In which it’s bonus day

Today’s bonus bit for SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY comes courtesy of an Italian blog that was kind enough to interview me on the release of the follow up to SILENT IN THE GRAVE.

Why did you choose to set the house of the Marches in an Abbey? Belmont Abbey must be a very suggestive place, that probably marked deeply the childhood of all the members of this strange family. Can you tell us about this? I wanted a setting that would be deeply atmospheric, something Gothic and strange, and as you say, someplace very meaningful for the people who live there. I’m always fascinated by homes that are conversions from the building’s original purpose– chapels, schools, train stations, convents. It is easy to alter the fabric of a building for another purpose, but I wonder if it is easy to alter the feeling of a place or whether some of the previous use will linger? I imagined ghostly monks and the old carp ponds and bell towers and it felt right for the Marches. It just added a great depth of interest to the setting. It also made it very easy to structure because Cistercian abbeys were built on a pattern. I knew where everything ought to go, and how the various structures would have been adapted for a family to live there.

In your all your books there is a perfect mix of history, mystery and romance (this last, very appreciated by our readers)… So, what do you think about these three literary genres, and what is, for you, the keystone – the main element – of a novel? I am greedy; I like a novel to give me all three of those elements! I want a compelling story, preferably with a puzzle at the heart of it. I want the tension of a relationship developing over the course of the tale, and I love to be taken out of my own time by a storyteller who can really conjure a different period. I am willing to compromise and read books with two of the three elements, but I won’t settle for less. I want to be fully engaged when I read.

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In “Silent in the Sanctuary” we find a Julia Gray that is very different from the one of “Silent in the Grave”, she is more confident, but she isn’t the classic heroine all perfection and vulnerability. I noticed that in a great part of your characters good&evil are not marked by a clear division, and not always the villains are punished in what could be described “the right way”. What do you think? I think that the law and justice are very often two different things. I believe very strongly in karma and that what good or evil you do in the world is repaid in kind to you. I think that’s reflected in what happens to the various characters in the Julia Grey series. And honestly, I think very few people are entirely good or entirely evil. Most people are a fascinating mix of both and it’s very interesting to me to see where the tipping point of the scale is to determine where they will end up.

Nicholas Brisbane is a very fascinating male character, and I believe that all the women readers would like to read a lot more about the feelings that bound him to Julia… You doted him of many peculiarities: he has gypsy origins, he acts like an aristocrat, and he has the gift of the “sight”… But for the great part of your novels his emotions are unintellegible for us… Don’t be so cruel! Reveal us something about his heart! I never tell too much about Nicholas because I think his enigmatic ways are a great part of his charm. I can tell that once his heart is won, it is forever. He is not a man who permits himself to love lightly. He is not comfortable with vulnerability, his own or anyone else’s. Julia is a complication he would not have gone looking for!

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Let’s start from the beginning… Silent in the Grave… and now, Silent in the Sanctuary… they aren’t only beautiful novels, but are parts of a wonderful saga. In them, we read about the same main characters, a richly described female protagonist – Lady Julia Grey – who struggles to find and to affirm herself, and a dark and hansome male character, Nicholas Brisbane, surrounded by a powerful halo of mystery. How did you have this splendid idea, and how long do you intend to hold us with bated breath? Please, tell us that we can hope in a happy ending for their heart-beating love story! The story began when I read about a poisoning case in 18th century France. The victims were a string of women, all married to a murderous man. I started playing a “what-if” game and turned the tables. I made the victim male, and that meant the wife had to be involved somehow. So I made her the detective, but she needed a partner; I created Nicholas. The rest of it just sprang from necessity or imagination. Some characters or circumstances came about because I needed them to further the story. Others were created because they added depth or detail. I can’t give you hints about the ending of the series  because I don’t know when the ending will come! The third Julia Grey novel is about to be published and I know there will be at least one more although my publisher has alluded to several. I expect it will be up to reader demand how far the series goes.

