Friday, November 20, 2015

The Best Laid Plans by Megan Chance, Author of The Visitant + Giveaway! (US/Can only)

The Visitant
Megan Chance

A crumbling palazzo in nineteenth-century Venice holds a buried secret.

After she nearly ruins her family with a terrible misstep, Elena Spira is sent to Venice to escape disgrace and to atone by caring for the ailing Samuel Farber. But the crumbling and decaying Ca’ Basilio palazzo, where Samuel is ensconced, holds tragic secrets, and little does Elena know how profoundly they will impact her. Soon she begins to sense that she is being watched by something. And when Samuel begins to have hallucinations that make him violent and unpredictable, she can’t deny she’s in mortal danger.

Then impoverished nobleman Nero Basilio, Samuel’s closest friend and the owner of the palazzo, arrives. Elena finds herself entangled with both men in a world where the past seeps into the present and nothing is as it seems. As Elena struggles to discover the haunting truth before it destroys her, a dark force seems to hold Samuel and the Basilio in thrall—is it madness, or something more sinister?

The Process of Drafting Out The Visitant

In a perfect world, this is how writing a book is supposed to work: you come up with an idea, do the research, lay out the plot and characters in a synopsis that shows all the major plot points and detours the story is going to take, and then you sit down to write. Some months later, you type “the end,” and all is well.

Yes, that’s how it’s supposed to work. And in fact, while I was writing The Visitant, that was how it started out. I had read Vernon Lee’s short story Amore Dure while I was researching my last book, Inamorata, and I became obsessed with the idea of writing a ghost story set in Venice. The waterlogged, fantastical city has become one of my favorite settings—it seems to lend itself to spirits and demons and weirdness and things that go bump in the night. So, I knew I wanted to write a ghost story, and I knew I wanted it to have gothic elements. I planned for parallel stories: one set in the 1840s—the story of how the ghost came to be—and one set in the 1880s, with those who were being haunted.

Oh, the best laid plans!

I wrote one draft. Usually, I write many drafts of a book, and so I didn’t expect this one to be perfect. It wasn’t. In fact, it was very much less than perfect. I wrote a second draft, which was still missing something indefinable. Then a third. By now, a book is usually beginning to coalesce, but in this case, it wasn’t. This wasn’t just a case of needing to refine a character or a setting or a conflict. This was not working at all. I’d now spent over a year on the book, and I was beginning to feel desperate, and approaching my deadline quickly. I wrote fifty pages of a fourth draft before I realized that not only was the book not working as I envisioned it, but it was never going to work. I’d spent an entire year honing character, plot, mysteries and counter- mysteries, and the story was a mess. I pulled my hair out. I spent hours pacing. I berated myself endlessly. My critique partner valiantly pulled me back from the edge over and over again. But neither she nor I could figure out exactly what was wrong.

So I did what any self-respecting author on the verge of a nervous breakdown would do: I threw it out. All four drafts. I questioned every aspect of the book, from the smallest detail to the largest.

I asked myself the most important question of all: why did you want to write this? It was the question that fixed everything, because it forced me to look at the story from its foundation. I’d wanted to write a gothic ghost story set in Venice. It was really that simple. Somewhere along the way, I’d lost that. It had become unwieldy and too complicated. I threw out everything. I kept only character names and the place, and I started over. It was that fifth draft that ultimately became The Visitant.

I wish I could tell you it was all rainbows and unicorns from that point on, but the mind is a twisty and traitorous thing. Fortunately, my subconscious is smarter than I am, and it invented the romantic and tempestuous Nero Basilio. It gave me an epileptic Samuel Farber susceptible to strange, otherworldly forces. It provided Elena Spira, whose sense of responsibility makes her both strong and vulnerable, and it put me firmly in a decrepit, crumbling palazzo on the shores of a dyer’s canal in wintertime Venice. The Visitant, as it ended, was not the story I had envisioned so long ago, but it turned out to be exactly the story I wanted to write.

Sometimes you have to surrender the best laid plans.

About the Author

Megan Chance is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author of historical fiction, including Inamorata, Bone River, and City of Ash. Her novels have been chosen for the Borders Original Voices and Book Sense programs.

A former television news photographer and graduate of Western Washington University, Chance lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters.


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of The Visitant—yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is answer Megan's question in the comments below:
If you were a ghost, what city would you haunt, 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. Megan and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks at TLC Book Tours and Lake Union Publishing!
Giveaway ends December 4th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar 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!