Thank you Terra and Yankee Romance readers for having me back as a guest blogger! I’m really excited to be here and be able to talk about my newest release, The Treasures of Venice (in stores now). Like my debut novel, The Wild Sight, this book is a contemporary romantic suspense with a touch of the paranormal and has an Irish hunk for a hero.
The other day, I was sent some interview questions for a guest blog I'll be doing in the near future. One of the questions was: Do you base your characters on real people or are they purely figments of your imagination?
My first reaction was of course they are TOTALLY made up from my imagination. But then I realized that's not exactly true. So in honor of honesty being the best policy Aunty will reveal some of the real people whose names or traits wound up in characters in The Treasures of Venice:
· The hero's older sister, Kathleen. Okay, might as well start with the obvious! I have three younger siblings. It was my duty as first born to see that they did not run amuck too terribly much. THEY called me bossy (I suspect they still do), but I was merely doing my duty and trying to look out for their best interests. It was only natural that I give my hero's older sister some of these same wonderful traits. As far as looks go, Kathleen is a petite red-head so I’m afraid that is nowhere near what Aunty looks like, never mind the age difference. I do like to have visual models for most of my characters and for Kathleen, I pictured a young Bernadette Peters with all those saucy, bouncing curls.
· Donatella Bottini, an assistant with the fictional Society for the Preservation of Venetian Antiquities is named and physically patterned after a good friend of mine whose last name really is Bottini. I’m happy to report my friend was delighted with her fictional counterpart.
· Serafina Lombardo, the daughter of a wealthy architect in 1485 Venice. When I was first brainstorming the plot of The Treasures of Venice, I remembered a picture I’d seen in a magazine of a portrait of a lovely young Renaissance era woman. After an extensive search all over the internet, I finally found the portrait again, and the whole dual storyline began to form. The young woman was named Gianna Tournabouri, but I knew who she really was!
· The heroine, Samantha Lewis. I’ve said elsewhere that all my characters have a little bit of me in them, and Samantha probably has more of me than any of my other heroines. She has the same color eyes, is approximately the same height, and uses some of the same expressions I do (like ‘no way, Jose’) but the similarities pretty well end there. When I went looking for a visual model for my heroine, I’d recently seen the film Waitress and thought actress Kerri Russell was really close in coloring to the portrait of Gianna Tournabouri. With her hair straightened, she had the perfect look for Samantha.
· The hero, Keirnan Fitzgerald. When this charming Irish rogue first popped into my imagination it was instant LURVE! Okay, Aunty will admit to a being a pushover for any dark-haired, blue-eyed Celt with an adorable accent. I know there are plenty of lovely Celtic men who would be great visual models for a hero (trust me, Aunty has checked out many, MANY of them!). One night I was watching “The Tonight Show” and one of Jay Leno’s guests was Gerard Butler. I must confess, I’d seen only a couple of his movies and I did not find him all that appealing. He was definitely good looking, but I was at a loss as to why he was so wildly popular. Then, he opened his mouth and I KNEW! The man could charm paint off the wall! By the commercial break, I knew he was the perfect model (both visually and personality-wise too) for my hero, Keirnan! Now honestly, ladies, could YOU resist him?
So now you know who I had in mind when I created my characters. But if they don’t match up to your idea when you read about them—Hey, that’s fine too! In fact, that is part of the beauty of a novel. The reader gets to bring her own interpretation to what she reads. I certainly do that when I read, and I hope you do too.
Have you ever read a book and thought you recognized one of the characters? Or certain aspects of a character? If you are a writer, do you base your characters on "real" people? Bits and pieces maybe? C'mon now, honesty is the best policy!
About the Author
Loucinda McGary took early retirement from her managerial career to pursue her twin passions of travel and writing, and sets her novels of romantic suspense in the fascinating places she has visited. She was a finalist in the 2006 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest in Romantic Suspense. She lives in Sacramento, CA. For more information, please visit http://loucindamcgary.com/.
Sourcebooks is sponsoring a giveaway of TWO sets of Loucinda’s books so far: The Wild Sight and The Treasures of Venice! This giveaway is open to the United States and Canada. To enter, leave a comment (don't forget the email addy). Two lucky winners will be chosen at the end of the week so make sure and come back to see who won.
The Treasures of Venice
Samantha Lewis gazed over the nearly deserted square at the bulbous crown atop St. Mark's Cathedral. She blew across the surface of her hot caffe latte. The dull, dreary February morning matched her mood. Here she was in Venice on what should have been her honeymoon, but she was alone.
She took a sip of creamy beverage and tried to wash down the bitter taste of her failure. She still had a hard time accepting what had happened. Everything in her life had gone so well for the past ten years, just the way she'd planned and dreamed. She'd been so careful to make sure Michael Atcheson was the right guy, that he met her criteria for a stable, long-term commitment. How could she have been so wrong?
Ending their engagement three weeks before their scheduled wedding was so unpredictable, so irresponsible, so unlike the Michael she thought she knew. He'd given her some lame excuse about not wanting to spend the rest of his life in a relationship that lacked spontaneous fun and excitement. Turned out what he had really meant was he wanted a fling with his twenty-one-year-old teaching assistant. How had she not seen that one coming?
Determined to prove this was Michael's loss, not hers, Sam had highlighted her hair and started a new workout routine that included yoga. At least that had helped her relax even if sleeping remained hit and miss, and her crying jags soon gave way to good old-fashioned indignation. The ten-day tour of Italy had been purchased at discount and was non-refundable. At the urging of her psychologist and friend, Dr. Sandra Goldfarb, Sam went by herself.