From author to author… I appreciated very much the rich plot of your stories, marked by many sensational developments, so I’m very curious to hear how Deanna Raybourn “walks through” when she’s starting to think about a new novel. My novels always begin with a single snippet of an idea. It can be a line of poetry, a painting, an odd historical fact. And then I start weaving the spider’s web out from there. I try to think it out logically; if A happens, then B must happen. What sort of person would do A in the first place? What would they do if C happened instead? Plot and character are developed at the same time, with plot usually coming in just a bit ahead. I read and research while I’m plotting, and then I write, always without a detailed, formal outline. I know my characters. I know where we’re beginning; I know where we’re going. I’m just never certain quite how we’re going to get there. But each day’s scene dictates the scene for the next day, so on a day-to-day basis I know precisely what I’m doing. Usually I know the next two or three scenes, but no more.

Talking about characters, I do believe that any woman who reads your “Silents”, is longing for for Nicholas Brisbane. Truly, he is a very fascinating male character… And, in some way, he recalls me about Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy. Is there a real connection between the two? Or how can you describe us your Nicholas? I adore Mr. Darcy, along with several other Austen and Bronte heroes, but Nicholas is darker than Darcy. He has much more emotional baggage, and he isn’t terribly nice at times. He casually uses drugs and has had numerous romantic liaisons, and he isn’t above breaking the law if it suits his sense of justice. If they were relatives, Darcy would be the pillar of rectitude while Nicholas would be his black-sheep cousin.

How much of Deanna Raybourn there is in her books? That is, both Silent in the Grave and Silent in the Sanctuary are written in the first person, with the voice of Lady Julia Gray telling directly the whole story, following her personal point of view. Do you identified yourself with Julia? And, if I can ask you something about your writing-style, did you have some difficulties – being an American woman of the XXI century – in setting yourself in such a different reality, as much as to summon up so vividly the London (and England) of the seventy’s of the XIX century? Everyone who knows me well spotted immediately that Julia Grey is hugely autobiographical. Not in the particulars—I’m not a wealthy Victorian aristocrat and I am happily married and have no siblings—but as I like to say, the views from her eyes and mine aren’t so very different. Julia is a modern woman for the Victorian age, so I think that makes her accessible and sympathetic for modern readers, and it’s very easy for me to get inside her head. In fact, when I’m wondering what Julia would do in a given circumstance, I usually just picture what I would do and write it! As far as the research, I love reading, particularly about history—journals, letters, memoirs. It all helps to create the Victorian world of Julia Grey, which incidentally is not the Victorian world of Sherlock Holmes or Jane Eyre. It was important to me to create a distinct part of Victoriana that was connected to real history, but lightly. There are occasional discussions of great events, but they are never as meaningful to the characters as the little domestic dramas and murderous events in their own homes. I think that’s how most people live. Unless there is a war being fought outside our front door, we tend to worry about our immediate lives, our families, our friends. That’s how the characters in the Julia Grey books function.

And now, last but not least, I know that you are very busy at the moment, working a lot to many new projects. Could you reveal us something about those new works? Do you have in mind some other projects that aren’t connected with Julia’s investigations? And there is the slight possibility to see Julia and Nicholas on the big screen, as I read something about a choice of yours of actors on a website? I am working on my fourth novel, a mysterious tale set in Transylvania and Scotland in 1898. There are no characters from the Julia Grey books in this one, but I think readers of the series will enjoy it as well. As soon as this book is put to bed, I expect to go straight into the fourth Julia Grey novel, and I’m looking forward to it. I missed the characters! I am also working with my publisher to develop content specifically for the e-book editions so readers who purchase the e-books will receive some goodies that only they get to see. I’m also developing my website, from a daily blog to a more comprehensive site, and I am preparing for the March release of Silent on the Moor. As far as film adaptations, we’ve had interest from a few production companies, but the rights are still available.