Dana’s debut novel is set in Italy, one of my favourite places to visit (maybe I’ll retire there). Her scenes in Venice are evocative and fabulous, and surely inspired by the idea of masks used during Carnivale. Welcome, Dana, and thanks for treading the boards with us today!
Thanks for having me on your wonderful blog Susanne!
1. Are you inspired most by places, people or experiences and how do these work their way into your writing?
I’ve always been a dreamer, staring at clouds or the horizon, wondering about anything and everything. An avid reader, I take bits and pieces from what I read and see if anything morphs into a story. I never get bored because my mind is constantly working on a story. You can tell I’m a punster. It’s all in my head.
2. Please share one of your favourite moments of inspiration with us.
Haha, the place I find most inspiration comes from dissolving my washing powder. It’s such a mundane chore, it helps clear the mind for working out good conflict. I’ve had many a light bulb moment when doing the washing.
When writing Helen and Gabriel’s story in ‘A Venetian Affair’, I remembered my visit to Venice and seeing the little roaming troupes of opera singers wander around St Mark’s Square. The atmosphere was wonderful and so conducive to romance it was a no-brainer.
And I loved how well you evoked Venice, Dana! I could smell it!
3. If you could pick a soundtrack to match your main character’s life, what would it be?
I actually listened to Filippa Giordano’s self-titled album for a lot of the book, but if I had to pick an actual soundtrack, I would have to choose Michael Nyman’s The Piano. Haunting pieces interspersed with jaunty, joyful triumph, it’s one of my favourites.
4. Do you read reviews of your books? What do you do when you read a not-so-nice one?
Yes, I do read reviews of my book (I thought everyone did? ;) ). Obviously most writer want their readers to enjoy a book, but you can’t please everyone. I read all my reviews. Despite it being hard to receive news that someone might not have enjoyed my book, I look for honest criticism where I can improve my craft. The rest I take with a grain of salt. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. I do not support people who trash other’s work for the sake of rocking the boat. That is boring and time-wasting.
5. What is your favourite book of all time that you can reread a hundred times, and it still feels like the first time?
‘Dreaming of You’ by Lisa Kleypas. Every time. Without fail. Derek Craven is my ultimate hero. Also, ‘Kill and Tell’ by Linda Howard. Detective Marc Chastain. *sigh. There are no words.
6. If there is one genre that you have not written in yet, but would love to try writing a book in that specific genre, what would it be?
I’ve recently discovered Steampunk. Its WONDERFUL! I’ve been reading The Iron Duke, by Meljean Brook and I couldn’t put it down. It would be fascinating to write in that genre.
7. What are you working on now?
I’m working on ‘The Millionaire’s Mandate’. This is Helen’s sister, Reyna’s story. Reyna is a completely different character to Helen, more headstrong, impulsive and dynamic. I’m hoping to have it completed soon. J
And now, an excerpt from Dana’s wonderful “A Venetian Affair”…
He was here again.
Helen Stoddardt couldn't help the little flutter of excitement that accompanied the recognition. Safe behind her half-mask and dark-haired wig, she allowed her eyes to linger on the man seated at one of the tables, left of the little stage.
It was the third evening in a row.
She'd noticed him immediately the first night. He'd been alone, when everyone else had at least one person with whom to share a coffee, a meal or dessert. Obviously comfortable in his solitary state, he lounged in a relaxed sprawl, periodically sipping from his cup of coffee. Helen wondered why such a man would be by himself. Surely there was a wife? A girlfriend, fiancée, or some other female companion at least, to keep him company? The looks he received from the women around him – young and old – testified to her thoughts.
An earnest waiter had delivered a flower after Helen's first performance. It wasn't one of the standard, wrapped single roses from the flower sellers plying their trade in St Mark's Square but a lily. A deep pink lily, already open and releasing its magnificent scent.
The waiter pointed out her admirer and as Helen turned to follow his gesture she somehow knew who it was, for the mystery man had watched her with an intensity that was hard to ignore. With breathtaking cool, he inclined his head toward her with a reserved smile. Heart fluttering, Helen gifted him one with equal reserve but didn't take up his unspoken invitation. After two long, often tumultuous years of social exile rife with snubs and slights, force of habit would not be easily broken.
Last night the same deferential waiter had respectfully relayed an invitation to share an espresso. Helen had declined with equal respect, conscious of an unfurling awareness that was purely feminine – a part of her she'd thought lost forever. With a hard-won ruthlessness, she'd tamped it down. She didn't like any emotion outside of her control.
Helen continued to watch him. He was handsome; exotically so, with dark- blond hair, high cheekbones and well-defined lips. His was a masculine face, with its solid square jaw, eyebrows slashing in a straight line above deep-set eyes, the Roman proportions of his nose almost statue-perfect. She wondered if he was Italian. Subdued but intense, the way he'd gazed at her awakened in Helen a nervous urge to run and hide, while another part of her wanted to rise to the challenge.