Italy travelogue, part V

Nora and family are in Italy for two weeks and she’s sharing the experience with us all.  Sit back and enjoy!
Laura

Another gorgeous day. We head out late morning for the walk to  Palazzo Strozzi where there’s a Renaissance exhibit. First we’re going to change  money at the bank on the corner. You can only go in through a tube-like door one  at a time–and you can’t take any sort of bag. Once we figure that out, I go in  only to find they don’t change money there.

But it was an interesting and surreal experience.

Along the way to the palace we spot a fruit and vegetable stall.  It’s tucked into a kind of dead end along one of the narrow  roads.

The colors are so incredible. I swear the strawberries didn’t look  real, they were so deliciously red. Plump tomatoes, zucchini with the wonderful  flowers still attached. Kat hadn’t seen damsons before–we had a tree in the  yard where I grew up. So she buys a couple to try. I’d have done the same if I  hadn’t just eaten a huge plum from the hotel fruit basket.

We walk on, with BW navigating with the map, across piazzas, down  little streets–and there’s a shop with the most adorable baby clothes. Hand  knit, crochets embroidery. The sweetest dress for my youngest granddaughter, Quinn, and the cutest little hooded sweater/jacket for her twin, Colby.  Incredible workmanship, so very special.

We realize we need stamps after we spot a post office, so Jason and  Kat go in to deal with it, and I wander the stalls outside. Score another  Christmas present.

On we go, and BW winds us around to the Strozzi. The entrance leads  to a wide, interior courtyard with a cafe. Lots of people sitting on benches in  the cool. We check our bags, get our tickets, and start through the  exhibit.

Amazing art. 14-1500, but there’s a stone bust from the second  century. Lots of Donatello–bronzes, marbles, wood, terra cotta. Religious and  classical heroic figures, and just out there. Not behind glass. I see  Donatella’s St. George and the Dragon. Fantastic. A grinning boy with a hole at  the end of his penis–he was a fountain. Peeing fountains, the plaque tells us  were very popular.

I suppose the amusement factor for such things is, was and will be  part of the human condition.

Many, many Madonnas with Child–and she always seems to be holding  Jesus on her left arm. Jason imagines she had a gun of steel on that arm. 

I love the ones where she’s cuddling him and they both look so  happy.

It’s absolutely wonderful, from the sculptures to the paintings,  all displayed in big, airy rooms with benches for those who want to sit and  absorb.

At the end of the exhibit there’s a long table set up with tiles of  stone, wood, leather, marble, bronze. You’re invited to sit, touch, consider the  textures, what you prefer. You can fill out a postcard with a drawing or  thoughts on your feelings. They’ve displayed many, and I enjoy looking through  them.

Back out we go, and wander toward the Duomo, decide to have  lunch–a lovely salad for me with a dressing of melted gorganzola.  Delicious!

I see more girls/women with black tights or leggings under their  dresses. WHY??? It’s not only hot but if it’s fashionable it’s still  unattractive–and just silly when the temps are in the 90s.

It’s nice to sit, eat, drink, talk–and have the little mists of  cool water trickle down now and then from the awning to cool us off. 

Kat spots a woman with a bundle of scarves, and one is simply  beautiful. The sale is done over the rail between the trattoria and the piazza.  Nice work!

As the line for the small tour of the Duomo isn’t long, we go for  it. Takes us little time to get in, and I remember so well from my first visit  here how lovely it is. The intense colors of the stained glass, the stunning  painted ceiling  over the main altar area. It’s a reverent space despite  the wandering tourists, but I think as reverent toward art and architecture as  religion.

Once we’re done, we hit the gelateria across the piazza. Mint for  me today–glorious, refreshing, with those little chunks of chocolate to add a  touch of rich.

Another belt stall as Kat’s buying gifts, then the men are tired of  us. LOL. As we’ve another stop to make–a return to a shop–they head back to  the hotel, and Kat and I clean house!

I think I bagged nine more Christmas gifts which basically covers  all my girl pals–and the proprietor, who has no English–is so sweet. Kat finds  a fabulous bag for her laptop.

