My guest today has a passion she wants to share with us! Please help me welcome Alana White! Let’s take a look at her bio and find out more about her and her writing process.
Alana White’s passion for Renaissance Italy has taken her to Florence for research on the Vespucci and Medici families on numerous occasions. There along cobbled streets unchanged over the centuries, she traces their footsteps, listening to their imagined voices: Guid’Antonio Vespucci, Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo, Lorenzo de’ Medici. Alana’s first short story featuring real-life fifteenth-century lawyer Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his favorite nephew, Amerigo Vespucci, was a Macavity Award finalist and led to the Guid’Antonio Vespucci Mystery Series featuring The Sign of the Weeping Virgin (Book I) and The Hearts of All on Fire (Book II). A member of the Authors Guild, Sisters in Crime, the Women’s National Book Association, and the Historical Novel Society, Alana currently is writing Book III in the series.
Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest
Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?
Alana: One day while reading National Geographic Magazine, I happened upon an article about the assassination plot to murder Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici on a Sunday morning during Mass in Florence Cathedral in 1478. At the time, the Medici family were the leaders of the most powerful political faction in Florence. One brother was killed, one escaped in a most dramatic way. Since I’ve always loved reading historical fiction, I looked for the book with this amazing event at the heart of the story. I couldn’t find one—so, I determined to write it myself.
The more research I did into the time and these fascinating people, the more hooked I became. Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and my protagonist, Guid’Antonio Vespucci, a lawyer at the time and a bone deep Medici family supporter, were exact contemporaries. Threading together their stories has been equally challenging and enlightening.
Betty What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?
Alana: Persistence and patience. Just sitting down and doing it no matter how challenging it may be. Persevering. Also, I learned to let my heart lead the way.
Betty Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?
Alana: I enjoyed writing about Guid’Antonio’s pet dogs. In The Hearts of All on Fire, his little Lagotto Romagnolo, a ginger, curly-haired, truffle-hunting puppy whom he names Orsetto, or Little Bear, is dear to his heart. And to mine. Orsetto has work to do in the story, both as a character and as an important part of the plot. Thus, he earns his spot beside Guid’Antonio on the cover. In The Hearts of All on Fire, Orsetto serves to underscore Guid’Antonio as a good man—one who loves dogs and treats them well. If someone tries to harm one, fear for your life. In Hearts, his beloved Orsetto provides emotion, danger, and fulfillment, along with yet another dog, a brave little stray, who provides Guid’Antonio with the clues he needs to solve the two murderous threads of the story.
Betty What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?
Alana: A lot! Since my main character was a real-life, well-known Florentine doctor of law, I had to get it “right.” Many of the luminaries of the Italian Renaissance provided me with much grist for the mill. As I say, these are actual people; a lot of research has been done about many of them. Renaissance Florence is a rich tapestry, and it is also a minefield. I can’t write about Guid’Antonio without writing about his friends; Lorenzo de’ Medici, for one strides across a huge stage. These are mysteries, so there must be a crime, one that hits Guid’Antonio close to home, so that we care about him as he untangles the who, how, and why, while protecting those he loves and moving up the ladder of power in Florence.
Betty How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?
Alana: I lost count. All in all, however, from first draft to completed story required about five years. This is about how long it takes me from book to book, including Book I in the series, The Sign of the Weeping Virgin, and this one, which is Book II. Currently I am working on Book III.
Betty What rituals or habits do you have while writing?
Alana: Since these are mysteries, as far as habits, or discipline, really goes, I always plot the entire story before beginning to write. My “overstory,” as I call it, usually runs about 100 pages, or more.
Betty Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?
Alana: I reply on variations of “smile,” far too much, and I tend to use the word “heart.” I keep a close look out for those two, in particular.
Betty Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?
Alana: I love Ellis Peter’s Brother Cadfael series set in medieval England, C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake series in Tudor England, and S. G. McLean’s Damian Seeker series set in the time of Oliver Cromwell.
Betty Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?
Alana: I like a lot of light. In our home, our dining room is all windows, so I enjoy writing there. But then I have a messy dining room table!
Betty As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?
Alana: When just one reader tells me how much they have enjoyed the book, I feel my work is done. That is why I write: for the enjoyment of others.
Betty What is your favorite genre to read?
Alana: Historical fiction, particularly mysteries.
Betty Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?
Alana: Again, I enjoy having readers connect with my characters and with their stories. That means everything to me.
Florence, 1473. An impossible murder. A bitter rivalry. A serpent in the ranks.
Florentine investigator Guid’Antonio Vespucci returns to Florence from a government mission to find his dreams of success shattered. Life is good—but then a wealthy merchant dies from mushroom poisoning at Guid’Antonio’s Saint John’s Day table, and Guid’Antonio’s servant is charged with murder. Convinced of the youth’s innocence and fearful the killer may strike again, Guid’Antonio launches a private investigation into the merchant’s death, unaware that at the same time powerful enemies are conspiring to overthrow the Florentine Republic—and him.
A clever, richly evocative tale for lovers of medieval and renaissance mysteries everywhere, The Hearts of All on Fire is a timeless story of family relationships coupled with themes of love, loss, betrayal and, above all, hope in a challenging world.
Buy Links: Amazon
I remember being fascinated by the Medici family at one point in my life. I still want to go to Italy and that region! Thanks for sharing, Alana!
Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy reading!
Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories
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