"(The book) was written as a passionate exercise: I wanted to create a novel full of food, sex, magic, and the brilliance of the Commedia dell'arte in 16th century Italy. I wasn't sure when I left for Milan in 1994 what exactly I was writing -- but a year of living there, traveling throughout the north (especially Venice during Carnevale), then down the coast to Rome (with stops to small and magical towns along the way that all had mazes of one kind or another, layers of ancient Etruscan civility, Roman grandeur, and Italian folk cultures) left me with enough visual nutrition, stories, and experiences to last a lifetime.
And food, food, food. After I had been living Italy a while, I read a murder mystery set in the same time period and location as my own novel -- yet it became quickly clear to me that the author had never visited the location (placing a Cathedral in a town I knew didn't have one) -- but most grievous of all, 100 pages into the book and none of the characters had stopped to eat. When I mentioned this to an Italian friend she looked horrified. "Not even pasta?" she exclaimed and shook her head."Her blog is In the Labrynth