I'm so pleased to welcome Jannine Corti Petska as my guest author today!
Welcome, Jannine. Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about the person behind the pen.
I’m Jannine Corti Petska, author of historical romances. I began writing 30 years ago when my three daughters were young. I’m a native of New York although I’ve lived in Southern California since the age of three. I have 6 grandchildren, 3 Rat Terriers and one husband!
Why did you decide to write historical romances? What is the appeal?
I hated history in school, mostly due to the fact that my teachers were boring. (I loved and excelled in English grammar and writing.) It’s rather odd that I’d end up researching and writing historicals. But thanks to Kathleen Woodiwiss and Johanna Lindsey, I was hooked. I discovered how much I had missed by not paying attention in my history classes. I suppose I’m making up for it now, lol.
Stories of romance mixed with the historical background goes hand-in-hand for me. A romance can come out of any situation. I become a part of the history and travel to places I’d never been or would never go to.
How much research goes into your books, and how do you tackle that?
An idea for a story will pop into my head. Setting depends on the story’s plot. Then I establish my hero and heroine, names included. That’s always been a must for me before I begin to write. I lived in libraries, searched used book stores and library book sales, and antique stores to find books on the subject I needed. When I started, there wasn’t the internet. Now, however, the internet is the first place I go to learn more about the era I plan to use. I rarely step foot into a library these days. Having over 2000 research books in my home library helps me stay home while I work on the research. Still, it takes several months to compile my notes. And I continue to research during the writing process.
What is the best comment you ever received from a reader? The worst or weirdest?
It’s difficult to pick just one. Readers have said I paint a vivid picture with words. Others felt like they were transported back in time.
I haven’t had any negative comments from readers. But one reviewer said she loved the book and the writing of the western she read, but she went off on the rape scene. There wasn’t a rape scene. I suppose that could go under weirdest.
Tell us a little about your writing style? Do you plan and plot your stories, or do you just plow through them?
I plow through them. I have an idea where I want the story to go, but I cannot plot it out. That really cramps my writing style. However, I usually loosely plot the last 3 chapters so I know how the story is going to end. But sometimes I stray from what I thought would be the ending. I never know the certainty of a book’s end until the very last chapter.
Can you tell us a little about your current work, SURRENDER TO HONOR? Is there a story behind the story?
This book is the second in my Italian medieval series and is set in Palermo to honor my Sicilian mother. It actually tells the story of the beginning of the mafia—not that my mother was part of that organization, lol.
The hero returns home after a 15 year absence. He finds his father dying and his family in a battle over who will rule Palermo. It’s not an official rule like a king’s. The ruler is the head of a family others can go to when there’s trouble, look to for guidance—la famiglia. And no, I don’t mean the mafia, lol. The powerful leader has wealth, respect, and brings no harm to anyone…except the bad guys.
What sets your heroine Prima Ranieri apart from all the other women in your hero Antonio Massaro’s life? Why is she perfect for him?
Antonio is about peace and doesn’t carry any weapons. But do not mistake him for a beta male. Quite the contrary. The women in his past were bored wives, single women, or any woman he desired to satisfy his sexual needs. But Prima is a warrior. She dons armor and is an expert with several weapons as she battles the evil Falcone family. You might say she was 600 years ahead of women’s lib. <g> She doesn’t frighten easily and is a huge source of frustration and intrigue to Antonio. Really, their relationship is a case of opposites attract. But in dealing with her impulsiveness, Antonio learns a lot about himself and about true love.
Have you ever had writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
I’ve had nearly 10 years of writer’s block, lol. The turn of events in my life and the stress I’ve endured nearly killed my thought process. I couldn’t think beyond the simple plot idea of (for example, from TEMPT NOT MY HEART, book 4 of my Italian medieval series) the hero goes to Siena for business and the yearly Palio but gets caught up with a few not so nice people with ulterior motives. The heroine is not your dainty female. She’s tall and somewhat a plus-size woman. And she desires to go to Siena’s medical school but cannot afford to get in.
Plot ideas during those 10 years were stagnant. I’d gotten very depressed because my mind was virtually blank. I’ve never been good in dealing with writer’s block. I let it eat me up.
Then last year, one of my editors asked if I’d write a short story for a certain line. I was terrified. I had written only one book three years back, and it was a struggle to find the words and ideas. That went on from beginning to end of that story, which took 7 months to write. I’ve never gone past 2 months to write a full-length novel. But it was such an honor to be asked, so I accepted. That started me on the road to writing again. In November, I did the NaNoWriMo challenge for the first time (and last!) and muddled my way through the 50,000 words required to “win” the challenge. It pushed me into rebooting my thought process. I still struggle for ideas, but I usually go out and garden, play with my three dogs, watch Italian professional soccer on TV—basically anything that does not require me to think. That allows my mind to be free to whatever thoughts about my story pop into my head. For a while there, I had the neatest gardens, and I think I wore my dogs out. J
Can you give us a little background on your hero Antonio Massaro that’s only in your author notes, and not found in your story?