Now here she was halfway through the tour. Even if she did feel like the odd-woman out and didn't really relate to the rest of the group, she was finally sleeping soundly. Though her dreams had become unusually vivid and seemed to take place during the Middle Ages – undoubtedly a side effect of jet lag and too many museums. Wonderful museums and incredible sights! Dr. Goldfarb's advice had been right.
Michael was wrong. She was capable of spontaneous fun and excitement. She hadn't really thought he would change his mind and join her when he found out, had she? He'd made it abundantly clear that he didn't need her and the new and improved Sam Lewis certainly didn't need him.
She'd repeated this litany to herself everyday for the past three weeks. Maybe today she might start to believe it.
As she took another sip of the steaming brew, a flurry of movement in the corner of her vision made Sam turn her head. A dark-haired man in a black leather jacket strode purposefully across the damp gray cobbles in her direction.
A dozen startled pigeons flapped into the air as he traversed the wide courtyard between St. Mark's and the outdoor restaurant where she sat. He wasn't exceptionally tall, maybe slightly under six feet, but his broad shoulders and narrow hips gave his stride an athlete's grace and self-assurance. When he came closer, she could see that his hair, though cut away from his ears, spilled over the back of his collar with just enough curl to make him appear charming rather than unkempt. Then he made eye contact and she almost dropped her cup. Such incredible blue belonged on the della Robbia Madonnas back in Florence, not on a mortal man.
She couldn't stop staring, and to her surprise, neither did he. He walked right up to her table as if they knew each other. In fact, Sam experienced this sudden eerie feeling in a far corner of her mind that she did know him.
"Hello, luv, sorry I'm late." The handsome stranger spoke with an unmistakably Irish lilt. No way had she ever met him before, she'd definitely remember those eyes, that accent. Then he bent and kissed the air next to her right cheek in greeting, but as he moved to her left, instead of kissing he whispered, "Play along with me, please."
His urgency surprised her even more than his bold actions. Sam pulled back and stared again into the clear sapphire depths of his eyes. All the oxygen flew out of her lungs.
She gasped in a noisy breath. "I– I'd almost given up hope."
She had no idea where that inane statement sprang from, but she was rewarded with a wide smile as dazzling as the stranger's eyes.
"Ah, never do that, luv," he admonished, then signaled the waiter.
Feeling like she was observing the scene from outside her body, Sam watched him pull his wallet from inside his jacket and slap down a bill to pay for her half-finished drink. She'd seen plenty of men like him. He practically sported a neon sign flashing over his head: "Mr. Wrong".
His mesmerizing gaze locked on her again and he extended his hand. "Ready to go to the Doge's Palace then?"
Dr. Goldfarb would probably tell her to go ahead. Her own mother certainly would. In almost fifty years of perpetually rash behavior with regard to men, the worst consequence Mom had ever suffered was a broken heart. Well, Sam already had one of those, so what did she have to lose? The Doge's Palace was one of Venice's most crowded tourist attractions and all of a hundred yards away.
Throwing twenty-eight years of caution and predictability into the damp Venetian air, she grabbed his offered hand. "Sure, let's go."
The side door of the church opened and an angel stepped inside. Nino Andriotto dropped his trowel in awe.
The clank of the hardwood on the marble floor of the chapel made the beautiful vision jerk her head in his direction. No angel after all, but no mere mortal either. She was the girl in Fredo's sketches. Her wealthy family had commissioned his roommate and best friend to paint her portrait. Her beauty, even in simple line drawings, had stirred Nino's mind to flights of fancy such as he'd never experienced in all his twenty years.
The object of his most secret desires now hesitated in the side vestibule, pale brows drawn in anxiety. "Forgive me. I didn't mean to intrude." Her voice sounded soft and delicate, the same way she looked.
Pulse hammering, Nino jumped from his waist high perch and stooped to retrieve his trowel. "Oh no, milady."
He doffed his dusty cap and did a quick half-bow, his gaze catching on the smears of plaster and glaze on his apron and shirtsleeves. Between the workday grime and the badly sewn patches on his hose, he presented a shabby contrast to the lady's elegant green damask gown and the matching lace-edged shawl draped lightly over her golden brown hair.
"'Tis I who should apologize for disturbing you. I came to work here this morning because few visit the cemetery isle so early." After taking a deep breath, Nino dared to raise his head and motioned to the large ceramic medallions behind him. "The holy fathers commissioned me to decorate this chapel of the church before Easter."
As she gazed at his work, he saw admiration then recognition chase across her porcelain features. "Oh, you must be the Florentine who studied under della Robbia."
Nino blushed a bit with pride. "Yes, Luca della Robbia was my old master." The admission emboldened him enough to add, "I'm Nino – I mean Antonino Andriotto. And you are the Signorina Lombardo."
She looked startled by his unexpected declaration, and blushed prettily in her turn. "I didn't know we had met."
"We haven't." He dropped his eyes in embarrassment. "Forgive me for being bold. My fellow artist Alfredo Rosso is painting your portrait and I recognize you from his sketches."
He could see her fingers toying with the folds of her gown.
"Oh, the portrait..."
Her tone made Nino lift his head. A cloud seemed to have settled over her velvety brown eyes.
"Fredo has much skill," he rushed to reassure her. "I'm sure you will be most pleased with the result, milady."
Obviously lost in her own thoughts, she looked away toward the main altar of the church. "It's a gift for the man who intends to marry me, the Viscount Treviso."