Thank you so much, Donna, for taking the time to stop by A Literary Vacation! One of my favorite aspects of interacting with authors is finding out what inspires them to write the novels that they do. Every author seems to have their own unique approach to their craft and learning that process really helps me, as a reader, get a better appreciation for the end result. So I can’t wait to learn more about your process!
Thank you so much for having me. I thoroughly enjoy speaking with bloggers and readers and giving them a peek behind the curtain!
Reading over the synopsis of your newest novel, Portrait of Conspiracy: Da Vinci’s Disciples – Book One, it sounds like a delicious combination of political intrigue and murder, mystery, art, history, and conspiracy. What drew you to incorporate all these various themes into the novel?
That’s a question that truly hits the mark. I was finishing up my work on my previous book, The King’s Agent, which features a real life 15th century Indiana Jones (Battista della Paglia) who was a dear friend of Michelangelo’s, so the Renaissance period and art were very imbedded in my thoughts. At the same time, I was going through a divorce that could have come straight out of a Stephen King novel. I wouldn’t have survived without a core of women who kept me sane (or a little tipsy, depending on the day). I really wanted to continue the art and Renaissance theme, but I also wanted to pay homage to these women, to the power of women when they unite. As I delved further into the period, I found the Pazzi conspiracy, when that family tried to destroy the Medici, who then ruled Florence, in one of the most audacious assassinations ever attempted. Add to that my propensity to try to give women of the past empowerment, even when it wasn’t allowed. I know women found ways of overcoming their limitations, though it no doubt started in secret. So take all those components, put them in a bag, shake it up, and out came Portrait of a Conspiracy.
I can’t imagine the organization and research that must go into writing a book series with so many threads to keep track of. How do you tackle not only the research but keeping all the threads of the stories in line?
I am a prodigious plotter. Some may even call me a bit fanatical. I outline the entire book before I begin writing, not by chapter, but by scene. With this outline, I review all of my research and find what to use and the best place to use it. I typically end up with anywhere from an 80-100 page document. And then (okay, this may be where the fanatical comes from), I make an index of each scene in that outline. That index allows me to know, at a glance, who is doing what and when. On top of that, each one of the main characters in this secret society of women artists has her own document with all her personal history, physical and personality traits, as well as what happens to her. It may all sound like a great deal of overkill, but it allows me—when it comes down to the actual writing—to typical produce 2000-3000 words in a day.
Historical fiction happens to be my all-time favorite genre and I find myself going back and forth between what periods of history are my favorite to read about. Your novels have tackled quite a few fascinating people throughout history and from a variety of countries. Do you have a favorite time period or location to write and/or read about, or do you enjoy jumping around as I do?
The Renaissance has always been a favorite of mine. I am a second-generation, full Italian American and I can trace my roots to 9th century Florence. So of course that’s going to hold a special place in my heart. But in truth, its more people and events that tend to pique my writer’s interest. That’s why I’ve gone from 17th century France (the Musketeers) to 15th century Venice (Galileo and the glassmakers of Murano) to 15th century France (Francois I) to 16th century Italy (Battista della Paglia and Michelangelo) and now to 15th century Florence (the Medicis and da Vinci).
What does a typical day (if there is one) look like for you? How do you balance writing and the rest of your life?
I have to admit, that now that both my sons have finished their education (my eldest has his master’s in vocal performance opera and my youngest holds two degrees in the culinary arts; they graduated a week apart last May), things have gotten much simpler. It was much, much harder when there was soccer and music lessons and boy scouts and cooking and cleaning after two growing boys. I still have an aging, though still vibrant mother that I happily give some time to. And I’m very happy to say that I have at last found love—real love for obviously I didn’t know what it was until now—and he and I are ‘domestic partners’ (what a clinical expression for something so lovely). So there are still external demands on my time. But not nearly what they used to be.
As for a ‘typical’ day…I am a terrible morning person, so I start my days with emails and social media work, trying to get my brain sparking with that. I usually start the real work of writing around noon, break for dinner, then put in another hour or two. I am most definitely at my best later in the day.
A lot of authors have become huge on social media, not only promoting their work but interacting with their readers and offering up giveaways, book recommendations, etc. Are you a big proponent of using social media in this way? How do you prefer to interact with your fans?
I don’t know if anyone has ever been honest about this new component in writing, but publishers expect writers to have as large a social footprint as they possibly can. We have to do it whether we like it or not. Luckily, I do like it. Sometimes I do resent the time it eats up, but having that interaction with readers is rather a gift, at least to me. Being a writer is such a solitary existence; it’s really rather lovely to receive and converse with people who have taken the time and money to purchase and read my work. When you work in an office you have co-workers and bosses to discuss the work, give you a ‘that a girl’ when you need one. Social media has opened that up for authors and I am grateful for it. I encourage all readers of my work to get in touch if they have questions or comments.
