|Traci L. Slatton, Author|
Traci L. Slatton describes her new book, BROKEN, as a “paranormal historical fantasy.” Set in Paris in 1939-1942, the novel tracks the activities of a fallen angel trapped behind Nazi lines. She creates credibility in her story by “paying attention to details” and assuring historical accuracy.
Slatton is currently working on Book IV of her romantic dystopian After Series. Her love of art has produced several books--both fiction and non-fiction; and she has also written a book of poetry. She lives in Manhattan, does yoga every day, loves wine, enjoys travel, and has been posing for her artist husband, who is sculpting her, for the past year (see photo below.)
Q: How did you conceive of the plot for BROKEN—a fallen angel getting trapped in a Nazi-occupied country? In what genre would you place BROKEN?
Traci L. Slatton: I spent a month in Paris in 2013, researching a different WWII novel, one set primarily in Germany. I had meant to use Paris as a base from which to travel into Germany, because I love Paris and can negotiate the language. I found myself walking the streets of Paris when I should have been writing. For hours and hours every day, I wandered around Paris, starting from the Boulevard du Montparnasse and straying into every arrondissement. I got to know the city from the street level. Then I started taking the walking tours, and reading about the history of Paris. I find Paris incredibly sensual, with its white limestone buildings and the curving Seine and the sense of history.
Somehow all those kilometers of walking inspired BROKEN, and the sensuality of the city led into my protagonist’s sensuality.
I guess I would call BROKEN a paranormal historical fantasy. Does that work?
Q: How do you create credibility for your story? Is believability important to entice readers?
Traci L. Slatton: I create credibility by paying attention to details. In a historical novel like BROKEN, that means I have to get the details right for the time period. For example, Alia the fallen angel makes an offhand comment about her lover Pedro’s Brylcreem. It’s a throwaway line but fashionable men of the time used Brylcreem, and Pedro, who is a bullfighter and concerned about his public image, would have.
Yes, I believe that believability is important. It sucks the reader into a world that the author has created.
Q: What makes readers care about a fallen angel? How do you develop the character?
Traci L. Slatton: In some ways, a fallen angel is a character like any other character, and there are techniques for building likeability. For example, Alia loves her neighbor’s little daughter and is very generous to the girl. Kindness toward children is an appealing trait.
However, Alia, as a fallen angel, is also different from other humans. I imagined her as ethereal, tolerant, mirthful, and profoundly sensual.
Alia, I imagined, was ethereal, with a kind of appealing lightness and delicacy of being, because she had originated in heaven. She was tolerant because she had chosen to fall, which is a straightforward choice to sin. So she wouldn’t judge anyone for their choices. She was mirthful because she had a large perspective on things. She’d seen the panoply of history, after all.
The sensuality came partly from mythology, from the stories of Cupid and Psyche, Cupid being a winged being who had a sensual relationship with his wife Psyche. Cupid’s Greek counterpart is Eros. I also had in mind Canova’s deliciously sinuous sculpture of Cupid and Psyche, and the Biblical stories of angels mating with human beings. So these images combined to give Alia her erotic nature.
Q: Is the concept of villain vs hero relevant to BROKEN?
Traci L. Slatton: Yes. The Gestapo agent Knochen is a villain, both personally, because he is an evil man, and as a representative of the Nazis and everything they represent. Alia and her friends are heroes, and so is the city of Paris.
Q: Reviewers of some of your earlier books praise the emotion that you evoke in your writing. How do you create pathos so readers embrace your characters or the story?
Traci L. Slatton: Interesting question. I suppose what I do is create a character with whom readers identify, or with whom they empathize, and then I put the character into horrendous circumstances. Story is built on conflict and obstacle. Treachery, betrayal, suffering, torture, loss, disease, poverty, heart-break, and injustice are some of the best obstacles going—and they elicit strong emotion from readers.
Q: In BROKEN, how helpful is back story, ie, history of Nazi Germany, to creating a suspenseful story of tension? How important was historical accuracy?
Traci L. Slatton: I consider historical accuracy to be supremely important. Because this era was relatively recent and the population as a whole knows a lot about it, I researched this time in Paris thoroughly. Many of the details are accurate, such as the way Parisians were always hungry during the occupation. Several documents said that Parisians ate only about 800 calories per day at this time. Also, over a million French men had been taken into compulsory work service in Germany, so the Resistance drew on women, high school students, and the elderly. At one point, Alia the protagonist, who is a fallen angel, is walking down the street wearing a jaunty red hat. There are references to those red hats as a kind of subtle rebellion; French fashion continued during occupation.
