Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An Interview with Donna Russo Morin

I'm so pleased to introduce Donna Russo Morin as your featured author this week. I very much enjoyed interviewing her and I know you'll find her interview fascinating.


1. Welcome, I’m so glad to have this opportunity to chat with you. Can you share with my readers the essence of the story you’ve penned?

It is my genuine pleasure to be here; thank you so much for the opportunity.

THE SECRET OF THE GLASS is set at the dawn of the 17th Century. At time when the world-reknown Murano glass-makers are celebrated, revered, and imprisoned by the Venetian government. Sophia Fiolario, the daughter of a glass making maestro, has no desire for marriage, finding her serenity in the love of her family and the beauty of the glass. She learns of its secrets at her father’s side, where a woman has no right to be. But the life Sophia loves is threatened and she’s thrust into the opulent world of the Venice court, becoming embroiled in the scheming machinations of the courtiers’ lives. The beauty of Venice, the magnificence of the Doge’s Palace, can only be rivaled by the intrigue and danger that festers behind their splendid facades. As she searches for an escape, she finds the arms of another, a man whose own desperate situation is yet another obstacle in their path.

Amidst political and religious intrigue, the scientific furor ignited by Galileo, and even murder, Sophia must do anything to protect herself, her family…and the secret of the glass.

2. You’ve chosen a very interesting title. What inspired the title? What inspired the book?

Like so much of life, the story and the title really came to me in the most unexpected of ways. When Katie Couric became anchor of the CBS Evening News I decided to watch to support her, even though I’m not a great fan of television news programs. Within that broadcast was a two-minute feature story on the glassmakers of Murano. One point in particular caught and captured my imagination: for hundreds of years the glassmakers of Venice were virtual prisonors in their own land, captives of a government determined to keep the prestige and profit produced by the glass for themselves. Within a half hour of viewing that story, I had a two page synopsis written, a plot that mapped out a story about a young Murano woman who must somehow save herself while protecting ‘the secret of the glass.’

3. What makes this book special to you?

As a second generation Italian American and a writer of European historicals, I really wanted to set a book in a the land I consider my second country. Then, when I started my research, I found Galileo. I was unaware of how much time he had spent in the magical city of Venice. I knew nothing of the symbiotic relationship between him and this wonderful land. But I was astounded when I learned that, like myself, the professor suffered from a chronic illness. The more I read, the more convinced I became that, had the astronomer been privy to modern day medicine, his diagnosis would have been auto-immune, like my own. I found kinship in his tale of determination, one echoed in the story of the land itself and the people that had made it so unique.

4. What makes this a book that people MUST read and WHY?

I think I’ve blended unique and highly intriguing characters, both real and imagined, in a setting that has always incited great curiousity. Venice is a magical, mythical place, one of the most distinctive on our planet. Add to that a history rich in culture, conflict, and complexity, and you’ve got a story that gives a reader everything they could hope for.

5. What sparks your creativity? Any tips to help others spark their own creativity?

I’ve often said the old adage ‘write what you know’ would better serve the aspiring writing if it read ‘write what you love.’ Don’t try to write a book that you yourself wouldn’t love to read. At the beginning of my career, I floundered a bit with genre and, not surprisingly, found little success. Once it clicked for me, once I accepted my love for historical fiction and started to write it, success came. Don’t try to develop a story just because you think it will sell or you think it’s the ‘in’ genre of the moment; trends in literature change faster than the seasons. Find a story that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up with excitement and write it.

6. What has been the biggest stumbling block in your writing? Can you share some tips to help others get past similar problems?

Self-confidence and the ability to take criticism without allowing it to affect the ego. For too many years, I didn’t believe that I could actually be a writer though I had been writing since I was a young child. Once I convinced myself, it became much easier to convince others.

Tied to that is the ability to be rejected. As writers we have to know unequivocally that everywhere along the line people are going to tell us what is wrong with our work. It is in the submission process, it is in the editing process, and it is in the release process, when our ‘babies’ go out into the world. You have to be able to separate the rejection of your work from rejection of your self. See it for what it is, and get as much from it as you can (even the nastiest review can give the writer something useful if they’re open to it).