What you see is what you get. I always reveal all my hero’s secrets by the end of the book. If there’s anything in creating his character that I don’t use, I make note of it for another hero. I detest secretive people— I’m suspicious of them. I’m all about the truth. That’s why my hero and heroine come clean by the end of the book.
What inspired you to create this character?
Antonio is a combination of many male relatives, all Italian, of course! If my hero’s tall with black hair, then he has a bit of my favorite cousin Sonny (Antonio is his real name) whom I had planned to marry in my little girl dreams. (He was 20 years older.)
My hero Antonio was the stable master in book one of my Italian medieval series, THE LILY AND THE FALCON. In that book, there was a lot of mystery behind his character. But that wasn’t his story, so I brought none of that mystery to light.
Describe a favorite scene in your current novel.
Prima likes to train with her weapons and Antonio’s men to keep her skills up. She’s an expert at archery, and as adept with a sword in her hands. One day, he’s fed up with her distracting his men and challenges her to a swordfight. Because it’s known that he doesn’t carry weapons, she figures he wouldn’t be much of an opponent. She hates to humiliate him, but she’s ticked off with him and thinks he deserves the humiliation. She soon learns Antonio is not without skill in swordplay. Curious about how that scene ends? You’ll have to read the book. J
What else do you have in store for your readers?
DANTE’S FLAME, Book 3 of my Italian medieval series, will be released in July. I am presently writing book 4, TEMPT NOT MY HEART set in Siena around the Palio. In August, MINE TO KEEP, the short story I mentioned above, will be released.
Would you care to share an excerpt from your book, SURRENDER TO HONOR, book 2, Italian medieval series
Prima Ranieri seeks retribution for her family's death and loss of home and land. Her plans go awry when the heir to the powerful Massaro family returns home. After only one glance, Prima's attraction to him undermines her furor toward those she blames for her plight.
After a fifteen year absence, Antonio Massaro returns to Palermo to find a war raging between his family and the evil Falcone. His refusal to accept his rightful position as the head of the Honored Society carries serious consequences. The welfare of the people of Palermo is at stake. But one look at the beautiful woman Prima has become costs him his heart. She's a deadly distraction...one that jeopardizes her life as well as his own.
Antonio ordered Prima thrown into the dungeon. In this scene, he goes down to release her from the rack where he had previously secured her wrists and ankles.
“If you confess, you will find yourself free before nightfall.”
“I have naught to confess.” She lifted her chin and met his gaze.
“You attacked me. By what reason did you greet me with unfriendly intentions?”
“I thought you were a…thief, looking to prey on the innocent women weeping for their dead.”
She glared up at him.
“You had no other reason than to seek revenge on the Massaro and the Falcone. You thought I came, summoned to Palermo by one of those families, another man willing to join forces with powerful foes.”
“Was it not I who you bade to confess? Alas, since you have spoken my truth, as I already did after you captured me, am I free to leave?”
Antonio forced back a grin caused by her saucy remark. “Clever, piccola.” He pulled open the cuffs at her wrists anyway, ignoring the shock spanning her features. “They were never locked,” he admitted, watching her shock turn to seething hatred.
She sat up, rubbing her wrists. He scooped her surcoat from the rushes and sat down beside her legs on the raised rack. When he took her hand in his, she snatched it away.
“I mean only to tend your cuts,” he said.
“I shall see to them myself.” Prima tugged her surcoat out of his hand. “The ankle cuffs?”
Antonio glanced back at her wiggling feet, all the while aware that her eyes were on the leather tie holding his long hair in place. It was uncommon for a man of wealth and honor to wear his hair below his jaw; he didn’t care. He turned then and caught her staring. The ill-lit dungeon did not conceal the warm flush unfolding up her cheeks.
“It appears we are in a small quandary. The ankle cuffs are locked, and I have not the key.” He rose to search the dungeon. He picked up an axe and curled his fingers around the leather wrapped handle. From the corner of his eye he watched Prima as he raised the old weapon to his lips and blew the dust free. When he cleaved the table with the sharp blade, Prima gasped. “This should do, I think,” he said.
“Wh-what are you about?” Her eyes widened as he raised the weapon high above his head. “What—? Dio!” She clasped her hands behind her neck and pulled her head between her knees. The chains jerked her ankles and her legs slammed together, snapping against her ears. He knew of no easier way to rid her of the chains. One final blow freed her completely. She raised her head, rubbing her ears, and shook herself of the gypsy bells undoubtedly tinkling within. She touched her hair, felt her neck, and exhaled loudly.
Astonished, Antonio asked, “Think you I would take your head?”
She boldly met his gaze. “Sì.”
Where can we find you and your books?
Jannine Corti Petska