Good morning everyone! It is my pleasure to have the opportunity to host author, Elizabeth Loupas today as part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for her second book, The Flower Reader. She has graciously taken the time to answer a few questions for us and stay tuned at the end for a great giveaway. Without further ado…
The main character in your newest novel, The Flower Reader, has the gift of floromancy. Why did you decide to build your story around this gift? How did you conduct research on the subject?
My decision to give Rinette the gift of floromancy was one of those middle-of-the-night epiphanies. She had always had a garden connection—the name of her castle, Granmuir, is based on the old Scots Gaelic garràdh-na-muir, meaning more or less “garden by the sea.” Another piece of the puzzle was her great-aunt (Gran’Auntie in the story), also named Rinette Leslie, who never married and had “the sight.” Those two elements just came together one night and I bolted wide awake thinking, “She can see the future in flowers!” I had to look it up the next day to find out that it was called “floromancy.”
I collected information on flowers and folklore from hundreds of different sources. I did limit myself to flowers that Rinette herself might actually have known in sixteenth-century Scotland and France. Most of the flower meanings are based on genuine folklore; a few of them I just made up, based on my own “feeling” for the flower. Fortunately, something like floromancy is never an exact science and individual practitioners will always have unique visions.
What was the most interesting thing that you learned while working on The Flower Reader?
There’s no way to choose just one thing. I researched volcanic rock and lava tubes for my (fictional, at least as far as anyone knows) tunnels in the rock under Edinburgh Castle. I read volumes about Dunnottar Castle, its own rock, its ruined chapel connected with Saint Ninian, and its iconic Green Lady, as background for my fictional Granmuir. I collected everything I could find on the real Escadron Volant, the Flying Squadron of Catherine de Médicis, so as to develop my own (fictional) variation.
As I write this I see there’s a common thread here—taking a collection of research and using “What if...?” to extend it into something fictional, rich and strange. That has to be one of the most interesting things about writing historical fiction.
This is your second novel and therefore the second time through the process of writing, publishing, and promoting. How would you say the second time was different than the first? Easier or more difficult?
For me the second book was much more difficult. With my first book, of course, I had all the time in the world—I worked on it until I thought it was ready, and only then began the querying process. That, of course, took a long time and involved many more revisions (the book wasn’t as ready as I thought it was, but of course they never are). The key, though, is that the book wasn’t sold until it was finished, at least in its preliminary form.
The Flower Reader, on the other hand, was sold from what’s called a proposal, a few chapters and an outline. So I had a real-time deadline, virtually from the beginning, and a lot of empty pages to stare at. And there were many ups and downs and bumps and bruises and tears along the way. And there’s always that, “Was it all a fluke? Can I even write another book?” fear to contend with.
The whole world of publishing is changing so rapidly that one’s experience with a previous book isn’t always applicable. Do you remember a Tom Peters business/management book from the eighties called Thriving on Chaos? I had a copy of it then and I’ve been re-reading it, because there’s a lot of chaos out there and we each have to find our own path to thrive.
I always ask about book covers. Did you have any influence in the cover choice? I love the atmospheric background behind the woman.
I had the opportunity to suggest ideas, yes, although the publisher makes the final choice. With the cover for The Flower Reader, I was particularly hopeful that they would use the heart-shaped headdress which was such a favorite of Queen Mary’s, and became so closely associated with her through its presence in many of her portraits. I was delighted when I saw that the cover model did indeed have the right headdress. She’s a bit dark and sultry for my young, sea-eyed Rinette, but she’s certainly very lovely and striking.
I also love the background—it’s perfect, with the castle on the rock, the sea, and the masses of storm clouds.
Are you working on a new project at this time? Can you tell us anything about it?
I am, and I can! I’m working on a new novel of the 16th century, featuring the alchemy-obsessed Prince Francesco de Medici, his proud and fragile young wife Giovanna of Austria, and his dazzlingly beautiful, ambitious mistress Bianca Cappello. Giovanna is the younger sister of Barbara of Austria, the heroine of The Second Duchess, so there is a connection there. I suspect the connection will at some point include beagle puppies.
The working title is The Alchemist Prince. Here’s how I like to describe the story:
“From the palaces of Florence to the sun-drenched Tuscan countryside to the brutal chaos of the Palio, from secret laboratories to magnificent entertainments to gardens with poisoned mazes, the story plays out through the eyes of Chiara Nerini, a troubled (and fictional) Florentine girl unwillingly initiated as Prince Francesco's alchemical soror mystica, and Ruan Pencarrow, an enigmatic (and also fictional) Cornishman who may be a master metallurgist, may be a spy, or may be the greatest alchemist of them all.”
Elizabeth Loupas lives near the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. She is presently a novelist, freelance writer and amateur historian. In other times and other places she has been a radio network vice president, a reference librarian, a business-to-business magazine editor, and a tutor in English literature.
One of her passions is the art and poetry of the Pre-Raphaelites. This led her to the Rossettis and the Brownings, and the project nearest and dearest to her heart--her novel The Second Duchess, based on Robert Browning's poem "My Last Duchess."
She hates housework, cold weather, and wearing shoes. She loves animals, gardens, and popcorn. Not surprisingly she lives in a state of happy barefoot chaos with her delightful and faintly bemused husband (the Broadcasting Legend), her herb garden, her popcorn popper, and two beagles.
For more information on Elizabeth Loupas and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE.
Now for the giveaway…I have one copy of The Flower Reader and a handmade flower bookmark up for grabs to one winner. The giveaway is open to the USA only. To enter, simply fill out the form below. Giveaway closes May 19th, 2012. Good luck!
Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court