Wednesday, August 6, 2014


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:   Yes, yes, more TBR piles below! I am so thrilled to see these—isn’t it reassuring to know that you’re not the only one with a teetering pile of books by your bed? And truly, a wonderful psychological study of reading habits. I am learning so much about you all!

And I bet we are all getting good reading ideas from each other. 

Speaking of getting good ideas—sometimes those come by chance, right? And that is exactly what happened to today’s fabulous guest, the amazing SJ Rozan. 

How did her new series begin? Well, because she is SO glamorous, it began in Italy. In Rome, drinking Campari.  Then on to New York, at a tony party. And then…well, let SJ tell the story. That’s what she does best.

St. Francis and the (Skin of the) Wolf
            by SJ Rozan, blogging at you from Assisi, Italy. 

I've been offered the opportunity to drop over to Jungle Red from my own blog  to give you a little background on Sam Cabot's new book, SKIN OF THE WOLF. 

Why do I care about what Sam Cabot's up to?  Because he's me!  Half of him, the Sam half.  Cabot is Carlos Dews, and Carlos and I met here in Assisi, which is where Sam's story begins. 

For seven years now I've had this great two-week summer teaching gig at Art Workshop International in Assisi.   (If you're pre-published and looking for a workshop you might want to consider coming over here next summer, by the way; but that's another story.) 

Four years ago a Texas-born professor at John Cabot U. in Rome came up here to visit some of the folks at the Workshop whom he knew.  We met, sat around drinking Campari on the terrace, got on very well, thank you, and then he went back to Rome.  Six months after that he appeared at a holiday party in NYC, thrown by the AWI people.  I appeared there too.  

Idle conversation ensued among a bunch of people, the "what are you working on?" kind of thing.  I allowed as how I'd finished the last book on my most recent Lydia Chin/Bill Smith contract and wasn't sure what direction to go in next.  Carlos, for his part, said he had a great idea for a thriller but he wasn't a thriller writer and he had too much respect for the genre to just dive in and make a mess. 

 I sat there smiling appreciatively, liking the "respect" part, when someone said the thing sounded right up SJ's street and SJ, why don't you work with Carlos?  I kept smiling, wishing I'd left the party ten minutes earlier, because how was I going to tell this perfectly nice guy that however good his idea was, I didn't want any part of it?

I hadn't heard the idea, of course.  Carlos loved the thought of working together and he wanted to have coffee the next day and tell it to me.  I figured after that he'd go back to Rome and I'd email and let him down easy.

Never happened.

I heard Carlos's idea, and decided it actually was great, or else it was insane, or both.  We'd pretty much have to write the book to see.  That in itself was intriguing.  Most important, though, was that taking on this project involved doing three things I'd never done: co-writing, writing the paranormal, and writing a thriller.

I'd co-edited, working with Jonathan Santlofer on DARK END OF THE STREET.    And I'd written a Bill Smith/Lydia Chin book, ON THE LINE, in the form of a thriller.  But editing isn't writing and a PI book in whatever form is a PI book.  And I'd stuck to reality my whole career.  World-building, multiple third-person pov's, and the idea there would be someone to call whenever I got into trouble were temptations I saw no point in resisting.

Carlos and I work differently from other co-writers I know.  We work out the plot together, getting the major characters and their motivations organized.  Then he does the research and I do the writing.  It's a division of labor that suits us both; neither of us can understand how a book can have a consistent voice if two people are actually writing it.  (Though some clearly do.  But we don't know how.) 

The rhythm of scenes, the pace of action, dialogue -- that's the part I like.  Our books are history-rich, although not historical novels, and we're both committed to the idea that facts matter; no messing around with geography, history, art.  We insist on getting it right, and as a life-long academic Carlos can research like nobody's business.

The first Sam Cabot book, BLOOD OF THE LAMB, (just out in paperback),  is set in Rome, where Carlos lives.  The subjects are the meaning of the artworks in the churches; the relationship between faith and religion; and oh yes, did I mention vampires?  The second book, SKIN OF THE WOLF,  coming out this week, takes place in New York City, my hometown, and concerns issues of identity, Native Americans, those vampires again, and -- you guessed it -- werewolves.

