Cate: Please welcome Denise Verrico. Denise, will you please share a short bio with us?
Denise: I’m a New Jersey native who grew up in Western Pennsylvania. I attended Point Park College, in Pittsburgh and majored in theatre arts. For seven seasons I was a member of The Oberon Theatre Ensemble in NYC. I acted, directed, designed and wrote plays with them. Cara Mia, is my first novel. She enjoys reading non-fiction and fiction of all kinds, particularly historical fiction, thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy and most recently manga and graphic novels. She currently lives in Ohio with her husband, teenaged son and flock of seven parrots.
Cate: Tell us about your latest release and where it's available.
Denise: Cara Mia is an urban fantasy with sci fi elements. It’s the story of an independent woman, Mia Disantini, who is plunged into an ancient culture, where she is viewed as the chattel of her master, Ethan Sinclair. Mia struggles for the freedom to live and love as she chooses. Her greatest desire is to once again walk in the sun. In this pursuit, she sparks a revolution.
The book is available in trade paperback and multi-format e-book. You can purchase signed copies from my webstore: Amazon.com (paperback and kindle), Borders.com, B&N.com and Fictionwise. If your local bookstore doesn’t carry it, they will special order it.
Cate: Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Denise: This is taken from chapter seven. Mia and Ethan have recently arrived in Italy, when the Elder of the Territory, Gaius, visits them.
Our respite ended a few nights after our arrival when a boat roared up to our dock. I lay drowsy in Ethan’s arms, annoyed by the sudden interruption to our erotic evening ritual. Ethan raised himself from my body, placing his fingers to my lips. “Get dressed.”
I gawked at him until it dawned on me why he was behaving in this fashion. “Who is it?”
“Gaius Lupus, elder of these parts. I telegrammed before we sailed, seeking permission to stay in his territory. Not a word until he addresses you, understand? Eyes averted—I know you find it difficult but a little feigned modesty is in order.”
He put on his robe and went downstairs to answer the door.
Dressing hastily, I galloped down the steps to join Ethan and our visitor below. Freezing mid-way, I caught eyes so black you couldn’t tell iris from pupil. His dark hair was touched with silver and nose aquiline. Words flowed olive oil smooth from his full lips, “Che bella.”
Ethan glared as I slowed my descent to a dignified glide. Taking my hand, he presented me to our guest. “Gaius, this is my Mia.”
Luckily he introduced me in English. It would have been ridiculous in Italian. Mia mia. Gaius took my hand and raised it to his lips. He wasn’t quite Ethan’s stature but nearly six feet. He resembled a man of fifty, carrying himself with an air of soldierly authority, utterly relaxed but the smile oozing all over his face was very creepy—like moray eels in the bay. No tiny movements in the facial muscles, no shifting of weight from foot to foot as a human being would do. He barely seemed to breathe. Only his heartbeat gave him away as a living being. Where Ethan’s composed arrogance still smacked of humanity, Gaius was one of the legendary walking dead.
The ancient’s smile broadened as his eyes took stock of me. Ignoring Ethan’s warning, I met his gaze, determined not to show fear.
“Interesting.” A glimmer of emotion flickered when he spoke, “You’ve secrets in your eyes, child. What are you hiding, eh? She has the look of the Neapolitans.”
Ethan spoke for me. “Her mortal father was a Disantini.”
Gaius’s mouthed twitched with suppressed laughter. “If I’d known the Disantini to produce such a girl, I’d have taken her myself. Their women are uniformly hideous—but the youngest son immigrated to America, over some affair with a servant, actually insisted on marrying her. Threw away his fortune. Ah well, there’s no fortune left to speak of. This is the child? Dear boy, the Disantini have a reputation for ruthlessness. What sort of mischief can we expect from this little pomegranate blossom?” He sank down regally in one of the heavy old chairs. “My old friend Brovik recently passed through asking after you. I told him I’d not seen you since before the war. Now you arrive on my doorstep with this girl. There will be no trouble?”
