Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Interview with Greg Michaels, author of The Secrets of Casanova

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Greg Michaels to Flashlight Commentary to discuss his latest release, The Secrets of Casanova

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Greg. Great to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us a bit about The Secrets of Casanova.
Thanks for having me, Erin. 

Well, THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA has a lot of moving parts. I set out to write a mystery, but slowly a passionate romance directed my pen. Then a swashbuckling adventure horned in. By book’s end, my historical fiction was—as my publicist describes it—“a lush novel of love, lust, family, ambition, intrigue, and adventure.” Who knew?!

What inspired you to write this story? Where did it start? 
Initially, the core of the book dealt with my own spiritual uncertainties
I won’t say I was a “bad boy” when I was younger, but I guess I did a fair amount of hell-raising. Later when I matured (LAUGHS), I had a few concerns. The pesky questions, I call them. Life, afterlife, redemption, spirituality, etc.

I found in the historical Casanova a dissolute genius upon whom I could hang my literary hat, a decadent antihero who could dig into those pesky questions that most of us humans deal with sooner or later.

The Secrets of Casanova takes place in the mid eighteenth century. How did you bridge the gap in time, and geography, to bring Jacques’ world to life in your novel?
Research, research, research.

And my vivid imagination—developed as a professional actor— helped a bunch. 

You chose to paint a very unique portrait of Jacques. What did you want say with his character and how hope he appears to your readers?
The historical Casanova was a very complex man; I‘ve been told by several Casanovists that I’ve captured much of that complexity.

In a nutshell, the character I’ve created is “the man you love to hate.” I painstakingly pieced together this personality after reading Jacques Casanova’s autobiography a number of times, evaluating his exploits with a critical eye, and assessing a number of his statements at face value. For example, his deathbed words were “I have lived as a philosopher and die as a Christian.”

That intrigued me. I began to plot a protagonist’s arc. One of the first questions was “Who or what might inspire a change in a debauched genius like Casanova?”  

You probably have many, but is there a scene you particularly enjoyed writing?
When Jacques entices the maid while he’s in the bathtub—that long seduction scene came to me in a dream. Happily, I got out of bed and wrote it down. It’s such a nuanced, delicate scene unlike anything I might have conjured with my conscious mind—I guess that’s the reason I enjoy it.

Two other writers told me to make the scene shorter. I couldn’t bear to. (That scene is currently an “Excerpt” on my website Please take a look and see what you think).

Another scene I enjoy—and I don’t want to reveal too much here—but when Casanova tracks down Carlo Brose in the bowels of the ship—well, I’m not sure where that scene came from either—but I was deeply moved the first few times I read it. It’s unexplainable.
I do know this, however: sometimes when I write “…spirits are using me, larger voices callin’” to quote Stephen Stills in his song “Southern Cross.”

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author? Why was it troublesome and how did you work through it?
Writing in Dominique’s point of view was a daunting test, but the scene that absolutely confounded me was the logic and mathematics puzzle that Casanova faces late in the novel. No need to go into detail here, but let’s just say that to solve those writing issues I had to grow an extra brain. (LAUGHS).  

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on?
What is now only two meager lines in Chapter One was once a full-blown chapter. Because it was important to paint Casanova as a pretty depraved guy at the book’s beginning, I thought this chapter would show him in full debauched mode.

It became clear, however, that this chapter held up the pace of the narrative. So—-adios!
And in that deleted chapter, the personality that I would have expanded on was “Marquise D’Ampie”—a totally fictional character—but one I found endlessly fascinating.

Historical novelists frequently have to adjustment facts to make their stories work. Did you have to invent or change anything while writing The Secrets of Casanova and if so, what did you alter and why?
I won’t talk too much about the book—don’t want spoilers, you know—but now and again certain characters, historical dates and events—were modified to serve my story. Although there’s a basis in fact for most of the places and people in THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA, by book’s end it seemed to me that a fair number of details had been altered.

At the same time, however, I felt I’d captured some of Casanova’s complex personality and I wanted people to discover a flesh-and-blood human being, not just a legendary womanizer with whom we may be familiar.

My editor, Cynthia White, understood my dilemma and so, after much gnashing of teeth, we decided the best solution was the simplest: we added the “everything is fiction” disclaimer while, at the same time, pointing out some of the factual origins of the novel. I also gently suggest reading Casanova’s autobiography to learn how this paradoxical man lived the exquisite adventure called Life.

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why?
Oh, far and away it would be Casanova. This man—historically speaking—well, just allow me to list some of the hats he wore during his long life: lawyer, clergyman, military officer, violinist, con man, pimp, gourmand, dancer, diplomat, spy, medic, mathematician, social philosopher, cabalist, playwright, writer, duelist, entrepreneur, and adventure. Oh, let’s not forget lover—and a man who women liked as well as loved.

