Friday, December 21, 2012

Author Interview + GIVEAWAY!!

Today is the last day of David Blixt's tour for HISTORICAL FICTION VIRTUAL BOOK TOURS.  (Read my review of THE MASTER OF VERONA here)

And, what better way than to end the tour with an Author Interview and GIVEAWAY:))

I have the immense pleasure of presenting to you David Blixt with this exceptional interview he did for us!

Please welcome, David Blixt!!

Hello David. Can you please tell us how you got started as a writer of historical fiction?

It wasn’t deliberate. While I’ve enjoyed the genre since my late teens, I never aspired to join the ranks of HF authors. My eye was always on how to bring these great stories to the stage. Then several things happened at once. While backstage during a run of Much Ado About Nothing, my future wife gave me a copy of Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game Of Kings. This was just after I had directed a production of Romeo & Juliet where I discovered a possible cause for the famous Capulet-Montague feud. The feud thing was unplayable on-stage, but I couldn’t let the idea go. I just didn’t know what to do with it.
Somewhere in the midst of reading Dunnett’s amazing Lymond series I realized I wanted to write the origin of the feud as a novel, in the style of Dunnett. Which I’ll be the first to stipulate is impossible. She is entirely unique. But that’s what got me started, and since then it’s taken over my life – in a very good way.

What made you choose Verona for the setting of your books? 

Verona was chosen for me by Shakespeare (or rather, the sources Shakespeare stole his story from, Arthur Brooke and Luigi da Porto). Yet as I did the research – reading the stories and histories, visiting the city and talking to the Veronese – I was stunned at how important Verona was to this particular moment in time. The early Fourteenth Century finds Dante and Giotto, the fathers of both Renaissance literature and painting, living and working in Verona. A couple decades later, Petrarch actually marks the official start of the Renaissance by discovering letters from Cicero in Verona. So in a very real sense, Verona is at the heart of the Renaissance.
Then I started reading about Cangrande della Scala, the Prince of Verona. He just knocked my socks off. The acts he performed were larger than life. His ridiculous feats of daring were entirely outside belief and yet quite real. He was also so very young, just 23 when the story starts, and yet he was already conquering city after city in northern Italy.
This is where serendipity sets in – I saw so much of Lymond in Cangrande that I had to actively strive to not write him as Dunnett’s character. Which in turn led to some of the best drama in the whole tale. It’s impossible not to love Cangrande. You just don’t always have to like him. But I think that, both for readers of the books and for the living Veronese today, Cangrande is Verona.
After the fourth book in the series I’ll be leaving Verona behind, which is a shame, as the city is as much a character by now as any breathing person. But I comfort myself with the knowledge that for the final book I’ll be coming back. 

As for the characters you choose, were these inspired by people you know, or historical figures?

Major characters are either inspired by history or by the needs of the story. I seldom consciously use friends in my novels. There are exceptions, of course. The villain of The Master Of Verona, the Count of San Bonifacio, is physically based on a friend named Brad Waller. But Brad is the sweetest and funniest guy in the world, and is entirely unlike the dastardly Count. So while I’ve employed his visage, I wasn’t writing about Brad. Another example – I’ve long promised two friends that I’d put them into one of my books, and I’m doing it now, but I’m only using names and descriptions, not their personalities. Even as minor characters, I don’t want to write them as they are, but as I need them to be to serve the tale.
So I’ll steal faces and quirks, but I have yet to put my living friends into a story. Or myself, for that matter. When I was 19, I wrote a time-travel romance that was all about me, my deep love for an idealized woman, and how utterly cool and interesting I am. That book lives in a drawer, but I’m very happy I wrote it. It allowed me to get out of my own way. I don’t ever need to write about myself again. I can just write the stories.

Do you have any other projects coming up – please let us in on what you will be doing next!

Goodness, where to start? I have the fourth volume of Star-Cross’d coming this summer, entitled The Prince’s Doom. Then I have three more volumes in the Colossus series, the first of which, The Four Emperors, hits Kindle in early February. I have a Tudor Noir novel that I’m eager to finish. Then there’s a very large book about the Devil I’ve been planning for literally ten years that I finally have all laid out and am ready to dive into. I’m always about five years behind my brain in terms of story ideas. My goal is to catch up. 

Thanks for having me, and happy reading!

Thank you, David! 


You Can Choose: 

To Enter to Win any one of David's 3 e-books :

1- You must be a Follower of this blog
2-  For Additional Chances, post on FB, Twitter, Linkedin, Blog and elsewhere! Just come back and post your link in comments.

Good Luck!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

REVIEW: The Master of Verona!!!

