Today I have the awesome Victoria Strauss, author of Passion Blue (out now from Amazon Childrens Publishing), here for an interview. Stick around for a giveaway as well!
Describe your book in 140 characters or less.
Yikes! Wait, that doesn’t count. Okay, here goes…
A sorcerer’s talisman could change Giulia’s fate. But does she really know the true compass of her heart?
What kind of research did you do for Passion Blue?
I live in a town where there’s a large state university with a big research library. I did most of my major research there, searching through the catalog for books on Renaissance painting, astrology, astrological magic, and other fascinating subjects.
I also used the Internet a lot–for spot-checking details (what was a typical dowry in late 1400’s Italy?), finding images (what did a 15th century astrologers’ astrolabe look like?) and viewing videos (how do you paint with egg tempera? It’s amazing what you can find online). And I visited as many museums as I could, to immerse myself in 15th century painting.
The most fun was spending time in the studio of an artist who uses Renaissance painting techniques. I got to see gesso applied to a walnut panel, pigments being ground and mixed, color glazes applied over underpainting, and much more. Very cool.
What made you decide to write YA?
I fell into YA more or less by accident. I wrote my first novel when I was 17. I didn’t know much about writing, but I was smart enough to know I shouldn’t try to write from an adult point of view. It felt far more natural to write about someone my own age, so that’s what I did. I did two more YAs, then switched to adult fiction for my next four books. But I missed writing YA, so I’ve returned to it with Passion Blue.
I love writing about discovering yourself and trying to find your place in the world. In some ways we’re all doing that all the time, all through our lives—but in the teen years that struggle is incredibly urgent and immediate. I remember so vividly how it felt to be 16 or 17 and trying to figure out what I wanted, where I was going, what on earth I was good enough at to try and turn it into a career. And falling in love for the first time…there’s nothing like it. Plus, YA is an incredibly exciting, vibrant field right now, with so many wonderful writers and amazing books. It’s a privilege to be part of that.
What do you think makes your book stand out in today’s YA market?
That is a really tough question for a writer to answer! I think most of us are too close to our work to really see it clearly. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from readers (not to mention reviewers!), it’s that almost everyone will take away something different. Which is wonderful—but can also be pretty surprising, when people find things in your books that you didn’t know were there (or, occasionally, didn’t want to be there).
At any rate, I think Passion Blue’s setting stands out from the crowd–Italy in the 1400s was an amazingly rich and vibrant place, and not a setting you encounter a lot in YA fiction. I’ve done my best to make it as authentic as possible, while keeping it accessible to a modern reader. Also, the focus on painting—not just those gorgeous Renaissance masterpieces you see in museums, but the technical details of a Renaissance painter’s workshop, where artists made everything by hand, including the paints, and color recipes were as valuable as industrial secrets are today.
I think my characters stand out as well—especially Giulia, and her search for her heart’s desire. She’s a girl of her time–I hate historical novels where the heroine is just a modern girl in fancy dress—yet her situation, her aspirations, and her mistakes are totally relatable to the present day. And though she’s trapped by the very limited options that girls had in 15th century Italy, she manages to forge her own unconventional path. I hope readers will love her as much as I do.
What are some YA books that you would recommend to readers?
So many! I loved, loved, loved the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness–extremely dark, challenging, well-written books with stellar worldbuilding and wonderful characters. Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi–the worldbuilding is amazing. Anything by Holly Black—dark, wonderful fantasy. Genius Squad by Catherine Jinks—both horrifying and hilarious, with an unforgettable hero. Life as We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeiffer—a dystopia written before dystopia became a subgenre, grim, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful. And just for fun: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel. Think zombies can’t be sexy? Think again!
Readers, you can find out more about Victoria and her books on her website!
And now, for the giveaway. Victoria was kind enough to donate a signed hardcover as well as some swag. Fill out the Rafflecopter form to be entered! Open to US/CA only!