Monday, October 12, 2020

Carol Orange Interview - A Discerning Eye

Photo Content from Carol Orange

Carol Orange is the author of A DISCERNING EYE. Her work has been published in The Atherton Review, Indelible Ink, and SheKnows among others. She is a long-term member of the New York Society Library fiction-writing group headed by published author John Buchanan.

She has worked as an editor of art books in London and owned an art gallery in Boston. Her Etsy store features many of the artists she represented, as well as vintage posters she collected from all over the world.

Carol also spent two years in Paris, where she researched the life and times of George Sand and developed a series of Sand-Chopin salons with concert pianist Virginia Eskin. She recently moved to Chicago to be near her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, and is at work on her next novel about art theft.


Tell us your latest news. 
My debut novel, A Discerning Eye, will be published on October 13, 2020. 
Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? The legendary British writer Graham Greene has influenced my writing. His novels are so well-written that they immediately bring me into the action. I feel that I’m right there with his fascinating characters, such as Thomas Fowler and Phuong in The Quiet American. Greene’s sense of place is beautifully descriptive and the tension of his plots is powerful. There is a subtle underlying message in the text about the importance of making moral choices that deeply resonates with me. 

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. 
My novel will be published on October 13,2020. A zoom Q and A has been scheduled at the University Club in Chicago on October 15,2020. 

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel? 
I would like readers to feel like they are in Portia Malatesta’s shoes as she analyzes the missing paintings and then chooses to help search for the missing paintings, despite her husband’s opposition. I hope that readers understand the morality of her decision to take risks for the greater good. I also hope the novel gives readers insight into what motivates masterminds to steal paintings for their own pleasure. 

In your new book; A DISCERNING EYE, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it. 
Art dealer Portia Malatesta is devastated when she learns that thirteen works of art were robbed from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. To help uncover the whereabouts of the artwork, she sets out to construct a psychological profile of thief. By analyzing the common theme linking the stolen pieces, she suspects the mastermind behind the heist is obsessed with the interplay of dark and light- not only in art, but also in life. 

The FBI enlists Portia’s help in a high-stakes sting operation to recover the stolen works of art – a dangerous proposition that will take her to Colombia, where she’ll have to earn the trust of a notorious drug lord’s married daughter. Risking everything, Portia must navigate the underworld of Medellín – a complicated web of politics, pride and ugly crimes – where a single misstep could have deadly consequences. 

Inspired by history’s largest art heist, A Discerning Eye is a fast paced, skillfully plotted journey in which the fate of some of the world’s most prized masterpieces depends on one woman’s perceptive cunning. 

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book? 
A full-time job in New York City. 

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why? 
Portia Malatesta would enjoy meeting Count Alexander Rostov in Amor Towles’s novel A Gentleman in Moscow. Portia responds to father figures and Count Rostov’s character is rich in experience and compassion. Towles shows these qualities in Rostov’s relationship with the precocious girl staying at the hotel. Count Rostov would support Portia’s decision to help find the paintings and cheer her on while she would cherish his support and caring. 

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Portia? 
I was surprised that she could manage her life so well despite all the deaths in her family. Her grief was mitigated by the joy her 10-year-old daughter provided. 

What’s the most ridiculous fact you know? 
There are 50 States in the United States. It is ridiculous because the states were arbitrarily founded with no rationale for the borders. 

What is your most treasured memory? 
 Working for Polaroid in South and Central American I had the pleasure of meeting the Street Photographers Union in Mexico City. The photographers treated me as visiting royalty, welcoming me with generosity and respect. 

Best date you've ever had? 
At a Lebanese restaurant in my Boston neighborhood where my date and I talked non-stop while we ate the delicious lamb shish kabob. The owners let us stay there until we finished talking, although it was time to close. 

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go? 
I would go back to Boston when my daughter arrived into this world. It was such a thrill to have a baby and bring her up. From the very beginning she was responsive to my smiling face. What a gift. What a joy. 

What is one unique thing are you afraid of? 
I’m afraid of bats. They once invaded my Boston townhouse and scared me to death. I called the local police who came over and kindly helped me get rid of them. 

Favorite things to do alone? 
My most favorite thing is reading books. I also love to write. I get inspiration for passages in my writing when I walk alone, but I also like to just take in the scenery. 

