From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
Did you know that for several centuries Venice was one of the main stops during a British gentleman’s “Grand Tour” of the continent? The ancient city of islands and canals in northeast Italy is renowned for its beautiful architecture, artwork, and a fascinating history. Setting her new historical fiction novel in this enchanting city, Amanda Dykes includes the magical elements that it is known for and adds a century old mystery into her plot of her new novel, All the Lost Places. Curious about the two main characters and how the city would impact their story, I asked Amanda to join us today to discuss her new novel.
Welcome Amanda. All the Lost Places is set in Venice, Italy with two storylines one hundred years apart. Can you share how they intersect and impact each other?
Sebastien’s story takes place mostly in the mid-1800’s, while Daniel’s is centered in the early 1900’s. Though separated by decades, and beginning an ocean apart, their stories intersect because of a singular book called the Book of Waters. Though the volume has always had a special place in Daniel’s family’s home and heart, as he begins to translate it, he realizes that the truths it holds impact his future even more than it’s tied to his past.
One thing that captivated my heart in this intersection is this idea that our lives are not necessarily confined to the time we live, nor to the prime of our lives. That someone’s life might drastically impact another person, decades upon decades later. That the moment we’re living right now, could be exactly the thing to offer hope to someone we may never meet, perhaps even outside of our own timelines. To me…that is so beautiful, and it was an honor to get to explore that in story.
Map of Venice and surrounding area from All the Lost Places
What are the biggest challenges for your two main characters, Sebastien Trovato and Daniel Goodman?
Sebastien has been raised by a guild of artisans who love him deeply. Yet while he arguably has experienced more love than most in a lifetime, he has a deep question of his own origins—and discovers throughout his journey that his question of ‘who am I’ is an important and worthy one, indeed… but that there is a timeless truth that takes that question even farther and amplifies all the love he’s experienced to be even greater.
Daniel’s struggle is one of striving to atone—to make right a wrong that has had devastating consequences on the people he loves. And in that, as someone who is both dedicated and motivated to perform, he finds that it is never enough—and wonders if there’s something more, something he’s missing. And like Sebastien, he is also searching for an answer to the question “who am I”, but for different reasons: he has lost the ability to do something that felt integral to who he was.
Were there any literary references or inspirations for you in writing the story?
How long do you have? 😊 Venice has such a rich history of writers… so many of them impacted me before, during, and even after writing this novel. Charles Dickens wrote of Venice in Little Dorrit. I love his character of Amy Dorrit—she is quiet but strong, and able to carry a story not despite her quietude, but because of who she is, including her less “flashy” presence. She’s an interesting and fresh main character, and Venice played an important role in her own character journey. Poets, too, have long been fascinated with and even lived in Venice. I’m a fan of the Brownings, and as you’ll see from the pair of owls who carry their names, they definitely influenced this book. Longfellow’s poem, “Venice”, is quoted in the epigraph of the book—and I love how it captures the rich history and tone of the city. The Italian children’s story Pinnochio plays a symbolic role in the story, as well.
Venice has been called enchanting, intoxicating, mysterious, and romantic. How does the city and its history influence your novel?
This question made me laugh in delight—because you’re absolutely right! It is all of those things, in utter abundance. In fact, there was so much more I wished to do to reflect this about the city in the story…but a story only has so many pages! I was captivated at every point in researching this story. Learning about a doge (ruler) who was erased from history in disgrace, about spies who spied on people, spies who spied on spies, mailboxes in the shape of lions’ mouths where people could deposit reports of scandal, learning about meetings so secretive amongst the rulers that their oath was “jura, perjura, secretum prodere noli”, which translates to: “swear, forswear, and reveal not the secret”. Records of their government sometimes contain the words “non scribatur”, which means “let it not be written”. So, when you see elements that echo of a secretive and deeply storied history within the pages of All the Lost Places, that was certainly inspired by Venice’s history!
Painting of “The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice” by Giovanni Antonio Canal commonly known as Canaletto, c. 1730. The large church at the left of the painting is the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute.
What was your research process for the story, and did you discover anything surprising?