I’ve noticed that a lot of authors are also big readers. When you have time for leisure reading what sorts of books do you gravitate towards? Have you read anything good lately?
I honestly don’t believe you can be a good writer unless you are a big reader. You have to immerse yourself in the written word if you hope to produce well written words. I do tend to read a great deal of historical fiction. My last few reads were C. W. Gortner’s The Vatican Princess, Lynn Cullen’s Twain’s End, and Priya Parmar’s Vanessa and Her Sister. I do like a bit of fantasy (George Martin, J. R. R. Tolkien), a bit of horror (King Stephen King) as well as legal thrillers (John Grisham). I always say the written word is my passion as well as my profession.
Can you tell us anything about the book(s) you’re working on now?
I can tell you that I’m working on the last book in the Da Vinci’s Disciples trilogy. It ends not with a whimper but with a bang, a fiery bang. And I will just hint that there is something in the works, something hundreds of years away from anything I’ve done in the past, that I am incredibly excited for. Stay tuned!
Thank you so much, Donna, for stopping by and answering my questions!! I am so excited to hear more about the rest of your Da Vinci's Disciples series and your secret project!
Everyone, be sure to continue below for more information about Portrait of Conspiracy, the blog tour, and how you can enter the tour-wide giveaway to win one of FIVE eBook copies!
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
eBook & Paperback; 290 Pages
eBook & Paperback; 290 Pages
Genre: Historical Mystery
One murder ignites the powderkeg that threatens to consume the Medici’s Florence. Amidst the chaos, five women and one legendary artist weave together a plot that could bring peace, or get them all killed. Seeking to wrest power from the Medici family in 15th Century Florence, members of the Pazzi family drew their blades in a church and slew Giuliano. But Lorenzo de Medici survives, and seeks revenge on everyone involved, plunging the city into a murderous chaos that takes dozens of lives. Bodies are dragged through the streets, and no one is safe. Five women steal away to a church to ply their craft in secret. Viviana, Fiammetta, Isabetta, Natasia, and Mattea are painters, not allowed to be public with their skill, but freed from the restrictions in their lives by their art. When a sixth member of their group, Lapaccia, goes missing, and is rumored to have stolen a much sought after painting as she vanished, the women must venture out into the dangerous streets to find their friend and see her safe. They will have help from one of the most renowned painters of their era the peaceful and kind Leonardo Da Vinci. It is under his tutelage that they will flourish as artists, and with his access that they will infiltrate some of the highest, most secretive places in Florence, unraveling one conspiracy as they build another in its place. Historical fiction at its finest, Donna Russo Morin begins a series of Da Vinci’s disciples with a novel both vibrant and absorbing, perfect for the readers of Sarah Dunant.
Praise for Portrait of Conspiracy
“A riveting page-turner unlike any historical novel you’ve read, weaving passion, adventure, artistic rebirth, and consequences of ambition into the first of a trilogy by a masterful writer at the peak of her craft.” -C. W. Gortner, author of The Confessions of Catherine de’ Medici and The Vatican Princess
Buy the Book
About the Author
Donna Russo Morin is the award winning of author of historical fiction. A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, she lives near the shore with her two sons, Devon and Dylan, her greatest works in progress.
Donna enjoys meeting with book groups in person and via Skype chat. Visit her website at www.donnarussomorin.com; friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @DonnaRussoMorin.
To enter to win an eBook of PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY by Donne Russo Morin please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form HERE. FIVE copies are up for grabs!
Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on June 3rd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
Only one entry per household.
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Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Portrait of Conspiracy Blog Tour Schedule
Review at Unshelfish
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Wednesday, May 11
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Thursday, May 12
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Friday, May 13
Review at Let Them Read Books
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book
Monday, May 16
Review at Just One More Chapter
Interview at A Literary Vacation
Tuesday, May 17
Review at Seize the Words
Wednesday, May 18
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Thursday, May 19
Review at Worth Getting in Bed For
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, May 20
Guest Post at Layered Pages
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Monday, May 23
Review at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, May 24
Review at #redhead.with.book
Interview at Reading the Past
Wednesday, May 25
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Thursday, May 26
Review at Puddletown Reviews
Friday, May 27
Review at The True Book Addict
Monday, May 30
Review at A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, May 31
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, June 1
Review at The Book Connection
Thursday, June 2
Review at Book Nerd
Review at Bookramblings
Friday, June 3
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog