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Lions and Gondolas

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Visit the Destiny’s Consent website

 

Destiny's Consent
author
Laura Shepard
Townsend

 

 

Laura Shepard Townsend

Destiny's Consent

Note from the Webslave:
As a ten-year-old, I inveigled the neighbor kids into helping to act out my fantasy life by playing Gypsies. We dressed in bright ragbag discards and even the boys wore earrings. We pulled around a wagon piled with our scant worldly goods and picked weeds to grind between stones and mix into potions. We read each others’ palms and made secret chalk marks on the neighbor’s steps to signify "Unfriendly farmer - get away quick!"
Second only to Venice, Gypsies have always been the most interesting topic in the world to me. Imagine my delight upon hearing about a series of four novels combining both of my favorite obsessions in a breathtakingly audacious adventure tale. Starting in the benighted Old World, Destiny’s Consent moves its bold women characters to Venice in the Abbot Kinney era.
A lot went on in the world during the early years of the 20th century: an all-encompassing war; an unbelievably murderous epidemic; the birth of aviation, the movies, and the empowerment of women through the vote. Angelica Grastende, the main character in the Destiny’s Consent series, is born on July 4, 1905 - the same day as Venice, California, the city she is destined to find and love.
INTERVIEW WITH LAURA SHEPARD TOWNSEND

Having devoted eight years of her life to two books (out of a series of four), the author says a few more words here.

V.V.:
Tell me about Volume One, The Gypsy’s Song.

Townsend:
The Gypsy's Song is a grand adventure, history, and an exploration of what can happen when one is forced to abandon one's life, and perhaps one's soul. The whole series is, on another level, a self-help guide, brought to you in the form of an extraordinary, vastly enjoyable story with indelibly memorable characters.

V.V.:
It starts where?

Townsend:
Destiny's Consent begins in France, close to where the trenches of WWI (The Great War) are fingering into the countryside, squeezing the Rom...In her klan, only Angelica is bothered by the gadje's hostility towards the Rom whenever they settle in a meadow with their horses and wagons for a little water and grass... or when they enter a town to sell their copper, to play their music, to tell fortunes. The gadje faces always contracted into hatred against the Rom. Angelica also wonders why the Rom always just leave when confronted, instead of standing up against the gadje. Finally, tragedy strikes and she and her family are forced on an odyssey to America.

V.V.:
And where does Venice, California enter the story?

Townsend:
In the second book, Lions and Gondolas. Angelica's mother is a lion tamer, which has some historical precedent - there actually was a woman lion tamer in Venice close to the time of my story. Howard Hughes is in the cast, with a surprising relationship to Angelica, when they are but children. Abbot Kinney appears as a character - I've taken some liberties with Kinney, but he was so advanced in terms of women's rights, free love, environmental issues, and wanting to have a Renaissance city in stuck-in-the-mud America...so I think my liberties are all very appropriate.

V.V.:
I’ve read that Kinney was a supporter of eugenics, which rightly or wrongly, is generally considered tantamount to being a racist. Would the real Kinney have hung around with a Gypsy girl?

Townsend:
As far as Kinney was concerned, I have understood that he left his house to Irving Tabor, his black chauffeur. Now Irving could not live on Grand, the grandest street in Venice, so he had to move the house to the black ghetto area. Surprising since Kinney had plenty of family to leave his house to---I believe he was anti-racist. In my book, I have him extraordinarily not racist. For his first reading assignment for Angelica, after she quits school, is Ivanhoe, so she can see prejudice does not only apply to women and dark skinned people, but to Jews, etc.

V.V.:
And how about the third and fourth volumes of the set?

Townsend:
Volumes three and four are glamorous and fun. Venice is definitely there with the discovery of oil and its demise-- oil derricks, and the filling in of the canals. Angelica is cavorting on the gambling ships off the coast of Venice, and works as an extra in many of the epic films of the 1920's. The story also intersects with the real-life and widely reported disappearance of evangelist Aimee Semple MacPherson, who was feared drowned in the ocean off Venice. Hughes and Angelica reconnect, and she is one of the pilots who flies to create the sound track for Hell's Angels, Hughes' epic flying film. Because of The Jazz Singer, Hughes decided he had to convert the silent film into a talkie, complete with a sound track. Along with Venice, the locations for this book are Hollywood, Los Angeles, Coconut Grove, and the Hearst Castle.

In the fourth and final volume, Angelica's Gypsy sorceress grandmother returns to connect Angelica to her destiny as shuvani (Rom witch). She teaches Angelica the ancient lore including the Tarot, the use of herbs and the old ways of healing. Angelica faces more than one wrenching choice here - but I don't want to give away too much.

V.V.:
Do you have a notion of influence from a previous incarnation, or anything of the sort?

Townsend:
Yes, I do believe either the story was channeled in, or I was Rom in a former lifetime. Why else, this story? Why else this character? Why this time frame? Lots of stories would have been so much easier to tell. Just the research took years, eons of time. I dreamed much of the story, and when I began researching it, the timing was all right on. Darned eerie. And I kept wondering why the Rom? Romantic, yes, Rogues, yes, despised, yes.....too despised. I kept reading more and more until I finally found Jan Yoors' book and I knew his concept of the Rom, because he loved the Rom, to be the correct assessment of these extraordinary nomads.

V.V.:
How so?

Townsend:
The Rom think all other people to be gadje, in other words, not Rom. If you are black, yellow, red or white, you are still gadje. The Rom are nomads, people who have CHOSEN not to have property. They feel themselves to be entitled by God, to take whatever they encounter in their path, on their road, for their own use. They are still in the hunter/gatherer mode of existence, and the gadje, are, in a sense, the hunted. The Rom have a mythology built up around this--a story about a king of Rom who was designated by the Roman soldiers to forge the nails to crucify Christ. Four of them. The king of Rom refused, but was beaten until he agreed. As he forged the nails, he wept and prayed. When he heard the soldiers approach, in a panic, he swallowed the fourth nail, the nail meant for the heart of Jesus. It is because of this king of Rom's bravery, that God stated fthat or all time that the people of Rom were his chosen people and could roam as they wished, taking what they needed.

V.V.:
You are one of the new wave of writers who choose self-publication.

Townsend:
The Gypsy's Song was published with the print-on-demand publisher Authorhouse. Traditional publishers pay next to nothing, take ALL of the rights and backbill you if the book, which the stores bury in the stacks, gets no legs. A horrible racket for beginners. By self-publishing, I have the opportunity to build the series, step by step. I also retain all of the rights. Since the story is quite cinematic, this is a definite advantage to someone like me.

V.V.:
How do you manage distribution?

Townsend:
The book is available anywhere online.

V.V.:
And publicity?

Townsend:
I have sent off the book to the Gipsy Kings, since I want them to definitely supply the music for the film/miniseries. My first signing is April 28th at Village Books in Pacific Palisades, the launch!! With a raffle for the Gipsy Kings acoustical CD, Roots, and with the terrific flamenco guitarist, Charles Henry Schwartz, and dancer Patricia Purwin. I'm giving a talk on the Rom in the early 20th century. Then May 6th I'm at Duttons Brentwood. I will soon be traveling all over the west coast, and knocking on the doors of Hollywood. I'm having a blast.

V.V.: Thank you for the sneak peek at the upcoming books in the series, and it is my sincere hope to be one of the very first readers of Lions and Gondolas.

Visit the Destiny’s Consent website!

 

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