Saturday, September 20, 2014

1 Victoria Strauss, author of COLOR SONG, discusses fascinating old maps and ingenious young women.

What is your favorite thing about COLOR SONG?


Without a doubt, being able to set a novel in 15th century Venice. I visited Venice just once, but it made an indelible impression on me (as it has on so many people) and it was wonderful to become a time traveler for a little while, and imagine the glorious city as my heroine, Giulia, would have experienced it.

Researching COLOR SONG was so much fun--there are so many wonderful resources, including an amazing (and huge) map of the city created in 1500, which shows every street, square, canal, and building in Venice, and is so detailed that you can count the windows of the houses and see the wellheads in the squares. It was invaluable in helping me and Giulia find our way around. Giulia's experiences also reflect my own memories of Venice--from the magnificent yet crumbling palazzos, to the bustle of the Rialto, to the maze of squares and alleyways and canals in which it's incredibly easy to get completely lost. I'd love to set another book there some day.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?


I wanted to continue Giulia's story (begun in PASSION BLUE), and show how it might be authentically possible, even within the narrow conventions of 15th century Italy, for a woman of talent to transcend strict gender roles and follow her passion. I'm also fascinated by stories of women who disguise themselves as men (such as the surprisingly large number of women who fought as men during the Civil War), and COLOR SONG gave me the chance to incorporate that interest into a book.

How long did you work on the book?

Including research, about a year and a half.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?


COLOR SONG is my ninth published book. I've lucky in that I've never completed a book that hasn't been published (though I've started and abandoned several).

It took me a very long time to sell my first novel, a YA historical called THE LADY OF RHUDDESMERE. I wrote it when I was 17, during a year off between high school and college, and queried sporadically over the next few years without success (my query letter was really awful; that may have had something to do with it!). By sheer luck, my manuscript landed on the desk of an editor who was in the process of switching careers to become an agent, and she took me on as one of her first clients. Initially she wasn't any more successful than I had been, but she never gave up, and six years after she took me on--and nearly ten years after I wrote the novel--LADY was finally published (in much-revised form).

I'm still with the agency, and LADY, which has been out of print for many years, is about to be be re-published.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?


My writing ritual mainly consists of procrastinating until guilt forces me to my computer...But seriously, I start work in the morning, take a break for lunch and exercise, and continue until dinner. I work at my laptop in the dining room (my office, with its reminders of bills to be paid and emails to be answered, is too distracting) and I use a little program called Freedom that shuts off the Internet for whatever amount of time I plan to be writing. I prefer silence--music is also too distracting--and solitude, except for my two cats, who love to help me by lying on my keyboard.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?


Educate yourself! Take the time to learn about publishing and self-publishing before you take steps to get your work published. There are so many pitfalls for writers--writing scams, unqualified editors and literary agents, amateur publishers, bad contracts. The more you know, the better you'll be able to protect yourself, and the better decisions you'll be able to make.

What are you working on now?

For the past few months I really haven't been working on anything--there's an illness in my family and it's taking up a lot of my time and energy. But I'm trying to carve out space to plan another YA project, including doing preliminary research. I have two ideas in mind--now I just have to choose!

Giveaway ends on 9/21/2014 at midnight EST.



ABOUT THE BOOK


Color Song
by Victoria Strauss
Hardcover
Skyscape
Released 9/16/2014

By the author of the acclaimed "Passion Blue," a "Kirkus Reviews" Best Teen Book of 2012 and "a rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion," comes a fascinating companion novel.

Artistically brilliant, Giulia is blessed?or cursed?with a spirit's gift: she can hear the mysterious singing of the colors as she creates them in the convent workshop of Maestra Humilit?. It's here that Giulia, forced into the convent against her will, has found unexpected happiness and rekindled her passion to become a painter?an impossible dream for any woman in 15th century Italy.

But when a dying Humilit? bequeaths Giulia her most prized possession?the secret formula for the luminously beautiful paint called Passion blue?Giulia realizes she's in danger from those who have long coveted the famous color. Faced with the prospect of a life in the convent barred from painting as punishment for keeping Humilit s secret, Giulia is struck by a desperate idea: What if she disguises herself as a boy? Could she make her way to Venice and find work as an artist's apprentice?

Along with the truth of who she is, Giulia carries more dangerous secrets: the exquisite voices of her paint colors and the formula for Humilit s Passion blue. And Venice, she discovers, with its gilded palazzos and masked balls, has secrets of its own. Trapped in her false identity in this dream-like place where reality and reflection are easily confused, and where art and ambition, love and deception hover like dense fog, can Giulia find her way?

This stunning, compelling novel explores timeless themes of love and illusion, gender and identity as it asks the question: what does it mean to risk everything to pursue your passion?

Purchase Color Song at Amazon
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View Color Song on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Victoria Strauss is the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including the Stone duology ("The Arm of the Stone" and "The Garden of the Stone"); the Way of Arata duology ("The Burning Land" and "The Awakened City"); and "Passion Blue" and "Color Song," a pair of historical novels for teens. She has reviewed books for SF Site, Black Gate, and Fantasy magazine, and her articles on writing and how to get published have appeared in Writer’s Digest and elsewhere. In 2006, she served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards.

She is an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and co-founder, with Ann Crispin, of Writer Beware, a publishing industry watchdog group that warns about literary schemes and scams. She maintains the Writer Beware website, blog, and Facebook pages, and she was honored with the SFWA Service Award in 2009.

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