I’ve been lucky to get arcs of both Venom and Belladonna by Fiona Paul. I’m going crazy from wanting book Starling, especially when Fiona tweets out little teasers about things…
Anyhoo. When I finished reading Belladonna, I DM’d Fiona, flailing all about the plot, swoons and ending. [Damn you, second book in a trilogy! *shakes fist*] Somehow, I got Fiona agree to take the time to do an interview.
But, before we get to her answers, let’s check out Belladonna.
In the second in the stunning Secrets of the Eternal Rose series, Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancé, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he’s arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass’s life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose—the only evidence that will prove he’s innocent.
So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of vampirism, secret soirees and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who is working for the Order’s eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.
Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time? Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.
Sounds good, right?
1. Where did you get the idea for The Secrets of the Eternal Rose series?
The Eternal Rose books were developed in collaboration with Paper Lantern Lit. The development company heads, Lexa Hillyer and Lauren Oliver (yes, that Lauren Oliver), came to me with the idea for a murder mystery set in Renaissance Venice. I had recently traveled to Venice and am a major art history nerd so I was excited to work on something so glamorous and fun. Together we developed the initial concept into something more complex and sinister (with lots of kissing, of course). I know a lot of readers wanted to find out more about The Order of the Eternal Rose in Venom, and I did too, but all of my attempts to incorporate the Order (including an epilogue that was cut but might resurface as part of a blog tour someday) felt inorganic and forced. After finishing the draft, I realized that Venom is its own story and also the inciting incident for the rest of the trilogy, and I’m okay with that.
2. I love how Cass is so strong and sure of herself, until it comes to Falco. And I have some theories about Falco too. How did they both develop as characters?
Sometimes I think that Falco comes from the parts of me that I like and Cass comes from the parts of me that I don’t like. I definitely found Cass difficult to write at times. She can be such a follower, and I’m a big believer in strong female characters who blaze their own paths. However, Cass is a product of her environment and it’s not fair to judge her based on present day. She’s pretty tough for a Renaissance chick, and yet still maintains a sense of loyalty to her family that I find endearing. Cass continues to step it up in each of the books so that by the time we get to the end of book #3 she’s really grown up, and I’m proud of her. Falco was pure bliss to write. I just let him say all of the cocky, sarcastic stuff that popped in my head and softened him over time as his feelings for Cass developed into something deeper than physical attraction.
3. Speaking of Falco, would you ever consider writing something from his POV?
Paper Lantern Lit owns the rights to the characters so anything from Falco’s POV would have to be with their blessing. I spent a lot of my formative years hanging out with guys and I definitely feel comfortable writing from a male POV. One of my contemporary novels that I’m not allowed to talk about yet is written from the POV of a slacker boy and I had a lot of fun with it. Of course I gave it to some slacker boy friends to critique and they pointed out a couple of issues, but for the most part they were impressed by my mastery of the Y-chromosome and its inner-workings ;)
4. Did you see the ending of the series right away?
OMG, no. I mean, obviously if you have an evil Order and a love triangle you are going to have to deal with said evil Order and resolve your triangle (at least in my world, you are. I am not a fan of the super-open ‘hey reader, you fill in the blanks’ ending) but I did not know who Cass would end up with or how one foofy-dress-wearing Renaissance girl and her friends could possibly face down a powerful secret society. But the beautiful thing is, now that it is all finished, I realize it could not have happened any other way. Everyone ends up exactly where they belong. Cass becomes the woman she’s meant to become. All is right in the Renaissance Venice universe, for now anyway.
5. Will there be kissing in book 3?
I know there are all kinds of deep, insightful books out there that don’t have kissing. I applaud these authors for tackling important issues, adding to the literary canon, and changing the world and whatnot. But dude, sometimes I get to change the world at my day job. At night, I write the stories I want to read and I want fun, sexy, exciting books with KISSING. If they happen to change the world too, then great. If not, I’m okay with that. Plus my Penguin editor is a total kiss-a-holic, maybe even worse than me. I sometimes joke that she has me on a makeout scene quota. So hellz yeah, there will be kissing :)
Speed [ish] round:
1. What’s your go to guilty pleasure thing to eat?
I consume mad quantities of Fire Jolly Ranchers when I’m writing, but I wouldn’t say I feel guilty about it. Maybe those Totino’s party pizzas? Those pack an impressive 60% of the recommended daily allowance of both saturated fat and sodium in one pizza. As an RN, I should know better, but they’re so tasty and convenient.
2. What are you reading right now?
>I’m on a contemporary bender. I just finished The Spectactular Now by Tim Tharp and Uses For Boya by Erica Scheidt and I’m starting Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert. I also have Stay With Me by Paul Griffin queued up and I am salivating for Game by Barry Lyga.
3. Who are your favorite swoony boys?
Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road. Cole from the Shiver trilogy. Ash from Black City. Do these have to be book boys? There’s always Iron Man or Logan from Veronica Mars or Mal from Firefly or Nathan Fillion in real life. Also, I swoon for Henry Rollins. Hopefully he won’t hunt me down and kick my ass for saying that ;)
4. Are there any authors that you fangirl over?
My mom loves when I tell the story of how she invited my fave author from my high school days, Dean Koontz, to my Venom launch and he had to politely decline but he sent both of us autographed books. Then, of course, I had to write him and thank him for being totes awesome to my mom, and he wrote back again with the kindest words of writing encouragement. #1 NYT bestseller Dean Koontz had time for little old me, twice! Yeah, if I ever get rich I’m giving lots of money to golden retriever charities in honor of the Deanster. He rocks :) I have also sent embarrassing fangirl tweets to Libba Bray and Sarah Dessen and think (like most people) that JK Rowling is made of 100% awesome.
Huge thanks to Fiona for taking the time to answer my questions and always answering my emails, regardless of what they’re about.
Now. In honor of Belladonna‘s book birthday, I’ve got one up for grabs. Plus, some signed bookmarks!
Rules for the giveaway are listed under the “terms and conditions” on the Rafflecopter widget.