Ria Dimitra's Inspiration and Vision – The Visconti Devils and Heaven’s Irregulars
Recently, I came to the conclusion that I have a very weird way of writing novels. When one hits me in the head, I sit down to write it, which always made sense to me. But I’ve had people ask me how long it takes me to write a novel, or how many I write in a year, which makes it sound like some sort of ordered thing. Like a regular job. It’s never been a job for me – more like a labor of love.
I got the idea for The Visconti Devils when I was doing research for my earlier vampire romance, Fiend Angelical. The vampire, Marco, had a tarot deck that had belonged to his mother and which he stole from her when he ran away from home during the days of his mortal youth. I thought I had better do some research and find out whether tarot cards where actually around at that point in history, and I learnt that the oldest decks still in existence were created for the Visconti-Sforza family, who ruled Milan in the late 15th century. I also discovered that all three surviving decks were all missing some cards. The number and the particular cards varied from deck to deck, except for one commonality – they were all missing The Devil. There’s a story there, I thought to myself…and then one day it dropped from the sky and hit me in the head, as story ideas sometimes do. I remember that I sat down that same day and began to write it. I actually worked on the outline and did further research as I went along, and sometimes that took the story off in a different direction than I had intended. But I tend to trust my characters and give them a long leash.
It wasn’t until quite a few years later that I thought it might be fun to write a story about Michael and Maggie years later, and the son they would have together. Most romances end with the hero and heroine riding off into the sunset together, so to speak, and we assume the happily-ever-after. But I wanted to check in on Michael and Maggie and see what that would look like. How has Maggie’s confrontation with the devil changed her? How has she managed to keep Michael’s secret – and their son Gabriel’s? How has Michael settled into his roles as a husband and father – and what happens when his past comes looking for him?
Once again, the characters sort of took things into their own hands, and Heaven’s Irregulars really became Gabriel’s story. Like The Blood Waltz, it became a story about discovering some discomforting truths about your background and yourself. But it is also about family, and faith, and redemption. I went genre-hopping and took some of my characters with me, which is apparently not what I’m supposed to do, either. But I’ve never been one for playing by the rules.
Inspiration, for me, sometimes comes from the most unexpected places. My son was four years old when his father and I divorced. I was suffering from depression and had hit a rather low point. There were days when I wondered whether I could even go on. One morning during this dark time, we sat at our kitchen table eating breakfast. My son was sitting in front of a window, and a sunbeam shone through and lit up his golden hair and made it glow like a halo – with his sweet little face, he looked like a cherub. I realized at that moment that God had sent this little angel to save me, and that I had to keep going for him. That realization helped me through some of my darkest days.
Years later – in 2017 – my little cherub, who is now a young man, took care of me when I underwent cancer treatment and surgery.
The memory of that morning at our kitchen table inspired the following scene from Heaven’s Irregulars. Maybe my way of writing isn’t so strange after all. Perhaps it just means keeping one’s eyes and heart open to the beauty and magic all around us, even in the darkest hours.
Gabriel recounted the story – briefly – but shrugged it off. “I didn’t really think about it. I just heard someone screaming and tried to help. It was just the right thing to do.”
“It was a very brave thing to do,” Maggie said as she poured the coffee into three cups. “You’re a hero.” She sat down and looked across the table at Michael, who was stirring sugar into his coffee. “We have to tell him, Michael.”
“Tell me what?”
“You were the one who said we couldn’t,” Michael replied.
“Tell me what?”
Maggie took a deep breath and said, “Gabriel, you’re not like other boys, and the reason is because your father is not like other men.”
“What do you mean? How is he not like other men?”
“Because – he’s an angel.”
“What?” That was not what Gabriel had been expecting at all. He turned to look at Michael, sitting at the end of the table with his coffee cup in his hand. His chair was in front of the window, and the evening sun shone directly through at that moment, backlighting Michael and lighting up his long, wavy silver hair so that it glowed like a nimbus around him. Gabriel quickly turned back to Maggie. “What?” He turned back to look at Michael again; but the sun had retreated behind a cloud, and it was just his father sitting at the table, calmly sipping his coffee. Gabriel jumped to his feet. “I’m a freak!”
Maggie reached out to touch his arm. “Gabriel, you’re not–”
“I’m a freak!” Gabriel cried and ran from the room.
“Well, that certainly didn’t go over well,” Michael said.
Heaven’s Irregulars © 2018 Ria Dimitra
His father kicked the Devil’s ass.
Now it’s his turn.
It’s been 15 years since Michael LeClaire defeated the Devil in a swordfight high above the rooftops of Milan. Since then, he’s been content to lead a quiet life in New Haven with his wife Maggie and their son Gabriel.
But Gabriel is no ordinary teen. When he saves a bus full of passengers in Aachen from a terrorist attack, he draws the attention of both sides in a new Crusade for the soul of Europe. Does he have what it takes to face down the Prince of Darkness?
The Visconti Devils
A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
Maggie Pacelli didn't believe in love at first sight. She was about to lose all belief in true love. But that all changed when she met Michael LeClaire, the new curator at the Beinecke Library at Yale. Michael is fascinated with the new tarot deck that Maggie is painting--and he also seems to be fascinated with Maggie. Maggie can't believe how perfect he is for her--or how hard she's falling for him.
A DATE WITH HELL
When Michael shows Maggie the rare 15th century Visconti tarot cards in the Beinecke's archives and reveals to her that The Devil is missing from every one of the surviving decks, Maggie is intrigued. The Devil is the one card she can't decide how to paint. Maggie feels certain that the answer to the riddle lies in Milan.
Unable to dissuade her, Michael accompanies Maggie to Italy on her quest to discover the truth about the missing Visconti Devils. Their search takes them to the Brera, where they meet Luca Arcangeli, a wealthy art collector who may hold the key.
But in Milan at the height of Carnevale, nothing and no one are what they seem--and Maggie will soon find herself at the center of a struggle between the forces of light and darkness that will challenge her beliefs and force her to choose the fate of her soul.
I was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the youngest of seven children. I've been fascinated by the supernatural from a very young age, and I've had some experiences in my own life that have left no doubt that there's a lot out there we do not and cannot understand.
I self-published my first novel, THE BLOOD WALTZ, in 2000. Ragnell Press published my next two novels, FIEND ANGELICAL (2005) and THE VISCONTI DEVILS (2006).
FIEND ANGELICAL was selected a "Top Pick" by Romantic Times Bookclub and nominated for an award, and THE VISCONTI DEVILS was rated a "Top Pick" by Night Owl Romance and Readers' Favorite.