  • 1) Antonio Malatesta — Portia’s younger brother, a successful artist and art teacher who takes his own life after a serious girlfriend breaks up with him. Vermeer’s The Concert, which was stolen at the Gardner Museum, was his favorite painting. 
  • 2) Nick Moretti — a retired dentist who is Portia’s best art collector. He becomes a father figure to her and introduces her to two Mafia art collectors who were former patients, hoping that one of them may know where the art is hidden. 
  • 3) Dino Felice — a Mafia art collector who meets Portia and Nick at the St. Botolph Club. Dino dresses well, but speaks in a deep gruff voice. 
  • 4) Alan Styles — An accountant with Price Waterhouse who also collects art. His family was connected with the notorious Patriaca clan before they changed their name and moved away. He too meets Portia and Nick at the St. Botolph Club. Alan collects Impressionist art and wants to add to his collection. 
  • 5) Paul Travigne — a Boston lawyer Portia meets walking in the Public Garden with his dog Cyrus. Portia tells him about her analysis of the stolen art and he is impressed when he reads her report. There is some romantic tension between them. 
  • 6) Joel Soderburgh — Paul’s college roommate who now works as a detective with the FBI. 
  • Paul introduces Portia to him and after Joel reads her analysis of the stolen paintings he calls Julian Henderson and tells him he must meet with her. 
  • 7) Stansky ( Stanislaw Winchester) — Portia’s second husband. Stansky is a well-known art photographer who is also a father figure for Portia’s 10- year- old daughter Alexa. He is angry that Portia is so involved with the robbery at the Gardner Museum. 
  • 8) Julian Henderson  Works for the FBI on the Art Crime Team. He is half-British, half-American and shares Portia’s love of art. After reading her analysis of the stolen art and learning that she has Colombian contacts from her Polaroid days, he asks Portia to accompany him on a high-stakes sting in Medellin, Colombia. 
  • 9) Roberto Castellano — an Interpol manager who is in charge of the sting. He briefs Portia and Julian in Buenos Aires about their suspect and the drug cartel before they meet in Medellin. He runs the sting from a rented villa in Medellin. 
  • 10) Carlos Alfonso — the suspect. He is married to Maria, the cartel boss’s eldest daughter and is given a legitimate job of running a hotel chain in Colombia and Venezuela that Don Pedro, the drug lord owns. Don Pedro has saved Carlos from his impoverished childhood, brings him up as an adopted son, and pays his college tuition. Don Pedro asks Carlos to marry Maria who is pregnant with another man’s child. Carlos has always been in love with Maria so he is more than willing to do this. 
Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from A DISCERNING EYE 
Portia had moved as close as possible to the oversized painting without setting off the Prado’s alarm. Encouraged by Antonio, she entered the Infanta’s world. She imagined her daily life from the painting’s details. She noted that one young lady-in-waiting bent down to hold the Spanish princess’s hand while another curtsied. She giggled as the naughty boy in the foreground, and felt sure he was flaunting royal protocol by placing his foot on the mastiff’s back. She and Antonio appreciated the way Velazquez chose to reveal the Spanish court’s peculiarities with the boy, the tense ladies-in-waiting and the grim-faced female dwarf. 

“She looks composed, but do you think the Infanta’s happy?” Antonio asked his sister. 

“How could she be content when she’s always surrounded by people.” Portia then asked her brother why he thought the artist had painted himself into the background. 

“Haven’t you been inside and outside a scene at the same time?” 

“You’re so smart Antonio… Why didn’t I think of that?” she asked as she playfully punched her brother’s arm. 

Alan walked into the room. His six-foot stature and dark hair combed in a pompadour made a positive first impression. Dressed in his navy Brooks Brothers suit he shook hands, first with Nick, patting him on the back and then with Portia. Still holding her hand he admired her father’s signet ring. Both his trilling voice and bouncy behavior made Portia think he was gay. She had solid relationships with gay artists and art dealers, but she couldn’t help wondering about Alan’s family. If they were strict Catholics, they probably didn’t accept his apparent homosexuality. 

After some small talk about the weather and the Celtics, Nick asked Alan about Pete, his blue and green Macaw. 

“Pete’s well, Doc,” he said. “Nice of you to ask.” On weekends Alan put the parrot on his shoulder and brought him out for a walk around Kenmore Square where he lived. He told them that Pete would sometimes scare passersby with an occasional “fuck you,” but mostly he just basked in the attention. 

After they all finished their coffee and caramel flan, the women rose to leave. The bodyguards met with their respective charges in the lobby before they walked down the flagstone path out of the restaurant to the car park. The women chatted near the entrance. A few minutes later one of them opened the door so they could all walk outside. The quiet street changed in a few seconds at the sound of rapid gunshots. A female voice screaming for help pierced the air. 

