Catherine Stine's IDEA CITY

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Interview with Victoria Strauss on Passion Blue

Today, Idea City interviews Victoria Strauss, a seasoned author of novels for teens and adults about her new novel Passion Blue!

What are the two most important themes in Passion Blue?

Following your dreams, and facing up to your mistakes. Giulia, Passion Blue’s heroine, is separated from readers by centuries of history, and her actual situation, of being forced into a convent against her will, isn’t something that teens are likely to encounter today. But her struggle against huge odds to find her heart’s desire, and her realization that she must take responsibility for her actions and do her best to atone for her errors, are things that transcend historical differences. I think modern readers will find a lot in Giulia to recognize and identify with.

Which character would you want to spend a day with? Why?

I'm going to be predictable and say Giulia! My characters always become very real to me as I write them; having Giulia in my head for the past couple of years has been like making a new friend (yes, I know that sounds kind of schizophrenic!) and I would love to spend some real time with her. I could help her in the workshop, grinding minerals into pigment powder for paint. I could walk with her in the 15th century streets of Padua, with their shady arcades and bustling traffic. She could cast my horoscope, and tell me what’s in my stars.

Give us a hallmark line or two from Passion Blue.

"And all at once, by some strange turn of memory or perception, she was in the sorcerer's house again, the zodiac underfoot and the constellations overhead and the candles burning with flames that were not natural, and she heard the sorcerer say what he had told her when he placed the talisman in her hands: Be very sure you know what your heart's desire is, or you may find yourself surprised by what you receive."

Give is a line that reveals the antagonist’s intent, motivation or character.

“My father is a great man. But he’s not always a good one. He can tolerate no rivals, even among the men who work for him. I am a woman, and I would have been his rival.”

What inspired you to write this novel?

The seed of the idea came from an editor who'd read one of my other YA books, and told me she'd always wanted to read a historical novel about astrology. The idea grabbed me, and I started researching, choosing 15th century Italy because it's a time and place that has always fascinated me. At the same time as I was finding out all sorts of interesting and obscure facts about astrology, I found myself drawn to the wonderful paintings of that time and place, which I've always loved more than any others. In the end, from a book about astrology, Passion Blue became a novel about painters and painting, with astrology, and a magical astrological talisman, as its fantasy element.

What do you enjoy doing besides writing?

Reading, watching movies, knitting, running, biking and hiking with friends, hanging out at the beach on a sunny day. But my favorite thing in the world is gardening. I have a big perennial garden that I've built up over the years, with hundreds of different plants. I love working with plants--watching them mature, seeing them come back to life every spring. It's about the only artistic thing I can do (I can barely draw stick figures)--painting a picture with living things that are constantly growing and changing. It's a form of meditation for me, one of the few activities where I'm just in the moment, not thinking about the past or worrying about the future.

Please provide one piece of important advice to aspiring writers.

Educate yourself about publishing before trying to get published! Knowledge is your best ally, and your greatest defense. I'm co-founder of Writer Beware, a publishing industry watchdog group that tracks and warns about the many scams that target writers. We hear from so many writers who get caught up in scams because they don't know enough about how publishing works, and aren't able to recognize bad business practice when they encounter it. Whether you're looking for an agent to sell your manuscript to a big publisher, or submitting to small presses, or getting ready to self-publish, you'll be most successful--not to mention safest--if you take some time beforehand to educate yourself about your chosen field.

A hint of what you’re working on next?

I'm writing a sequel to Passion Blue, which will take Giulia out of the convent, and into intrigue and danger in the exotic (and sometimes sinister) city of Venice. After that, I'm thinking about putting my plant knowledge to work in a gothic fantasy about a girl who tends a garden of deadly plants for her father, a professional poisoner. Then, one day, a fugitive thief climbs in over the walls...

Where to find Passion Blue and Victoria on the Web:
Passion Blue in hardcover and kindle from Amazon
Passion Blue from Barnes & Noble
Victoria's website


  1. I like the blurb!
    Interesting where ideas spring, isn't it?

  2. A historical novel about astrology does sound interesting. I like where this story sprang from.

  3. This sounds like a fascinating read and how unique - a historical about astrology? What a twist. I think these are wise words: Be very sure you know what your heart's desire is, or you may find yourself surprised by what you receive."
    Thanks for sharing this book - off to check it out!

  4. I really enjoyed reading the interview. I'm very impressed by anyone who writes Historical fiction. That level of research scares me! lol

  5. That garden of deadly plants sounds like Rappacino's Daughter! Funny how ideas are "in the air".

  6. Ooh, I love the question about which character you'd most like to spend the day with. Nice answer!!

  7. Great interview and very good advice.

  8. Historical fiction is one of my favorite subjects. Your book sounds great. I enjoyed leafning a little about you and your book.

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  10. Thanks so much for hosting me, Catherine, and thanks to everyone for the comments.

    Rappacini's're right, there's definitely some similarity at the starting point of the premise. But the story itself goes in a different direction. There's also another YA book involving a poison garden--can't remember the title just now, but again, where I plan to go with the idea is very different. It just goes to show how frequently ideas recur, and also how important it is to do some research before committing to an idea, so you won't wind up re-hashing something that's already been done (as sometimes happens when authors who don't normally write--or read--genre fiction decide to dabble in it).

  11. This is interesting! I didn't foresee a sequel to Passion Blue coming, and the only thing that I really thought the book lacked was an epilogue. I think if I knew this it might affected my review.

  12. Enjoyed hearing about your book, Victoria. Catherine: great question about which character you'd like to spend a day with and why!

  13. In draft, Passion Blue did have an epilogue. I wasn't sure at that point if the publisher would buy the sequel, and I wanted readers to have some idea of what became of Giulia. My editor and I decided to take the epilogue out once the publisher made an offer for the sequel, since it gave too much away.

  14. ooo.. I love that excerpt! Sounds like a fantastic read!

  15. I'm a huge fan of historical fiction. This book sounds fascinating. Thanks, Catherine.

  16. 15th century Italy sounds pretty amazing to me. :)

  17. This sounds like a fabulous! I loved the interview! Great advice- it is so important to be educated about the publishing industry before starting off. :)

  18. oh, I love the themes for this novel.
    Great interview.