July 12, 2012

Character Interview: Dante from Dante's Flame

Dante's Flame.
Janine, welcome to Romance Lives Forever. Tell us about your latest book, including its genre. Does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they?
DANTE’S FLAME is a medieval set in Naples, Italy, during the political struggle between the French and Spanish kings for control over Naples. Dante Santangelo sides with the French and is watching the Valente family for signs of Spanish loyalties. Alessandra Podesta is sent to Naples by her parents to get her out of the “tempting” Venetian environment, hoping it will stop the illicit tales she writes. She lives with her cousins, the Valentes. Dante thinks she was sent there to aid the Spanish king. She gets caught up in the politically tense situation while looking for adventure to write about. Her curious nature befuddles Dante and nearly gets Alessandra killed. She’s a firecracker, and he’s very intelligent, serious. Needless to say, they don’t see eye-to-eye.
What is the single most important part of writing for you?
Research. Because I write historicals, it’s imperative to know about the location and time of the story. During the research process, I usually discover reasons for conflict between the hero and heroine. Without becoming aware of 15th century Naples, I wouldn’t have known about the political war. Or about the people and their superstitions. All of which factor into the story.
What do you enjoy most about life?
1) Spending time with my husband of 40 years; 2) Being a grandma, or Nonna, as my 6 grandkids call me. I enjoy all of them, even the one who is more stubborn than his mother was, lol. 3) Besides my grandchildren, I enjoy my dogs and wish I could have more than just three. Dogs are refreshing, loyal, loving. 4) During the summer, I love getting outside and tending to my gardens, both floral and vegetable. The string beans, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, fingerling potatoes, and everything else I grow tastes a whole lot better than what I buy in stores. 5) I love watching soccer, particularly the Serie A, which is Italy’s top-flight league. And, of course, I love the Italian national team. My youngest daughter began playing soccer nearly 32 years ago when she was four. She never looked back, and my husband and I were so proud of her accomplishments on and off the field. LOL, I had a difficult time watching her play. She’s a goalkeeper (she still plays), and that always made, and still makes, me nervous!
What did you learn from writing your first book? 
The first book I wrote was in 1980, or there about. I was so new to writing and broke every rule in the book. It was such a learning experience. At the time, I didn’t belong to RWA, which I joined in 1996. That first book, though, made me realize how difficult writing a novel really is. I probably would have ended my career there if I hadn’t received good rejections from editors and agents. Encouraging rejections. And the wonderful support of RWA.
Would you consider self publishing?
Yes, I’d love to self-publish. I might one day, but I’m so inept with the tech. side of the computer. I can’t even figure out Facebook or a blog I started that has only a name to it. It’s mind-boggling to me. I’ve taken classes, yet I still cannot figure them out! Twitter, too. But self-publishing will give me a chance to have control over every aspect of my book. There’s the potential to make a good living selling on my own. Right now, I don’t have a manuscript ready to self-publish.
If you could give the younger version of yourself advice what would it be?
It would be the same as I give all writers, whether starting out or advanced: Don’t give up! That was one of the hardest lessons I learned. Had I given up, I would have never published and likely would have always wondered if I might have achieved that goal.
Also, read, read, read! Which I did. The only regret I have is not finding RWA 10 or so years sooner. The organization opened an entire world of insight to the craft, the one thing a writer should never stop learning.
Lily and the Falcon
If I was a first time reader of your books, which one would you recommend I start with and why?
REBEL HEART. There is something about this book and the hero, Beau Hamilton, that has been my favorite ever since I wrote it in the 80s. He’s irascible, gruff, but underneath it all, there is a man with a soft heart for the heroine and others who are important to him. But she drags him kicking and screaming all the way to the end before he finally admits he loves her. You’ll see his transformation in small degrees, and you’ll understand why when you learn his backstory.
What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?
I hope they see that love does conquer all, that it can be quick or slow-building, and with an unlikely person. I think you have to believe in the power of love, and I hope my stories convey that.
A biography has been written about you. What do you think the title would be in six words or less?
I posed this question to my family, and they agreed on: Proud, Passionate…and Italian
If money were not an object, where would you most like to live?
Italy, of course! I’m not sure what city, but more than likely Rome or Milan. My favorite soccer team is A.C. Milan. Roma is my second favorite. Plus I’d love to live among the history and the medieval feel of thecities. The one time I visited Italy, I fell in love with the atmosphere and the way of life as well as the ancient and medieval architecture.
Picture yourself as a store. Considering your personality and lifestyle, what type of products would be sold there?
Books, music, Italian and soccer related things, anything for and about dogs. I’d also have a cafĂ© in my store that served Italian drinks and pastries. It would be very eclectic but it would be warm and inviting.
As a child, what was your favorite thing about school?
I looked forward to writing papers. I think writing novels stemmed from that early desire.
If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
“Open carefully. Contents under pressure.” Admittedly, I have a temper, and it doesn’t take much to set me off, especially if I see an injustice being done.
Please Fill in the Blanks
I love pizza with cheese and pepperoni.
I'm always ready for watching Italian soccer.
When I'm alone, I listen to music and dance around the house.
You'd never be able to tell, but I’m Italian. (blonde hair and blue eyes fool everyone).
If I had a halo it would be an angel’s halo with the devil’s horns attached.
Surrender to Honor
If I could become a billionaire I'd help all the homeless animals in the world.
I can never travel far from home because I’m afraid to fly.

