1. What was the inspiration behind "The Venetian Bargain?"
THE WHOLE BOOK WAS INSPIRED BY PALLADIO'S CHURCH OF THE REDENTORE, WHICH WAS BUILT TO THANK GOD FOR SAVING THE VENICE FROM THE PLAGUE. I HADN'T REALISED THAT THERE HAD BEEN SUCH A MASSIVE OUTBREAK IN VENICE IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY. I KNEW ABOUT THE PLAGUES IN EUROPE IN 1348 AND 1666 BUT DID NOT KNOW THAT VENICE HAD BEEN SO BADLY HIT BETWEEN THOSE TIMES. ONCE I HAD PALLADIO AND HIS CHURCH AS THE 'STONE SPINE' OF THE BOOK, I HIT ON THE IDEA OF HAVING THE TWO DOCTORS, ONE EASTERN AND ONE WESTERN, ONE MALE AND ONE FEMALE, FIGHTING THE PLAGUE TOO IN THEIR VERY DIFFERENT WAYS.
2. One of the parts that I liked best about the book was all of the detail of the medical practices of the time. That must have been fascinating to research. What was your research process like for this book?
I HAD A WONDERFUL TIME RESEARCHING THIS BOOK, BECAUSE APART FROM ALL THE READING ABOUT OTTOMAN AND ITALIAN MEDICINE I GOT TO GO TO ISTANBUL AND VISIT THE HAREMS OF THE TOPKAPI PALACE, AND ALSO I WAS SHOWN AROUND THE PLAGUE ISLAND OF VENICE - THE LAZZARETTO NOVO - WHICH IS ONE OF THE MOST FASCINATING PLACES I'VE EVER VISITED. THERE IS A TINY MUSEUM THERE IN WHAT USED TO BE THE PLAGUE HOSPITAL, WITH SOME VERY INTERESTING ARTEFACTS. THE WHOLE ISLAND HAS A VERY EERIE QUALITY, EVEN NOW, AND THERE ARE STILL STRANGE PLANTS GROWING, WHICH, OF COURSE GREW FROM THE GRAVES OF THE PLAGUE VICTIMS. AND THE LION WELL IN THE BOOK IS REAL - HE IS THE ONLY LION I HAVE SEEN IN VENICE WITH A CLOSED BOOK - THE OTHER LIONS OF ST. MARK ARE DEPICTED WITH THEIR BOOKS OPEN.
3. You've written several books now. Has your process changed? Has writing gotten easier or harder at all?
I'D LOVE TO SAY THAT IT GETS EASIER BUT THE TRUTH IS THAT WITH EVERY BOOK YOU'RE STARTING FROM SCRATCH. YOU STILL HAVE THE SAME FEARS ABOUT WHETHER A STORY WILL WORK, WHETHER YOU WILL BE ABLE TO MAKE YOUR CHARACTERS LIVE. I THINK THERE ARE CERTAIN ASPECTS OF WRITING THAT YOU GET BETTER AT, JUST BECAUSE OF SHEER PRACTICE, BUT SADLY THAT'S NO GUARANTEE THAT YOUR NEXT BOOK WILL BE MORE ACCOMPLISHED THAN YOUR LAST!
4. Who is your favorite character in "The Venetian Bargain" and why?
OOH THAT'S A DIFFICULT ONE. I THINK I WOULD HAVE TO SAY FEYRA, BECAUSE SHE HAS SO MUCH 'GUMPTION' TO USE AN OLD-FASHIONED WORD! BUT I HAVE A REAL SOFT SPOT FOR ANNIBALE, WHO STARTS OFF SO FROSTY AND THEN THAWS AS FEYRA BEGINS TO WORK HER MEDICINE ON HIM! I ALSO LIKE PALLADIO, WHOSE CHARACTER IS BASED ON MY FATHER. AND I LOVE THE CAMERLENGO, EVEN THOUGH HE IS A 'BAD GUY'. I LIKE HIS STYLE!
5. And just for fun, if you could bring three fictional characters or historical figures with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?