…of The Red Lily Crown have gone out, and we’ve been priveleged to receive some of the loveliest and most amazing comments in return. I can’t possibly express sufficient gratitude to the writers who’ve taken the time from their own busy lives to read and comment. Alphabetical thanks to the wonderful Nancy Bilyeau, Patricia Bracewell, C.W. Gortner, Sophie Perinot, and Kate Quinn, all of whose books I myself have gobbled up and loved.
You can see what they had to say here, on the page for The Red Lily Crown. And if you haven’t already read their books, well, Christmas is coming! Books by all these fabulous authors are perfect additions to your gift lists.
It seems like an anachronism, but is it? Playacting and pretense are profoundly human activities—from Paleolithic peoples re-enacting hunts to modern players in online sites like Second Life.
My Francesco de’ Medici, the alchemist prince, is a roleplayer. The idea came to me when I looked at a painting called Il Laboratorio dell’ Alchimista by Giovanni Stradano, which was (and still is) in Francesco’s private studiolo. In the painting the master alchemist is surrounded by apprentices and workmen who are doing the actual work of alchemy. In the lower right corner, wearing a plain doublet and hose, his sleeves rolled up as he stirs a concoction under the alchemist’s direction, is a workman clearly painted to represent Francesco de’ Medici. Is this how Francesco saw himself, in his secret heart?
It could have been. (A historical novelist’s favorite words.) Here is my Francesco, describing his alter ego Franco:
It was his own elaborate and deeply satisfying conceit, that he was a simple laborer named Franco. Franco worked every day with his hands, with minerals and acids, noble metals and glassworks and fine porcelains, and when the day was finished and he had no more work to do, he needed only to come home to his adoring and compliant little wife Bia, and she would tend to his every desire. Francesco, the prince—he had been the eldest, the heir, but even so he had never been the favorite, never been clever and charming and affable as his brothers and sisters had been. From the day of his mother’s death and his father’s descent into self-indulgence, his responsibilities had never ended. His wife, the emperor’s sister—she was pious and proud and never forgot who she was, not even when they came together in their interminable quest to beget an heir. It was all too much. It was so much easier to be Franco, even if it was only for a few hours.
Congratulations to Gabrielle Kimm on the publication day of her new novel, The Girl with the Painted Face! I was fortunate enough to receive a pre-publication review copy from the publishers, which is no small thing, considering that they’re in the UK and I’m in Texas.
Now Gaby is a dear friend, but even so—I adored this book. I love anything with a theatrical background (see “Playacting on Paper”) and The Girl with the Painted Face combines mystery, adventure, delicious romance and murder most foul, with sixteenth-century Italy and the gritty, colorful glamour of a traveling Commedia dell’ Arte troupe. It made me want to go try out for a play somewhere—once I’d finished the book, of course.
Boudin liked it excessively as well, as you can see—just look at the dreamy look on his face—and says his favorite character is little Ippo, the dog. Of course….
This is the moment—for me, at least—when a manuscript becomes a book.
So this week I’m reading the final page proofs. They’re so beautiful.
Will be back with snippets and teasers next week!
The hero—well, the hero/anti-hero, as he definitely has his dark side—of The Red Lily Crown is Ruan Pencarrow of Milhyntall, a man who has taken a twisted path from the devastation of the Prayer Book Rebellion in Cornwall, to the opulent courts and dark laboratories of Francesco de’ Medici in Florence.
A student of Agricola’s work, Ruan represents the sciences of metallurgy and chemistry, which at the time of the story are just emerging from the chrysalis of ancient, magical alchemy. Although he does have his own touch of magic…
“It is a sulphide of silver,” Ruan said. He took a small pick from his belt and tapped gently around the silver crystals. They fell into his hand like a cluster of hazelnuts from a tree. He put them into the mine master’s bag and extracted more samples, taking also some of the shining calcite that surrounded them.
“A neat touch you’ve got with that pick,” Ziegler said. “Not many great men will come down a shaft and into a tunnel, their ownselves.”
“I have had experience,” Ruan said. He did not specify what kind of experience, or when it had occurred, or what it had cost him…