part of the Australian blog tour for her new book, Belladonna, I have an interview with Fiona Paul to share with you. Fiona Paul is a writer and registered nurse from St. Louis, MO. Her first book, Venom, came out last year and Belladonna is the sequel. You can also go and read my review from last week, but in the meantime, the blurb (from goodreads):

Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancé, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he′s arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass′s life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose — the only evidence that will prove he is innocent.

So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of corruption, secret soirées, and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who′s working for the Order′s eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.

Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time?

Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.

What made you want to write about Renaissance Italy?

I had actually visited Venice (I started answering this question at an event once and got nervous and said I had visited Renaissance Venice, heh) about a year before I began writing Venom so the beauty of it was still pretty fresh in my head. As far as the Renaissance goes, certain elements of the plot regarding Falco’s ‘second job’ necessitated that the book be set in the Renaissance. I’m kind of an art and architecture geek so I enjoyed exploring the world of 1600s Italy.

It must take a lot of research to write convincingly about not only another place but another time. How much research did you have to do? (And was it a good excuse to visit Italy?)

This is excerpted from a post I did for Rainy Day Ramblings where I discussed the research in depth.

I started out with a fat pdf file put together for me by an amazing intern. It was chock full of pictures of chopines and stays (corsets) and velvet-covered divans. But unfortunately, it just scratched the surface. During the writing process, I did more research than writing. I watched movies, read books, and googled frantically. But still, there were tons of questions I couldn’t answer: I need to know the name of a church in this district. What things were sold at the market? Where was the market? How long did it take to have a dress made? Red dye was made from beetles? Seriously? There was no end to my obsessive questioning. Eventually, the decision was made to consult a Renaissance expert.

The expert sent back a TWENTY-FIVE page edit letter full of suggestions for VENOM and an eight-page letter for BELLADONNA. And though fixing all of the inaccuracies and weaving in additional historical detail was every bit as gruelling as you might imagine, the resulting product was a manuscript that awed the entire editorial team. I didn’t write VENOM to be educational, but I’m proud of the fact that I did my best to ground all of the details—the food, the perfumes, the books, the clothes, the art, the landmarks, etc—in fact. [Exception: San Domenico is a fictional island, due to the difficulty of accurately determining the history of Venice’s many tiny outlying islands, but its location is roughly equivalent to the location of Isola la Grazia, just south of San Giorgio Maggiore.]

Sadly, I did not use this project as an excuse to go back to Italy, though I could have deducted it from my taxes as a research expense. I enjoyed Venice, but there’s a lot of world left for me to see and a place has to blow my mind for me to want to spend time and money going back to it. (I totally want to go back to Australia and NZ, btw :-) )

Will we be seeing another Italian city in book three?

No, most of the major players will be returning to Venice.

What came first, the setting, the characters or the plot?

The setting, believe it or not. The Secrets of the Eternal Rose books were developed collaboratively with Paper Lantern Lit, but it was a recent trip to Venice that really made me want to set a book there, and then some of the major plot points required a Renaissance time period.

And finally a cheeky question, do you like the US or Australian (or other?) covers of your series more? ;-p

This is going to sound like a Miss America pageant answer, but here goes: When I first saw the Australian cover for Venom, my immediate thought was “OOOOOOH. Want that dress. Want that hair. Want that mask. Want that book.” One of my US colleagues was like “But...but...they didn’t have strapless dresses in Renaissance Venice.” To which I responded: “Sorry, I couldn’t hear you because I was thinking about how eye-catching this cover is.” So, like everything else, covers are subjective and one person’s cover gold leaves another person scratching her head. I love all of my covers—the original US, the redone US, the Australian, the (Russian?) one where my named is very coolly translated to Fiona Paulova—A LOT, but for different reasons. I feel grateful that multiple talented designers have spent their time designing for the Secrets of the Eternal Rose series.

Thank-you very much for taking the time to answer some questions, Fiona! And thanks to the lovely Amanda at HC for organising this blog tour.

For more info, you can find Fiona at the following online haunts:
Fiona's Blog:
Fiona's Twitter: @fionawritesYA
Fiona's FB:
Belladonna on GR:

And the other stops on this blog tour are:
July 1st: Badass Bookie
July 2nd: Turner’s Antics
July 3rd: Treasured Tales for Young Adults
July 4th: Speculating on SpecFic
July 5th: Fiction in Fiction in Fiction
July 6th: Here!
July 7th: Book-O-Matic

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