The very lovely and talented Elisabeth Storrs, a fellow Australian and author of The Wedding Shroud – A Tale of Ancient Rome, a book downloaded by 14,000 people (including me!) during its free promotion at amazon.com, asked to tag me in The Next Big Thing, an author’s Blog Hop. I thought – why not?
How The Next Big Thing Blog hop works: A tagged author answers ten questions and then tags five other authors to join in the fun for the following Wednesday. Finding five available authors proved a great challenge at this time of year – but I managed two!
Anyhow – I thank Elisabeth for asking me to join in with the tag! Elisabeth’s novel, The Wedding Shroud – A Tale of Ancient Rome, is set in early Rome and Etruria. It is her first published novel, which has gained praise from the awe-inspiring, great dame of fantasy, Ursula Le Guin.
Elisabeth writes that her inspiration for her work came from seeing a photo of a C6th BCE sarcophagus with its depiction of a man and woman “lying on their bed in a tender embrace” (Storrs 2012). This image left Elisabeth very curious about the kind of ancient society that not only celebrated the devotion and sensuous connection between husband and wife, but also apparently valued women as much as men. Seeking to understand this led her to fascinating culture of the Etruscans – and to the writing of her book.
From the book’s description at Amazon:
In 406 BC, to seal a tenuous truce, the young Roman Caecilia is wedded to Vel Mastarna, an Etruscan nobleman from the city of Veii. The fledgling Republic lies only twelve miles across the Tiber from its neighbour, but the cities are from opposing worlds so different are their customs and beliefs. Leaving behind a righteous Rome, Caecilia is determined to remain true to Roman virtues while living among the sinful Etruscans. Instead she finds herself tempted by a hedonistic culture which offers pleasure and independence to women as well as an ancient religion that gives her a chance to delay her destiny. Yet Mastarna and his people also hold dark secrets and, as war looms, Caecilia discovers that Fate is not so easy to control and that she must finally choose where her allegiance lies.
Exploring themes of sexuality, destiny versus self-determination and tolerance versus prejudice, The Wedding Shroud is historical fiction at its best which vividly brings Ancient Rome and Etruria to life while accenting the lives of women in ancient history.
The Wedding Shroud’s sequel will be published sometime this year.
Now it is my turn to answer these questions.
1) What is the working title of your next book?
The Light in the Labyrinth. In my mind, this title speaks of the experiences of my teenage character and how her life is changed when she comes to the court of Henry VIII in the last months of Anne Boleyn’s life.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
Thanks to my Tudor obsession, the idea for this work has been in my mind for at least five years – but it took writing a play that imagined the last night of Anne Boleyn’s life and my then agent’s advice to try my hand at Young Adult fiction to make it more than an idea.
I, like Elisabeth Storrs and so many other writers, find inspiration to write through connecting to an image. One image in particular has inspired me now for many years: Anne Boleyn in the Tower by Edouard Cibot. That beautiful painting, and the poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder, inspired the writing of my first published novel, Dear Heart, How Like You This? It also inspired my ten-minute play, performed as a finalist in the Eltham Little Theatre Quickies contest in 2009.
When I wrote that play, I imagined the girl in the foreground to be Anne Boleyn’s teenage niece, Katherine Carey. (Anne Boleyn, I believe strongly, is the weeping woman in the background.) Time after time, I have read the suggestion that Katherine Carey may have witnessed Anne Boleyn’s execution. It was a suggestion I found difficult to believe because my research placed more weight on the likelihood of Kate being only twelve at the time of Anne’s execution; too young, in my mind, to be expected to hold it all together as a witness to her aunt’s good death. But, about three years ago, I read an article that offered evidence that she may have been fourteen in 1536 – still young, but old enough to accompany Anne Boleyn on the last day of her life. It opened the door to the writing of The Light in the Labyrinth.
3)What genre does your book fall under?
Young Adult Historical fiction – I am hoping the work targets 14-20 year old female reader.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Ella Purnell for Kate, Russell Crowe for Henry VIII, Keira Knightley (she has a lovely neck, eyes that dominate her entire face and is an amazing actor!) for Anne Boleyn, and Melissa George (I was very impressed with her performance in The Slap) for Mary Boleyn.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
All things must come to an end – all things but love.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Too early to say yet! This work is my PhD artefact. In 2013, I plan to complete the exegesis that will accompany it when I submit my work to the examiners at the end of 2013, or the beginning of 2014. Whilst I feel the work is ready for the eyes of publishers and agents, and I have started making approaches, I also understand, through observing other students at this stage of the PhD journey, that I will have enough on my plate in 2013 without adding the stresses of submitting my work to publishers. BUT – knowing this doesn’t take away the fact that I have worked hard on a novel I would like to see published. As I’m used to making my life stressful – I will mostly likely succumb to the temptation of sending the work to publishers, and live in hope…
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Close to two years!
