Megan and Amanda Chat About Amanda’s New Book!


Megan: So, what made you think of this story?
Amanda: Well–Romeo and Juliet! Or the Zeffirelli movie version of it. Along with movies like A Dangeous Beauty and Casanova. I love the aesthetics of Renaissance Italy, the clothes, the villas, the whole juxtaposition of violence and feuds with the most amazing art and learning. And Venice is so romantic and mysterious! Julietta and Marc just seemed to belong there.
Megan: And what made you change your writing venue from Regency England to 16th century Venice?
Amanda: The Regency well had run dry! After the books and novellas at Signet, I had a very hard time getting excited about any Regency ideas. But I’ve always been interested in the Renaissance (being a complete history geek). The tremendous optimism of the time period, the advances in science and exploration, the rise of humanism and art–not just in terms of technique, but in what it meant to be an Artist. What it meant to really be human. Tremendously exciting. (Plus those great gowns!). And now even the Regency well is refilling with new ideas!
Megan: How did you do your research?
Amanda: I read a lot! (Plus forced myself to watch those movies over and over again. It was terrible, but anything for my craft…) I also found a great treasure at a book sale just as I was starting this story–a reproduction of a 16th century souvenir book full of colored sketches of Venice during Carnival. Masked revelers pelting each other with eggshells full of perfume, dance barges on the Grand Canal, sword duels, the Marriage of the Sea ceremony. It was a great inspiration, many of those scenes found their way into the A Notorious Woman! Masked balls at the Piazza San Marco, for instance. Some other great sources were Cohn’s Women in the Street: Essays on Sex and Power in Renaissance Italy; Ruggiero’s Binding Passions: Tales of Magic, Marriage, and Power at the End of the Renaissance; Wills’ Venice: Lion City; and Newton’s The Dress of the Venetians, 1495-1525. (These are just a few).
Megan: What’s with the codpieces? How did they work exactly?
Amanda: Heh heh, you said ‘codpieces’!! (Sorry, immature moment there. Ahem). In short (ha! short!), a codpiece is a flap or pouch attached to the front of trousers/hose, held closed by string ties or buttons. At first, anyway, this was a matter of modesty–hose were very snug, open at the crotch, with a man’s, er, equipment loose under the doublet. As doublets got shorter, this was just not going to work anymore, and the codpiece became a thing of vanity. They became padded to emphasize the genital area, weirdly shaped. To see some examples, you can go here. (BTW, in Middle English, cod or codd means “bag”. Get it? Tee hee).
Megan: It seemed as if you might be thinking of continuing this with one of the other characters; do you have plans to go on with the series?
Amanda: When I first wrote this story, I didn’t mean to set up sequels! But, as characters sometimes do, Nicolai and then Balthazar caught my imagination. They needed their own stories! Their own heroines! I had also been thinking of another character for a while, a beautiful French assassin, et voila! She turned out to be a great match for Nicolai (even though she tried to kill him in the past. Oops). Balthazar was a bit tougher to matchmake for–he’s handsome but, well, complicated. He has to go to the Caribbean to find his love (and no, it’s not Elizabeth Swann!). I also may have to go there, and do in-depth research on beaches and pina coladas for this book…
Megan: Your heroine is a perfumier (is that the right word??). What’s your favorite scent?
Amanda: I love perfume, and read way too many perfume blogs! (Check out this and this). Unfortunately, I seem to have a weird body chemistry that makes scents I love in the bottle (like Chanel #5 and Joy) smell like motor oil when I put them on. But I have two stand-bys–Evelyn by Crabtree & Evelyn (a summery rose smell!) and Coco Mademoiselle for special occasions (why this works and #5 doesn’t, I dunno). It was so much fun to research Renaissance methods and styles of perfume bottles.
Megan: Are there real people who were the inspirations behind Julietta and Marc?
Amanda: I wish there was a Marc! As for Julietta–I guess she is a bit like me (sadly not the tall part). Most of my heroines are either something like me or something like how I wish I was. Or a mix. And heroes are guys I wish I could meet.
Megan: What are you working on now?
Amanda: I just started working on a Regency-set story (book #2 in the upcoming “Muses of Mayfair”–Clio’s story), which is set in Sicily. After that, on to Balthazar’s Caribbean story!
Megan: In your writing, do you feel you’re taking risks? How?
Amanda: I think trying an Italian Renaissance setting was a risk. And some editors felt the story was too “dark” (even though no one dies or gets tortured or anything!!). I was lucky Harlequin loved it, and saw the potential! Sometimes there are stories we just have to tell, and this was one for me. Also, I find myself drawn more to experienced, more complex heroines lately, women who are making their own way in a dangerous world. (Julietta owns a perfume shop, and dabbles in some alchemy on the side; Marguerite, Nicolai’s lady, is a spy/assassin; Balthazar’s heroine, Kate, runs a tavern in Santo Domingo). They’re more of a match for the heroes, LOL!
Megan: Is there anything you wanted to include in this book that you (or your CPs or editor) felt was too controversial and left out?
Amanda: Originally, there was more about Julietta’s alchemical experiments! But it was cut due to word count constraints. I do tend to ramble on when not given perimeters! They did let me keep the Greek fire, which I really enjoyed…
Be sure and comment for the chance to win a signed copy of A Notorious Woman, on shelves now! Winner will be announced Monday morning. And sign up for the Risky newsletter at riskies@yahoo.com, to get news of upcoming interviews and contests, and other fun stuff!

