Rose Anderson – Interview with Loving Leonardo’s Nicholas Halstead

I had an unusual experience the other day. It was a quiet day
at home, inside and out. The snow was falling in that slow magical sort of way.
It was just cold enough that snowflakes landing against my windowpane lingered
a second longer as perfect six-pointed stars before falling to accumulate on
the sill. I’d spent the morning seeing to author obligations and chipping away
at my work in progress. Taking a much deserved break, I decided I’d enjoy a cup
of tea.
I have a small collection of British fortuneteller teacups
and saucers. They’re fun and fanciful little things for reading tea leaves back
in the day. Several in my collection are from the Victorian era. That day, I
chose the Aynsley bone china cup. I’ve been in a Victorian England frame of
mind lately, unavoidable considering I’m wrapping up book two in my unusual
Victorian polyamorous romance –
Loving Leonardo.
Loving Leonardo
is one of those color outside the lines stories for me. I like to
stretch my abilities as a writer and I especially love challenges. The impetus
for Loving Leonardo came right out of the headlines last summer. The US
elections were underway and lines were drawn as political opponents dug their
heels on key social issues. It got me thinking. Here it was 2012 and who you love, and who you wanted to commit your love to, were still hot issues as if
love itself was a social condition and not a deeply personal thing.
At the time, the
news was also filled with women’s issues and negative talk of “progressives”. I’d
heard the term women’s issues combined with progressive before. That was
the point to the Suffragettes 100 years ago! Before I knew it, I had a very
American, very unorthodox, Victorian progressive heroine named Ellie.
My hero Nicolas
Halstead is an art historian working for the famed Ashmolean museum. Nicolas
leads a somewhat normal life as of a man of means, though he takes pains to
hide his homosexuality from the world. He has to. Even though it’s no longer a
death sentence, his nature is still a criminal offense at this time. One day
Ellie, the daughter of an American consul, comes to call and confronts him with
her knowledge of his particular predilection. To his incredulous disbelief, she
proposes marriage. But there’s method to her madness. It turns out she wants
him to help her rescue a previously unknown work of Leonardo da Vinci – a book
of love poems and erotic sketches from Leonardo to his gay lover Salai. How can
Nicolas refuse?
Thus begins
their unorthodox marriage and abiding friendship. The book is held by a man who
has plans to destroy it for the vulgar thing he sees it as, so they race to
Venice and devise a plan on their journey. They didn’t count on meeting Luca,
himself a historian. Secrets are revealed as they share their common interest
in Leonardo da Vinci. While they come to redefine their long-held notions of
themselves, a man with a dark obsession comes into their lives. The story continues
in the second book. I’ve enjoyed these characters so much, they may very well
return for other adventures.
So as I sat with
my tea, my mind revisited previously written story threads searching for that
perfect crescendo to end with. Wouldn’t you know, Nicolas Halstead appeared
beside me. What else was there to do but ask my Victorian gentleman questions?
Nicolas: Rose! Good afternoon.
Rose: Hello Nicolas, what brings you out on a day like
Nicolas: You, my dear.
Rose: Oh, I guess I did. How silly of me. I’m having a
little trouble ending this adventure of yours. Any insights you could share
that might point me in that direction?
Nicolas: Hmm…what would you like to know?
Rose: Well, let’s start with the women in your life.
What can you tell me about them?
Nicolas: There’s my grandmother, Lady Augusta Halstead. I’d describe her as a
woman of stately dignity, for she takes her role as Dowager quite seriously. A
week doesn’t pass where she doesn’t make the rounds to visit the Halstead
tenants and parsonage. I’ve never found her affected or stuffy, though there’s
no denying she has her finger on the pulse of society. She’s always ready to
laugh and is affectionate in her own reserved way. I don’t know what else to
say other than I love her. That, and she loves to play mahjong with her
Rose: She raised you.
Nicolas: Yes she did. At a young age I’d lost both my
parents and nanny to a coach accident. I’d have to say however, that my
housekeeper Mrs. Fletcher played a far greater role in my upbringing. With
my parents and nanny dead and my bones broken, I was naturally inconsolable.
Grannie was dealing with her own grief, after all she’d lost her only son. Mrs.
Fletcher’s tenderness saw me through my pain and loss. In fact, I’d bonded so
thoroughly with that loving woman that my grandmother dismissed her hastily
hired nanny and left me in Mrs. Fletcher’s care. Though I was too young to
understand it at the time, I’d learned much later that Mr. Fletcher had passed
just a month before I arrived in my sorry state. She’d needed me as much as I’d
needed her. That Grannie made this small unconventional adjustment to her
household was a demonstration of her concern and affection for the both of us.
Rose: That was unusual for the time.
Nicolas: Quite. Mrs. Fletcher still looks out for me. She was very fond of my
parents and with Grannie’s help raised me in my father’s image. I couldn’t love
her more than I do. To me, she is the only mother I remember.
Rose: And what about Ellie? Ah, that made you smile!
Nicolas: I’ll begin by saying her marriage proposal impacted my life in ways I
hardly thought possible, and that she’s singlehandedly brought me immense
happiness. She’s helped me to discover myself. Not only do I adore her views
and perspective, I consider Ellie a true partner in life and love. She’s opened
my mind to things I’d never thought about before – women’s rights for example.
I doubt half the men in my own House
of Lords are as well versed in Britannia’s policies as she is in the politics
of your America.
My wife is by far the most
intelligent women of my acquaintance, present company excepted of course.
Rose: Thanks.
Nicolas: You’re welcome, my dear. Ellie is delightfully refreshing. In general,
I find Americans aren’t as stodgy in their mannerisms as we English are. My
wife can be as bold as brass, but that’s one of the reasons I love her so
completely like I do. She’s quick and witty and kind, and has a tremendous
capacity for love.
Rose: And that brings me to Luca.
Nicolas: As you are well aware, Luca is a
sensitive soul who’s been through much pain and isolation. I’d do anything to
keep him safe and ease his mind. He’s compassionate, loving, and thoughtful.
And to those he cares for, he’s self-sacrificing to a fault. In many ways, he
and I are cut from the same cloth in our interests and views. But where I am
reserved, Luca is bold and brave, far braver than I. He’s a man anyone would be
proud to know, let alone love. Ellie feels that sentiment as well. It’s trite
to say, but we three complete one another in ways we hardly realized were incomplete a mere six months ago. They
love me unconditionally, and I love them for that and more.
Rose: It’s impossible not to feel that love between you. How does
Thomas fit into this picture?
Nicolas shook his head and as
quickly as he appeared, he was gone. He had his reasons. I refilled my cup and
went back to my laptop.
About Rose ~
I love words and
choose them as carefully as an artist might choose a color. My active
imagination compels me to write everything from children’s stories to
historical fiction. As a persnickety leisure reader, I especially enjoy novels
that feel like they were written just for me. It’s hard to explain, but if
you’ve ever read one of those, then you know what I mean. I tend to sneak
symbolism and metaphor into my writing. You might say it’s a game I play with
myself when I write. And I so love when readers email to say they’ve found
something. I’d like people to feel my stories were written just for them, for
that’s the truth. These hidden insights are my gift to my readers.
Loving Leonardo Buy Link: