When we moved to Italy two years ago, I decided to write a novel with Caterina Cornaro as one of the characters. She was a Venetian noble woman who was married to the King of Cyprus and became the Sovereign Lady of Asolo in 1489 after the Most Serene Republic, la Serenissima, took control of the island.
She died in Venice on 10 July 1510, a year after the Barco, her villa of delights, was damaged by a fire set by the League of Cambrai troops. It was there that she had established a court of literary and artistic distinction and where Pietro Bembo set his platonic dialogues on love, Gli Asolani.
I became fascinated by this court and soon got stuck into reading about courtly love and life.
After visiting the ruins of the Barco (see my blog post), I decided to use the element of fire as the link between Fern, the 1989 heroine of the novel, and Cecilia, my 16th Century protagonist. The more I wrote about Cecilia, the more she came to life. Although she lives in the shadow of the Queen, she is by no means overshadowed by her.
I started the early chapters about 18 months ago, then my mother fell ill and I spent most of my time looking after her. Mum passed away, and I was too grief-stricken to write for a while. My first novel, The Orchid Tree, needed more work, so I got in touch with John Hudspith and, after his inspiring editing, I sent it to a publisher. Six months later it’s still “under consideration”. During those six months, however, I went back to Lady of Asolo and now I have completed it. A supernatural time-slip historical romance, the only thing it has in common with my first book is the “historical” label and what Johnny calls my “fragrant” writing voice. He has paid me a huge compliment, and I’ve just set up Fragrant Publishing to market my “Fragrant Books”.
What I love about working with Johnny is that he goes the extra mile. He doesn’t just tell you where he thinks your manuscript can be improved, he re-edits your re-writes until both he and you are satisfied. The great thing about working with him is that he knows everything there is to know about story structure and the all-important need for your reader to invest in the “what-if?” of your novel.
See you there!