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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ChristyJan
15 years ago

A Notorious Woman sounds like a wonderful read.
I enjoyed the interview. (also the info on codpieces – lol).

Li
Li
15 years ago

I normally just lurk on this blog – but I just had to say that it sounds like an incredibly intriguing setting! You don’t see a romance set in the Renaissance period everyday. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for this book.

bamabelle
15 years ago

I find the Renaissance period fascinating as well. Thanks for the interview. A Notorious Woman sounds amazing, by the way!

Hugs, Zara

Diane Gaston
15 years ago

Oh, I can hardly wait to read this book!
Welcome, Li, and everyone. We love lurkers just as much as our blog commentators.

Now for a REAL codpiece, check out Gerard Butler in 300!

Suisan
15 years ago

Love the renaissance! What a treat. And thanks to the both of you for posting this interview.

KimW
15 years ago

A story set in Venice….I want to read it! It sounds so good. A Dangerous Beauty is one of my favorite movies. I have it on tape and CD. I think I’ve watched it as least 50 times. No exaggeration here. lol If Marc has a little bit of of Marco in him, I’m going to love it.

Seeley deBorn
15 years ago

Oh, that sounds wonderful! I’ve been searching for new historical eras.

COngratulations! I can’t wait to read it.

Sela Carsen
15 years ago

Fantastic! I wrote a short story set in Venice during the Italian Renaissance and had SO MUCH FUN! This sounds like a great read. Can’t wait to get my hands on it.

As for perfume, I can’t wear Chanel #5, either. Smells awful on me. Chanel #9, however, smells terrible in the bottle, but it works with my chemistry.

Janet Mullany
15 years ago

I think you’re very brave tackling (is that really an appropriate word?) codpieces, Amanda, because I think they’re incredibly funny. But congrats on the book and I’m going to look for it in the store later today!

Cara King
15 years ago

By the way, Amanda, I LOVE your cover!!!! Ecstatic sigh…

And I can’t wait to read your book! I adore Venice, and how colorful the Renaissance was….

BTW, Kim, I loved Dangerous Beauty too! I think the verbal wordplay in it is fantastic — one rarely gets that in a movie (or even a book) nowadays…

Cara

Amanda McCabe
15 years ago

Welcome Li, and other lurkers! I love knowing that you’re out there. ๐Ÿ™‚

Diane–now, was GB’s costume a “codpiece” or a “loincloth”? Important distinction. ๐Ÿ™‚

Kim W–I admit I DID picture Rufus Sewell a bit when writing this story! I also loved him in the movie “Cold Comfort Farm,” where he managed to be hot-looking and ridiculously silly/funny at the same time…

Sela–isn’t is funny how different perfumes work? Mademoiselle also smells weird and chemical-ly in the bottle (to me), but light and nice when I put it on. It makes me feel “French” when I wear it, LOL.