Maria, in her confusion, ran into the street. Portia instinctively followed her. A motorcycle roared down the road, and veered straight toward Maria. Portia saw it coming. She leapt toward Maria, and pulled her out of the way seconds before she might have been hit. 

Luis rushed back from the parking lot to Maria after the shots rang out. He was only one hundred or so feet away from Portia when the motorcycle almost hit his precious charge. Portia grasped that the frightened look on Luis’s face came from Maria’s near brush with death. Maria burst into tears as Luis put an arm around her. He told her she was fine and that no one was hurt. After she pulled herself together, she turned to Portia, who was still in shock from the close call. 

“I can’t thank you enough,” Maria said. 

I’m just relieved you’re all right.” Portia squeezed Maria’s hand. She was very touched by Maria’s gratitude. She didn’t know her well enough to put her arms around the woman, although she wanted to do just that. 

Art dealer Portia Malatesta is devastated when she learns that thirteen works of art were robbed from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. To help uncover the whereabouts of the artwork, she sets out to construct a psychological profile of the thief. By analyzing the common theme linking the stolen pieces, she suspects the mastermind behind the heist is obsessed with the interplay of dark and light - not only in art, but also in life.

The FBI enlists Portia's help in a high-stakes sting operation to recover the stolen works of art - a dangerous proposition that will take her to Colombia, where she'll have to earn the trust of a notorious drug lord's married daughter. Risking everything, Portia must navigate the underworld of Medellin - a complicated web of politics, pride and ugly crimes - where a single misstep could have deadly consequences.

Inspired by history's largest art heist, A DISCERNING EYE is a fast-paced, skillfully plotted journey in which the fate of some of the world's most prized masterpieces depends on one woman's perceptive cunning.


"Art and theft. It's always an intoxicating combination, and Carol Orange captures the high stakes in her beguiling, beautifully written debut novel, A Discerning Eye." Marcy Dermansky, author of Very Nice

"Through its loving and lovable protagonist, Portia Malatesta, A Discerning Eye takes the reader on a journey that's both tense and wonderfully escapist. Carol Orange's rich knowledge of art history and powers of visual description demonstrated throughout elevate the adventure into the realm of John le Carré sophistication." Evgenia Peretz, Vanity Fair contributing editor and screenwriter

"Braving Colombian drug lords and the mean streets of Medellín, the intrepid art investigator in A Discerning Eye takes readers on a wild ride in search of the historic art heist of thirteen masterpieces from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Carol Orange spins the brazen theft into a fascinating, well-researched thriller in the growing art-crime genre." Anne-Marie O'Connor, author of The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

"Carol Orange's A Discerning Eye is an intricate tale of art theft, bolstering a sensational plot with finely crafted characters and evocative settings-an enthralling novel not only for suspense seekers and art connoisseurs but everyone who enjoys a fabulous romp." Alev Lytle Croutier, author of Seven Houses and Harem: The World Behind the Veil

"A beautiful read. An outstanding plot. An amazing female sleuth. I loved this eventful and absorbing journey through the gilded streets of Boston's Back Bay to the dangerous Colombian byways of the Medellín drug cartel. The reader follows the art historian and gallery owner Portia Malatesta as she decodes trails left after a tragic art heist leaves a prominent museum denuded of more than a dozen masterworks. Carol Orange tells us that the choice of a Vermeer means more than the cash value of a painting-the human heart is compromised as well." Miriam Brody, author of Mary Wollstonecraft: Mother of Women's Rights

"Take a museum heist of thirteen classic works of art, throw in an outraged and clever art dealer who takes it upon herself to create a profile of the thieves, and mix in an FBI sting, and you get an intelligent, fascinating mystery that leads the reader on a high-stakes, international chase to solve the questions of whodunnit and why. Carol Orange, with her vast knowledge of the art world, has created a story that will keep you on the edge of wherever you happen to be reading A Discerning Eye." Charles Salzberg, two-time Shamus-nominated author of Swann's Last Song and Second Story Man

"Carol Orange's debut is a whirlwind of a read. An art heist from a Boston museum motivates a clever art dealer to help the FBI recover the stolen masterpieces. With marital tensions, a tempting flirtation, and dangerous encounters with a Colombian drug lord, A Discerning Eye keeps the reader guessing. You'll be swept up in this fast-paced adventure, while learning about great art along the way." Nicole Bokat, author of What Matters Most and The Happiness Thief 
You can purchase A Discerning Eye at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CAROL ORANGE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of A Discerning Eye by Carol Orange.

1 comment: