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Interview with Author Alana White: Her Life, the Italian Renaissance, and Writing

Yesterday, we presented information and a review of Alana White’s historical fiction novel The Sign of the Weeping Virgin.  If you missed it, you can see it by clicking HERE.

Today, we have an amazing interview with White where we talk about the Pope’s recent resignation, why it’s important to make time for yourself to write, and if times have changed much in regards intrigue and family drama. You’ll also read what scenes were cut out of her newest book and why. I think you’ll enjoy it!

And remember at the end to check out the information on the GIVEAWAY!!

Hi Alana, it’s so nice to spend some time with you doing an interview here on Oh, for the Hook of a Book!  I’m looking forward to getting to know you better.

Hi, Erin, Thank you so much for having me.  It’s a privilege, and I appreciate it.

Let’s dive in…

Q:  Is The Sign of the Weeping Virgin your first novel?

A:  No.  My first novel, Come Next Spring, is a coming-of-age story set in the Smoky Mountains in 1949.  In it, my protagonist, who is very romantic-minded, writes a letter to Margaret Mitchell wanting assurance that Rhett Butler eventually returned to Scarlett O’Hara after Gone With the Wind ends.  And so, till the end of the story, along with the main character, we readers wait for Margaret Mitchell’s reply.  Set in Tennessee, Come Next Spring received good reviews, and it is available online.

Q: When did you first discover your love of words? Is then when you started to write, why or if not, when?

A:  I have always been a reader—one of those kids whose parents say, “Why don’t you go outside and play for a while?”  I think I was just born this way.  I started trying to write a novel when I was twelve.  As you might expect, I didn’t get very far.  I discovered it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  It still isn’t.

Erin Comments:  Me too. And though I’ve been writing ever since, I haven’t got as far as completing that novel yet. Though life gets in the way, I suppose there is something to the time being right also.

Q:  What is your writing process like?

A:  If I don’t begin writing in the morning, it doesn’t get done.  Too many distractions, too many ways to put writing last.  Because it is hard, for me, at least.  As much as I’m loath to admit it, I’m a perfectionist.  So, mornings are when I go over pages from the previous day, tweaking, and asking more questions, looking over my notes to see what happens next.  Also, to refresh my memory of where I am in the story, and what my characters were doing and thinking the previous day.

Erin Comments: Distractions are always a problem, especially for me too. I’m also a perfectionist so it takes me much longer to get something exactly right. J

Q:  What has been the worst thing you’ve had to overcome on your writing journey?

A:  Finding the courage and the means to protect time for myself.  We are all pulled in so many different, important directions, right?  In the opening pages of Weeping Virgin, I thank my husband for giving me “the gift of time.”  And I mean that sincerely.

Erin Comments: I love what you said: “to protect time for myself.” So true.

Q:  What other novels have you written or are writing?

A:  I’ve completed a YA novel with a teen boy as the protagonist.  I need to introduce him to the world.  Time issues, again.  This week, I began the next book in the Guid’Antonio Vespucci mystery series.  So, it’s back to him and Florence (in my mind and heart, anyway), and that makes me happy, indeed.

Q:  What is it that draws you to the City of Flowers (in other words, Florence)?

A:  I truly don’t know why Florence has tapped into my heart.  Of course, the Italian renaissance intrigues me, as it has done so many people.  The richness, the intrigue, and the personal stories.  Today, when you go there, you walk through the same byways and past the same huge stone palaces that were there in the days of the Medicis and the Vespuccis.  In some ways, very little has changed.  Today, rather than Lorenzo de’ Medici striding around the walled city, Florentines have a charming, thirty-something mayor who rides the streets on his bicycle.

Q:  What do you think of the present Pope’s resignation? Do you feel this will make someone a novel years from now?

A:  I think it took courage and cooperation for him to resign his place.  When I say cooperation, I mean there may have been people who would have preferred him to remain Pope, no matter the conditions.  And, yes!  The first thing that occurred to me when I heard the news was along the lines of people jockeying for position, what lengths will they go to, etc.  No doubt Daniel Silva, whose terrific fictional Gabriel Allon character is a “friend” of the Pope in Silva’s novels, is already sharpening his pencils.  I hope so.

Q: How do you feel that historical intrigue and family drama has changed over time and why?

A:  You know, I don’t believe it has so much.  We have different trappings, but I think in the end our hearts beat for the same things: our children, their future, who is at the forefront in government (not only ours), wars, love and betrayal in all its shapes and forms.

Erin Comments: I totally agree, we just don’t always see it as clearly.

Q:  What are your other historical interests?

A:  That’s a terrific question.  If I had all the time (there is that word, again) in the world, I would write about small town southern life in the 1930s and 40s.  Probably this is because I come from a childhood background of sitting on the front porch listening to my mother and grandmother’s stories.  (Or juicy gossip, if you will.)