Who was Brovik? Was this Ethan’s progenitor?
Ethan’s hackles rose ever so slightly. “No.” He put his arm around me. “I’m here for pleasure.”
“Apparently so.” His fingers drummed lightly on the chair’s arm. Smooth slightly golden skin covered his be-ringed hands, the backs covered in fine black, spidery hair. “Bring Mia to the palazzo. The girls are always glad to see you.” Gaius leaned forward to me. “How did one of the wicked Disantini finally come to be among us, via America, no less? Speak up, little one. Are you a very she-devil, as your predecessors—or a romantic fool like your father?”
The old pervert’s attitude irritated the s*** out of me. If I opened my big mouth I’d regret it, but still Ethan prompted me.
“Mia, my dearest, answer Lord Gaius.”
Gaius waited. I looked first at Ethan then to him.
“Is she stupid?”
Vitriol bubbled up to the surface. “The f*** I will.”
Ethan turned purplish. “Mia! Apologize at once!”
“Apologize, my ass! I don’t care if he’s the lord-high demon of Hades.”
Gaius blinked, I must have shocked him, but then he began to laugh, very hard. “Dear boy, you’ve no idea what you’ve gotten into.”
“I’ve a fair idea.”
“Proud and passionate,” Gaius leaned forward, his hungry smile revealing fangs, a grinning Disney wolf. “What will the Northman say?”
“The Northman? Ethan, you have some explaining to do.”
“Mia, upstairs, now!” Ethan commanded in a dangerously low tone. “I do apologize for her rudeness.” I didn’t budge. Ethan gave me a threatening look. “We’ll talk later Mia, go.”
Gaius raised his hand. “I’m not offended. Indeed, I’m intrigued. In answer to your question little one, the Northman is elder of your house. I’m surprised your lord hasn’t spoken of him. Brovik is an old friend of mine—a very old friend. His domain lies to the North, from Britain and above. He’ll no doubt want to make your acquaintance. Ethan, you know your duty. I won’t interfere, but neither will I lie.”
“Of course, he’ll be informed we’re here. I wouldn’t dare offend your hospitality.”
“Good, when shall we expect you on Capri?”
“Soon, give my regards to your ladies.”
Rising from the chair, Gaius crossed the room and inclined his head slightly. Ethan bowed, and they shook hands warily, two dogs cautiously sniffing around each other.
“Until then, Ethan.” Gaius bowed to me and raised my hand to his lips. “Cara mia, our world is much more dangerous with you in it.” He laughed and took the liberty of pinching my cheek.
Once Gaius was roaring back across the bay, Ethan checked the locks on the doors and windows and tested the electronic security system to see if it was functioning.
I threw myself in disgust into the chair Gaius had vacated. “What a jerk!”
Ethan sputtered with anger as he turned to face me. “Do you have any idea of what he is?”
I was definitely not in the mood to be scolded. “An arrogant old pervert!”
Ethan paced agitatedly about the room. “He’s two thousand years old, a former Roman general, not someone to trifle with. He’s called the Wolf, what makes you think you could take him on?”
I affected a casual pose examining my perfectly painted fingernails. “I’m not impressed.”
“You’d better be. He says if we stay or go. He’s the closest thing this place has had to an emperor in a thousand years, and just as corrupt. Don’t do anything else to encourage him. Meeting his eyes, taunting him, it’s a challenge Mia.”
“For heaven’s sake, it’s nineteen fifty one!”
He closed the heavy draperies. “I’ve told you how they are.”
“You’ve evaded my questions for a year now. Tell me about Brovik!”
“There’s nothing to tell. He made me, period!”
“No, I won’t accept that.”
“You’ll have to.” He strode to the door. “I’m going out. Lock the door behind me and stay inside.”
“You can’t keep me locked up forever!”