If the publisher, Penguin/Blue Rider, is pleased enough, there will be more.  We have the third one sketched out, and ideas for a fourth.  I hope it happens, because I have to tell you, I'm getting a kick out of this.

And to think it all started in St. Francis's town, Assisi, where Francis once told a wolf to stop eating people because it was wrong and the wolf, overcome with the Peace of Assisi, stopped at once.  Miracles do happen here.  Hope you like the books, and peace to you all!

HANK: Now, doesn't SKIN OF THE WOLF sound like it would be the perfect fit  to go right on top of these? 

Bill Hopkins' nightstand (with quilt!) 
Kathy Phillips' nightstand (with lighting!)
Sandy Young Moore (better read faster :-)...) 

The high-tech Sherrie Noble (and thank you! I see it!)

Tina Whittle (Whoo, with FOR Tammy Kaehler!)

Elizabeth Conley (being secretive)

David Terrenoire (very tough-looking, right?)

More to come tomorrow..and wait til you see who's here! You LOVE her...and we are all applauding her new book!
SO--IN HONOR OF SJ ROZAN--today's question: Have you even been to Italy? Tell us something wonderful about it. If you haven't been--would you want to?
And a copy of Sam Cabot's newest to a lucky commenter.
(The winner of my TRUTH BE TOLD arc is mmgage.  The winner of Rhys Bowen's QUEEN OF HEARTS is Bonnie Searle!
Email me at h ryan at whdh dot com with your address! 

First seen in BLOOD OF THE LAMB, Livia Pietro, Father Thomas Kelly, and Spencer George reunite in NYC.  Livia and Spencer are Noantri -- vampires.  At Sotheby's a mysterious Native American mask is up for auction but two days before the sale a Sotheby’s employee is found brutally murdered. Steps from her body is the  mask, undamaged amid the wreckage of a struggle. As rumors begin to swirl around the sacred object, Thomas, Livia, and Spencer are plunged into a world where money, Native American lore, and the history of the Catholic Church collide. They uncover an alarming secret: the mask contains a power that, if misused, could destroy millions of lives with the next full moon.

In Skin of the Wolf, Sam Cabot blends historical fact, backroom conspiracy, and all-encompassing alternate reality as the Noantri discover they aren't the only humans set apart by their natures—there are Others.
Sam Cabot is the pseudonym of Carlos Dews and S.J. Rozan.

Carlos Dews is a professor and chair of the Department of English Language and Literature at John Cabot University where he directs the Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation. He lives in Rome.

S.J. Rozan is author of many critically acclaimed novels and short stories which have won crime fiction's greatest honors, including the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Macavity, and Nero awards. Born and raised in the Bronx, Rozan now lives in lower Manhattan.


Joan Emerson said...

Definitely looking forward to checking out Skin of the Wolf . . . my to-be-read pile has far exceeded its place in the bedroom and has now taken over the living room. Oh, well . . . that's where the sofa is, so maybe it'll all work out.

::sigh:: I’ve never been to Italy; would love to go. Maybe some day . . . .

Hallie Ephron said...

So happy to see you on Jungle Red, SJ! As someone who's worked with a writing partner, I can testify to what a leap of faith it can be. Also having moved on from one kind of writing to another, I know how gratifying that can be.

Assisi is one of my favorite places in the world. What a great place to get to teach! The new book sounds wonderful.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yes, I've heard lots of stories about writing teams--and each pair has different method!

As for Italy, oh, I love it! I kept a tiny journal of our two weeks there..and my Italian word or phrase a day. One I used a lot: Mi dispiace, no lo sapevo. That means: I'm sorry, I didn't know that. Very useful for a tourist!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

SJ, wonderful story! You didn't need to go any further than "drinking campari"--thanks for visiting from Italy. what a terrific gig--and the collaboration that ensued. Wow!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

SJ, wonderful story! You didn't need to go any further than "drinking campari"--thanks for visiting from Italy. what a terrific gig--and the collaboration that ensued. Wow!

Kristopher said...

So great to see SJ here at JRW.

As a huge fan of the first book, I can't wait to get to Skin of the Wolf. I really should have read it by now, but somehow the day job just keeps getting in the way of my reading time. But it is indeed very close to the top of the reading pile.