We haul it all back where I find BW asleep on the  couch.

Tomorrow the Uffizi–and tonight I think very casual and easy again.

Nora

Italy travelogue, part IV

Nora and family are in Italy for two weeks and she’s sharing the experience with us all.  Sit back and enjoy!
Laura
Another gorgeous evening, so warm and breezy. After a long day of  walking–12,000 steps by the end of it according to Kat’s fit bit–the little trattoria nearby is perfect. I’ve got a hankering for Florentine steak, but know  I can’t fit an entire T-Bone in. But they have a smaller deal–steak strips done  in a balsamic sauce with rosemary–and rosemary roasted potatoes.
 
What an inspired choice, even if I couldn’t eat all of it. The  potatoes taste exactly like the ones I often do at home, which is pretty damn  good if I do say so myself, but the steak! I don’t think we could duplicate it.  Just marvelous.
 
And we splurge on a bottle of Barolo. Absolutely  gorgeous.
 
There are shooting stars the next three night, but the sky over the city, at least, was too overcast. I make due once we’re back with a little  sky/people watch from our little balcony. People come and go, come and go, and  near midnight I see an old man shuffling along with a shopping bag and a  briefcase. I wonder what work he does that brings him home so late. He slowly,  slowly, lets himself into the outside door of the apartments across the street.  Fatigue is in every movement.
 
I hope he got as good a night’s sleep as I did.
 
Up late for me–vacation!!!–and start my day off with a mix of  pilates/yoga/ballet moves courtesy of one of my Jennifer Kries DVDs. BW’s down  at breakfast, so I’ll clean myself up and get ready for the day.
 
We’re going to visit a nearby museum and its exhibit of Renaissance  art, and I want to go back to the lady and her shop with the many pretty bags.  We have reservations for the fast track through the lines of the Uffizi tomorrow, and will do the same for The Academie later this week. We hope to get  ourselves up and out early one day for The Duomo, as our marvelous concierge  recommends. Then there’s the can’t miss Pitti Palace. Lots to see and do! 
 
It looks like another perfect blue sky to explore under  today.
 
Nora

Italy Travelogue, part III

 

Nora, her husband Bruce, son Jason and daughter-in-law Kat are in Italy for two weeks and she’s sharing the experience with us all.  Sit back and enjoy!
Laura
The first two days in Florence.  Photos by Bruce Wilder.
The first two days in Florence. Photos by Bruce Wilder.
Our first full day here involves miles of walking under incredible  blue skies in that bold Italian light. We sort of plan to take in The Duomo and  the Uffizi, and wander in that general direction. Down the narrow streets,  through it big piazzas. Piazza della Signoria is a favorite of mine–and I set a  scene in next year’s The Collection there, with its big fountain with Neptune,  all its statutes–and crowds.
 
It’s more crowded than I remember, just packed with tourists, full  of energy and buzz.
 
The line for the museum is far too long, and the Duomo doesn’t open for 90 minutes, so we have some time to kill. I start to kill it with a  strawberry gelato. Take strawberries, magic cream, douse them in faerie dust and  you might come close.
 
BW wants a belt, so we stop at a stall. While he’s looking, Kat and  I find fabulous belts. The dark sapphire suede she wants, and the London blue I want are both too big. So the leather guy simply cuts them to size right there.  Kat asks what he does with the scraps, and he gives them to her. She shows me  how she can make bracelets from the leather. Our Crafty Kat will do just  that.
 
We double back to a shoe store that caught our eye. I believe  everyone needs sandals. In the end Jason didn’t find any that called to him, BW  found shoes–and they had his size!–Kat found the most glorious cherry red  suede knee boots, and I bought two pretty pair of sandals. I’d had flat sandals  in mind, but fell in love with the little stacked heels on these–one is green,  and looks almost like vines, the other rose red–and with roses. Both butter  soft leather, and wonderfully comfortable. Honestly, the cost for two pair for  me, one pair for BW and the stunning boots for Kat came to less than what I’d  expect to pay in The States for the boots alone.
 
If you’re in Florence, try Leonardo’s for shoes!
 
