May I introduce: Alison McMahan "The Saffron Crocus"

The Saffron Crocus

by Alison McMahan

1 - I love the title. How did you come up with it?
For a long time I just had it labeled "The Venice Story." Then it became "The Venice Opera Story." After I wrote the scene with the jewel I realized I had my title, The Saffron Crocus.

2 - You studied film production and even run your own company. What made you write a book?

The Saffron Crocus is my third book, but my first novel. My first book, Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Cinema, put the forgotten story of the first woman filmmaker back on the map. That was published in 2002. It's a non-fiction book, but it's been turned into a play and now a company out in Hollywood is making a documentary. My second book, on the work of Tim Burton, was published in 2005. So I've been writing books for a long time. I also write screenplays. My sci-fi screenplay, Imprinted, is currently under option. Some stories are best told as novels, some stories as screenplays.

3 - Tell us a bit about your current project.

It's another historical for young adults. The title is The Circassian Slave Girl, set in the Black Sea, on the island of Rhodes, and in Istanbul in 1482. A girl is sold by her parents into slavery. She is supposed to be delivered to the Sultan's harem in Istanbul, but on the way there the ship she is on is attacked and taken by the Knights of St. John, who take them to Rhodes. This is terrible for her, because if she isn't delivered to the Sultan her parents won't get the money they need to keep starvation at bay, and to make things worse she's fallen in love with the son of the slave merchant on the ship.
Venice, 1643. Isabella, fifteen, longs to sing in Monteverdi’s Choir, but only boys (and castrati) can do that. Her singing teacher, Margherita, introduces her to a new wonder: opera! Then Isabella finds Margherita murdered. Now people keep trying to kill Margherita’s handsome rogue of a son, Rafaele.

Was Margherita killed so someone could steal her saffron business? Or was it a disgruntled lover, as Margherita—unbeknownst to Isabella—was one of Venice’s wealthiest courtesans?

Or will Isabella and Rafaele find the answer deep in Margherita's past, buried in the Jewish Ghetto?

Isabella has to solve the mystery of the Saffron Crocus before Rafaele hangs for a murder he didn’t commit, though she fears the truth will drive her and the man she loves irrevocably apart.




Alison McMahan chased footage for her documentaries through jungles in Honduras and Cambodia, favelas in Brazil and racetracks in the U.S. She brings the same sense of adventure to her award-winning books of mystery and romantic adventure for teens and adults. 

Alison loves hearing from readers.

Twitter: @alisonmcmahan

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 Who knew a singing career would be this much trouble?

“Rafaele!” She flew into the garret. “Piero, it was so wonderful, wait until I tell you!”

The stool next to the bed was knocked over. The tray with the genepy bottle was on the floor, one of the cups broken. The fat candle that had been burning next to Rafaele’s bed had been flung to the other side of the room.. Canvases were strewn all over the floor, some of them slashed, and many of Master Strozzi’s jars of paint elements were broken.

Did Piero and Rafaele have a fight? She quickly suppressed the thought. Who would get into a fight with a man who was already injured?

Something else must have happened.

She walked across the garret. “Piero? Rafaele, are you here?”

Rafaele was not in the bed. The sheets and blankets she had piled on top of him were strewn everywher. Blood-stained sheets spilled over the edge of the pallet. There was a pile of clothes on the floor.

She walked around to get a closer look.

Not clothes. It was Piero. Face down, one arm over his face, as if to defend himself.

A puddle of blood under him.


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