For those interested in learning more, here is a link to my spoiler-free review of the first book, Blood of the Lamb (

Trust me when I say, don't brush this off as just another vampire tale. SJ and Carlos have done an amazing job with the history embedded within.

It makes sense that Carlos would be so great at research, given his background. And we all know that SJ can write like nobody's business. It's a great pairing. Give these books a shot folks, so that we can have more!

Edith Maxwell said...

Was in Venice with a lover for a weekend long, long ago, and adored wandering the back streets. Have plans for a Tuscany tour sometime in the next couple of years.

Great to hear about your new project, SJ!

Mary Sutton said...

Oh my. If someone came to my door today and said, "You can go anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, but you must tell me RIGHT NOW," I would say Assisi in a heartbeat. I went to a Franciscan university, so all things St. Francis are near and dear to my heart (we have murals of the wolf of Gubbio). Talk about a dream workshop!

I think another two books just rocketed onto the TBR pile.

Anonymous said...

I've never been to Italy, but I can live vicariously through S.J. Rozan's posts every summer (she is a wonderful photographer, too).

I have already read SKIN OF THE WOLF and even though it is not my usual mystery reading choice, it was a terrific thrill ride of a book.

--Marjorie of Connecticut

Karen in Ohio said...

Now I'm intrigued as to how you've managed the paranormal parts of what already sounds like a fascinating series.

I spent a week in Tuscany in early 2001, on my first trip out of the US. Been trying to get my husband to go back to Italy with me ever since. Florence, Siena, Fiesole, and Panzano, and the best food I've ever eaten. Someday.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Welcome, SJ! SKIN OF THE WOLF sounds fabulous.... I was in Italy as a kid many years ago, but would love to go back!

Tammy said...

I hadn't read the first book, SJ, but after hearing the story, I'm putting it and the new one at the top of my TBR pile (see how I did that?).


Mark Baker said...

I've been to Italy. For MY college graduation, my present was a trip for my entire family to Europe. (Um, maybe it was a family vacation they just used that excuse for. They even kept the scrap book.) We spent quite a few days in Italy. I was bored with all the art galleries in Florence, but I loved seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa and we enjoyed walking on the Chinquaterra (sp?) on the Mediterranean.

Ellen Kozak said...

I spent my first summer in Italy when I was 19. I lived with a widow who spoke no English (which forced me to come to the dinner table with my dictionary in hand), went to Italian language and culture classes every morning, and wandered around Florence every afternoon. Every day was brimming with discovery.

On the weekends, I used an Italian rail pass to visit Venice, Pisa, Rimini, Milan, and Rome. I look Italian (although I am not) and by the end of the trip spoke the language fairly well, and melded into the local population, especially after I bought some local clothes.

Six years later, I took up residence in a hotel on the Arno when I wasn't staying with friends (from the first trip) in Pistoia, visiting Vinci, hanging out on the Island of Elba, and touring Rome and Pompeii. My Italian got better, I ate anything and everything I wanted and still lost 20 lbs from all that walking, and I loved the fact that everyone thought (until my accent gave me away) that I was Italian.

I have the requisite photo in front of the Leaning Tower, but I also spent the night before men fist walked on the moon in the shadow of a crumbling tower on Elba built by Cosimo de Medici 500 years earlier. It occurred to me then that if 1969 marked the beginning of a new era-- that of the space age-- I might be living in what historians could term the Late Industrial Period, of which Cosimo's early Renaissance might have been the beginning. I mean, don't we lump together everything from the fall of Rome to the early Renaissance as the "dark ages"?

It puts a different perspective on things when you think about eras rather than years, months and days. (I was still trying to get my head bent around the idea that in the vibrant cities where I bought my shoes and silk scarves and devoured gelato and cappuccino, armies had been shooting at each other IN MY LIFETIME.)

How much do I love Italy? I can't even begin to say.

Deborah Crombie said...

Hi SJ! So glad to see you here!

I haven't read Blood of the Lamb--how did I miss that???--so have just ordered it. These books sound fabulous, my favorite sort of fun reading. And Italy! Sigh. I have been to Rome, Venice, and Florence, but it's been much too long. I've had a postcard for your writing seminar on my bulletin board for ages. I can't exactly say I'm pre-published, but if you ever want someone to teach...