And the obliging proprietor holds them for us so we don’t have to  haul them while we’re out and about.
 
The line for The Duomo is now insane. We have lunch at a trattoria instead. Another huge pilsner of beer for BW, and bellinis for me. 
 
Let me say here, that for me, The Duomo of Florence is the most  beautiful building in the world. There’s nothing that compares for me. The size,  the scope, the details, the color, those two magnificent domes. It’s beyond  magnificent.
 
We can have lunch in its stupendous shadow.
 
I see a group go by, and one of the young girls is wearing black  tights under her cut-off denim shorts. Black tights in Italy in August. Under shorts. She’s lucky I didn’t arrest her for high crimes against fashion. I  ordered another bellini instead.
 
We find more pretty scarves before we decide to hike over toward  The Academie. Maybe the lines won’t be so long there.
 
We end up going into San Marco museo. Never been in there, and it  was worth it. Interesting place, an old monestary loaded with art. The initial offerings are dark and depressing, but then there’s a room where they display  all these architectural remnants. Columns and lintels and cornices in such an interesting and artful arrangement.
 
Then a room where they have old manuscripts, and the best here is a  display of the crystals and rocks and ground colors used to make the paints. All  so vivid in their little dishes, with the tools set around with them. The  manuscripts are more beautiful when you think of the art that went into making  the paints.
 
We tour the monks’ cells. All have frescos, mostly crucifixion  visuals, and some of them amazingly horrific. Not in the art, but the depiction.  Blood literally gushing from Christ’s side, and in one, when you studied the  angles about to spill all over his mother.
 
In another room is a beautifully done painting, then you take a  closer look. It’s the Piazza della Signoria, crowds of people hanging around,  obviously in easy conversation. Beautiful buildings. And several people are  being burned to death on a platform, while others (heretics, one assumes) are  being led toward the pyre.
 
I don’t want it in my living room.
 
We go out to the big, pretty courtyard, sit awhile. Happy begonias  and grasses, a nicely preserved arcade. And Kat and Jason point out that over  the door are three symbols. The middle is a European style cross. Flanking it  are what look like slices of pepperoni pizza. I can think of no reason for this,  none, but it adds a mysterious charm.
 
We go back inside to exit and come to a big room filled with those  glorious paintings and icons, the saturated vivid colors and gold leaf so  brilliantly used in religious art. I don’t want these in my living room either,  but they’re gorgeous and bold and impossibly bright given their  age.
 
We walk back–I think we easily did our 10,000 steps today–through  the crowds, along the narrow streets, through the open piazzas. Near the Duomo I  have to stop as down a ways a woman in playing the violin, beautifully. And the  lovely, lovely sound of it echoes along that magnificent building, over the  voices and noise of the crowd.
 
Pick up our shoes, continue on. I find a stall with sports  jerseys–Italian football–which seem just right for my two oldest grandsons.  Will find something for the girls and the twins another day.
 
Tired feet slog back to the hotel–showers fixed!!–and have a sit  down and an adult beverage.
 
An excellent day in Italian sunshine, art, shopping, good food and  drink.
 
But I think I’m going to cave and add to my leather jacket  collection. I don’t NEED another leather jacket, but there are too many  beautiful ones not to indulge. I may not get through another day without giving  in.
 
I expect another casual, easy dinner later, and a relaxing  evening.
 
Nora

Italy travelogue, part II

Nora, her husband Bruce, son Jason and daughter-in-law Kat are in Italy for two weeks and she’s sharing the experience with us all.  So sit back and enjoy!
Laura

We enjoyed a bella notte at a trattoria in the piazza near the  hotel. Gorgeous warm evening, cheerful outdoor seating. The piazza’s busy still,  and three young boys hover around a bench sketching the big church. Future Da  Vincis perhaps.

Our waiter’s adorable, the food’s fabulous, the wine very nice.  Though Kat and I agree our lunch wine was better. It’s a friendly, happy place,  and so close I imagine we’ll go back again.
 
