Another 5 Minutes… With Tasha Alexander

Tasha Alexander becomes our first guest to return for a third time, and that is great news. Her work ethic, flyaway research, and flowing ink has produced the next Lady Emily novel, DEATH IN THE FLOATING CITY, which has opened to glowing reviews. Our chat stands alone, but if you’d like to catch up on all we’ve talked about, you can zip through Tasha’s first appearance in October of 2010 and her triumphant return in September of 2011. I’m sensing a pattern, I hope.

We’d like to thank her for coming back once again to be part of our “5 Minutes Alone” interview series.

AuthorScoop: DEATH IN THE FLOATING CITY is intriguing both for its title and its vanguard of great reviews. Will you tell us a little about it?

Tasha: I had wanted—hoped, really—to send Emily to Venice from the very beginning. Because of this, I planted a reference to the city in my first book, having Emily’s nemesis elope there. I have always adored books that weave together stories from more than one time period, and had long wanted to write one. Venice proved the perfect location for it. The city is magical; you feel as if you’ve somehow been transported into the Renaissance when you arrive. The history is so strong there that including a 15th century narrative in the book was a natural decision. To solve the 19th century murder, Emily must first uncover the secrets of a 15th century affair.

AuthorScoop: I’ve read some about the on-site research you did for this book. How did you find Venice for taking you back in time in your writer’s mind?

Tasha: I can’t think of any city less altered over the centuries, and this makes it a dream for anyone writing historical fiction. People say that you could drop a 15th century Venetian into St. Mark’s Square today and he would easily find his way home, and this is true. Venice remains the city it was in the Renaissance. The absence of cars (ok, so there are motorboats, but they are easily ignored) and the lack of modern buildings make you feel like you’ve stepped into the past. When I was living in the city to write the book, I would wander around whenever I needed to find a location for a scene and then could sit down and describe what I saw around me without having to imagine what it would have looked like in the past. This is very different than, say, London, where the Victorian city has disappeared in many places.

AuthorScoop: Is there a secret formula to finding the next location crucible for Lady Emily or do you throw darts at a map of Europe and then book an airline ticket?

Tasha: Ha! That sounds like a pretty good idea. I’ll have to get a dartboard…

Actually, I choose my locations as part of an overall plan to bring Emily from sheltered society girl to enlightened woman. For example, Vienna exposed her to people outside her class (who weren’t her servants) for the first time. Constantinople showed her an entirely different culture where women had very different rights from their English counterparts. To broaden her world, she needs to travel, but she also needs to go home so that she can apply what she’s learned to her own environment. As a result, I try to find a balance between having her in England and having her abroad.

I’m now at the stage of kicking around ideas for the setting for my 2014 book. At the moment, Paris and St. Petersburg are my top choices.

AuthorScoop: Your husband is also a novelist. How is it having two plot-and-word-obsessed people under the same roof?

Tasha: It is fantastic. He understands the process so very well—never suggests I’m not working when I’m lying on the couch looking half-asleep. He knows I’m figuring out plot ideas. Before I met him, I assumed two writers would mean too much neurosis in one household, but instead it turns out that we are very good at deflating for each other the stresses that inevitably come when writing books. We both approach our work very differently, and it’s always helpful to get his perspective on what I’m doing. He’s a great sounding board and an even better first reader.

AuthorScoop: What’s next for Tasha Alexander?

Tasha: Once I’m back from touring for FLOATING CITY, I will revise next year’s book, which is set in Anglemore Park, Emily’s country estate. And then it will be time to start writing again. Which means I’ll have to choose Paris or St. Petersburg…

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For more information on Tasha and her books, have a look at all the goodies on her website www.tashaalexander.com. If you don’t see DEATH IN THE FLOATING CITY in your bookstore, you’ve probably got a blindfold on.

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