We are delighted to welcome good friend of the Write Romantics, Siobhan Daiko back on the blog today, to tell us what has been happening since the release of her first fantastic five-star novella in the Fragrant Courtesans series, which we’ve been thrilled to see hit some of the Amazon bestseller charts. Over to you, Siobhan.
It’s a real pleasure to be a guest of the Write Romantics this Saturday. Thanks for having me back again!
I’d like to introduce you to Veronica, a high-class sex worker in 16th Century Venice. Known as courtesans, these gifted ladies of the night were well-educated and highly sought-after. They were trained, usually by their mothers, not just to have sex but also to entertain their patrons by singing, playing music, dancing, and witty conversation. I came across them when I was researching my romantic historical novel Lady of Asolo. My fantastic editor, John Hudspith, suggested I play to my strengths which, for him, is the way I can convey gritty realism when writing sex scenes. So I decided to write a series about the most famous of these women, and Veronica is the first.
I watch him watching us, imagining how he would take me.
I send him the message with my eyes.
This is who I am.
I am Veronica Franco.
I am a COURTESAN.
I court the cultural elite for fame and fortune, giving my body to many.
And I’m good. So very good. After all, I was taught by my mother, and mother always knows best.
How else to please the future King of France than with the imaginative use of Murano glass? How else to fulfil the desires of all yet keep my sense of self-worth?
But when disaster strikes and my life begins to unravel, I’ll have to ask myself one question:
Is it too late to give my heart to just one man?
Set in Venice 16th Century.
Advisory: sensuously erotic. 18+
My novella is based on a true story. Veronica was married off young, as women were in those days, for financial reasons, but the union ended badly. To support herself, she learnt the tricks of the trade from her mother, who’d also been a cortigiana in her youth. Veronica was a talented poet and writer – able to maintain a balance between her sense of self-worth and the need to win and keep the support of men. The fact that she loved to write made me feel an affinity with her. When I read her poems and letters, I was struck by the force of Veronica’s feisty, forward personality and decided she would make the perfect protagonist. She had a string of lovers, but there was one man, a fellow-poet, with whom she had the most amorous affair. His poems to her are published in her Terze Rime in the form of a poetic debate, and I enjoyed adapting them and using them as repartee between the two characters. Veronica was a talented seductress, able to create desire in her patrons under her own terms. I’m sure she loved each and every one of them in her own way, as evidenced by this quote from one of her poems:
So fragrant and delightful do I become, when I am in bed with someone who, I feel, adores and appreciates me, that the joy I bring exceeds all pleasure, so the ties of love, however close they seemed before, are knotted tighter still.
Veronica became the most sought-after courtesan in the city. Writing an erotic novella about a woman who practised ‘free love’ has been exciting. Veronica was promiscuous, yes, she had to be; how else to please the King of France but with the imaginative use of Murano glass? She was a self-promoter, but she also loved deeply and was loved in return. In the following excerpt, Veronica is entertaining two of her patrons, aiming to be invited to a literary salon. There she meets Domenico Venier, who becomes her editor. Even in the 16th Century, having an editor was vital to a writer.
“We make polite conversation throughout the meal, but, as soon as we progress to the portego for after-dinner drinks and entertainment, I get right to the point. ‘My lord, Signor Ludovico tells me you frequent a literary salon.’
‘That’s right. Domenico Venier’s. ’Tis the most important gathering place for intellectuals and writers in Venice.’
‘Are courtesans welcome there?’
‘I’ve noticed a few. Why?’
I’m seized by a sudden shyness. Will he think I’m being forward? Thankfully, Ludovico answers for me.
‘I’ve told you about Veronica’s abilities. Don’t tease the girl!’
The count laughs and drains his glass. I reach across to refill it, my gaze meeting his. ‘I write poetry. My greatest desire is to learn from others and improve my own work.’
‘Will you read me one of your poems?’
‘With pleasure.’ I go to my desk and return with the verse on which I’m now working.
Take me in far sweeter fashion
Than anything my quill can describe.
Your love can be the steadfast knot that pulls me towards you,
Joined to you more tightly than a nail in hard wood;
Your love can make you master of my life,
Show me the love I’ve asked for from you,
And you’ll then enjoy my sweetness to the full.
‘Very good!’ Andrew Tron rises from his chair and bows. ‘You have talent, Signora Veronica. I shall be delighted to introduce you to Venier. Pray tell me, in what far sweeter fashion can a man take you than your quill can describe?’
I laugh. ‘Ah, that’s something I have yet to discover – which is why my quill cannot describe it.’
It was a joy to bring Veronica to life on the page. I did have some issues when publishing to Amazon. My book cover, for the paperback, used a famous old work of art, The Venus of Urbino, by Titian. I chose it as it’s supposed to be the painting of a 16th Century Venetian courtesan, even if she wasn’t Veronica Franco.
The cover was accepted by Create Space, but rejected by Kindle which doesn’t allow nudity in any form. A banner placed across her breasts just didn’t look right, so I commissioned a new cover for the e-book version from my wonderful designer JD Smith.
I’ve learnt a lot about publishing an erotic novella through my experiences with Veronica. My next book in the erotic courtesans series is “The Submission of Theodora”, based on another real character. Set in 6th Century Constantinople, it’s inspired by a courtesan who became involved with the most powerful man in the world: the Emperor’s nephew and heir apparent. So far, it’s coming along nicely and I expect to publish it in early November.
Thanks again, Write Romantics, I’ve loved sharing Veronica with you. Here are my social media links.