It’s a wonderful day here in east Texas and I’m going to sit in the porch swing and enjoy it. Come on up and join me. Let me pour you a big glass of iced tea. In case you haven’t met, this is Robbi Perna, a good friend of mine and she’s stopped by for another blog visit.
Two-time Royal Palm Literary Award winner and multi-published author Robbi Perna started penning romantic fiction as a respite from her career as a military analyst specializing in strategic communications. Both her historical romance, “My Heart Still Surrenders” and her adventure novel of the time-traveling twins, “The Roman Phalera,” won the Royal Palm Literary Award. Robbi returns to the blog today to talk about her most recent release, “Robes of Destiny,” a novel of paranormal romantic suspense. If you were lucky enough to visit last time, you may remember she told us a little about it.
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It’s good to see you again, Robbi.
Hi Susan! Thank you so much for inviting me back for a return visit. I know it’s a cliché, but I can believe its three years since I last visited. A lot has happened in that time. I left Florida in January 2016 and returned to Virginia. Florida is a warm, friendly place, but I realized my heart and my inspiration were both in Virginia. However, “Robes” takes place in Florida—at least initially! As with most of my works, Italy always plays at least a minor role, and this novel is no exception. It also gave me an opportunity to bring in some characters from my Domenico Family Case Files series and have them play minor roles in the action.
As an author yourself, you know how many times people ask you where you find the inspirations for the stories you write. As I mentioned briefly in my last visit, the inspiration for “Robes” grew out of a suggestion my business partner made to me. Since he is a very buttoned down individual, pragmatic and not a fan of fantasy or science fiction, the suggestion took me by surprise. However, it was an excellent idea, one inspired by a cruise I took several years ago aboard Cunard Lines that offered the option of shipping luggage to the ship. I took advantage of the service and shipped a steamer trunk full of evening clothes. Apparently the idea tickled my friend’s fancy and he came up with the idea for the story line.
The basic premise of the story is the heroine’s flamboyant aunt, a 21st century version of Mame Dennis, disappears while on a cruise. Her trunk of clothes arrives at the heroine’s house and when she touches them, she sees visions of her aunt’s experiences while wearing the item. The hero who had an unpleasant experience with the aunt several years earlier during his career as a Delta Force operative thinks the whole thing is a publicity stunt. He agrees to help the heroine after she has her first experience with the clothes.
The book was one of those rare occurrences in which it almost wrote itself. It’s a fun, escapist-from-reality read that I think my fans, both of long standing and new ones, will enjoy. Here is the blurb and a short excerpt to give you all a flavor for the story.
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As the curator of a private collection of Renaissance art, Rina Antonelli lives a circumspect, structured existence complete with a spoiled dog. The quiet life she creates is her vision of normality. Secure in the belief her efforts are successful, she is unprepared for the events that shatter her careful existence and destroy this vision of normality. Her aunt, Cat Antonelli, eighties wild child and darling of the international paparazzi, disappears from her world cruise. The authorities believe it’s a publicity stunt. Rina disagrees and consults her aunt’s long time lover, Vince Fontana. The retired Police Commissioner introduces her to his godson, Dante Terrasini. As a Delta Force operative, Danny has experience locating high value targets, but in this case, he agrees with the authorities.
The handsome, smart talking operative is the illegitimate son of a single mother who grew up in the projects. He knows Rina is out of his league.
Will they unravel the mystery and find Cat? And, can they overcome the obstacles and find their way to love?
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Love the premise, Robbi. Don’t keep us waiting. Let’s hear the excerpt.
Twenty-four hours later, Danny glanced over at Rina. She gazed out the window, her attention focused on the views of the runaway as the jet waited its turn for takeoff.
“I hope the furry thing will survive her stay in jail. Maybe we should have brought her with us.”
She turned to look at him. “She gets more attention there than she does at home. She’s fine. And for the record, I don’t take my dog with me when I stay in other people’s homes.”
“You could bring her to mine when you come to visit.”
“I doubt the occasion will arise.”
Her dry rejoinder delighted him. Her cool manner since they’d stopped by the kennel worried him. Now he had her attention focused on him instead of the non-existent landscape, he decided to poke at her a little more. “So, tell me. What else do you do with your left hand besides pitch apples at the back of someone’s head?” Good thing it didn’t connect. Her accuracy with the hard green missile would have hurt.
She looked at him with a bland expression. “It slipped when I picked it up to cut it for Sienna. She gets an apple about the same time every day.”
“That explains it. I wondered why you took apples and yogurt to the kennel. Do they cut it up the same way?”
“I’ve never asked.”
“Interesting way to slice and dice it.”
She refused to back down. “It works.”
“So, I’ll repeat my question.”
“You never give up, do you?” Exasperation replaced the blandness she’d exhibited a minute earlier. “The same things I do with my right hand. And, how did you know I used my left hand.”
“The angle of the…ah, slip. I’ve only seen you use your right hand. Why?” He lifted a brow requesting an explanation.
“Ter sunt conati imponere Ossam?”
“Say what? It’s been a long time since my days in Sister Elizabeth’s Latin class.”
“Sorry. It’s a quote from Virgil’s Georgics and is an allusion to the attempt of the giants to scale heaven by piling Mount Ossa upon Mount Pelion.”
