Is William Dethridge a real person?

William Dethridge is not a real person but the character is based in part on a real Elizabethan Englishman called John Dee. Dr Dee did not, as far as we know, stravagate, but he did do a lot of other strange things.

How many Stravaganza books will there be altogether?

The real answer is: I don?t know yet. There are twelve city-states in Talia (see map) and I could write a novel about each one.  But I can tell you that City of Ships is published in 2010 and City of Swords in 2012. That?s six to be going on with!

Is it possible to get the later books with covers to match the first three?

Bloomsbury says, ?No, we're afraid it's not possible. Many major authors regularly get repackaged over a series lifetime in order to keep up to date with the market and changes in book design. Additionally it encourages a new audience of buyers out there who might not have read the books yet.?

Where did you get the idea for the Stravaganza books?

When I visited Venice for the first time with my family. My three daughters were teenagers. They were all very keen to take a gondola ride and we had a very expensive fifty minutes on the Grand Canal, in the rain. It was desperately romantic and we all loved it, but it set me thinking, because our gondolier was middle-aged and balding and, while not ugly, certainly not handsome. I suppose I thought that to make the experience perfect he should be young and godlike.

So I thought about how one would ensure a supply of handsome gondoliers and that's when the idea came for the Duchessa. Then, about five years later, my husband and I went with our youngest daughter, Jessica, to the Lido di Jesolo. And on that trip, the idea of the Duchessa came back, with a whole load of ideas about the ?other? Venice, which I named Bellezza.

Siena is one of my favourite Italian cities. It has a wonderfully medieval feel to it and the campo (fan-shaped, rather than circular as in Remora) is a fabulous place to sit and drink coffee (or prosecco), nibble Ricciarelli biscuits and watch the world go by. We have had several holidays in a converted convent, with olive estate, just outside the Porta Romana in Siena.

If you go through the Porta, you find yourself in the Valdimontone contrada of the city (in the south-east, not the south-west as the Ram is in Remora). And the first time we ever went to Siena, on a daytrip in 1996, we also ended up in that contrada, in Palio week, so that it was all hung with red and yellow flags. That, plus the fact that my star sign is Aries, the Ram, got me thinking about the story that became City of Stars. And I saw the high-up rings in the wall, which I imagined might be for tethering flying horses.

And Florence has been a magical place for me for most of my adult life. It was the obvious setting for the third book. I have explained about the place where the new Stravagante arrives in A Message from Mary. Another very important aspect of the city for me is the dome that Brunelleschi gave to the cathedral. I couldn?t incorporate much about that into the story since it was built about a hundred and fifty years before the action of the Stravaganza books, but you can read a story inspired by it on this site.

Padua and Ravenna are both cities with fabulous things to see in them and they are the ones that feature in City of Secrets and City of Ships. Lucca is the original for Fortezza, where City of Swords is set.

Are the di Chimici based on the de? Medici family?

I would say ?inspired by? rather than ?based on?. I have taken some names and incidents from the Medici?s history, particularly in City of Flowers, but I have made more up. Gaetano?s ugliness, cleverness and charm were inspired by Lorenzo de? Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent) though the Medici prince lived much earlier.

Is there going to be a film of the Stravaganza books?

There are no deals in the pipeline at present but I do get asked this an awful lot, so I know lots of you would like to see a film. I?m going to explain a bit about how it works. The publisher, agent or subagent, whoever controls the film rights, submits your book to maybe half a dozen film companies and then you wait. And wait. And wait. If you are lucky, the rights get ?optioned?, and this might be renewed every eighteen months till the film is made.

In the meantime you wait. And wait. And wait. So writers very sensibly get on with what is actually their job and write the books and try not to get beguiled by thoughts of the big time that comes with the films.

So please don't think that if there aren?t films of the Stravaganza books it is because I ?haven?t thought of it? or am withholding permission. (I do get fanmail asking if I would ?consider letting someone make a film?!) There really isn't a single thing I can do about it. If you want to write to someone about it, write to New Line Cinema or Peter Jackson, or some other film studio or director, saying, ?I've read this wonderful book City of Masks and I think it would make a great movie.?

Then cross your fingers!