Category Archives: Bologna

D is for La Dotta

Today, I’ll be sharing a bit about my second book in the Journeymen series, La Dotta. Even though I spend a lot of time yammering on about Shadow of the Portico, it’s only because it’s my first book and I’m nostril-deep in rewriting it. (I admit, I learned a lot about the writing craft after I wrote my first book. I’m putting some of that knowledge on the Writing Resources page. Eventually. And in Shadow. Now.)

Anyway, while Shadow is the story of Giovanni, an affable, charming, beta-male ex-womanizer with an inferiority complex, La Dotta is about Sarah, the entirely-more-complex woman he loves.

Sarah started off as someone kind of like me – interested in medieval history, fulfilling my own life’s wish of getting a PhD. But as the story went deeper, I decided to layer on a whole lot of complications.

She stutters badly. This is a problem for a woman who wants to be a professor. Giovanni has no problem believing she will be a fine professor, but Sarah never believes it, even though she vehemently protests that she could be. At some point, she’s going to have to end the delusion that she even wants to be a professor and figure out what she’s really going to do with her life. Perhaps something that doesn’t make her throw up the way lecturing in front of more than two people does.

As we get to know Sarah, we come to find out that being honest with herself is not one of her strong points. She’s even worse about handling disappointment. Especially when she manufactures that disappointment within herself by her self-deception. (Maybe she’s still kind of like me…)

Writing flawed people is fun!

The title La Dotta comes from one of the three nicknames given to the city of Bologna, where parts of my novels are set. La Dotta, the learned, refers to Europe’s oldest university located in Bologna. La Grossa, the fat, refers to the culinary tradition in the city. (It doesn’t refer to Sarah’s love of cooking.) Finally, Bologna is called La Rossa, the red, because of the red roofs that dominate the skyline. (Nothing to do with Sarah’s habit of blushing all the time.)

Giovanni calls Sarah la dotta as a safer nickname than dolcezza, which is more like sweetheart. She is his little scholar. But like Bologna, he will soon see Sarah as his heart’s home.

Not satisfied with pounding that metaphor to death, though, I carry it further. Sarah is going to discover the Commedia Dell’arte in La Dotta. This was more or less an improv theatre in early modern Italy. They had standard characters who acted out variations on a theme and created a comedy from it. One of the characters is an old man called Il Dottore, the doctor, a pompous, lecherous, overly erudite fool who is at cross purposes with the lovers in the story. At some point, poor Sarah is going to recognize that she is much too much like that guy, and she needs to make some important changes if she’s going to find happiness.

No spoilers, though. You have to read the book. Soon as I finish writing it. And the first book. I’d better get on it.




Filed under #AtoZChallenge, Bologna, Chatting with the Readers, Early Modern Italy, La Dotta