“Can’t I?” He laughed. “What would you do with this freedom you so desperately desire? That old monster on Capri would snatch you up in his jaws in a heartbeat, and you’d be one of three concubines. You wouldn’t like their games much.”
Ethan’s eyes turned to chips of blue ice. “My poor innocent lamb, you can’t imagine the things they get up to.”
Cate: What inspired you to write about the theme?
Denise: I’ve loved vampire stories my entire life. My favorite show as a child was Dark Shadows, a Gothic soap opera. In the eighties and nineties, I read a lot of Anne Rice and decided I wanted to write my own vampire story. This probably sounds silly, but I had a dream about a female vampire and based Mia on her. Of course, you figure out pretty quickly that it’s all been done before. I cast about for an original take on the vampire legend. I’ve always been interested in science. I did a lot of reading on biotechnology and genetics around that time. I’m obviously not the first to write about biological vampires. Richard Matheson did so masterfully in the classic, I am Legend. But I got this idea about trying to distill the secrets of immortality. This led me to the idea of the Immortyl Revolution and the “forbidden science”.
Cate: How do you develop your plots and characters?
Denise: When I first started writing Cara Mia I’d written some plays, but never a novel. So I started reading books on writing fiction. I figured out that all the stuff I’d learned, as an actor was pure gold. You learn to do you character homework. I ask myself a lot of questions about this person, everything from what their deepest held beliefs are to their favorite color. How do they speak, walk, talk and dress? Because vampires are long-lived creatures, it allows me to take people from different time periods and throw them together. Strong-minded Mia butts heads a lot with Ethan’s nineteenth century sensibilities concerning women.
As far as plot goes, I have a basic idea of my beginning, middle and end. Then the characters come to life and take the story in different directions. Kurt, Mia’s lover, is one of those characters. He started out as a love interest for Mia, but his drive to right wrongs turned him into a revolutionary leader. Who knew the little guy had it in him?
Cate: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Denise: Oh yes, they speak inside my head all of the time. Usually, they lock you up for this. Thank heavens I have an excuse. Aside from that first dream, I don’t really dream about them. They’re very real to me. I often find myself chuckling at the antics of the POV character of the third book, Cedric MacKinnon. He’s an adept of the ancient arts, an Immortyl courtesan and temple dancer. So many times, I can hear his irreverent comments, as I go about my daily business.
Cate: What's next for you?
Denise: Book Two, Twilight of the Gods is up for editing with my publisher soon. Book Three, Fearful Symmetry is going through my critique group, and I’m working on Ratopia, Book Four
Cate: Any other published works?
Author: No, but I’ve had produced plays.
Cate: Describe your writing in three words.
Denise: Thought-provoking fun!
Cate: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Most rewarding?
Denise: Promotion. It’s a tough market. There are hundreds of new vampire novels out there. What I love most is when readers say that my writing has moved them, or that they empathized with a character.
Cate: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Denise: That they’ve broken new ground in the genre.
Cate: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Denise: I’m reading Kim Harrison’s fifth Rachel Morgan book right now. In my genre, I love Interview With The Vampire the best. My favorite book of all time is To Kill A Mockingbird. I’m drawn to stories about fighting injustice. I love historical fiction; Robert Grave’s I Claudius and Mary Renault’s The Persian Boy are two of my favorites. Jane Austin. Dickens. Gore Vidal. P. D. James. Ursula K. Le Guinn. Tolkien. J. K. Rowling. I have eclectic tastes.
Cate: Where can you be found on the web?
Facebook fan page: Immortyl Revolution
Goodreads, Shelfari, Amazon, Bitten By Books in The Blood Bank
Cate: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Denise: What do you look for in a vampire story? Adventure, romance, horror or humor? Or do you like a combination? What kind of characters do you like?
Cate: Readers, Denise is giving away a signed poster to a random commenter... so start commenting. She'll pick a winner tomorrow night.
Thanks for being my guest Denise! Best of luck to you.