Thursday, May 21, 2015

History Week Continues with Heloise West

I am so excited to have Heloise West on the Book Blog today talking about her upcoming release set in Sienna, Italy.

I love historical fiction. If I had to choose, though, it's the medieval world that holds the most fascination for me and medieval Italy is under represented. I love the Renaissance, too, which conversely is centered in Florence and Tuscany. I do blame Diana Gabaldon and the Outlander series and Dorothy Dunnett for waking me up to the fictional possibilities of the 18th century. My novella takes place in 18th century Tuscany.

In my novella (hey, by the way, Italians invented the novella form) "If I Were Fire" one of my main characters, Amadeo, is not only a jockey in the palio, but a poet. A handsome, charming man, his friends are younger members of the aristocracy.

The most famous Sienese, besides Saint Catherine (of the 14th century) and the evil and homophobic Saint Bernardino (of the early 15th century), is the poet Cecco Angiolieiri (late 12th century), the bad boy of Italian literature. If I Were Fire is his most famous poem and could easily be re-titled "Cecco's Very Very Bad Day."

This is a link to a modern translation of the poem (listen to it in the original medieval Italian--or, oh, wait is that just me?):

Not a big fan of authority figures, our Cecco.

Cecco was a contemporary of Dante's, and they had an acrimonious friendship by their correspondence. Cecco's lines are as brilliant as some of Dante's (before the Comedia). Cecco was Dante's polar opposite, addicted to drink, gambling, and women. Though his father was a well-to-do banker in Siena, Cecco died in massive debt, yet left behind the groundwork for the poetry of a later age.

That Dante was a Florentine and Cecco Sienese must have been part of their acrimony. Both were at the famous battle of Montiperti as young men, on opposite sides, and back in the day of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. The win that day for Siena is echoed in soccer stadiums in Italy today, as the Sienese still scream "Montiperti!" at their Florentine opponents.

What I loved about writing this story was drawing all those elements into it. History is never about an isolated place in time—there are so many decades and centuries leading up to those moments, influenced by people and what they felt and thought, and what they've left behind that we study and call "historical."

I don't usually write about famous historical people. That is, I don't usually have a famous main character in my stories. I can't even begin to imagine the thoughts Dante or da Vinci had in their heads. Historical fiction writing for me is average people in their historical setting and context interacting with the times.

Look for "If I Were Fire" by Heloise West from Dreamspinner Press in the fall of 2015.

Here's a brief blurb:

In 18th century Siena, Count Salvesto Masello has returned to find the family villa and his father's estate steeped deeply in debt. In order to save it, he has been selling off valuable family heirlooms, but he is running out of silverware. Somewhere in the villa his deceased father had hidden the art treasures that will pay the debt, but Salvesto can't find them anywhere.

Amadeo Neruccio has been on the run from the vicious pimp, thief, and pawnbroker Guelfetto, but his toughs finally catch him and bring him to the cellar where Count Masello is selling off his silver. When the count learns what fate Guelfetto has in store for Amadeo, he intervenes, and trades the last of his mother's dowry for the young man's freedom.

Salvesto had left home over ten years ago to live the life of adventure he craved. He had also hoped to leave his broken heart behind. When he rescues young Amadeo, he did not expect to find love again, or that his adventures had yet to end.

In celebration of History Week Part I, I will be giving away an Ecopy of my second novel, Disappear With Me, which will be available from Amber Quill Press on May 31. The prize will be delivered after that date. (Note, this is independent of the Giveaway for the Hop Against Homphobia and Transphobia and Biphobia)

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  1. Speak up and have respect for others!