Your book, The Prisoner of Paradise, sounds fascinating. Can you share with me what the first idea was that made you decide to write this story? It might be very different from how the story ended up being, but I am curious, if you don’t mind sharing. And, if the story is very different, would you mind sharing the process by which you ended up with your current novel?
Thank you for having me on your blog, MJ. I love this question. To answer, I need to provide some background on my book.
The Prisoner of Paradise is a thriller blended with historical fiction and magical realism, about Nick and Julia O’Connor, an American couple who travel to Venice, Italy.
After experiencing a traumatic head injury, Nick comes to believe that his true soul mate is not his wife, but a woman who has been trapped in Paradise, the world’s largest oil painting, created by Jacopo Tintoretto in 1592.
Though Julia is understandably concerned for Nick’s welfare and wants to return home, Nick is adamant he has a connection with the woman in Paradise. He discovers an ancient secret society that developed a method of extracting people’s souls from their bodies. They trap the souls—which they claim are evil—in the two-dimensional prison.
Nick will do anything to free his soul mate, but freeing her means freeing all the souls—and the secret society will never let that happen.
So, where did the idea come from?
The kernel of the idea for The Prisoner of Paradise sprouted in Venice itself. If you’ve never been there, Venice is one of the most magical cities on the planet, even when it’s the height of summer and inundated with tourists. In low season, it’s not only magical but mysterious.
The city is one thousand years old and built in a lagoon. Marble buildings, sidewalks, squares (piazzas) and everything else are resting on top of millions of petrified wooden pylons.
Cars and any wheeled vehicles are prohibited.
The only mode of transportation is by boat or foot. There are dozens of bridges and the winding, maze-like streets are often just a few feet wide.
Add to that a remarkably colorful history filled with legendary artists, architects, and events, and you have a story around every corner.
One of these artists was Renaissance master Jacopo Tintoretto. So prolific, he was known as “The Furious Painter.”
His work is all over Venice but the best places to see it are The Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) and Scuola Grande di San Rocco (School of St. Roch).
The Scuola features dozens of Tintoretto paintings and many of them are mammoth in scale, including The Crucifixion, which includes nearly one hundred individuals of all ages, genders and races. While researching, I later discovered Paradise, a painting that includes thousands of people. The images are so lifelike, each could be an individual portrait.
It’s no secret that artists use models but I started wondering to what extent. Did Tintoretto have a line of people outside his studio? Unlikely.
Did he create each one from his head?
Who were these people? Why were they chosen to be immortalized?
These questions led to an idea…
Perhaps their souls were in the painting and their likenesses painted over their ethereal selves. And they were immortalized not for veneration, but rather imprisoned for all the world to see.
And a story was born…
To learn more about The Prisoner of Paradise or to find purchase locations, visit www.robsamborn.com.
Here’s the blurb:
The world’s largest oil painting. A 400-year-old murder. A disembodied whisper: “Amore mio.” My love.
Nick and Julia O’Connor’s dream trip to Venice collapses when a haunting voice reaches out to Nick from Tintoretto’s Paradise, a monumental depiction of Heaven. Convinced his delusions are the result of a concussion, Julia insists her husband see a doctor, though Nick is adamant the voice was real.
Blacking out in the museum, Nick flashes back to a life as a 16th century Venetian peasant swordsman. He recalls precisely who the voice belongs to: Isabella Scalfini, a married aristocrat he was tasked to seduce but with whom he instead found true love. A love stolen from them hundreds of years prior.
She implores Nick to liberate her from a powerful order of religious vigilantes who judge and sentence souls to the canvas for eternity. Releasing Isabella also means unleashing thousands of other imprisoned souls, all of which the order claims are evil.
As infatuation with a possible hallucination clouds his commitment to a present-day wife, Nick’s past self takes over. Wracked with guilt, he can no longer allow Isabella to remain tormented, despite the consequences. He must right an age-old wrong – destroy the painting and free his soul mate. But the order will eradicate anyone who threatens their ethereal prison and their control over Venice.
Violence, a rape scene, a torture scene.
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Meet the author
In addition to being a novelist, Rob Samborn is a screenwriter, entrepreneur and avid traveler. He’s been to forty countries, lived in five of them and studied nine languages. As a restless spirit who can’t remember the last time he was bored, Rob is on a quest to explore the intricacies of our world and try his hand at a multitude of crafts; he’s also an accomplished artist and musician, as well as a budding furniture maker. A native New Yorker who lived in Los Angeles for twenty years, he now makes his home in Denver with his wife, daughter and dog.
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