Staying in a villa in Tuscany is one of my dreams. (Oh, and next door to Sting would be nice, too:-)

Huge congrats on the new book!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

SO here's my idea...the Jungle Red expedition to SJ's writing retreat!

And yes, Debs, we'll invite Sting, to. Why not?

The thing about Tuscany--there are so many things..but every place we went people took care to make sure it was the BEST wine--even when it was house wine--or the BEST peaches or the BEST cheese--and that everything was beautiful. I learned a lot from that!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

SO here's my idea...the Jungle Red expedition to SJ's writing retreat!

And yes, Debs, we'll invite Sting, to. Why not?

The thing about Tuscany--there are so many things..but every place we went people took care to make sure it was the BEST wine--even when it was house wine--or the BEST peaches or the BEST cheese--and that everything was beautiful. I learned a lot from that!

Pat D said...

I will definitely look for these books! Paranormal mystery. How cool is that? I've never been to Italy, darn it. I'm afraid Spain is the closest I've gotten. I would love to go though. Is anyone inviting me?

Kathy Reel said...

I was recently introduced to SJ's writing by a wonderful friend we have in common, Marjorie Tucker. So, I now have you in my sights, SJ, and have uploaded several of your books to my Kindle. I have Blood of the Lamb and Skin of the Wolf on my Amazon wish list, and I'm hoping to get to your amazing books very soon.

The act of writing a book with someone has always fascinated me. I love your description of how you came to write with Carlos, SJ. I think your division of labor on the books is exactly how I would want it if writing with someone, except I might be the researcher. I'm betting that the publisher is going to want more, too.

I've never been to Italy. My daughter has and loved it, but, alas, I have yet to personally see the beautiful sights of that country. Ellen, your experiences in Italy are the stuff of which dreams are made. Edith, I think I'd like to hear more about your weekend in Venice. Yes, I would love to go to Italy, but my trip to England and Scotland still will win out.

Judy in Owego said...

Italy in August 1967… let’s see. I remember the heat, a primitive bathroom facility, the history, the art, and very fondly the back-up hotel in Venice when the student tour’s reservation fell through. The windows of our “backup hotel” looked out directly onto the Grand Canal. (Made up completely for that primitive bathroom.)

Love the nightstand photos and am impressed with the lack of dust!

Libby Dodd said...

I did get to Italy. It really is marvelous. After going to Venice and Florence, we finished on Lake Garda. Quite magnificent.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

OH, Yes, Judy..I do think there's some nightstand styling going on! Got to love it. I'm going to see if I can corral the Reds' nightstands, too..and you can be sure I'm gonna dust!

Deb Romano said...

In 1978 I visited Florence, Assissi, and Rome, as part of a tour. I doubt I'll ever be able to return but if I could, I'd spend more time in Florence and Assissi.

SJ, do you miss writing about Lydia and Bill? I miss reading about them!

Reine said...

SJ, thank you for posting from Italy— I loved it, especially where you mention your commitment "... to the idea that facts matter; no messing around with geography, history, art." If you have time to expand that idea, I would be very interested.

Hank, several years ago I had to cancel a planned trip to Italy and Sweden. We were going to celebrate Christmas with one of our sons who was stationed in Italy and spend the rest of the holiday season cross-country skiing and visiting with family in Sweden.

Skiing is probably no longer in my future, but a trip to Italy would be great. Of course I would love to see the art and historic places, but the research opportunities there are incredible, so I would focus on that. I would get a research pass to the Vatican archives. I have questions.

SJ Rozan said...

Hi, everyone! Much as I love Assisi, there are a couple of problema here, and one is spotty internet at the Hotel Giotto. So while I can get on let me just say, thanks again to Hank for hosting me, and thanks to you all for the warm reception here at Jungle Red. Kristopher, thanks for your kind words re: BOTL. Deb Romano, I do miss Lydia and Bill, but they'll be back! Eventually... Reine, I'll be happy to pontificate, I mean, expand, but after I get back to NYC. Can you email through my website and remind me? I'll do a blog and maybe some nice person here at Jungle Red will link to it. Ciao, all!