Loretta Chase is undoubtedly one of the most beloved historical romance writers of all time and we're lucky to have her with us today to talk about her new release, Your Scandalous Ways.
Loretta, welcome to Romance Bandits! We’re so excited to have you in the Lair.
Thank you Bandits! I’m delighted to be here.
Thank you Bandits! I’m delighted to be here.
Christine: Setting is always important in your novels and you often use it as a metaphor for character. Can you tell us why you chose Venice for this particular novel and how you used the setting in Your Scandalous Ways?
Loretta: I came to Venice the dumb way. The James Bond movie, Casino Royale, that inspired my hero, James Cordier, also got me intrigued with Venice. There’s one of those big special effects scenes in a building undergoing repairs. Most of those crash-explode-fireballs-body-parts-flying kinds of scenes do not stay in my memory banks. But this scene stuck in my mind because of all the water--under the building! I had one of those shattering insights: “Venice is built on water! Who knew?” Um, a lot of people, it turns out. Still, there are quite a few, like me, who didn’t fully grasp the situation. And that was all it took, really: curiosity to find out more. As I researched the place, I quickly became convinced that it was the perfect setting for my characters. Setting is part of how I tell a story, so I tend to exploit locales as much as possible. Venice has a distinctive culture. It was more permissive & egalitarian than London. It revived Byron after the scandal that drove him from England, so it seemed the perfect place for my characters to be reborn. It also has a distinctive architecture, very over-the-top and exuberant--which fit my exuberant & over-the-top characters. And there are those wonderful canals and the gondolas with their black cabins: perfect for so many kinds of scenes, from comedy to mayhem to smoochies.
Christine: James and Francesca are an unconventional pair. What drew you to write about these characters?
Loretta: The need to go where Loretta Chase has never gone before. I’ve done spies, but I hadn’t dealt with someone who was as jaded and tired of his job as James. And I’ve always wanted to rewrite operas like La Traviata or movies like Camille and have the ho heroine not die of consumption in the end, but triumph over her situation and get her happily ever after. The convention in literature is to make courtesans--and all “fallen women”--tragic figures. They come to a bad end, they’re ashamed and unhappy at heart. But I had read Harriette Wilson’s memoirs, and she did not go for the “cruel-world-drove-me-to-this” scenario. She was unrepentant, naughty, and funny. Though she certainly had her faults, she inspired me. I wanted to try to capture that spirit, that sense of fun--and explore the kinds of freedom a “fallen woman” could have, that was denied her more respectable sisters. It was also fun to create the kind of man who would accept her, fully, and love her--especially if he’s fighting his feelings the whole way.
Christine: I was drooling over the fabulous jewels your heroine, Francesca, wears. Were any of these based on real pieces?
Loretta: Absolutely. I relied on JEWELLERY: THE INTERNATIONAL ERA 1789-1910, Volume I 1789-1861. The pearls came from a miniature of the Empress Josephine. The peridot wager was inspired by a beautiful color photo of a peridot and diamond set that’s in the Victoria and Albert Museum. For Francesca I also borrowed some of the beautiful emerald and diamond and sapphire and diamond sets in the book. More recently, I acquired the luscious GEORGIAN JEWELLERY 1714-1830, whose pages will help me adorn my new heroine. I think jewelry is underused in historical romance, and I intend to remedy the situation singlehandedly, if necessary.*g*
Christine: Jayne Ann Krentz talks about each author having a core story, one they retell in every novel. Do you have a core story or a particular theme that often emerges from your books?
Loretta: You know, I’ve asked myself this question, but I haven’t a clue, really. I’m too close to the work. I do tend to deal with second chances: people whom life has treated harshly or who have made dreadful mistakes. I give them a chance to do it over and make things right the second time. And I always seem to deal with the status of women, one way or another. But mainly I think readers are more liable to notice a core story than I am, and I’d be interested to learn what they think my core story or theme is.
Christine: You obviously take great delight in researching your historical romances. Why do you choose to write historical romance rather than straight historical fiction?
Loretta: Short answer: Happily Ever After. I’ve toyed with the idea of a historical novel but keep coming up against two really depressing elements: (1) the low status of women--no rights, no real power and (2) life is hard and then you die. At heart, I’m a comic, not a tragic writer--not necessarily ha-ha throughout, but with a comic view of the world and a need to end things happily. If I could be George McDonald Fraser I might give historical fiction a shot, but so far, I don’t seem to be him. So far, my voice seems to be one made for love stories.
Christine: Well I, for one, am very glad of that and I'm sure your readers are too! Now, for the final frivolity--if you were a Loretta Chase heroine, which Loretta Chase hero would be your perfect match?
Loretta: I try to make the heroes & heroines perfect matches for each other. The heroines are the kinds of women I’d like to be if I could be several remarkable women--like, on different days. The heroes have to be the kinds of men these women can not only fall in love with but spend a lifetime with. Since models from real life are not exactly thick on the ground, I must make these men from scratch. This requires a major investment of energy and imagination. By the time I’m done creating my demi-god, we are permanently bonded. It’s not that I love them all the same, but I love them all, for different but equally compelling reasons.
And now, over to our readers! What do you think? Do you like to see powerful women in historical romance? Or any romance? Do you like to see a heroine just like you, or a heroine you would aspire to be? Loretta is generously offering a copy of Your Scandalous Ways and SIX Your Scandalous Ways bookmarks to assorted lucky readers.