7. Tell me about the most unusual things you have done to promote your book?

I’m very fortunate to have two sons (young men now at 19 and 16) who are my greatest supporters. For my first book, my oldest dressed as a Musketeer and accompanied me to all my book signings. For THE SECRET OF THE GLASS, the youngest will be dressed as a gondolier. It’s really been helpful in reaching out to people. I can be a little shy with people I don’t know, but my ‘characters’ give me a great ice breaker.

8. Each author is different in the way they create a work of fiction. Please describe for us how you plan or plot a story.

I like to say I write the way I do because its historical fiction and by its very nature—the inclusion of so many historical facts and the need to stay true to those facts—I need to be very analytical with the process, but I think its just an excuse. I am a ferocious plotter.

During the research process I develop a binder (usually 3” thick) of historical data, broken down by subject matter. Then I create a scene by scene breakdown of the entire story by merging that data with my synopsis. Then I begin to write.

Of course, nothing is set in stone. On every book I’ve written, there always comes a point when a character take over and does something unexpected, and I run with it when it happens.

9. Authors are very unique in the way they write, the tools they use, when they write, etc. Please describe a typical writing day for you? How do you organize your day?

So much depends on what my kids are up to. Because my office is actually our old dining room, I’m smack dab in the middle of the house. Their comings and goings, and the subsequent noise and distractions, dictate what I do and when. If I can get four to five hours of quiet writing work in a day, I take it, no matter what time it comes (sometimes starting at 8:00 in morning, or working until 10:00 or 11:00 at night). I can usually get two to three thousand words done in that time frame. During the not so quiet hours I get my research work and plotting work done, or take that opportunity to do some promotion work.

I’m not really big on tools, or any kind of writing programs or devices. I’ve seen a lot of organizational programs and character development programs and it always seems to me that in the time it takes to set these up and plug in the material, you could be writing.

10. What is your current work in progress?

My next release, tentatively titled TO SERVE A KING, is scheduled as an April 2010 release. Here’s the blurb:

They told her that her parents were dead, perished in a fire she barely remembered, a fire set by a king they taught her to hate. ‘They’ were her aunt and the jolly king, and she had believed them. From that day forward, Genevieve Gravois swore her allegiance to Henry VIII and no other. Raised by her cold and heartless aunt, she learned things no woman should know: how to write and decipher codes, how to use a dagger and a bow…how to kill.

When the time is ripe, Genevieve is thrust into the court of Fran├žois I, a dangerous and magnificent place, as replete with intrigue and conflict as it is with the world’s finest artists and musicians. Here, two mistresses, Anne d’Heilly and Diane de Poitiers, struggle for ultimate power. Here, the likes of Catherine de Medici and Nostradamus explore the realm of the unknown. And here, Genevieve carries out her duties for the king she loved, spying on Fran├žois, doing whatever Henry demanded of her. But the French king is not what she thought him to be, his truth at odds with all she had learned. Her life tangles with lives of others, both worthy and disgraceful, in circumstances none of her training had prepared her for. Genevieve’s life spins out of control and she is forced to make deadly decisions about her true and ultimate loyalties.

11. Can you tell us where to find more information about you and your books and how readers can reach you?

You can visit me at my website, www.donnarussomorin.com, where you’ll find excerpts from all my books and information on my appearances. You can contact me through the site via email or my guestbook (I love receiving comments on my guestbook; it’s been one of the surprising joys of becoming a published author). People can also friend me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Donna.Russo.Morin.

12. What would you like our readers to know about you and your writing?

There’s a little piece of me in every one of my stories and I’m always hopeful that readers find a piece of themselves there as well. There are human struggles that we all share, but it often feels like we’re going through them alone. I like to think that as readers empathize and identify with one of my characters, they find a partner in whatever they’re own struggle may be. And, in an odd way, I connect with them when they do.

Most of all, I sincerely want to entertain while informing. I’m always so immensely pleased when I reader tells me how astounded they were by a certain fact in my book, that they were so intrigued by it they sought out other books on the topic. That’s simply marvellous. I’m committed to providing an intellectual escape…leave the challenges of this life behind and jump into another time, another place, one filled with adventure and romance, but one that stimulates at the same time.