For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited author Roseanna M. White to talk about her latest release, Shadowed Loyalty. Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award winning author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books…to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary.
Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!
Without further ado … Roseanna, please introduce yourself. What’s something interesting readers would enjoy learning about you?
Thanks so much for having me, Danielle! I’m Roseanna White. As for something interesting…gracious, I’m pretty boring. 😉 How about that I’m in my twelfth year of homeschooling my kids? My daughter is finishing up 11th grade and my son 8th. I can’t believe we only have 4 more years to go in our homeschooling life!
Your latest novel, Shadowed Loyalty, released from Chrism Press on May 2 … can you tell us about it?
Of course! Shadowed Loyalty is the story of Sabina Mancari, daughter of one of Chicago’s leading mob mosses in 1922. She’s never given much thought to the underworld her father helps run, until the man she thought she loved turned out to be a Prohibition Agent using her to get to her father. Suddenly she’s being pulled into gunfights, forced to face down her father’s sins, and comes face-to-face with her own as well.
Because, you see, she’d been engaged. But Lorenzo had been ignoring her for years, making her think he regretted ever asking her to marry him. Lorenzo, however, was only trying to protect her from any weakness he may have—being keenly aware of how much like his own Mafiosi family he is, despite choosing to pursue a career in the law and swear off the Mob.
Shadowed Loyalty combines the glitz and glam of 20s Chicago with some soul-deep questions about how we reconcile our love for people with the lives of sin they may choose to lead.
What made you choose Italian characters for Shadowed Loyalty?
Well the idea for this story came from a combination of my love for the 1920s and a “what if”—What if the cop was the bad guy? What if the girl he tried to get information from was the heroine? What if we went back to the day when the Mafia still operated with a Code? That meant Chicago, and the Mafia meant Sicilian or Italian, so…kinda decided for me. 😉 But that was fun, because my husband’s maternal side of the family is 100% Italian. His grandfather was first generation American, and the Italian culture was still very much a part of their family. I’ve always loved that and wanted to dive deep into it.
What research was required to give authenticity to Sabina, Lorenzo, and their families? How did you go about that research?
Step one was a lot of reading on the Mafia. I have quite a few thick tomes that I read in their entirety in order to choose what particular year I wanted to set my story in. Because I was focusing on Sicilian culture in particular, I have a pocket Sicilian dictionary now on my shelf. I also had to research Chicago of the era, fashion, the Catholic faith…sometimes that meant going to the library and checking out fashion books, sometimes it meant studying Google street view maps, sometimes it meant sending my editors at Chrism Press questions like, “How would you know if the priest was in the confessional or not?” at 7 a.m. during my writing retreat, LOL.
Can you tell us more about your research into the setting of 1920s Chicago?
I have an Images of America book focused on Taylor Street—the heart of Chicago’s Little Italy—which was very helpful for the visual. Otherwise, it was a lot of reading and just doing Google image searches. And maps! Maps are so helpful. The only thing I have to be careful of there is how things have changed in the last 100 years, of course…
While you have several books set in the US, your current series is set in Edwardian England and the Isles of Scilly. What made you write a story with a different setting than your more recent books?
Honestly, I first wrote this book 14 years ago, before anything but my biblical fiction was published! I was still exploring what settings I loved best and would have been happy to write several more Roaring Twenties tales…but alas, they didn’t sell. Instead, after 4 books set in early America through the Civil War, I ended up selling The Lost Heiress to Bethany House, which created a lovely Edwardian/WWI niche for me. Which I also love! Even so, I still loved this story, so when we launched Chrism Press as a Catholic imprint, I thought, “Hey, I have a story about Catholic characters that could be super fun to brush off and revamp!” It needed, ahem, a wee little bit of work (cough, cough—read: total rewrite), but it was so much fun to get back into the story!
1920s Italians were often staunchly Catholic and Shadowed Loyalty is published by Chrism Press, which is the Caltholic & Orthodox division of Whitefire Publishing – How did you develop the spiritual side of the story? What research was required to bring this authentic Italian perspective?
So this is kind of funny. When I originally wrote the story back in 2008, I knew my characters would, of course, be Catholic. But I knew so little about how Catholicism differed or didn’t from Protestantism that it read…totally inauthentically, let’s just say. When I revisited it this last year, I groaned and winced at many a scene and thanked my editors for being ever so gracious about just flagging a bunch of horrible, horrible cheesy moments with comments like, “Let’s rethink Sabina’s response here.” Over the last fourteen years, I’ve had so many wonderful, meaningful conversations with some of my dearest friends, who happen to be Catholic, about things I’d had terrible misconceptions about, and I came to realize that what I thought Catholics believed and what they actually believe were two very different things. As I’ve grown in my understanding and appreciation for the Ancient Faith, I realized there were depths I hadn’t even begun to explore for my characters that I really needed to and wanted to.
A lot of the research I’d already done for The Number of Love—the De Wildes were Belgian, which equaled Catholic in 1917 for sure. But for this one, I needed to focus particularly on the unique culture of Sicilian Catholicism. I was blessed to have Karen Ullo as an editor, whose Italian Catholic family has given her a deep and intimate knowledge of how, even as men leaned heavily into the “we must protect our family at any cost” mindset, the women leaned into the idea of “we must preserve the faith for our families.” So while the men were delving deeper and deeper into the Mafia, the women were more ardently praying for them. The conflict is real, but so is the love that leads people to very different actions.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
One thing I could only hint at was how the world of the Mafia underwent a HUGE change in the mid-1920s, as Capone rose to power. Before his day, the Mafia was run by old-world bosses who operated under the code that said one never messed with the family of rivals. Capone introduced a new, bloodthirsty, no-rules type of gang warfare that ran right over all those lines. I set my story in 1922, when Capone was just a mid-level pimp looking for a way up the ladder. He found it…and the world was never the same afterward.
If readers would like to purchase a copy of Shadowed Loyalty, where might they be able to do so?If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?You can always connect with me or learn more about my stories at www.RoseannaMWhite.com or find me on most all the social media platforms @RoseannaMWhite
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. If you would like to purchase a copy of Shadowed Loyalty, you can do so directly from Roseanna at www.RoseannaMWhite.com/bookish-things (along with some fun tie-in merchandise like the earrings on the cover and the necklace described in the book!), or you can find it at your favorite online retailer.
You can also connect with Roseanna or learn more about her stories at www.RoseannaMWhite.com, or find her on most all the social media platforms @RoseannaMWhite.
You can always connect with me or learn more about my stories at www.RoseannaMWhite.com or find me on most all the social media platforms @RoseannaMWhite
Over Sunday Dinner next week, Roseanna will return to talk about story. Whether fictional or the story of our lives, we all interact with story. It’s one of my favorite topics and I can’t wait for Roseanna to share more with us. See you then!