The surrounding buildings are so interesting. Old, in those  sun-baked colors, rammed against each other, but in varying levels. All the  apartments over the shops are dark, and I wonder if all the tenants are on their  August holiday.
 
We stop into the little market across from the hotel for sodas. I  must have my morning caffeine.
 
Back home for a really, really good night’s sleep. Before I drift  off I hear voices–happy ones–calling out in Italian from the street  below.
 
Woke up to pretty sunlight, and decided to start my day off right  with power yoga courtesy of Rodney Yee. Felt just right. BW gets up, showers,  heads down to breakfast.
 
The selection knob in the big shower isn’t working. Won’t switch  off wand, so until we report and they fix, we use the smaller shower. I go in  while he’s down at breakfast. Adjusting the water temp, and bam! the entire  shower head, pipe included falls out of the wall and clunks me in the head! It’s  a bit disconcerting. LOL. So I end up taking a wand shower after all. And we’ll report this latest plumbing problem, maybe they’ll use this event to finally install that water softener.
 
We’ll head out soon, I expect to whatever destinations we decide  on. There’s a perfect blue sky out there.
 
Nora

Italy travelogue, part I: Arrival Day

Nora, her husband Bruce, son Jason and daughter-in-law Kat are in Italy for two weeks and she’s sharing the experience with us all.  So sit back and enjoy!
Laura
We arrived in Florence this morning after a long, and for this  reluctant flyer, far too bumpy flight. A lot of stretches that felt like–in  Jason’s words–riding on cobblestones.
 
But we’re here, BW and me and Jason and Kat.
 
Zipped through Customs and there was our van and driver. Loaded up  the luggage and whisked off for a much, much shorter journey.
 
It’s been years since I’ve been here, one of my favorite cities,  and my first true glimpse of it was the dome and part of the gorgeous wall of  the amazing Santa Croce. It’s as beautiful as I remember, filled the windshield  for one gasping moment before we wound around, onto the narrow streets between  the wonderful old buildings. All the shops and restaurants, the people, another  view of the church. We zip right along, and even in the night-flight daze, it’s  all so incredible.
 
We’re delivered to the door of our hotel, greeted by the smiling  doorman who takes us through a lobby washed with light, up wide stone stairs,  and to reception. We’re greeted again, warmly, by the concierge. She speaks  perfect English, and when we go by later to ask a question, she’s speaking easy,  conversational Russian with another guest. This always amazes me, how so many  Europeans are multi-lingual. It’s a skill Americans sorely  lack. 
 
We’ve booked two suites that can be closed off from the outside  into one massive space. Only one is ready, but that’s no problem as immediate  unpacking doesn’t appeal.
 
The concierge takes us up, giving us a little tour as we go–the  pretty, sunny courtyard with its flowers and tables, the bar, the dining room,  through to what’s called the music room as in the 16th century this building  belonged to the pope’s treasurer, and this room was for music. She pointed out a  series of panels on the wall, explains that the top three open, and there  musicians would play for the people gathered below.
 
It’s a beautiful hotel that has the feel of a huge, wealthy house,  beautifully appointed, full of charm and light and art.
 
The first suite opens to a large lounge with beautiful wood floors,  richly colored sofas and chairs, old tables, pretty details and an awesome high,  painted ceiling. From there you have a spacious parlor/office–yet another  beautifully painted ceiling, then the bedroom with a HUGE bath.
 
I love me a huge bath.
 
We sort ourselves out a little, hydrate, then go out to walk, get  some sun and air–and as it turns out shop.
 
We’re minutes from the piazza Santa Croche with the marvelous  church, the big space, the crowds of people. And the leather. There’s nothing  like the leather goods in Florence, and it doesn’t take long for me to snag a  gorgeous bag–and enjoy the charm and conversation of the proprietor. 
 
There are street vendors–soft, silky, colorful scarves, silly  novelties, more bags or belts. In another few minutes, I have a couple Christmas  presents and Kat has a pretty new skirt.
 
It’s lovely just to walk, so we aim for the river, just taking it  all in. Shops, restaurants where people already sit at sidewalk tables, tempting  displays of creamy gelato, crowds of people, so many languages, people zipping  and winding through the pedestrians in tiny cars or motorbikes.
 
