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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Blog Tour & Author Interview: Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark

Today we welcome Elle Newmark to Morbid Romantic, who is on blog tour for her novel Book of Unholy Mischief. I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Ms. Newmark, so I hope that you enjoy reading it just as I did! I definitely now have this book on my wishlist because it sounds great. I recommend and encourage all of you to do the same. Who can resist the Renaissance?

About Book of Unholy Mischief

Luciano, the wily hero of Newmark's entertaining first novel, is only a street urchin when the doge of Venice's chef finds him, but once dragged into the kitchen as an apprentice, he discovers more bubbling than boiling water. While the town is in an uproar over the rumor of an ancient book containing magical potions and lessons on alchemy, Luciano pines away for a girl and learns the basics of chopping, sweeping and eavesdropping. As he and his maestro become friendlier, Luciano begins to learn that there's more to his teacher than a garden of strange plants and a box of spices. Newmark does a fine job of building suspense and keeping the novel barreling along, and her knowledge of and affection for 15th-century Venice adds charm to this nicely told adventure yarn.

Interview With Elle Newmark

Q: Venice is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and is has such a rich history. Why did you choose Venice as the setting of your novel? 
A: Venice is a mysterious city, a city to get lost in, much as the characters in my book get lost in their intrigues. I think the main character in my story says it best. "I've often revisited Venice since my youth if only to smile at the irony, the enduring illusion of her nobility. The water still whispers tales of death as it laps against decaying palazzi. Men in capes still appear out of the darkness and dissolve back into it. Venice has always been a perfect setting for secrets, seduction, and the melancholy thoughts of a poet. Tainted by iniquity, Venice invites moral surrender not with a playful wink, but with the understanding that she is and always has been sluttish under her regal disguise." 

Q: What sort of research went into making this book or is this a subject you know very well?
A: I did a boatload of research into Renaissance Venice and certain notable people of the time, but there is no substitute for having visited Venice. The unique sights and sounds and smells of a city built on water must be experienced. As for the character of the chef and his apprentice, I drew on the experiences of my father who is a chef and was a chef's apprentice in Italy at the age of 13. I grew up hearing those stories, watching him dice onions at the speed of light and stir a pot like a mad alchemist. All that went into the writing of The Book of Unholy Mischief

Q: When you write something based on historical figures or events, do you worry people finding historical inaccuracies?
A: I do now. I thought I was a pretty rigorous researcher and I did my best to get things right, but several readers have let me know where I went wrong. Just today I heard from a man in Italy who tells me that Savonarola was not hung but burned at the stake. I'm sure my sources said he was hung, but apparently they neglected to mention the fire he was hung over. It might seem a small thing, but it's embarrassing. I will be more careful in the future.

Q: If you could spend the day as or with any historical figure, who would it be and why?
A: Oscar Wilde, and thanks for asking. At this point, I've done a lot of interviews and answered a lot of the same questions but you're the first to ask that one. Oscar Wilde has got to be the most unfailingly witty figure in history. Even on his deathbed in an expensive hotel in Paris he said, "I'm dying above my means." He had the most unusual way of seeing things and must have been enormously entertaining to be with. At the same time, he was a poignant figure, derided and ultimately ruined by small minds. I'd like to spend a day with him if for no other reason that to say, "That-a-boy, Oscar. I think you're great."

Q: What do you do to prepare to write? What is the process that gets you ready to sit down a lay out a story?
A: I can't over think it. I just get down to business and do it. I know that once I have a game plan and something on paper to work with I'll have plenty of time to indulge the muse. But starting is so dreadfully difficult I just have to plunge right in. I write backstories for my characters, most of which I won't use, and I write outlines that I will surely discard. I end up with scads of stuff I'll never use, but it doesn't matter. I just have to start, like priming a pump.

Q: How much of yourself do you put in your characters? Are they extensions of you, or are they independent creations that take on a life of their own after coming from your imagination?
A: Naturally, they must come through me and so are limited by what I know and feel. But as they evolve they do tend to come to life in unexpected ways. At a certain point, when a character is well developed, it is very clear that he or she will simply not do this thing or definitely will do that. When the character starts directing the story things get interesting.

Q: What is the most valuable piece of knowledge that you’ve picked up after becoming a published author that you wish you knew from the start?
A: I'm amazed to say that it takes as much time and effort to promote a book as it does to write it. These days, publishers insist that authors do everything they can to help market the book, and since The Book of Unholy Mischief came out last December I've put a good six months into touring and writing promotional material. I know a lot of writers who balk at this, thinking that promotion is the publishers job, but those days are over. If you publish a book you must realistically expect to put in many months of promotion. If I had known this I would not have made so many other commitments. Next time I'll know better.

Q: What is one thing you’ve never done but would love to do?
A: Well, I'm over sixty so I've done a lot of what I've wanted to do. My biggest priorities have been seeing the world and writing books and I've done some of both but of course there's always more. I'd like to see more of Africa and India, specifically Tanzania and Rahjastan, and I'd like to write a half dozen more books. I guess one thing that would feel great to accomplish is to speak another language fluently. I speak three languages poorly and it seems like a shame not to master at least one of them. I'll have to work on that.

Q: What would your ‘theme’ song be on the soundtrack of your life?
A: There is an old seventies hit called "I Will Survive" that strikes a note with me. You can't live 60 years without hitting a few bumps in the road and learning how to roll with the punches. I must say, this is an unusual interview.

Q: Finally, could you share with all of us a quote that you love?
A: I really like the quote from Isaac Newton that I used as an epigram for The Book of Unholy Mischief. "If I have seen further than other men it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." No one gets anywhere alone. We all owe something to those who came before and it seems right to acknowledge it. A: But I also like this quote from Dorothy Parker: "If you can't say anything nice about anyone, come sit next to me."

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