Thursday, 23 September 2021

I Interviews

Interview: Joanna Davidson Politano

Please provide a brief synopsis of your new book, The Love Note?

The Love Note is primarily about the secret longing we all have for a lasting love, to know and be known. Ambitious Willa Duvall finds an unopened love note in the crack of her old writing desk after rejecting her third proposal, and it stirs something even in the independent woman who never wanted to marry. She takes a position at Crestwicke Manor to trace the letter writer there—and perhaps deliver it to the person meant to receive it.

Davidson JoannaBut when she misplaces the letter and someone else happens upon it, the letter makes its way through the household, impacting all those people who seemed so unlikely to be connected to the beautiful words in that note. Yet one of them actually is the writer, and another the one who never received it. It loosens secrets, reveals cracks within hearts, and ultimately draws a great amount of trouble to the surface—then begins to heal it all.

Your novel takes place during the Victorian era. What attracts you to this time period?

My true love of that specific era came from stepping into it alongside Charles Dickens characters and experiencing the gritty, dramatic, highly textured world he painted for readers. Then Daphne Du Maurier’s deliciously shadowed gothic fiction found me, offering a wonderful pairing with the Victorian era’s lost old estates and London backstreets, and I was hooked. I write what I enjoy reading, and this was the perfect combination for me.

The Love Note begins in Brighton, England, but then moves to Crestwicke Manor, a large tudor- style home on the coast. What type of research was required to accurately portray the settings for your book?

Research for this book involved firsthand experiences—from sights I’ve seen to illnesses contracted by people I know and plenty of research books. Crestwicke is near the white cliffs of Dover, which I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, and the house itself is based on an old abandoned tudor I’ve seen in person—one that actually had vines growing up the circular stairway and trees reaching in through broken French-style windows. Even in its decay, the place was beautiful. Crestwicke is the restored version of that house.

I also read a lot about the history of that area and what was happening while my story was unfolding. The heroine’s father dreamed of opening a health spa, a sort of mineral bath, which was becoming quite the fashionable experience in Victorian Brighton. What had once been a rural, quiet place became a magnet for wealthy Londoners on seaside holiday, and I tried to capture the very beginnings of that movement in the story. Medical research was also involved, since I had a near-doctor heroine involved in a nursing assignment. I dive into rheumatic heart disease quite a bit, pulling from my grandfather’s life for this information and rounding it out with a thorough investigation into treatments in Victorian England.

Your novel is a perfect balance of mystery and romance. How did you come up with your creative plot twist?

Honestly, I just keep writing and watching it unfold. I suggested a nugget of an idea to my publisher, and had no more than that two-paragraph summary when I started writing the story. I wrote myself into a lot

 

of corners and brick walls, then did a lot of deleting and fresh writing before arriving at the completed story. Normally I have lots and lots of The Love Note covernotes I compile while writing other books, but this time I started from scratch. I even had a different ending in mind, where the letter had been both written by and intended for completely different people. I kept an open conversation going with God, and that story just kept twisting and unfolding, the theme (and thus the ending) heading in a different direction than I’d anticipated. As far as the blend of mystery and romance, I write what I love reading. My favorite stories have a little of both of those elements, so that’s what I include! I often stop and ask myself, what scene would I just love to reach next if I were reading this story?

You have some very strong personalities in The Love Note. Do you have a favorite character and why?

So many truly stood out. Gabe, the hero, unfolded like a flower and didn’t show much of himself to me for a while—but when he did, I was stunned at that man who’d been hiding out! The heroine just hit the spot for me. She was compassionate and robust, soft and strong. Golda, the heroine’s patient, was one of those near-villains who still manages to enchant you despite—or maybe because of—her natural irritability and obvious flaws. My favorite, however, is Maisie, the elderly aunt. Her almost visceral love of words and her classic wisdom made me love watching her on the page. Her storytelling abilities are incredibly fresh and full of life. I also have a huge soft spot for those who—like Aunt Maisie—are overlooked and undervalued. She was just a precious, special character to watch unfolding, just like the stories she told so well.

You mentioned that the “letter” plays a huge part in your book, both as a catalyst and almost as a character in itself. What do you mean by this statement?

A catalyst, to a writer, is a character who sweeps through the story causing things to happen among the other characters, shifting the dynamic of lives and hearts without changing at all himself. The letter did not, of course, change in content throughout the story, but as it made its way about the house and into various people’s possession, it shifted the dynamic of the house one character at a time. One cracked heart at a time. Its presence forced each finder to face their most quiet, hidden thoughts about true love and romance. Every one of them have experienced supreme disappointment in the area of love, and that letter draws out—and helps them deal with—everything they thought they’d buried down deep and forgotten.

 

What do you hope readers will gain from reading The Love Note?

I hope readers analyze their hearts, their expectations for all kinds of love, the same way the characters do, but with their own specific situations and life stories in mind. We all have certain hopes we entertain about romantic love, familial love, and even deep friendships. Not one of us has had every hope met, and what do we do with it? Feel bad, cast it away somewhere to deal with later? Bury the disappointment and move on with life? Most of us do something along those lines, but as each character examines his or her expectations, disappointments, and hopes concerning love, it shakes loose a God-given drive to search for that thing we secretly, desperately, always hoped to find—lasting love. Knowing and being known. And we can’t ever find what we don’t search for, right?

What are you working on next?

I’ve just finished the first draft of a book set in London’s theater world about a ballet dancer with unique talents and a conflicted heart. I’ve just set that aside to let it percolate, and I’ve begun the research for a book set in the asylum, which is proving most challenging and absolutely rewarding. Very different books, but I hope readers will enjoy both.

How can readers connect with you?

I love connecting on social media: https://www.facebook.com/joannadavidsonpolitano/ for Facebook and https://twitter.com/politano_joanna on Twitter. If you want a glimpse of my heart, I write lots of thoughts on my website, jdpstories.com, which also has a contact for me and a prayer request section to connect with me personally.

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