We get to the Arno, walk along the bridge, pass lines for various  museums–those are for another day–and wander in the warm breezes to Ponte Vecchio.
 
This is very full of tourists, but worth the stroll along the shops  with the sparkle of gold in the windows. Gold and leather–two must haves in  Florence. We make our way down the sloping street, spot the gelato shop BW and I  made good use of our last trip. That’s for after lunch, so we find a little  trattoria. BW gets the biggest pilsner of beer I’ve ever seen. Kat gets a glass  of red, I get a glass of white. Jason sticks with water. It’s pizza for me, and  the first bite reminds me how fresh and gorgeous the food is here–everywhere  here. We keep it light because there’s gelato coming.
 
It’s nice to just sit, watch Florence go by, drink wine, eat lovely  food. Recharge before we start back, with that stop for gelato. Lemon for  me–wonderfully tart, soft, fresh. It’s like eating chilled sunshine.
 
Back along the narrow streets, through the crowds. I see a man  navigating through those crowds on a bicycle with his drycleaning slung over his  shoulder.
 
Another shop, more presents off my Christmas list, then back where the other suite’s ready. It’s just lovely, just as beautifully appointed. We  have a shared foyer, the big lounge we’ll also share, and our own personal  spaces.
 
Time to unpack and take a much deserved nap.
 
Everyone’s still sleeping. I expect we’ll do very casual for dinner  tonight as we’ve accomplished a whole bunch of a lot on this travel day. I  believe I’m going to pop the cork on the complimentary bottle of champagne and  not think about what we’ll do tomorrow until tomorrow.
 
Nora

TTP Weekend

As we gear up for Nora’s travelogues from Florence, here’s a belated recap of the Turn the Page 18th Anniversary Weekend — a busy three days that led directly to the RWA annual conference for Nora (and me).

The weekend started with Nora’s final first pitch for the Hagerstown Suns who will be moving to Virginia next year.  We have a great shot of Nora on the mound, courtesy of Bruce Wilder’s friend, Richard Dougan.

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Photo by Richard Dougan

The first order of business on Saturday was a sit down in the courtyard of Inn BoonsBoro for a radio interview with Jane Cowan of the Australian Broadcast Company that aired on July 23 (click here for the interview).  Some readers on Facebook asked why they sat so far apart and it was because Nora sat by the microphone and they filmed the interview.

IMG_1199Then it was onto the signing.  The line was around the corner when the staff at Turn the Page opened the door at 10.  The stellar lineup of authors included Kristan Higgins, Deanna Raybourn, Mary Blayney, Laura Kaye and Kathryn O’Sullivan.  They chatted with readers, signed books and had a fabulous time during the four-hour event.IMG_1200

One of my jobs during a signing is to take photos of anyone who would like to pose with Nora.  Here are a couple from Saturday:

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Amanda (with Nora) is a regular at TTP events.  She’s currently battling colon cancer and reads a Nora book at every treatment.  Her nurses now know to ask about which Nora she’s reading!

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Donna (left) and Neva (right) are another set of pals who love to come to the events.  I’ll probably take their photo in September too!

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Stacey (below with Nora and then Kristan) is another regular at the signings, but this time she brought work along with her and promoted the Howard County Library System.IMG_20130713_124508_826

Lora comes to nearly every Turn the Page event and this time she won a door prize (signed by JD herself).

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Jessie (right) brought her mom Becky (who was thrilled to meet Nora!) for the weekend.

Sunday was the first Fall Into A Brunch with Nora event at Dan’s Restaurant & Taphouse.  Seventy readers took up every available seat to enjoy a delicious meal and great conversations about books.  They also raised over $1000 for the Discovery Station in Hagerstown by vying for one of the four gift baskets on display.

Nora and I stopped at every table to chat and for photos, then everyone went out on Main Street for the official group shot.

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The Fall Into A Brunch with Nora gathering at Dan's Restaurant and Taphouse.

