Jen: Today we welcome Lorena Cassady to Romancing the Book. Lorena, will you share a short bio with us?
Lorena: Lorena Cassady currently lives and writes in Oaxaca, Mexico. She has written in many genres, from newspaper music reviews, to poetry, mystery, magical realism, romance, and the short story. Swashbuckling historical romance with complex and sympathetic characters is her current focus She can be found on Twitter and Facebook. If you are interested in joining her community of readers, contact her at email@example.com with the subject line “sign me up.”
Jen: Tell us about your newest release.
Lorena: The Adventures of Dragos and Holmes is a dark, complex, sometimes humorous romance between Sherlock Holmes and a man quite opposite himself. Dragos Covenu is a dashing, wounded, adventurer from Romania who challenges Holmes with his spontaneity and passion. In the bedroom, Holmes prefers role playing and light S&M to a more sensitive, direct intimacy. Holmes is constantly threatened by Dragos’s real or imagined philandering, and Dragos complains that when Holmes insists that one of them dress up like a pirate or a constable as a prelude to sex, he doesn’t feel seen for who he is. This drama is surrounded by ongoing mysteries and adventures, and an ensemble cast of interesting characters that are multi-dimensional and help move the story(s) along.
The idea for this series came from a lifelong love of the Sherlock Holmes canon on the one hand, and a fascination with Gypsies (they now prefer to be called Roma), their lifestyle and their incredible music. The Roma have always challenged the values of conventional society and as a result have been persecuted in every part of the globe. The idea of a struggle between a passionate free spirit and a closeted, conventional member of society has always been of interest to me. I have seen this theme play out in my own life, in my culture, and in many works of literature. PS: You don’t have to be gay to be “closeted.” For me, that term refers to anyone who is ashamed or fearful of expressing who they really are, or resistant to exploring new ways of thinking and being to liberate their self expression. And just for the record, I’m much more like Dragos than Holmes!
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Lorena: A plotter. For sure! I lay books out chapter by chapter and scene by scene on Scrivener, writing brief descriptions of the action in every scene even if it is only a sentence or two. I do this all the way to the end of the book, or in this case, to the end of the Episode. In this early stage I search for any for structural problems which will be harder to find when the word count starts obscuring them. Once I am confident that I am not going to be embarrassed later by structural missteps, I can relax and let my creativity flow. I am cautious to follow this pattern because I recently recovered from pantsing a 100,000-word novel that went nowhere, and is now an irretrievable mess. Word to the wise!
Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Lorena: I have a daily quota of 1,000 words, seven days a week. I know others try to write more, and I sometimes do too, but I find if I pressure myself to exceed this comfort zone, I start resisting and dreading, and that’s not good! 1,000 words I can write with pleasure and skill, and I have completed books writing half that much per day. It’s not really the word count, as much as actually meeting whatever commitment I make…every single day. I don’t get out of the chair until I have a clear idea about where I’m going to pick up tomorrow. When my brain finally announces it’s dead for purposes of writing, I turn to Netflix, where I am currently binge-watching “The Crown.” I watch many of these excellent episodic dramas (Wolf Hall, Better Call Saul, etc.) as structural models for my own writing, which is why in The Adventures of Dragos & Holmes it is divided into Episodes. I do other things too, like eat and wash dishes. Take a walk. Talk to friends.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Lorena: I read at least forty books, maybe more, before I got very far into writing Dragos & Holmes. I wanted my research on Victorian London, shipping routes, sailing ships, communication (telegrams and mail delivery), and many other details to be resident in my brain so that I didn’t have to pause in my writing to look something up. I had a map of Victorian London embedded in my memory, as well as the major European ports and rail lines. As further research on small details became necessary, I tried to bunch it all up so that I could spend a day doing nothing but research, and then go back to writing. Looking things up as I write can easily send me down a fascinating rabbit hole from which I may not emerge for hours!
Jen: What writers have influenced you?
Lorena: From a very young age I have been drawn to expansive romance-adventures written by masters like Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers and Count of Monte Cristo), Miguel Cervantes (Don Quixote), Voltaire (Candide), Lord Byron (Don Juan) and Mark Twain (Huckleberry Finn). I read to feed my writing, probably two books a week. As I am planning a memoir in the not too distant future, I am slowly working my way through the inspiring Giving up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel (author of Wolf Hall and many other incredible works) and The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Lorena: I am well into the sequel of Dragos & Holmes, which takes them to New York City in 1895 for two episodes, and on to exotic Tangier.