My Northern Italian roots cried out for me to read this! Anything that’s historical and related to my favourite “V”-places (Venice, Vicenza, Verona) will immediately grab my attention.  But…can that hold my attention for more than 500 pages?  For MASTER OF VERONA, by David Blixt, I say YES- YES ABSOLUTELY!!!  As a matter of fact, I’m already almost done reading the sequel (more on that one coming soon!).

Picture an epic-size story that includes poet-author, Dante Alighieri (The Inferno) and his son, Pietro.  But that’s not all-Cangrande of Verona- who is larger than life (and if you know Verona, you know how Grand of a mark he made; his presence still felt).  As a patron to Dante, Cangrande, illustrious in all senses and seemingly all-powerful, especially in battle, has his life saved by the young Pietro. Cangrande is impressed by Pietro and bestows upon him the honor of making him a knight.

The story is largely about Pietro, but brings in so many historical highlights and facts all blended in extraordinary story telling.  And- to tie things in beautifully, especially for Shakespearian lovers, what’s a tale about Verona without Romeo and Juliet?  Blixt is master at setting the stage for this as well.  The history is beautiful, and the battles as intense as they were for sure back then.  Tension in feudality, political intrigue, detailed settings and history, and loads of dialogue (A++ + Who can take all that history if there’s no one talking!) Completely entertaining from the very first page to the last!

There are simply no words that can describe how good this book is.  If like me, you love the Renaissance and the Veneto region, this historical will blow you away.  I wish they turned this into a movie!   

Master of Verona, by David Blixt- GENIUS. 
I Highly recommend this book!

 Please Drop By Tomorrow for INTERVIEW with David Blixt and GIVEAWAY!!!

If you'd like to read more reviews on this FANTASTIC BOOK, please see  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Sultan's Wife

THE SULTAN’SWIFE, by Jane Johnson

A bewitching novel set in 17th c., THE SULTAN’SWIFE is an engulfing ride to exotic Morocco, into the palace of the horrific Sultan Moulay Ismail and his ‘witch’ wife, Zidana.  From Morocco to England, the novel revolves around NusNus, the Sultan’s African eunuch scribe and Alys Swan a virgin Dutch beauty kidnapped for the Sultan.  

Life is but a breath short of death around the cruel Ismail who decides the fate of all those around him depending on the degree of his wrath.  Zidana, on her side offers no respite- her poisonous concoctions a reminder that no one is safe from her tyrannical plans.  Most important on her list of things to do is to rid Ismail’s harem of all unwanted heirs (and there were quite a few- history quotes roughly a thousand!), that should surpass her own offspring.  

Every day is a challenge to stay alive for NusNus who works for these two evil masters. He must also find a way to make life endurable for Alys whom he secretly loves- she in turn trusts only him.  The story becomes that much more enticing when Alys gives birth to Ismail’s son, Mohammed.  Of course, this is a major hurdle for Zidana. But, the story then takes us to England in the court of Charles II where a twist in development will forever change the fate of all…

Intricately woven, this novel is graphically filled with suspense and intrigue- cleverly meshed in a blend of history, culture, religion and so much more.  From beginning to end, The Sultan’s Wife is a passionately engaging book that will keep readers frantically flipping the pages longing for more.  This is my first time reading Jane Johnson’s work- and it certainly won’t be my last! Loved it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Book Review: The Tenants of Hotel Biron by Laura Marello

Through a fictitious collection of manuscripts and letters we learn of the famous artists that lived in Hotel Biron during the end of the 19th c.  American photographer, Eduard Steichen is the guiding voice of the novel, bringing together the artists as they speak through their own writing.  In these manuscripts and letters, author Laura Marello, brilliantly brings out the artists’ tribulations, reflections, conflicts and for some, a heart-wrenching romance.  

Delectably written, we feel Camille Claudel’s restless and unsatisfying love for Rodin along with the burning energy that consumed the particular artists of the time: Rousseau, Matisse, Picasso, Rilke and others.  Not only do we get a feeling for what went through the minds of these great names, but we also get a sense of how they got to where they were through some retrospective recounting of marking points in their lives.  For instance, the possibility that the death of Rodin’s sister, would forever determine his inability to fulfill meaningful and lasting relationships with women becomes very real. The author challenges us to envision the minds and circumstances of this predominantly misunderstood clan in the imminence of World War 1. 

Stories of artists painted through manuscripts that come to life- dreamy yet plausible; The Tenants of Hotel Biron is a true delight for lovers of the arts, history and literature alike.  Almost feels like I got to know the artists personally- Excellent!