 

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3QQ for Mary Blayney

Three Quick Questions (3QQ) is an ongoing feature at Fall Into the Story that highlights some of the authors scheduled to join Nora at a Turn the Page signing.  This week, we’ll meet three authors who will be at the Turn the Page’s 18th Anniversary signing on July 13 from noon – 2 pm.

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Mary Blayney recently completed her Pennistan series for Bantam with One More Kiss, the fifth story about the Duke Meryon’s unconventional siblings.  After writing two books for Silhouette in the late 1980s, Mary has focused on one of her favorite times in history — England’s Regency.   She’s even brought the Regency to the novellas she writes for the annual anthologies with JD Robb.  Her six novellas have the continuing element of Poppy’s Coin, a magic coin that changes the lives of everyone who wishes on it, whether they know they are wishing on a magic coin or not.

When she’s not writing, Mary is an experienced and inveterate traveler.  Next week she’ll travel to Atlanta with Nora for the 2013 Romance Writers of America conference where they will join over 450 writers at the annual Readers for Life Literacy signing.  But one of Mary’s favorite places to visit is Inn Boonsboro where she’s been frequent and welcome guest since 2009.

Onto the questions:

1. One More Kiss is the last book in a long line of stories about the Pennistan family. Each book needs it’s own particular type of research, but overall what was it like to return to the world and characters you created.? And was there something new you learned as you wrote about Jess and Beatrice?

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After five books going back to Derbyshire to see the Pennistans is like checking in with old friends.  I love the chance to think about and explore how their marriages have changed them and how the three brothers and one sister appear to the newcomer, Beatrice. But there was a long road to that final epilogue. Along the way it was tremendous fun to do my version of a Regency house party where more than one relationship is explored and where that perennial secondary character William Bendasbrook finally found his own happily ever after.

Something new I learned? No doubt about it.  The secret behind the brilliance of Rembrandt’s drawings fascinated me and the way Jess used it to explain his love for Beatrice was like icing on the cake, an idea that came out as though I was channeling his thoughts.

2. This fall you are reteaming with JD Robb, Ruth Ryan Langan, Mary Kay McComas and newcomer Elaine Fox for the Mirror, Mirror anthology coming in late September. The stories all take their cues from fairy tales — what can you tell us about yours?

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Mary signing The Unquiet anthology with Ruth Ryan Langan and Nora at RWA 2012

If Wishes Were Horses” in the MIRROR MIRROR anthology is a riff on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Yes, set in the Regency and yes the magic coin is an essential part of the story as it has been in all my novellas. Goldi is the maid Martha Stepp and the “Three Bears” is Sgt Jack Tresbere, a soon to retire infantry aid looking for someone with whom to share life’s next adventure. Jack and Martha get off to a rocky start when he realizes that she is the woman sleeping in his major’s bed the night he and the major arrive at Craig’s Castle

3. You’ve been a frequent guest at Inn Boonsboro since it opened in January 2009. Do you have a favorite room? And what is the ONE thing you recommend a first-time guest do while they are at the Inn?

 

It’s hard to pick a favorite room. All the beds are fabulous so it’s impossible to pick using that as criteria. I love Eve and Roarke. I do believe it has the best bathroom configuration. And I love the lighting, the covered grey button and the Galahad pillow. Of all of them it’s the one where I feel like Eve and Roarke are in the room next door. But then Elizabeth and Darcy has access to the fabulous front balcony where you can watch Boonsboro pass by and the most comfortable of reading chairs. No, I have never seen the ghost, not any of them. I think they understand that while I totally accept their existence I have no need to actually meet any of them.

My biggest recommendation is to treat the Inn like home. To ask for anything you need or want and not to miss the chance to talk with other guest at the wine and cheese service You’ll be amazed at how much you have in common. Yes I’m aware that’s TWO things and not ONE.

If you would like a signed copy of Mary’s books, just click on one of the links to Turn the Page, place an order and the fabulous TTP staff will make sure Mary signs them before she finishes up on Saturday.

And if you have any questions for Mary, post them here and I’ll be sure to ask her, then post the answers in the recap of the signing weekend (scheduled for the evening of July 14).

