In response to popular demand (two readers), today’s blog is about YOUR SCANDALOUS WAYS, my almost-somewhat finished Work in Progress. As most of you are aware, we are required to deliver our manuscripts anywhere from six to twelve or more months before publication. My book’s scheduled for June 2008. Before that, there will be considerable back-and-forth with editors. This means a great deal may change. Even names. So I’m going to hold off on excerpts for a couple of months.
YOUR SCANDALOUS WAYS is the second in my Fallen Women series, which started with NOT QUITE A LADY--which is also the fourth book in the Carsington brothers series. I think each book should serve as many purposes as possible, considering how much time I spend writing them when I could be watching movies, say, or traveling around the world or shopping for clothes.
Though surnames might change, the hero and heroine’s first names are a pretty safe bet to stay. Francesca, an English divorcée with very expensive taste in jewelry and appalling taste in husbands (thus the “divorcée”), has come to Venice, the Sin City of her day. Her day is 1820. We meet her in September and if all remains the same, the events of the tale will take a little over a week.
By the time of my story, Lord Byron, who lived in Venice from November 1816 to December 1819, has gone on to Ravenna and his affair with the Countess Guiccioli, after numerous other affairs and one-night or one-hour or fifteen-minute stands. Lord Byron did a lot of smooching in Venice, but I am not sure he out-smooched Casanova. I would have liked to mention the latter in YOUR SCANDALOUS WAYS, but his memoirs weren’t published until decades after the time of my story. Byron is one of my sources--which at this moment far surpass the number of canals in Venice in 1863.
For those of you who, as I did, lack a clear picture of how strange and wonderful this place is, here it is, from the viewpoint of deities and satellites.
Venice lies in the middle of a swampy lagoon. For centuries, it was accessible from the mainland--with difficulty and only by the experienced--only by water. According to an 1863 Baedeker’s “The 15,000 houses and palaces of Venice are situated on three large and 114 small islands formed by 147 canals , connected by 378 bridges (most of them of stone) and altogether about 7 M (miles) in circumference.” The number of houses and canals has changed over time. Still, Byron would easily recognize the city today. He might hesitate to swim in the canals, though.
Following a period of time living with a merchant and his wife (with whom the poet had a tempestuous affair, surprise, surprise) Byron moved into the Palazzo Mocenigo, which is on the Grand Canal, the big S-shaped waterway that divides the city. My heroine Francesca lives on a rio, one of the many other canals. Her house is the Palazzo Neroni, named in honor of a character in Trollope’s BARCHESTER TOWERS.
Across the canal from her is the fictional Ca’ Munetti. Ca’ is Venetian shorthand for casa, which is what all the palaces except the Ducal Palace were called before the fall of the Republic. After 1797 and Napoleon’s arrival (and ransacking), though, the restriction on using the term palazzo was lifted. This is why you will come across a building listed in one place as the Ca’ Rezzonico and in another as the Palazzo Rezzonico. I stole the name “Munetti” from Byron’s friend Hobhouse's misspelling of somebody or other. For those of you curious how authors come up with fictional names, this is one of my highly sophisticated methods.
Back to my tale. In the great tradition of storytelling, A Stranger Comes to Town--and moves into the place across the canal. The stranger is my hero, James, who is named after James Bond because he, too, is a government agent, albeit a very cranky one on account of (a) he’s been there done that with being Secret Agent Man and (b) he wants to be in England and (c) the other spies are too incompetent to figure out how to get a bunch of Highly Significant letters from a girl--Francesca--thus sticking him with a dumb job in Venice, wettest city in the universe, when he could be in London, second wettest (or is it third?), meeting nice girls for a change, instead of adventuresses, assassins, and Fallen Women.
James is half English, half Italian, all blueblood, and he’s Trouble, a Very Bad Boy. Really. He showed promising signs of a criminal career in his youth, before he was steered into legal criminality. But Francesca is a Very Bad Girl. It’s a match made, not in heaven, but in Venice, which in many people’s opinion is the next best thing.
Since I could go on endlessly about, say, the prisons on the eastern end of the Bridge of Sighs--or the challenges of getting the Italian words right and who I’m pestering for information--or what a gondola looked like in 1820--I’m going to do the sensible thing and leave it to you to tell me what you’d like to know.
Apart from excerpts (they’ll be coming), what else do you like to learn from an author about a book pre-publication? Do you like bits of history to help set the stage? Do you want more about the writing process: picking names, doing research, dreaming up stuff? More about characters? Let me know, and I’ll try to accommodate you either today or in the coming months.