As part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, I had the great pleasure of interviewing
Author of THE SIGN OF THE WEEPING VIRGIN,
So here she is today on EBJ- History Salon with some fascinating answers...
1-Your book reads like a piece of art history itself! Please tell us how you came up with the setting and how it influenced the plot?
The seed for The Sign of the Weeping Virgin was planted when I first read about the attempt to kill Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici in Florence Cathedral on Easter Sunday 1478. Though Giuliano died, Lorenzo pulled his sword, jumped the altar, and fought off his attackers to safety. Well! Dramatic, indeed. I read everything I could find about this event (called the Pazzi Conspiracy) and fell in love with Florence in the fifteenth-century. When I came to writing a historical mystery set at that time with real-life figures at its heart, along with the story I was bound to the actuality of their lives. My protagonists, Guid'Antonio Vespucci and his nephew, Amerigo, lived just around the corner from Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci. Guid'Antonio, a noted lawyer, moved among the famous artists, poets, and politicians of his day. Wherever he goes in Florence during his investigations, he sees magnificent art all around him, whether in his family church or the Medici Palace. This same artwork is why so many people love and visit Florence today. Real people, real situations: I could not deny them their place in my story. I think they make the story and this explains in part why readers are relating to it, which I truly appreciate.
2- Most Italians have always been fascinated by all that is spiritual and some of the superstitions that may trickle along with that- what inspired you to write this great mystery?
Thank you! One of my primary resources for the story was a diary written by a Florentine druggist throughout much of the fifteenth-century. This fine fellow wrote in depth about the Pazzi Conspiracy and other major events, but also about everyday things...aggravating construction in his neighborhood, holidays—and he also wrote how on special occasions, the painting of the Virgin Mary of S. M. Impruneta was brought from her home church to Florence for the celebrations. People prayed to the Virgin for rain, for good crops, for good health. And so, again, it is a real painting and how people related to her that helped inform the story. I wanted to show how miracles were and are everywhere in Florence . . . or, at least, many people believed in them and still do. And of course that painting is the one weeping in The Sign of the Weeping Virgin.
3- Will there be a sequel to this story? And, what is next on your agenda?
Thank you for asking, and yes! Actually, though, the next book harks back several years to when my Guid'Antonio is a younger man. One reason I'm doing this is to explore the romance and tensions between him and the woman doctor who runs his hospital. In Weeping Virgin, he is married, but Dottoressa Francesca lingers prominently in the shadows. Readers are asking about Francesca, and so I feel I'm moving in the right direction.
4- Please give one piece of advice to aspiring authors who don't know where to begin when it comes to the research and actual writing- or finding a heroine for that matter?!
Ah, research! Such a lovely tangle. I would say, "Follow your heart." Which period of history fascinates you most? Narrow the wide story to the particular, to the men and women you find unforgettable and engaging. Why do you relate to them on a personal level? Don't stop. Never say "No."
Thank you so much Alana White!
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