However, sometimes I depart from accuracy to achieve truthfulness. Truthfulness and accuracy are different issues, and truthfulness is always the most important for me as an author. So, for example, in this novel, Sartre and Camus are together at a party at Alia’s apartment before the war, reading poetry and drinking wine. There are conflicting reports about when these great thinkers met, but it is generally agreed that they met after the war. However, for purposes of the themes of this novel, since they are not just people but also voices of their generation, I put them together at Alia’s before the war. This was a deliberate choice in which I diverged from historical accuracy.
Q: Your bio says that you are especially interested in Renaissance Italy, and I notice that you’ve also written books about art. Are you an artist? What drives your interest in it?
Traci L. Slatton: Ah. My hands are clumsy, such art as I possess is in my stories. However, my husband Sabin Howard (www.sabinhoward.com ) is a famous classical figurative artist. He sculpts in clay and casts in bronze, and his works are likened in the press to Michelangelo and Rodin. The thing about Sabin is that he is all art, all the time. He has tremendous integrity as an artist—art is literally his first thought in the morning and his last thought at night. He’s been a wonderful role model for me in his relentless perfectionism and dedication to his craft.
Because of Sabin, and because of my own predilections, I have an abiding interest in art. Michelangelo and Da Vinci and Botticelli are regular topics of conversation at our dinner table. We go on vacation to Italy (where Sabin has relatives) and we go to the Met and to art galleries all the time. Art is my husband’s life. Luckily I love it too!
Q: Did you write BROKEN strictly to entertain? Or were you trying to educate or deliver a message?
Traci L. Slatton: I wanted to do both, to entertain and to deliver a message. Isn’t “both” more fun? The message is one, that the belief in an external, patriarchal, hierarchical God is the source of great evil; two, the power of love is infinite; and three, spirit informs everything.
Q: What’s next?
Traci L. Slatton: I am currently working on Book IV of my romantic dystopian After Series. I had thought to title it “Fire Storm,” but a friend of mine ranted that there were too many books on Amazon with that name. Also, Fallen, Cold Light, and Far Shore are the first three novels in the series, so maybe that is too many “F” titles.
Anyway, this novel is fun for me as an author because my male protagonist goes mad. It was always in him, but now it erupts in full force. It’s very cool to write a crazy character!
Q: Tell us about Traci L. Slatton. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Traci L. Slatton: I have four daughters, three and a step. The big ones areout of the house (two have graduated college). The little one is 9 years old and still home, so there is always childcare to attend to. I am a dedicated practitioner of yoga—I do yoga every single day of my life. This isn’t because I’m terribly virtuous, because I’m not. It’s for the most sybaritic, Philistine of reasons: because yoga makes me feel good, peaceful and harmonious. I love to travel and I love red wine and I love to watch movies. I have two Labrador retrievers who think they are lap dogs, though each weighs 55 pounds. And for the last year and a half I have been posing at night for Sabin, who is sculpting a bust of me. (Jpeg attached). It’s not as glamorous as it sounds; I have to sit and hold a specific post for a few hours every night, and I’m convinced that this bust will never be finished.
About Traci L. Slatton
Traci L. Slatton is a graduate of Yale and Columbia. She lives in Manhattan, and her love for Renaissance Italy inspired her historical novel IMMORTAL. THE BOTTICELLI AFFAIR is a playful and suspenseful tribute to her delight in the Old Masters and rich passions. FALLEN is the first in a romantic trilogy set in end times permeated with love, loss, and strange psychic powers. THE ART OF LIFE, written with Sabin Howard, is a book about sculpture and the philosophy and history of art; DANCING IN THE TABERNACLE is her first book of poetry. COLD LIGHT furthers the dystopian tale begun in FALLEN, and FAR SHORE is Book 3 in this romantic cycle. THE LOVE OF MY (OTHER) LIFE is a bittersweet romantic comedy that addresses the question: What worlds would you move to be with your soulmate?
Power is pornographic
Can love sustain light when the forces of evil close in?
Paris, 1939-1942. A fallen angel is trapped in the web of German occupation. The deadly noose of Nazi control grows ever tighter, ensnaring her and two of her lovers, a bullfighter and a musician working in the fledgling Resistance. Can she save them and the Jewish widow and her child that she has come to love, or will betrayal take them all?
Immortal, a historical novel, a rags-to-riches-to-burnt-at-the-stake story.
Fallen, a dystopian romance, Book 1 of the After Series, “When the world ends, all that’s left is love”
Far Shore, Book 3 of the After Series, “Love is Salvation”
The Botticelli Affair, an art history mystery vampire romp
The Love of My (Other) Life, a bittersweet sci fi romp
The Art of Life, a photoessay on figurative sculpture through the ages