Q:  What authors have, or do, inspire you? What books do you like?

A:  I mentioned Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series; I like it and probably was drawn to it in the first place because the fictional Gabriel is the world’s greatest art restorer.  So, there is the link to art, and that attracts me.  These books aren’t historicals, but they read like it.  I loved Susan Vreeland’s Clara and Mr. Tiffany.  I like books that open a new world to me.  Clara certainly did that—women designed much of Tiffany’s line, but weren’t given credit for it till just recently.  And—I like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series!

Erin Comments:  You must love art history as much as I do.  I have to tell you that one of my top 10 books of all time is Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Vreeland. I even reviewed it on this site and included photos of Tiffany’s glass work that I took at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Also, I am a crusader for women’s issues, as well as liking New York history circa late 1800s to the 1920s, so I was REALLY impressed by this book.

Q:  What is your best -loved hobby outside of writing and reading?

A:  Genealogy.  I spent a long time tracing my family’s roots and enjoyed it tremendously.  But as those of you know who have entered that zone, it’s like eating chocolate chip cookies.  It’s almost impossible to stop.  Also, I like estate sales.  Interesting: both activities deal with the past.

Erin Comments:  I have done Genealogy since I was in high school and though time has got in the way of intense research since I’ve had children, I still like the feeling I get when I open up another “door.”  Sounds like you enjoy anything historical or vintage like me.

Q:  What feelings or message do you hope that readers take away from The Sign of the Weeping Virgin?

A:  That people are all connected in some deep place and way.  We have the same feelings and basic emotions, we weep and work for the same things.  We’re equal in myriad ways, whether then or now, wherever we may be.

Q:  Is there more to the story than what you were able to fit into the novel?

A:  I love this question!  Yes!  I had two rousing scenes with the antagonist who actually did plot the conspiracy to rid the world of Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici, the two young unofficial leaders of the Florentine Republic at the time of Weeping Virgin.  The villain’s name is Girolamo Riario, and he was married to Caterina Sforza, by the way.  I hated cutting Caterina’s scenes, but it was all just going on too long.  Anyway—Caterina threatened to steal the story!

Q:  Where can readers connect with you?

A:  I would love that.  I’m on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/authoralanawhite?ref=hl

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/AlanaWhiteautho

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/338557.Alana_J_White

And at: www.alanawhite.com

I appreciate you participating in this exclusive interview as you shared your world with us!  I just love how writing brings history alive. Best of luck to you and your work!

This has been fun, Erin.  Thanks again for having me.


A lucky reader can win ONE (1) tangible copy of The Sign of the Weeping Virgin for their library. It’s open INTERNATIONALLY!!  Please leave a comment here, the previous review post, or on my Facebook post, including your email so I can notify you (OR email me at hookofabook(at)hotmail.com)!

You can enter until 11:59 p.m. EST on February 26, 2013.

One (1) extra entry for following this blog! Please let me know you did so.

Alana White, Biography~

Alana WhiteAlana White’s fascination with the Italian Renaissance led to her first short historical mystery fiction, then to a full-length novel, The Sign of the Weeping Virgin, forthcoming from Five Star Mysteries in December 2012. Set in Renaissance Florence, The Sign of the Weeping Virgin features lawyer Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his adventurous young nephew, Amerigo Vespucci, as they investigate crime in Renaissance Florence. Alana’s articles and book reviews appear regularly in Renaissance Magazine and the Historical Novels Review. In young adult+ books, she is the author of Come Next Spring, a novel set in 1940s Appalachia, and a biography, Sacagawea: Westward with Lewis and Clark. She is currently working on her second Guid’Antonio Vespucci mystery.

See more on Alana White and her work at:  www.alanawhite.com

The Sign of the Weeping Virgin Synopsis~

TSOTWVPublication Date: January 9, 2013 | Five Star Publishing | 384p

Romance and intrigue abound in The Sign of the Weeping Virgin an evocative historical mystery that brings the Italian Renaissance gloriously to life.

In 1480 Florentine investigator Guid Antonio Vespucci and his nephew Amerigo are tangled in events that threaten to destroy them and their beloved city.

Marauding Turks abduct a beautiful young Florentine girl and sell her into slavery. And then a holy painting begins weeping in Guid Antonio s church. Are the tears manmade or a sign of God s displeasure with Guid Antonio himself?

In a finely wrought story for lovers of medieval and renaissance mysteries everywhere Guid Antonio follows a spellbinding trail of clues to uncover the thought-provoking truth about the missing girl and the weeping painting s mystifying and miraculous? tears all pursued as he comes face to face with his own personal demons.

See more reviews, interviews, and guest appearances during White’s virtual blog tour by clicking on button below:



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