Dawning comprehension changed his expression from mocking to serious. “And you think people will add the fact you’re ambidextrous to your…ah…other gifts and ridicule you for it?”
Her bleak tone tore at his heart. “You’ve no idea.”
He cleared his throat and took a leap of faith. “You know what Marco Domenico said when I called him after the first”—he paused searching for the right word with the same care he’d use stepping into a minefield—“incident you experienced with the trunk.”
“I’m not sure I want to know.”
“Yes, you do…for two reasons. The first is because you’ll have to deal with him until we find out what’s going down and find Cat, and the second”—he shifted a little closer to her—“because I also believe the same thing.”
“That I’m a freak?”
“No. His exact words were, ‘think of what use we could have made of an asset like Caterina if she’d been over in the box with us,’ and he’s right.” His eyes took on a cold, flinty look. “The art of apperception is something we as a nation lack, but knowing what the enemy thought or planned, and understanding both within the context of its own world view, would have saved a lot of our guys’ lives.” He reached over and lifted her chin so he could look her squarely in the eye. “You’re not a freak, Caterina, gifted certainly, but not a freak.”
Disbelief clouded her expression, but knowing what he did now, his hand slipped down to grasp hers and he pressed it against his chest. He took her left hand, placed a light fleeting kiss on her palm, but kept his thoughts and emotions to himself.
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A wounded hero and a princess with a secret…how intriguing. You’ve got my attention! I love the tension between the two of them. Now, tell everyone a little about yourself. How long have you been writing?
I’ve been a writer for most of my professional life. My first work of fiction was an 8th grade English assignment from Sister Patriciana. The story in a play format starred my three younger brothers, me, and the family dog in a spy thriller set in Rome—a city to which most 13-year-old girls of my generation had never traveled. A popular TV series of the era, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E., inspired the storyline, probably because I recall being madly in love with Illya Kuryakin. Some fifty years later, I still have a vivid memory of the “A” the assignment earned along with Sister’s notation, “the dog was the best part of the story.”
I loved that TV series and I had a crush on him as well. It must have been the accent. Tell me. Are you a plotter, a pantser or some combination of both?
I’m most definitely a plotter. My books all start with an idea I develop into a very basic outline that hits the major high points of the story. From the basic outline, I then make a video trailer, a process that serves several purposes. The first is it gives me a visual picture of my characters for physical descriptions, inspires me to keep writing at the story, and provides a sneak peek for my fans and followers because I post it on You Tube and my website far in advance of the book’s release. It never hurts to start advertising early and creating a buzz of anticipation.
I never thought about making a trailer before you’ve finished a book, but I can see why it would give you the impetus to continue writing. Another question. What is the best compliment you ever received as a writer?
In this particular instance, having the Florida Writers Association honor me and my two stories with the 2014 and 2015 Royal Palm Literary Award ranks echelons above anything I can name. However, there are two other compliments I treasure. When I decided to switch to fiction from my day job of technical writing, I enrolled in an adult education class at Northern Virginia Community College. The professor, Kevin G. Summers who is a published author in his own right, taught four, two hour sessions on the fine art of fiction writing. After our second assignment, he told me I certainly knew how to tell a story from start to finish without getting bogged down in the middle. I treasure the comment and try to live up to it with everything I write.
The second compliment comes from a review on Amazon from someone I don’t know who commented, “When you find a writer who can tell a wonderful story that captures your heart and can tell it superbly, well you simply have a great find. Robbi Perna’s stories fit the bill to a T!” I try to keep the both the spirit and the words of the compliment in the forefront as I spin my stories.
Who is your favorite character from this book and why?
My favorite character is Sienna, the heroine’s chocolate Havenese. As an animal lover, I almost always have one in my stories. In “The Roman Phalera,” it was the Arabian horses, Larry, Mo, and Curley, that belonged to the Cavaleri Twins and their older brother. In “Where the Lion Dwells,” I based the animal characters on my own Arabian horse, Tuscan, and my beloved parti-poodle, Santino who is no longer with me. When it came to Sienna, I asked my good friend, Julie Manna, if I could “borrow” Sienna, a true, real life diva. She agreed and Sienna appeared in the story—bringing her own tiara, which in the book I attribute to the hero’s gift after a visit to the vet for shots. I’ve posted a picture of her on my Stories That Sweep You Away Facebook page wearing her tiara.
Okay, the next questions are just for fun. What is something we’ll never catch you doing?
There are two things will never catch me writing: vampires and explicit sex scenes. While I like my stories to have romance with a twist, vampires isn’t one with which I’m comfortable or have any interest in writing. I don’t write explicit sex scenes for two reasons. The first is I believe what one reader finds sensual may not be the same for another. I prefer the art of suggestion and leave the details up to the individual reader. The second reason is I like the person I see in the mirror every day. I believe my books succeed because they are good stories, not because I’ve used graphic sexual content to capture an audience’s interest.
If you met a genie, what 3 things would you wish for?
A long life well-lived, a peaceful death, and no computers in the afterlife.
It’s been great fun chatting with you, Robbi, and I’m sure everyone has enjoyed it as much as I have. Stop by any time, especially when you have a snippet of another one of your stories. Guys, visit the links below to learn more about this lovely lady.