Monday, October 9, 2017

Interview with Jeanne Kalogridis, Author of The Orphan of Florence + Giveaway (US only)

It is my utmost pleasure to introduce Jeanne Kalogridis to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of The Orphan of Florence from St. Martin's Griffin!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Jeanne! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief bio with us?

Okay, here are the bare facts: I was born in Florida on December 17, 1954, and I've been interested in books ever since. My interest in language led me to earn a B.A. in Russian in 1976 (although my major was microbiology until my senior year).

That was soon followed by a two-year stint as a legal secretary. The good part about that was, I learned how to type, which comes in useful these days. Then I wound up in grad school, and earned an M.A. in Linguistics from the University of South Florida. I also took a few post-graduate classes in computational linguistics at Georgetown University, just for fun.

With freshly earned M.A. in hand, I traveled with my beloved consort, George, to Washington, D.C., where I managed to land a job teaching English as a Second Language at The American University. I taught there for eight years before retiring to write full time.

At the moment, I live on the West Coast with the aforementioned beloved consort and two overly adored Labradors. My outside interests include yoga, Buddhism, quilting, dog training and reading everything ever published.

It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which just hit shelves last week:
In this irresistible historical novel set in the turbulent world of the Medicis, a young woman finds herself driven from pick-pocketing to espionage when she meets a mysterious man.

Giulia has been an orphan all her life. Raised in Florence's famous Ospedale degli Innocenti, her probing questions and insubordinate behavior made her an unwelcome presence, and at the age of fifteen, she was given an awful choice: become a nun, or be married off to a man she didn't love. She chose neither, and after refusing an elderly suitor, Giulia escaped onto the streets of Florence.

Now, after spending two years as a successful pickpocket, an old man catches her about to make off with his purse, and rather than having her carted off to prison he offers her a business proposition. The man claims to be a cabalist, a student of Jewish mysticism and ritual magic, who works for the most powerful families in Florence. But his identity is secret—he is known only as "the Magician of Florence"—and he is in need of an assistant. She accepts the job and begins smuggling his talismans throughout the city.

But the talismans are not what they seem, and neither is the Magician. When Giulia's involvement with him ends with his murder, she's drawn into a treacherous web of espionage and deceit involving the forces of Rome, Naples, and a man known as Lorenzo the Magnificent. Accused of the Magician's murder, Giulia is pursued by the handsome policeman Niccolo, Lorenzo's henchmen, and foreign spies, and in order to survive, she must not only solve the mystery of the mystery of the Magician's murder, but that of her own past.

As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of The Orphan of Florence. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?
The night I was caught with my hand in a gentleman’s pocket—the night my life completely changed—it was burning cold, so bitter I’d never felt anything like it before or since.
I wanted the first line to grab my readers' attention thoroughly, and to place them right in the middle of the action. It also tells them a bit about the character. My hope is that it’ll keep them interested long enough to read the second line.

Tell us about your road to publication.

I actually sold my first novel in 1981, and I submitted it “over the transom”—that is, without an agent. It was easier to sell a novel back then, fortunately for me, although it took thirteen months for the publisher to read the manuscript and buy it.

Are the characters from your book based off anyone you know in real life? How much else of your actual life gets written into your fiction?

Well, the main character in The Orphan of Florence is a pickpocket. Luckily, I don’t know any pickpockets personally, so I resorted to online research. As for how much of my actual life winds up in my fiction: Writers who claim their protagonists aren’t at least partially based on them—and whatever personal emotional journey they’re currently on—are lying. All a therapist needs to do to get inside my head is to read my latest book. In terms of basing other characters on real people that I know, I tend to be cautious and make composite characters based on traits from many different people.

Out of all the fantastic books out there, what makes The Orphan of Florence stand out from the rest?

The fact that my heart is in those pages. At the very least, the book belongs in the category of page-turners; I guarantee you won’t be bored.

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out Jeanne's best personal and professional advice. We're also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of The Orphan of Florence, so you don't want to miss that either!

Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published.

Take the work but never yourself seriously. If writing a novel isn’t the hardest thing you’ve ever done, you’re not doing it right.

Now give us your best personal advice—something you wish you had known when you were younger and would offer to your own kids.

Stay away from those who tear you down because it can do long-term damage; seek out the company of those who build you up, because it’ll do you good.

Where can you be found on the web?

It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Jeanne! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of The Orphan of Florence—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is answer Jeanne's question in the comments below:
Of all the characters in historical novels, which character is most memorable for you and why?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Jeanne and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

Marcia from Loving Lady Marcia by Kieran Kramer comes to mind immediately. This series was based off the Brady Bunch, so I loved how Marcia Brady's characteristics were transposed on this romance heroine. Such a fun crossover!

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at HarperCollins!
Giveaway ends October 23rd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar on the right for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!