By Don Helin
In her latest novel, According to Luke, Rosanne Dingli unleashes a romantic story of secrecy, symbols, faith and forbidden love. It takes the reader on a quest for an ancient truth so powerful it disturbs the Catholic Church: a truth so explosive it attacks violent separatists and demands a ransom of millions. Readers will follow a chase that charges from Venice to Malta, and then to Ravenna; a chase that escalates to disaster in Damascus, until a solution in found in the Victorian countryside of Australia.
Rosanne is a fascinating and talented author. She is an award-winning Western Australian novelist, author of Death in Malta as well as According to Luke, six collections of short stories, and a book of collected poems. She has worked as a teacher, lecturer, workshop coordinator, magazine and corporate editor, travel consultant, cook, manuscript assessor, heraldic artist and business partner.
I caught up with Rosanne a few days ago and had the chance to ask her a few questions.
Could you tell us a little more about the story?
According to Luke is the story of two very different individuals. One is the protagonist, an Australian art conservator working in Venice, Italy. When a mysterious icon enters her life, it is accompanied by a curator – also Australian – who attracts her in a powerful way. But he is a priest. Their love story is besieged by a number of obstacles, one of which is the icon, which is so significant to the Catholic Church and two other factions that their whole lives are upset by the dilemma they have discovered.
The other person is of course St Luke, the Evangelist who wrote one of the Gospels and most of the Acts of the Apostles. The icon – purported to have been painted by the Evangelist’s own hand – brings to the fore the life and exploits of this Biblical stalwart. What is revealed is threatening to the Church, but also immensely significant in a personal way to Jana Hayes, the protagonist, who finds a parallel in the Disciple’s life that she would do well to observe.
The stakes are high and involve more than just one couple’s lives. It is a moving story, which combines the young priest’s struggle with his vows, and Jana’s search for the kind of life she wants for herself. The adventures the couple endures are dangerous, thrilling, and fill the book with a breathless pace. Large sums of money, guns, a hint of conspiracy and murder are exhilarating ingredients.
What caused you to write this novel?
I started this book a long time ago, always with the idea of writing a thriller with high international stakes, which would interest the widest audience. I wanted both men and women to be interested, and I wanted, for the first time, to have a female protagonist with the talent and intelligence that creates potential for strength and personal vigour, but also drama and emotion. I also wanted a premise that would raise eyebrows and cause a touch of controversy. It took a lot of breakfast table discussion with my husband and family – a very enjoyable weekend thing – to develop a startling enough premise that fuelled my interest, and which lay within my ability to research well.
I was flabbergasted when my premise – which I thought to be so wild and fictional at first – was supported by the research I undertook. A trip to Italy – to personally experience the locations in the book – confirmed that my project was indeed feasible and far more interesting than I ever imagined.
How are you promoting it?
My publisher, BeWrite Books, is continually improving its online presence, and I have taken a leaf out of their book as far as Internet promotion. You will find me and my books on: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Authors Den, Book Blogs, Networked Blogs … and now International Thriller Writers. It is important to create and maintain a profile online, especially since the book was released simultaneously in paperback and eBook editions. My own website and blog – although not entirely devoted to promotion, and contains other interesting material – bring in a lot of interest from readers worldwide.
I have a number of features, interviews, reviews and appearances lined up that promise to provide a busy time for me for the next three months. Promotion is an on-going thing with me. This is why Death in Malta, the mystery BeWrite Books published for me in 2005, is still selling well.
My launch in Perth, Western Australia – where I live and write – is going to be a combination of the literary and the visual. A well-known local artist, Robyn Varpins, is taking all the mentioned icons and representations from According to Luke and painting and sculpting her own renditions of them. We are having an exhibition launch, where readers will be able to see the images in the book come to life. Interested people might like to purchase a book and an image that goes with it. We do not know if this is the first time this concept has ever been tried in Perth.
The weekend exhibition is 26-29 May, 2011, and both Robyn and I are looking forward to the event. Over 400 invitations will be sent.
I have an outline of my next thriller, which will involve music and the visual arts, and perhaps a hint of WWII mystery. I cannot say more because it is under wraps until my publishers give me the green light to talk about it, but it promises to be just as exciting as According to Luke. What I can say, however, is that it is a lot of hard work. I can only seem to dig the writing out of research – my inspiration lies in mysteries and revelations I find in old documents, old paintings, and the exploits historians and others get up to in order to conceal secrets.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing (family, hobbies, etc.)?
I have a busy life and a helpful husband. He is great when it comes to analysing, discussing and sorting out premises, stories, plots and characters for books. Our family is young and active – two teenage musicians with a range of interests and very fertile minds can be very demanding. We love to travel and try to fit in as much as we can afford. Our trip to Italy in 2008 was memorable for a number of creative and family reasons. I also love antiques, yellow crockery, which I collect, and books, books, books.
Thanks for the interview, Rosanne. I Know that many of our ITW readers will get a copy of According to Luke. I know that I will.
For more information, please visit Rosanne’s website.