This book allowed me to invent a whole new set of characters (although Lisa Donahue makes a cameo appearance) and set the action in one of my favorite cities on earth. An international conference a few years ago gave me the opportunity to return to Siena for a week and soak up atmosphere, take pictures of potential scenes for the book, and indulge in my favorite pasta dishes. Our conference was housed in an old psychiatric hospital in the southern part of the city--a fact I could not resist using in the novel.
The research for this book was mesmerizing. The world of illegal antiquities smuggling is now well-documented in books and movies, and art forgery receives nearly as much press. I used books such as Roger Atwood's Stealing History: Tomb Raiders Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World and Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini, The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities—From Italy's Tomb Raiders to the World's Greatest Museums. I incorporated my own experiences: traveling in Italy, working in painting conservation as a student at the Cincinnati Art Museum and visiting the Iceman museum in Bolzano.
"Burnt Siena" is currently being proofread before I submit it. I hope I can find a new publishing home for this novel, and that Flora will be the heroine of a new series.