Janet–I actually sort of just “ignored” the fact that the men in the story would wear codpieces. Except when the heroine notes that the hero has no need of exaggerated/padded codpiece styles, tee hee.

Cara King
15 years ago

Kim W–I admit I DID picture Rufus Sewell a bit when writing this story!

You know, I always liked him fine as a villain, and I loved him in “Dark City”, but I didn’t get his appeal in a romantic sense until I saw him onstage in Stoppard’s “Rock and Roll.” Maybe it’s because I’d never seen him smile before… ๐Ÿ™‚

Cara

Patty
15 years ago

I can’t wait to read this book! It sounds fantastic and I know I’ll enjoy it. Let’s just say–I’ve enjoyed all of Amanda’s books.

Maureen
15 years ago

I also enjoy a more complicated heroine, either in how she lives her life or what she believes.

Andrea Pickens
Andrea Pickens
15 years ago

I am thrilled to report that “A Notorious Lady” was facing out on the shelves of my Borders today. (And where I live in CT is not a very romance-friendly area)
Naturally I snatched up a copy and told everyone in the store what a wonderful book it is. Having had a chance to read the WIP, I can assure everyone that it is absolutely fabulous! As Ammanda says, her heoines keep evolving and Julietta is one of her most complex womenโ€”she’s dark and vulnerable and mysterious . . . readers will love learning her secrets. And Marc is a perfect match.

robynl
15 years ago

what an interesting job – dabbling in alchemy. With your love of perfume, do you collect perfume bottles/containers or have you ever thought of doing this? Thanks.

janegeorge
15 years ago

What synchronicity, I just watched the film PERFUME today. It was interesting, and Alan Rickman was in it. ๐Ÿ™‚

My son was lucky enough to visit Venice this summer and reported that it was smelly and touristy. His opinion shall not affect my enthusiasm for A Notorious Lady. I’ve always been intrigued by the masks, etc. And there’s something deeply psychologically unsettling about a city built on water. It’s dream-like. Count me in.

Jason
Jason
15 years ago

I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for A Notorious Woman – it sounds like a really great book!

Keira Soleore
15 years ago

Amanda, squee! Your interview! And how gorgeous you look in that Regency outfit. Last year’s??

Diane, what I want to know is whether GB was wearing a bologna or a huevos rancheros in 300.

AndreaP, *waves madly* hi to you! Thanks for the tip on Borders. I was going to wait till Wednesday, but now I can buy it sooner!!

andrea Pickens
15 years ago

I’m waving back Keira! It was such fun to meet you in Dallas. Doesn’t Ammanda have the prettiest dresses in the universe? I can’t wait to see what her mother whips up when she asks for a Renaissance gown! BTW Ammanda, have you broached the subject with your mother? That would be a killer dress, so make sure to beg and grovel. We expect to see it in San Francisco!

Sela Carsen
15 years ago

Jane, tell your ds to visit in winter next time. Venice in February is perfect. Not cold at all and no smell. Not to mention no mobs of tourists.

Amanda McCabe
15 years ago

Robynl–I do have a (very) small collection of perfume bottles! I keep them in a glass cabinet in the bathroom, they’re a mix of newer ones and a few antiques I’ve received for presents or picked up on trips (including a dark blue one from Murano!). I’ll have to take a picture of them and use them in a post here.