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant and Sandra Worth’s Lady of Roses, The King’s Daughter and Pale Rose of England – because my work also gives voice to women in a time and culture when women’s lives were determined and defined by men.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Besides the inspiration from my lifelong passion for the Tudor period that draws me to countless stories history hints at, but leaves untold on its margins, this new novel has brought me a deeper realization that so much of my writing is inspired by “Herstory” and the desire to give voice to the silenced.
Writing this book has rebirthed me as a feminist; indeed, feminism became the underlying inspiration to write my new work. I do not believe our world will ever get it right if women and men are not equal partners in solving the problems of humanity.
The Light in the Labyrinth has really opened my eyes to how little we have advanced since Tudor times. Women are still killed and raped because we live in societies where men believe they have the right, the power, to kill and rape women. Even this morning, before writing this answer, I read in disbelief of a catholic priest in Italy who claimed women brought violence upon themselves by the way they dressed and their housework skills.
Of course, we have the recent, heartbreaking tragedies of the murderous gang rapes in India, as well as the increasing violence against and murders of young women in Australia.
More than ever, I believe women of the first world must recognize that our battle for equality is one we have not won – and that we must keep fighting to achieve it. We must fight for ourselves, and for our sisters who live in oppressive cultures where women and female babies are killed because they are regarded as worthless and replaceable. And the fight is not one to be won through violence – but through the education of both girls and boys.
The Light in the Labyrinth, I hope, will make young adult women reflect about the possibilities for their own lives through entering the world of Tudor women.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Anne Boleyn? She was yet another inspiration for The Light in the Labyrinth. I wanted to make sense of what really happened in the last months of her life. Writing my first novel brought me to a belief that her death was calculated murder, but was I too biased towards Anne Boleyn to be just to Henry VIII? The Light in the Labyrinth was my means to put Henry on trial and use fiction to find answers through thorough research.
While historical fiction writers enable the voices of the past, I never forget that these voices were once of the living. My ethical stance as a writer is to ensure my historical characters receive a fair hearing.
Pauline Montagna was born into an Italian family in Melbourne, Australia. After completing a Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe University, Pauline joined the Department of Social Security where it was decided that someone with a major in French would be perfect for the Finance section. Fortunately for them, as the daughter of shopkeepers, Pauline had a good head for figures.
While indulging her artistic interests by becoming involved inMelbourne’s burgeoning amateur theatre scene, Pauline pursued her developing accounting skills through a wide variety of workplaces culminating in the Australian film industry which eventually took her toPerth. There she decided to return to university and qualify as a teacher, graduating from Edith Cowan andMurdochUniversitieswith Graduate Diplomas in Language Studies and Education.
After returning to Melbourne, Pauline continued teaching English as a Second Language while she completed a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing.
Pauline has now retired from teaching to concentrate on her writing.
Her latest book, Not Wisely but Too Well
is the first book in a four volume series, The Stuff of Dreams, about William Shakespeare and the experiences and relationships that made him the writer he became.
Paula Armstrong is an Australian playwright living in Melbourne.
Paula has written a selection of prose, short stories and plays. Paula’s full length modern-day farce “Katerina” made its successful debut at STAG (Strathmore Theatrical Arts Group) in November 2009. Paula’s short play “A Criminal Mind” made its debut at the 1812 Theatre in May 2010 as part of their Board Shorts festival & was shortlisted for Brisbane Short+Sweet 2011, has since been shortlisted for Melbourne 2012 and was a Wildcard entry for Short+Sweet Auckland and Sydney Short+Sweet 2013. The one act play version “Criminal Minds” won the 2010 Boroondara National Playwright Competition. Rehearsed readings were held at the newly refurbished Kew Court House in June 2011. Paula’s most recent short play “Just One” made it’s successful debut at the 1812 Theatre in July 2011 as part of the Board Shorts festival and was shortlisted for Short+Sweet Melbourne and Brisbane 2011. It was performed as a Wildcard entry in Melbourne Short+ Sweet at Chapel on Chapel, December 2011 and at Eltham Little Theatre’s 2011 Awards Night Revue.
Paula is the Producer of the highly successful Ten Minute Quickie – a ten minute play competition, in May 2009, September 2010 and May 2012 at Eltham Little Theatre.
Katerina is scheduled for production in February 2013 at Eltham Little Theatre. Season 1 15th November – 8th March.
If your theatre group is interested in performing “Katerina“, “Criminal Minds”, or “Just One” please email Paula (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more details.