Three Quick Questions (3QQ) for Deanna Raybourn

Three Quick Questions (3QQ) is a new, ongoing feature at Fall Into the Story that highlights some of the authors scheduled to join Nora at a Turn the Page signing.  This week, we’ll meet three authors who will be at the July 13 signing (Turn the Page’s 18th anniversary signing) from noon – 2 pm.

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Deanna Raybourn at RWA 2012

Deanna Raybourn is a New York Times best-selling author whose Lady Julia Grey series tells the stories of Victorian sleuth Lady Julia and her enigmatic partner, private enquiry agent Nicholas Brisbane. The series has been a reader favorite since the first book, Silent in the Grave, was released in late 2007.  (You can include one Nora Roberts among those readers!)  Silent in the Grave won the 2008 RITA for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements

A Spear of Summer Grass, Deanna’s latest book, is set in 1923 Kenya where (after the uproar brought on by her latest exploits in Paris), Delilah Drummond is exiled to her favorite stepfather’s savannah manor house until gossip subsides.

This is Deanna’s third visit to a TTP signing and we are delighted to welcome her back.  Now, onto the questions.

1. You had a long career writing before you were first published.  Then your first book, Silent in the Grave, won the 2008 RITA for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements, beating one Nora Roberts’ High Noon.  How did you feel when you heard that Nora said if she had to lose, she was delighted that Silent in the Grave was the winner because she loved that book?

It was honestly one of the most phenomenal compliments I’ve ever received. I wrote for fourteen years before I got published, and I collected a lot of rejection letters. To go from that little bubble of isolation to someone like Nora Roberts knowing my name was surreal. I was shocked and delighted that she’d read the book, and even more excited that she liked it. She was just so enthusiastic and so gracious about my work—I realized she was not just a wildly successful writer but also a fabulous role model. To cheerlead newcomers in your field shows tremendous grace. I joke that I want to be her when I grow up, but it’s not really a joke!

2. When you go back to add another story to a series such as the Lady Julia Grey books do you immediately feel welcomed back into her world or do you have to take the time to re-transition?

At this point I’ve written more than half a million words in the Julia series, so it’s always like coming home to pick up her story again. It is an absolute luxury to be able to spend so much time with the same core group of characters—especially characters I’m so fond of. It took me two years to write the first book in the series, years I happily spent researching and world-building. The effort I put in at the beginning means I can just supplement with additional reading as I go along, adding even more detail and color to their late-Victorian world. Of course, the difficulty now is in making sure I don’t contradict myself throughout the series. It would be disastrously easy to forget a character’s eye color or how I killed them off!

3. Your current book, A Spear of Summer Grass, is positively modern as it’s set in 1923, compared the Victorian era of the Lady Julia Grey books.  What were the most interesting differences in writing about a woman living in the small British community in Africa during the roaring 20s compared to a woman like Lady Julia who had to wear a heck of a lot more clothes?  Or were there more similarities than one might think?

There was tremendous freedom in writing about Delilah Drummond, not only because she’s a woman of the 1920s but also because she is a particularly liberated sort of woman. Julia pushes the boundaries of acceptable behavior for 1890 at times, but she gets away with it because she is wealthy, titled, and from a notoriously eccentric family. (And if you are at all familiar with historical eccentrics of the English aristocracy, you know Julia is actually quite tame!) Delilah is a cat of an entirely different color. She has also had a privileged upbringing, but while Julia was the petted darling of a large family, Delilah has been essentially rootless. Her mother is dotingly neglectful, her father dead. In part to remedy the lack of a structured family life, Delilah lives large, doing exactly as she pleases—with whomever she pleases. She is a force of nature, damaged and self-absorbed, but also vital and dynamic and incredibly courageous. What they have in common is that they are both women pushing against the restrictions and expectations of their times—it just so happens that their times were very different.

Where else can you find Deanna other than Turn the Page this Saturday?  Take your pick of fun: on her delectably delicious blog, on her Facebook page or on Twitter, where she waxes eloquent about many, many things from style, to research to the Tour de France.