Janegeorge–“dream-like” is such a perfect description! It doesn’t even feel like a real place, more like a magic, fantasy city. Like Sela says, visit in the off-season–I went in winter, cold but almost no people crowding up the churches and museums. I’ve heard that in summer it’s almost impossible. And in the book, I do mention the smells of the canal, but I bet in the 16th century EVERYTHING smelled bad (including the people–except those who bought Julietta’s perfumes, LOL)

Keira and Andrea, thanks so much for the compliments on my costumes!! I’m working on persuading my mother to work on something “different” for next year. (And Keira, the blue dress WAS from last year! I also have a white muslin trimmed with blue ribbons, a pink and white one, and a satin pelisse in Regency styles…)

Tracy Grant
15 years ago

Amanda, this book sounds *fabulous*! I love dark stories and complex, experienced heroines, and Renaiisance Venice is such a fascinating setting! (I too could watch Romeo & Juliet and A Dangerous Beauty over and over again). The next two books in the series sound very intriguing too. Was it hard to switch to the mindset of Renaissance characters after writing about the Regency?

anne
15 years ago

What a fascinating book. The setting has me completey captivated and I love reading about that period as well. Wonderful interview!

Maggie Robinson
15 years ago

I’m always up for a different time period/location from the usual historical romance, and will definitely look for your new book! Chanel #5 is my favorite…thank goodness it doesn’t smell like motor oil on me. Also love Yvresse (which used to be YSL Champagne, but I think the name Champagne is trademarked so they had to change the name of the scent. It’s very hard to get…smells drinkable,like peaches!). Perfume was definitely a necessity in your time period…I shudder to think what smells it masked!

HeatherB
15 years ago

I love historical romance, but every once in a while, I need a setting that is a little different. A Notorious Woman sounds like just what I need. Renaissance Italy is truly one of my favorite periods of history. I look forward to reading your book.

Diane Gaston
15 years ago

It was a CODPIECE and what was underneath was all real….

Diane (running upstairs to see if her talking Leonidas Action Figure is anatomically correct)

Amanda McCabe
15 years ago

Tracy–there were a few challenges moving from the 19th century to the 16th! Most of it was external stuff–the Renaissance was so bawdy and gritty, in more of an “outward” way than the Regency (the Regency was certainly plenty bawdy and gritty, but not so “out there” with it, if that makes sense, LOL). And I sometimes found myself writing bits of dialogue using Regency slang that had to be changed. ๐Ÿ™‚

Maggie–I remember smelling YSL Champagne once! It was sooo yummy and delicious. But then I never could find it again. Now I know why, it has a whole new name!! Champs Elysees is also a very nice scent.

Andrea Pickens
Andrea Pickens
15 years ago

Uhhhhhh, Diane, just HOW are you so sure what’s beneath the codpiece is real . . . if you don’t mind me asking . ๐Ÿ™‚

Kimberly L
15 years ago

The interview was great. I cannot wait to read the book. Amandas books are great, I’m going to have to buy this one if I don’t win. Have a great weekend.

Cherie J
15 years ago

I am intrigued by the use of the Renaissance setting in this book. Sounds like an unusual story. Enjoyed the intervirew!

Keira Soleore
15 years ago

Holy Smokes, Andrea, you’re one brave person. Questioning Diane about HIS talent, er, talented equipment?!

Ammanda, perhaps you could bring your mom to the soiree next year, so we can all ooh and aah and gush over your various outfits and then see if we can bribe her. Besides, with your various outfits, you could change outfits multiple times during the day (BM Conf). ๐Ÿ™‚

I read the piece about you in the RT magazine. Very cool!!

Talking about being “out there,” did you find yourself changing how you write the “getting it on” scenes to fit the period? And if so, how?

In terms of clothing, what was the most difficult aspects of your heroine’s and hero’s clothing that you had to adjust to and make accomodation for in your plotlines?

Elena Greene
15 years ago

Congrats for getting a book out in a less-explored time period. And I’m not surprised the Regency well is filling back up as a result. Switching gears can be such a smart move.

Can’t wait to read this one–I’ve even got a vacation coming up in a few weeks so it’ll be perfect!

Todd
15 years ago

Sorry I missed the party, but I look forward to reading the book! It sounds terrific. I’m a total history geek, too. (OK, I’m a total geek, full stop.)

Many congratulations!

Todd-who-has-never-been-to-Venice-but-has-been-to-The-Venetian-in-Las-Vegas-so-does-that-count?

Anonymous
Anonymous
14 years ago

I loved your interview! I laughed out loud when you discussed cod pieces. hee-hee! I can’t wait for your next book.