I started out by listening to a broad historical overview of Venice via audiobook and jotting down notes and ideas as I went. Then I tracked down a hard copy of that book to hunt down the parts I’d wished to highlight while I listened to its audiobook counterpart. Then, I took those highlighted parts and used them as starting points to further research trails. I researched before writing, during writing, and after writing (during edits)—trying to confirm details and texturize the story as much as possible. Some resources were historical, some were primary sources such as journals or letters, some were documentaries, and still others were travel guides or blogs—and fairly begging anyone in any random conversation whenever it was discovered that they’d been to Venice—“Tell me everything!! Please?”
What is next for you in your writing career?
Every time I finish writing a novel, or a big round of edits, I change creative gears and write the text for a children’s picture book. None are published yet, but I hope someday to be able to share those with the world. So, although I have nothing to report on that right now, perhaps someday!
What I do know for sure is that I’m happily working on a new novel, which is slated to release through Bethany House in the future. I can share that…
- It is a return to the small-town feel that so many have expressed a love for regarding Ansel-by-the-Sea from my debut novel Whose Waves These Are…but in an entirely different town, and an entirely different part of the country
- I’m tapping into my mountain roots for this one, and am very excited about that
- It’s back on American soil…which will be the first time that’s happened since my first novel! If you’re curious, that one took place in Maine (in Whose Waves These Are). After that we travelled to England and the English Channel (in Set the Stars Alight), France (in Yours is the Night), Venice (in All the Lost Places)…and now back to America in the next one. Stay tuned for more specifics in the coming months—I’m knee-deep in this story and having so much fun!
Amanda Dykes is a drinker of tea, dweller of redemption, and spinner of hope-filled tales who spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family. She’s the winner of the 2020 Christy Award Book of the Year, a Booklist 2019 Top Ten title, and the winner of an INSPY award for her debut novel, Whose Waves These Are. She’s also the author of Set the Stars Alight (a Christy Award finalist), Yours is the Night (recipient of the Kipp Award), All the Lost Places (starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal, and Foreword), and three novellas. Recently, her 2021 novel, Yours in the Night, became a finalist in the historical novel category in the Christy Awards.
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When all of Venice is unmasked, one man’s identity remains a mystery . . .
When a baby is discovered floating in a basket along the quiet canals of Venice, a guild of artisans takes him in and raises him as a son, skilled in each of their trades. Although the boy, Sebastien Trovato, has wrestled with questions of his origins, it isn’t until a woman washes ashore on his lagoon island that answers begin to emerge. In hunting down his story, Sebastien must make a choice that could alter not just his own future, but also that of the beloved floating city.
Daniel Goodman is given a fresh start in life as the century turns. Hoping to redeem a past laden with regrets, he is sent on an assignment from California to Venice to procure and translate a rare book. There, he discovers a city of colliding hope and decay, much like his own life, and a mystery wrapped in the pages of that filigree-covered volume. With the help of Vittoria, a bookshop keeper, Daniel finds himself in a web of shadows, secrets, and discoveries carefully kept within the stones and canals of the ancient city . . . and in the mystery of the man whose story the book does not finish: Sebastien Trovato.
- “Introspective, surprising, and achingly beautiful.”— Booklist starred review
- “…an epic tale of beauty and redemption with echoes of all the great love stories. With a bit of a National Treasure vibe and a unique setting, this will appeal to historical fiction fans who appreciate art, archaeology, and history.”— Library Journal starred review
- “Elegant prose powerfully evokes historical Venice (“There was shadow and song in every stone”), and Daniel’s quest to atone for his thieving past testifies to the power of redemption. Fans of Jaime Jo Wright will want to take a look.”— Publisher’s Weekly
- “Dykes’s pen is fused with magic and poetry. Every word’s a gentle wave building into the splendor that is All the Lost Places, where struggles for identity and a place to belong find hope between the pages of a timeless story.”— J’Nell Ciesielski, bestselling author of The Socialite
- All the Lost Places: A Novel, by Amanda Dykes
- Bethany House Publishers (December 13, 2022)
- Hardcover, paperback, & eBook (368) pages
- ISBN: 978-0764240829
- Genre: Historical Fiction, Inspirational Fiction
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Cover image courtesy of Bethany House Publishers © 2022; text Laurel Ann Nattress & Amanda Dykes © 2022, austenprose.com, an Amazon affiliate.
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