And did I mention that he escaped an inescapable prison?

I worked many of Casanova’s vocations and avocations into my book but you can see why they’re not all included. Nevertheless, I think I’d be able to find something interesting to talk about with this guy—with or without drinks!

Just because I’m curious, if you could pick a fantasy cast of actors to play the primary roles in a screen adaptation of your work, who would you hire?
Well, the wonderful Cate Blanchett is my physical idea of Dominique, a strong, independent woman who might be emotionally trapped for all the right reasons. Ms. Blanchett can also play the sweetness and vulnerability of the character.. She’s a brilliant artist.

I’d cast another world-class actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, for the tile role. (Note: He’d have to wear a prosthetic hooked nose that Casanova had; the historical Casanova was described as “a fine line away from ugliness.” I figure he must have had huge star power!)

The English actor John Hurt would play the “ancient and eccentric” Vicomte de Fragonard. Crusty, secretive, but a character who elicits tremendous feelings.

Okay, we've talked a lot about your book. Let's switch gears and talk a little bit about you. How would describe your writing process?
Torturous. (LAUGHS). THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA must be the longest term paper I’ve ever written!

Seriously, I enjoy writing but I usually find it pretty tough sledding: weaving historical facts into the drama, seeing if what you’ve created makes sense, and then daring to hope that what you’ve written is interesting. Yikes! Just thinking about it, I’m sweating.

Who are your favorite authors?
Will Shakespeare, Cormac McCarthy, Herman Hesse—actually a whole bunch of others!

What are you currently reading?
“White Devil” by Stephen Brumwell. It’s the record of the Revolutionary War hero Major Robert Rogers who organized Roger’s Rangers. I’m a sucker for true stories of historical men and women who endured incredible hardships and sacrificed everything to help shape the country we know today.  

What do you like to do when you're not writing? Any hobbies?
When you have two teenage sons, you don’t have time for hobbies. (LAUGHS). But the good news is that I’m still able to watch Longhorn football (The University of Texas) and occasionally hunt for antiques with my wife.

Where do you stand on the coffee or tea debate?
I’m out of the loop…is there a debate going on?

I don’t drink either, so I guess it’s a moot point.

And finally, what's next for you? Do you have a new project in the works?
I have a skeleton outline for the next Casanova book. There’s just no telling when I’ll finish the manuscript. What can I say? I savor writing as much as I savor reading.

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After receiving his B.A. in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, a chance experience thrust Greg into a career as a professional actor and fight director. To date he’s acted in over fifty theater productions, more than forty television shows, and choreographed dozens of swordfights for stage and screen. In THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA, Greg again proves his skill at telling a theatrical story. He lives with his wife, two sons, and Andy the hamster.

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“A Shakespearean actor with a flair for the dramatic and a superb ear for dialogue, Michaels’s debut novel puts a brilliantly original spin on an historical figure whose very name is a cliché. This Casanova must wrestle not only with falling hopelessly and passionately in love, but embarking on a mysterious quest that is as much a spiritual awakening as a swashbuckling adventure. The Secrets of Casanova is so erotic and so sensitively written, I found it difficult to believe its author was a man.” -Robin Maxwell, national best-selling author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn

". . .starts with the real Giacomo Casanova and then surges into creating a fictional story that captures the spirit of this iconic adventurer, his flaws and his fortitude. . .a fast-paced plot through several locales, Michaels did his homework, amassing a broad knowledge of Casanova's life." - Kathleen Ann Gonzalez, author of Seductive Venice: In Casanova's Footsteps

". . .more playful than the Crossfire series, this debut novel limns the life and times of Casanova. Peopling his story with fascinating characters from Voltaire to the pope of the hour, Greg Michaels deftly evokes eighteenth-century Europe." - Vicki Leon, author of The Joy of Sexus & other nonfiction histories.

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Format: Print & eBook
Publication Date: October 21, 2013
Released by: Booktrope Editions
ISBN-13: 978-1620151785
Length: 334 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Check Out All the Stops on Greg Michaels' The Secrets of Casanova Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 13
Review at Bookish
Tuesday, October 14
Review at With Her Nose Stick in a Book
Spotlight & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, October 15
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession
Thursday, October 16
Review & Interview at Carpe Librum
Spotlight at Historical Tapestry
Friday, October 17
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Monday, October 20
Review at A Book Geek
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, October 21
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Spotlight & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, October 22
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Review at Good Friends, Good Books and a Sleepy Conscience
Guest Post at Mina’s Bookshelf
Thursday, October 23
Review at Beth’s Book Reviews
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Friday, October 24
Review at Book Nerd
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

1 comment:

Tracey said...

I loved reading the scene in the bathtub too, so alluring and fascinating insight into manipulation.