Character Interview

Tell us about the main character in your current book. What is he like?
Dante Santangelo is a highly educated, intelligent man with a secret he hides until the very end. He was born in Naples but left at an early age and grew up in Provence. His eyes are a captivating blue/violet. He teaches Latin and French at the University of Naples and speaks four languages. Dante is fairly easy-going but can get intense over injustices to human or animal. On the surface he seems to be quiet, agreeable. But beneath the surface, his seldom lost ire lurks.
If your main character was here today, what would he say is his strongest point?
His patience.
Does he think he has a weakness? (If so, what does he think it is? What does his lover think it is? What does his enemy think it is?)
Alessandra is his weakness. She constantly tries his patience. A man can only take so much!
What drives your hero to do the things he does? What makes him want to be the "good guy?"
Dante lived a privileged life, but his mother and father wouldn’t let him forget that their wealth and lifestyle could be taken away in a heartbeat. He was taught to help others, treat women with respect, and to be open-minded. His parents had a strong influence in his life. They’re responsible for the man he became. But don’t let that fool you. He is by no means a Beta male.
What's your main character's favorite guilty pleasure?
Besides the heroine, lol? Sugared almonds from Rome.

Answered as Dante Santangelo:

If you didn't know how old you were how old would you be?
Judging by my maturity, knowledge and wisdom, I would probably be in my mid- to late 30s.
A biography has been written about you. What do you think the title would be in six words or less?
The French-Italian Connection.
If money were not an object, where would you most like to live?
Most likely Naples or Northern Italy.
As a child, what was your favorite thing about school?
The pranks I pulled. My teachers did not have a sense of humor.
If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
Do not provoke. Volatile beneath the surface and may cause physical pain.

Please Fill in the Blanks (as the character)

I love sweet cakes with thick cream filling.
I'm always ready for making love to my wife.
When I'm alone, I’m pensive.
You'd never be able to tell, but I do know how to have fun. I’m not always so serious.
If I had a halo it would be fairly straight because of my kind-hearted nature.
If I could have the power I'd end the conflict between countries.
I can never figure out my wife because she lacks fear and has a strong sense of adventure.

About the Author

Jannine Corti Petska was born in New York but raised in Southern California. Her parents' first language was Italian, and Jannine was raised in an Old World environment. She began writing romance novels when her three daughters were young and she was a stay-at-home mom. In-between writing and caring for her family, she tutored Italian, Spanish, German, and English as a Second Language at a local college. Although she loves placing her stories in medieval Italy, she has also written romantic tales of the cowboy in the American West. Jannine lives in Southern California with her husband of 40 years and three high-energy Rat Terriers. To find out more about Jannine, please visit her website. www.jcortipetska.com


Alessandra Podesta writes illicit tales unsuitable for a young lady. Exasperated, her father sends her to visit relatives in Naples to curb her wild imagination. But in her undying need for adventure, she toys with the affections of her tutor and is forced to marry him. When she unknowingly falls into a dangerous game of supremacy between two countries, she trusts the wrong people and endangers her life.
French tutor Dante Santangelo is secretly aiding the French in maintaining their rule over Naples. When he is manipulated into marrying the visiting cousin of the Valente Family, he seizes upon the perfect opportunity to infiltrate the family, who are under suspicion of helping the Spanish. When Alessandra's life is in jeopardy Dante must choose between love and duty. Will he offer up his life to save Alessandra? Or remain duty-bound to the French?

Buy Links:

The Wild Rose Press
REBEL HEART, American western
CARINA AND THE NOBLEMAN, book 1 of my medieval psychic sisters trilogy
CHARLOTTE AND THE GYPSY, book 2 of my medieval psychic sisters trilogy
LOVE’S SWEET WAGER, love along the California Trail
THE LILY AND THE FALCON, book 1 of my Italian Medieval series
SURRENDER TO HONOR, book 2 of my Italian Medieval series
DANTE’S FLAME, book 3 of my Italian Medieval series
Short stories, both Medievals set in Italy
Books Coming Soon
MINE TO KEEP, release date Aug. 15, 2012
Janine Corti Petska


I will give away an e-copy of DANTE’S FLAME to one lucky commenter.

Find Me Here

Blog: No time for one.


  1. I'm a research geek, so I appreciate that as your most important part of writing. Especially in historicals, it is crucial to get it right. I mostly write contemporary and I still research so much... probably just me :)
    This sounds interesting. Good luck!

  2. Research is important, even in scifi, which I write. I have to base futuristic things on current trends, and keeping up with that is hard. I think that's one area that I struggle with most. I love world building, and you do that no matter what genre you write, don't you think?

  3. Clancy, first of all, thanks for stopping by.

    I have written a few contemporaries, and I still research. Maybe not to the extent I do with my historicals, but I can't see anyone not doing a little at least.

  4. Kayelle, I never thought of world building with my historical romances. I thought world building only referred to paranormal and other like genres.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. You're welcome, Jannine. Even in contemporary fictional writing we have to make the world believeable to the reader, so world building is part of that. I think writers sometimes don't realize that's what "setting" is all about.

  6. Jannine, The interview was wonderful, but I love your cover. Congratulations on your release.

  7. What total coverage, Jannine! The blog brings out amazing strong points, both in your personal life, and the fantastic tales you dream up. Your understanding of different languages and cultures puts you at the top of the class, and your constant seeking of historical facts is a drive in itself.
    Your writing brings your wonderful stories to life and makes reading them, educational and fun.

    All best, Joy Taylor Jaeger

  8. Joy, thank you so much for your kind words and your continued support.

  9. I have a winner of an e-copy of DANTE'S FLAME!

    Joy Jaeger, come on down!!! Congratulations!!!

    And thank you to everyone who commented.

    Kayelle, thank you for having me as your guest. It was a pleasure working with you.


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