If you would like a signed copy of Deanna’s books, just click on one of the links to Turn the Page, place an order and the fabulous TTP staff will make sure Deanna finishes up on Saturday.

And if you have any questions for Deanna, post them here and I’ll be sure to ask her, then post the answers in the recap of the signing weekend (scheduled for the evening of July 14).

 

Three quick questions for Kristan Higgins

Three Quick Questions is a new, ongoing feature at Fall Into the Story that will highlight some of the authors scheduled to join Nora at a Turn the Page signing.  This week, we’ll meet three authors who will be at the July 13 signing (Turn the Page’s 18th anniversary signing) from noon – 2 pm.

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TTP manager Janeen Solberg and Kristan Higgins

Kristan Higgins is a New York Times best-selling author of contemporary romances.  She won the RITA for best contemporary romance in 2008 for Catch of the Day and again in 2010 for It Had To Be You.  Her current book The Best Man was named one of Amazon’s top 10 Romances for the first half of 2013.

TBM - KH

BTW, Kristan is performing feats of great endurance by flying in for the signing early Saturday morning, driving out to the bookstore, chatting with everyone on line, signing books, then driving back to the airport to fly to Atlanta that night.  I bow in awe because after chatting with all the lovely readers who come to the signings, snapping photos when necessary and lending a hand to the TTP staff, all I want to do is be served food and drink.

Here are Kristan’s three questions:

  1. After the signing at Turn the Page, you head down to Atlanta where you are the RWA Awards Luncheon speaker on Friday, July 19, do you remember the speakers at your very first RWA conference?

I sure do! It was Lisa Kleypas, and she was magnificent! Very down-to-earth and funny…and she made me cry, which I love for some masochistic reason. I also heard Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Suzanne Brockman speak, and at the time, I could barely even look at them directly, because they were just so fabulous. I didn’t know any published authors and was too busy being in awe to have very clear memories of that conference. My first book had just come out; it was my first National conference, and I alternated between embarrassing fan-girl moments and hiding in my room.

2. The RWA conference is the place where romance writers mix business with pleasure — meeting with editors and agents and hanging out with pals.  What’s your favorite (non-RITA award winning) memory of the conferences you’ve attended?

I love the big signing (Kristan will join Nora at the Readers for Life Literacy signing on July 17). It’s a little terrifying; you think, “Please, please let just a few people come to my table” and then holy heck-o-rama, there’s a whole bunch! It’s so thrilling and fun, and it makes all those hours hunched over the keyboard in stretched-out yoga pants and stained t-shirts completely worth it.

3. You’re known for writing witty, award-winning contemporary romances.  In your current book, The Best Man, you write in third person rather than the first person, which you’ve used successfully in other books.  What prompts that change? Is it harder or easier to write?

The first time I made the switch, it was for the simple reason that the hero (Liam from UNTIL THERE WAS YOU) had too much to say. Same with James in SOMEBODY TO LOVE, and yes, definitely with Levi in THE BEST MAN.

It was hard to make the switch at first; my men kept waxing poetic and talking, dropping flowery descriptions of sunsets and food. Then I’d look over at McIrish, my sainted husband, and think, “Does he even know what ‘cerulean’ means? Would he use it in a sentence? Would I respect him if he did?”

The harder part came from having to cut back on what I could show the heroine doing. In first person, you know everything about a character. In third, you only get half as much space, so it was a little tricky. But I love it! That being said, I imagine I’ll write another book in first person, just because sometimes the story is better from one person’s point of view.

BTW, Thanks for having me at TTP! It’s a tremendous honor.

Where else can you find Kristan other than Turn the Page this Saturday?  Take your pick of fun: on her blog, on her Facebook page where she has deliciously fun Man Wars with her pal Jill Shalvis or as a regular contributor at The SIsterhood of the Jaunty Quills.

If you would like a signed copy of Kristan’s books, just click on the link to Turn the Page, place an order and the fabulous TTP staff will make sure Kristan signs it before she jets off into the night.

And if you have any questions for Kristan, post them here and I’ll be sure to ask her, then post the answers in the recap of the signing weekend (scheduled for the evening of July 14).

 

 

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